The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

The Best Hangboards for Home Training

Polyurethane is the new wave climbing hold material because it's less weight and less likely to chip while mounting than polyester resin.
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor
Monday September 17, 2018
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Ready to punish your fingers and push higher grades? We sent our hard-climbing, dedicated team of climbing experts our 6 favorite models for testing after researching and considering 25+ models. We targeted boards that are good for most climbers in the 5.10 to hard 5.13 realm. Each member of our review team tested all the boards in this review. Our testers all performed no less than five workouts on each board, and in most cases, it was like 30+. At least one of these workouts involved adding resistance (typically a 20-lbs weight vest) to really compare the texture of each board. Training for climbing and pushing hard to get better is an extremely strong passion of all the reviewers, and we hope that shows. Hang in there for the blow-by-blow from our fingerboard junkies at OGL to help you continue to push through on your personal boundaries.


Updated September 2018
Our experts pitted some past favorites against some newcomers to the market. Following countless hours of simultaneous training and testing, we updated our review with six of the market's top performers. The Trango Rock Prodigy is our all-around favorite for the majority of climbers, while specialty models like the ultra-burly Beastmaker 2000 and the travel-friendly Awesome Woodys Cliff Board Mini fill important niches. And if you're looking to maximize performance per dollar, go for the Metolius 3D Simulator. Get briefed on our assessments and tips for seeking out your first or next board below!

1

Best Overall


Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center


Material: Polyurethane resin | Dimensions: 9.1" x 12.1" x 2 pieces
Diversity of edges and pockets
Best progression of holds for strength-training
Works well for a wide range of users
Two-part design facilitates good form and ergonomics
Most challenging model to mount
Takes up more space than others
Straight-across 1/4" edge is hard on fingertips

The Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center was designed by the well-known climbing coaches Michael and Mark Anderson, authors of the famed book The Rock Climber's Training Manual. Offering a variety of pockets and edges that build easily upon the last, there is possibly no other model that makes systematic fingerboard training as easy to see subtle improvement and log improvement than this one. With some of the most hold options and several design features that allow many of the holds to be used in multiple ways, this board works well for some of the widest range of users, from people just getting into fingerboard training to those working on 5.13 projects. Its two-part design allows the user to mount each half with the perfect spacing to match their body size. This facilitates better alignment, encourages better form, and leads to reduced stress in shoulders and elbows overall.

All this does come at a cost, and that is the acreage and effort this model requires to mount, which limits the number of spaces it could be hung. It's also a more substantial investment than some boards we reviewed, but we are stoked to get the best training board out there for a middle-of-the-road price. To maximize your hang time at home, the Trango Rock Prodigy is our top recommendation.

Read review: Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center

2

Best Wooden Model


Beastmaker 1000


Editors' Choice Award

$160 List
List Price
See It

Material: Wood | Dimensions: 22 3/4" x 6"
Extremely compact
Great selection of edges and pockets
Best-in-class for its texture
Good looks
Expensive
Crowded grips
Too much chalk creates gummy holds

Always in the discussion when talking about the best all-around models, the Beastmaker 1000 is undoubtedly one of them. With the review-best texture and some of the most compact dimensions, this board is gentle on your skin and fits in tight spaces where other boards can't. Even with its small dimensions, it still manages to offer an above-average number of pockets and edges. We found these pockets and edges to be well-thought out and designed with a very good progression in mind.

While we liked its hold selection, it doesn't offer quite as systematic a layout, nor is it quite as easy to log progress, as other models. It does have an above average amount of holds, but more is still better to keep workouts interesting, and other models have more. But again, this model fits in smaller spaces better than others, and its wooden finish tends to fit a room's aesthetics better than swirly, multi-colored resin models. If you can stomach the price, this is a fantastic model.

Read review: Beastmaker 1000

3

Best Bang for the Buck


Metolius 3D Simulator


Best Buy Award

$78.95
at MooseJaw
See It

Material: Polyester resin | Dimensions: 28" x 8.7"
Excellent value
Great selection of edges and pockets
Well-designed to reduce shoulder and elbow stress
Good progression of holds
So-so texture
Not for high-end climbers (folks already redpointing 5.13)
Not compact

The Metolius 3D Simulator is mega-popular, and we get why. With several iterations and updates over the years improving its overall ergonomics and progression of edges, it remains a stand-out model at an impressively low price. The 3D Simulator easily wins our Best Buy Award for being the best hangboard for the money, though a better description would be an awesome board that happens to be very affordable. The Simulator offers a plethora of edges and pockets that provide one of the better progressions of grips of any model we tested. It also offers some of the best ergonomics, encouraging good form resulting in reduced stress its users' elbows and shoulders.

While not particularly aimed at top-end climbers, it's ideal for folks whose projects are in the 5.11-5.13a range, which is the majority of climbers. It isn't the most compact model, but it strikes a nice balance of being small enough to fit above most doorways while still offering some of the most edges and pockets in our review. Don't let its low price tag fool you; this board has what most climbers need to make progress and push the next climbing grade.

Read review: Metolius 3D Simulator

4

Top Pick for 5.13+ Climbers


Beastmaker 2000


Top Pick Award

$159 List
List Price
See It

Material: Wood | Dimensions: 22 3/4" x 6"
Compact dimensions
Best for higher-end climbers
No shortage of vicious holds
Lots of one and two finger pockets
Excellent texture
A poor option for climbers in moderate grades
Expensive
Just okay warm-up holds

The Beastmaker 2000 is what its name implies; a burly beast of a board for top end climbers. Some of this model's warm-up holds are the most challenging grips on other boards. The 2000 series features no jugs, one warm-up four-finger edge, and no pairs of three-finger pockets (because they are primarily designed to be used with one arm). What this model lacks in jugs or larger edges it certainly makes up for with heinously difficult ones, sporting the most mono and two-fingered pockets of any model in our review. Even its slopers are brutal, and the 42-degree sloper feels impossible to several 5.13 climbers without cheating. All this make the Beastmaker 2000 virtually unequaled for dedicated and top-echelon climbers looking to take their climbing to the next level.

Ideal for climbers who are already repointing routes in the 5.12+/5.13- range, but this model is a poor choice for people looking to get into fingerboard training or might have a maximum red-point max of around 5.12a or V5. Folks not already sending 5.13/V8 will be better suited with a less challenging model which provides a better overall progression. If you love this board but don't climb 5.13, we recommend checking out the Beastmaker 1000, which is aimed a little more at folks in the 5.10+ to 5.13- range and maintains the same texture and a similar, compact design.

Read review: Beastmaker 2000

5

Top Pick for Training on the Road


Awesome Woodys Cliff Board Mini


Top Pick Award

$105 List
List Price
See It

Material: Wood | Dimensions: 13.5" x 5 1/2"
Small, lightweight, portable
Possible to hang almost anywhere
No drilling required
Narrow profile can be tough on shoulders or elbows
Not the best for full-time use
Slots aren't super comfortable

The Awesome Woodys Cliff Board Mini is the fingerboard solution for frequent travelers to take on the road. It's roughly the same size as a laptop keyboard and can be hung up nearly anywhere without drilling a single screw. While ultra-compact our review team felt it offered just enough grips to keep it interesting. We even found its' edge selection quite respectable.

This board has a specific use and isn't necessarily suitable for consistent fingerboard training. This is mostly due to its narrow width which encourages poor form and can elevate the amount of stress on users' shoulders and elbows compared to a more traditional model. However, for occasional use, while traveling, for van life, or to stay entertained during a rainy stretch of a fall road trip, it's completely appropriate. For these types of application, it's well worth the inherent trade-offs this board presents.

Read review: Awesome Woodys Cliff Board Mini

6

Best Value for a Wood Model


Metolius Wood Grips Compact II


Best Buy Award

$80 List
List Price
See It

Material: Wood | Dimensions: 24" x 6.2"
Great Value
Compact dimensions help it to fit more spaces
Classy look
Fewer edges and pockets (but just enough)
Not our favorite wood texture

The Metolius Wood Grips Compact II is one of the best-priced wood models on the market. Its compact dimensions mean finding a place to mount it is much easier than a full-sized version. It can be mounted above doorways with below-average-height ceilings or squeezed into other areas where a full-sized model wouldn't stand a chance of fitting. When like wood models like this one for hanging in a visible part of the house due to its good looks.

While small, our testing team felt the Compact II still offered enough hold options to be used for consistent and long-term training, but only barely. We like the Compact II for the price but prefer nearly everything about the Beastmaker 1000 more. It is even slightly smaller but has more holds. Unfortunately, the Beastmaker is also twice the cost. For those on a budget but don't have ultra-tight space restrictions, we recommend checking out the Metolius Simulator 3D, too. It costs the same, encourages far better form while offering significantly more holds, and facilitates a better progression of improvement when compared to the Compact II. For a compact, wooden model that keeps the price friendly, though, this model is just that.

Read review: Metolius Wood Grips Compact II

Each member of our review team thoroughly tested each model and compared them in five categories. We mounted each one to our walls  measured the size and the depth of each pocket  and spent hundreds of hours hanging off all of them for our review.
Each member of our review team thoroughly tested each model and compared them in five categories. We mounted each one to our walls, measured the size and the depth of each pocket, and spent hundreds of hours hanging off all of them for our review.

How to Choose the Right Hangboard


Hangboards, AKA fingerboards, have long been part of climbing training regimes and with good reason. There is no better way to target pure finger strength. If you have never used one, you'll be amazed, and with a good training plan, you can notice improvements after just a few weeks. That may sound like an infomercial, but its true. Hangboards aren't that expensive for what you'll get out of them either. For the price of one month's gym membership, you can train two to four days a week in your spare time for years.

Jonathan Siegrist: "In the business of grabbing rock, our fingers can never be too strong."

Tony Yaniro: "If you can't hold the holds, then there's nothing to endure."

No climber ever complained that their fingers were too strong for a given route and to Tony Yaniro's point; if you can't hold the holds to begin with, then endurance doesn't even play a factor. These dedicated training boards are the ticket to boosting finger strength tremendously and, in reality, don't take that much time to perform.

Lead tester Ian Nicholson demonstrates some of the potential workout techniques on a Beastermaker 1000.
Lead tester Ian Nicholson demonstrates some of the potential workout techniques on a Beastermaker 1000.

What to Look For


You should pick a product that has several holds you can barely grip and a few you can't manage yet. Contrary to popular belief, a fingerboard's primary purpose isn't for doing pull-ups regardless of how many folks you might see cranking them out at the gym. If you can hold onto the holds forever (or even like 20-30 seconds), you're not building any power (you're just inefficiently building endurance), and you should be hanging off smaller edges.

Key considerations should be finding one that fits the space you are dedicating to training and the right ability level for you. It should have some warm-up holds  lots to challenge you  and a few you can't yet even hang from. Andy Dahlen hangs from a Beastmaker 1000.
Key considerations should be finding one that fits the space you are dedicating to training and the right ability level for you. It should have some warm-up holds, lots to challenge you, and a few you can't yet even hang from. Andy Dahlen hangs from a Beastmaker 1000.

Hangboards are for building pure finger power and maximum crimping and grip strength. Pick a board with at least a few holds you'll fall off of after 7-10 seconds and others that you'll at least get tired and will struggle on after 3-5 sets of 7-10 seconds. A few jugs and slopers are nice to warm up on and for use toward the end of your workout when your open-handed crimp strength is fried. However, you'll be best served if the rest is all business. Put your ego aside, crimp until you fail, then take solace in knowing that you're getting stronger.

Contrary to what is sometimes popular believed  fingerboards are not primarily for pull-ups. They are for building finger strength which requires a good progression of holds that are challenging for their user.
Contrary to what is sometimes popular believed, fingerboards are not primarily for pull-ups. They are for building finger strength which requires a good progression of holds that are challenging for their user.

Material


The three materials most commonly used are wood, polyurethane, and polyester resin. Polyurethane and polyester are what nearly all climbing holds are made from, and the two share most of their characteristics. However, all three of these materials offer some distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Wood

Wood's primary advantage is its low friction; meaning its far easier on your skin than even the best-textured resin models. The low friction also makes holds subtly harder which is a small bonus while training. When using wood boards try not to use much if any chalk. A little early on is fine, but excessive chalk use over time covers the pores of the wood, creating an undesired gummy and slick feeling. Be sure to wipe it down occasionally with a warm, wet rag and allow to dry completely.

Wood's primary advantage is its low friction which is easier on your skin and makes all the grips subtly more difficult. The disadvantages are it tends to be more expensive and more limited in shape and hold diversity.
Wood's primary advantage is its low friction which is easier on your skin and makes all the grips subtly more difficult. The disadvantages are it tends to be more expensive and more limited in shape and hold diversity.

The disadvantage of wood is that its shapes tend to be a little more limited and don't have the variety of holds compared to resin boards, and rarely have good pinches. Wood boards do tend to have comfortable pockets and edges and slippery slopers. Wood is lower weight than resin, and while this makes mounting easier, once your board is up, it doesn't matter. Wood is also a good choice for climbers who have to mount their board in a common area for no other reason than it looks nicer hanging on your wall. Lastly, in warm climates or hot attics, wood will hang onto heat a lot longer than resin resulting in potentially poorer friction.

Polyester Resin

Polyester resin is the same material that some climbing holds are made of, though in recent years it has been replaced more with polyurethane because of weight and durability issues with over-tightening. Polyester resin's primary advantage is that it can be created into almost any shape imaginable, and most resin boards have more diverse hold options than their wooden counterparts. Resin boards tend to feature more interesting slopers and arrays of pinches. Unlike wood, feel free to use as much chalk as you'd like with it, though its still not a bad idea to clean it now and again.

The fact that polyester resin boards are heavier isn't a super big deal except during the moment when you are mounting it overhead. The difference in texture has also decreased  and while wood is still superior  it isn't near as big of a gap as it was five or six years ago.
The fact that polyester resin boards are heavier isn't a super big deal except during the moment when you are mounting it overhead. The difference in texture has also decreased, and while wood is still superior, it isn't near as big of a gap as it was five or six years ago.

The main downside of resin is that the texture tends to be harder peoples skin. How much harder depends a lot on the manufacturer, and it's rare that two manufacturers are exactly equal when directly comparing two models under the same brand. Resin will never splinter, but it can chip. Resin won't conduct heat as much as wood and thus won't feel as warm to the touch after extended sessions or workouts in hotter spaces.

Polyurethane

Times are changing, and now more and more climbing holds are being made out of polyurethane than polyester resin both because it's lower weight and less likely to chip while mounting. Polyurethane shares most of the same user interface characteristics with resin providing unique shapes and thus a more diverse array of holds. Polyurethane also shares what is the biggest downside in most peoples eyes of non-wooden models in that typically they are more textured than wood and thus harsher on your skin. Technology is improving, though, and manufacturers are trying harder and harder to produce polyurethane models with a smoother texture.

Polyurethane is the new wave climbing hold material because it's less weight and less likely to chip while mounting than polyester resin.
Polyurethane is the new wave climbing hold material because it's less weight and less likely to chip while mounting than polyester resin.

Polyurethane does breaks down quicker than resin when exposed to weather and is a poor choice for a board that will be mounted outside. Polyurethane also polishes quicker after repeated use compared to polyester resin which is interesting because it is more durable when it comes to chipping. This is more of an issue for climbing gyms. Boards with only 1-4 people using it will take a long time to become polished and shouldn't even be a factor. Polyurethane is the material primary used by So iLL, and Metolius has a line of climbing holds made of polyurethane, but their fingerboards are still resin.

Variety of Holds


More holds don't necessarily make a given model better than another. The best options have a nice progression of edges and pockets for you to get stronger on so that the hangboard grows with you. Ideally, there are nice incremental changes in depth to two, three, and four-finger pockets (and maybe a few mono options, oohhh monos…). For each pocket size, our testers prefer around 1/4" increments once a hold gets smaller than one inch. It's always worth remembering its totally okay to put 3-fingers in a 4-finger pocket, but it can be harder to position them 1/2-inch deep in a 3/4-inch pocket.

Besides facilitating a better workout a good variety of holds will also keep your training a little more diverse and interesting making it even more likely that you'll stick with it. The Trango Rock Prodigy seen here has one of the largest arrays of holds on the market  several of which offer numerous uses for each edge.
Besides facilitating a better workout a good variety of holds will also keep your training a little more diverse and interesting making it even more likely that you'll stick with it. The Trango Rock Prodigy seen here has one of the largest arrays of holds on the market, several of which offer numerous uses for each edge.

All of our testers appreciated having at least one set of jugs and 1-2 sets of slopers in which to warm up on. Pinches are nice, they can be good for certain route-specific training, build whole-hand power and certainly mix it up, but the bulk of grips should focus on shallow, flat-topped edges and pockets.

More grip options are generally better  but a good progression of holds regarding their depth and difficulty is the most important thing. Holds should get progressively smaller without large of leaps in difficulty to provide the best overall design for strength gains and long-term training. The 3D Simulator sports an above average amount of grips.
More grip options are generally better, but a good progression of holds regarding their depth and difficulty is the most important thing. Holds should get progressively smaller without large of leaps in difficulty to provide the best overall design for strength gains and long-term training. The 3D Simulator sports an above average amount of grips.

Edges and Crimps

Edges and crimps are the bread and butter of fingerboard training and what most climbers should base their decision around when purchasing a board and utilize while training. Don't be afraid if the smallest edge depth might seem impossibly difficult at first. Give yourself a month and you'll be surprised of what you can hang onto.

A good range of edges is likely the most important factor when considering your purchase. While pockets are nice you can always just use 1-3 fingers on a broad edge to simulate a pocket. We like at least 3 different edge depths ranging from 1/4" or 1/2" to 1" in depth.
A good range of edges is likely the most important factor when considering your purchase. While pockets are nice you can always just use 1-3 fingers on a broad edge to simulate a pocket. We like at least 3 different edge depths ranging from 1/4" or 1/2" to 1" in depth.

Our review team overwhelming prefers at least three non-incut/positive edges with widths around, 1", 3/4" and 1/2". We like edges that round off at the entrance as it is generally less harsh feeling on our fingers. This also encourages a more open-handed crimp and decreases the likelihood of unexpectedly slipping off of a hold.

Pockets

Pockets are great because they force you to isolate one, two or three fingers on your board. This is an excellent training technique because it significantly increases the stress (your bodyweight) across fewer fingers, resulting in more efficient power gains. Like edges, having a solid progression of pocket pairs is more important than the sheer number of pockets, as this provides a better workout.

While you can perform any hang on a wider edge than you can on a dedicated pocket  a well-designed pocket can provide more support for the digit you are hanging off of. Using less than 4-fingers is another easy way to increase the load your fingers are taking to increase strength  though this needs to be worked up to.
While you can perform any hang on a wider edge than you can on a dedicated pocket, a well-designed pocket can provide more support for the digit you are hanging off of. Using less than 4-fingers is another easy way to increase the load your fingers are taking to increase strength, though this needs to be worked up to.

Some climbers believe it's better to perform isolated finger workouts on edges rather than in specifically sized pockets because inevitably your fingers come into contact with the sides of the pocket and give you more surface area thus holding power. They argue that while subtle, this is slightly "cheating you" of your power work out. We'll let you be the judge there.

Slopers

Slopers are great for helping you warm-up, finish your workout when your fingertips are trashed, and work on whole-hand strength. A lot of the slopers don't feel too crushing on their own, but 20 minutes into a fingerboard workout those same slopers can cause crushing forearm fatigue. We like at least one set of slopers, but ideally, two, to mix it up.

Slopers also work on whole-hand strength  work some core  and offer far less chance of injury than most pockets.
Slopers also work on whole-hand strength, work some core, and offer far less chance of injury than most pockets.

Jugs

All but one of the boards we reviewed feature at least one pair of jugs. These are key for warming up, working on lock-offs (don't underestimate the benefits of these), or just cranking out pull-ups, weighted, assisted, or straight-up. We don't feel that any board needs more than one set of jugs and they should be big enough that you could hang on them for more than a minute to work on the things mentioned above to not strain your fingers or tendons.

While a-typical in shape  these jugs still proved great for warming up or weighted pull-ups.
While a-typical in shape, these jugs still proved great for warming up or weighted pull-ups.

Pinches

While pinches aren't a necessary design feature of any hangboard nor are they generally a large part of anyone's training regimen, they do add some variety and can be great for some route-specific training. This is especially true for people who frequent roofy crags or projects are steep and blocky.

Pinches  like slopers  help increase whole-hand strength but are of even greater benefit to climbers who log a lot of time in steeper terrain.
Pinches, like slopers, help increase whole-hand strength but are of even greater benefit to climbers who log a lot of time in steeper terrain.

Level of Difficulty


A lot of climbers don't understand that there can be a large range in difficulty among models. For example, an intermediate climber won't get much out of a super burly board, like the Beastmaster 2000 (pretty much the most difficult board) as something like the Metolius 3D Simulator which is a more intermediate board. In our review, we tried to pick models that would work for the biggest population of climbers who are interested in a dedicated training board; around 5.10+ to mid-5.13. Some products we tested would be best for climbers above that difficulty range, but that range still came into play while selecting models for our review.

Here Vertical World Climbing Coach Billy Gierach hangs from the extremely challenging Beastmaker 2000  which is geared towards climbers in the 5.13- range and above.
Here Vertical World Climbing Coach Billy Gierach hangs from the extremely challenging Beastmaker 2000, which is geared towards climbers in the 5.13- range and above.

For the most part, when considering different models, the difficulty range starts pretty high, and there are no truly "easy" boards. At the easiest, they are aimed at hard 5.10+ climbers to low 5.11 climbers and go up from there. If you aren't quite climbing 5.10+/5.11a in the gym, fear not, you'll get there, but a hangboard likely isn't the best tool for you yet. These types of climbers will get more benefit from just continuing to climb rather than climbing and fingerboard training. If you're not climbing at least at this level, you're also more likely to hurt yourself because your fingers and tendons likely aren't quite strong enough for the intense pressure they see while training on a hangboard.

What space you have in your apartment  house  or dwelling to mount your hangboard could be the number one factor influencing your purchase. Here the Metolius Wood Grips Compact II barely fits above a standard height doorway with a 7-foot ceiling.
What space you have in your apartment, house, or dwelling to mount your hangboard could be the number one factor influencing your purchase. Here the Metolius Wood Grips Compact II barely fits above a standard height doorway with a 7-foot ceiling.

Mounting Considerations


Hangboards vary wildly in overall size and mounting patterns. Having a bigger board typically means a greater array of holds, which is nice but far from a must. A compact board can still be very beneficial with an open mind. For most climbers, mounting boards into drywall or anything that is not open framing (which is obviously easier), mounting the board to a pre-cut 3/4"-1" thick piece of plywood is the best option. If you want your set up to look nicer, for a few more dollars you can buy plywood with one side finished, making it less of an eye-sore in shared living areas.

The Blank Slate Slim mounts above a doorway without having to drill into your walls and can be outfitted with most models.
The Blank Slate Slim mounts above a doorway without having to drill into your walls and can be outfitted with most models.

Hole-Free Mounting

It's possible to "mount" a hangboard on a pull-up bar if you live in an apartment or don't want to drill holes in your wall. Our favorite option for this comes from Blank Slate Climbing ($115), which offers expensive but super effective systems.

The hang-nearly-anywhere Awesome Woodys line of boards is a great option as a non-mounted board.
The hang-nearly-anywhere Awesome Woodys line of boards is a great option as a non-mounted board.

It's also worth considering Awesome Woodys hanging models. We reviewed the Cliff Board Mini, which won our Top Pick for travel because it's the size of a Chromebook and can be hung almost anywhere. While this model isn't ideal for day-in-day-out fingerboard training because of its narrow width, they make a wider version that is Cliff Board Wide Boy. While we found ours sweet for travel and warming up at the crag, they are an appropriate option for folks who simply don't have room or the opportunity to mount a more traditional model.

Training


Fingerboards are awesome training tools that take very little time to get an extremely productive workout right in your home. These workouts are short but should be intense. Fingerboard workouts are pretty much like running wind-sprints or powerlifting for your fingers. Many incredibly strong and famous climbers like Tommy Caldwell, Alex Puccio, Jonathan Siegrist, Alex Honnold, Sonnie Trotter, and Daniel Woods have used hangboards extensively at some point during their training cycle. Sonnie Trotter, over a winter working a full-time construction job, once trained almost exclusively on hangboards, rarely visiting a climbing gym while preparing for his ascent of Necessary Evil (5.14c) in the Virgin River Gorge. He claims there was no doubt in his mind that this is what helped propel him to the next level.

There is a reason so many pro and top-notch climbers use these boards  which is targetted finger-strength training. The key is picking a board with enough bad holds that you can barely hang onto and some grips that you can't at all. Here tester Ian Nicholson suffers (and gets stronger) on the Trango Rock Prodigy.
There is a reason so many pro and top-notch climbers use these boards, which is targetted finger-strength training. The key is picking a board with enough bad holds that you can barely hang onto and some grips that you can't at all. Here tester Ian Nicholson suffers (and gets stronger) on the Trango Rock Prodigy.

The key with this type of training is to hang off of holds that are BAD and extremely challenging for you (once warmed up of course). Every rep doesn't have to be super severe, but it should rarely be easy. This is the key to effectively building power. After you are thoroughly warmed up, you should be training on grips that you will hold onto for less than 10 seconds, and some training books suggest even less than 7. You don't need to fail in those early sets of 7-10 seconds, but it should be a slight battle for you to stay on, and later in your workout, there should be reps where you are fighting 100% for those seven seconds which will feel like an eternity.

There are many training programs and inexpensive apps to help you focus your time and effort to improve finger strength. Here Graham Zimmerman uses a structured and systematic training regimen that has helped him open difficult new routes across the globe and get nominated for his second the Piolet d'Or.
There are many training programs and inexpensive apps to help you focus your time and effort to improve finger strength. Here Graham Zimmerman uses a structured and systematic training regimen that has helped him open difficult new routes across the globe and get nominated for his second the Piolet d'Or.

Most training regimes involve 5-8 hangs for 7-10 seconds and then a 3-4 minute rests, equaling one set. Your goal is to perform 5-8 total sets, ideally really struggling or failing towards the end of those sets. It's okay to spot yourself by putting your foot down or by grabbing a bigger hold with one hand. If it's too easy, try hanging with just one hand for a super power boost, or by hanging weight off your harness or wearing a 15 lb backpack. Here is a great 1 minute video on some work-outs by Daniel Woods.

One common method of training is finger grouping. Training while hanging from two fingers  index and middle  middle and ring  and ring and pinky. If your finger grips seem too difficult  consider two sets of three fingers.
One common method of training is finger grouping. Training while hanging from two fingers, index and middle, middle and ring, and ring and pinky. If your finger grips seem too difficult, consider two sets of three fingers.

It's important to note that this type of training will greatly increase your finger power and contact strength, which will enable you to hang onto progressively smaller holds. But for most climbers who want to continue to improve, these workouts should just be part of their training regimen that also involves the continued development of technique via climbing of some form.

Here Billy Gierach brings the ruckus on the Beastmaker 2000 with a 35-lbs weight.
Here Billy Gierach brings the ruckus on the Beastmaker 2000 with a 35-lbs weight.

Adding Resistance

Adding resistance, like in power-weightlifting, will boost your top-end crimping strength. However, you need to be extra careful not to injure yourself. After effectively being able to hang off of all, or nearly all of the holds on your board, add a little weight (10-15 lbs.) and start with some of your board's larger grips.

Hanging weights off a climbing harness  a purpose-built weight-vest  or even a loaded backpack are the best ways to increase resistance but the possibilities are endless. Here Ian Nicholson adds the resistance of his 90-lb niece while working out.
Hanging weights off a climbing harness, a purpose-built weight-vest, or even a loaded backpack are the best ways to increase resistance but the possibilities are endless. Here Ian Nicholson adds the resistance of his 90-lb niece while working out.

As you continue to progress, consider doing more one-armed hangs or one arm with a little assistance with your second hand lightly hanging onto a nearby sling or large hold. All of these methods will continue to build finger strength quickly. It's a good idea to do some weighted sessions with two hands before committing to one-armed hangs on smaller holds because it will surprise you how much more difficult this is.

A selection of training-for-climbing books from our review team's library. While there are many options out there but for hangboard specific training perhaps few are as in-depth as the Rock Climbers Training Manual by Mark and Mike Anderson.
A selection of training-for-climbing books from our review team's library. While there are many options out there but for hangboard specific training perhaps few are as in-depth as the Rock Climbers Training Manual by Mark and Mike Anderson.

Read up on Training

Read up before diving head first into your first session. Nearly all training for climbing books include a fingerboard section. Some of our review team's favorites include The Rock Climber's Training Manual: A Comprehensive Program for Continuous Climbing Improvement by Mike Anderson and Mark Anderson, Training for Climbing by Eric Horst, and The Self Coached Climber by Dan Hague and Douglas Hunter.

We love training for climbing almost as much as we love climbing itself (well  maybe not quite  but it isn't far away). We hope this review helps you pick the best board for you to continue to get stronger  achieve your goals  and make more challenging ones.
We love training for climbing almost as much as we love climbing itself (well, maybe not quite, but it isn't far away). We hope this review helps you pick the best board for you to continue to get stronger, achieve your goals, and make more challenging ones.

Conclusion


Training on a hangboard is an excellent way to increase finger strength and to improve, no matter what type of climbing you fancy. They are an affordable training tool that should last for years and hopefully offer some inspiration to train when you might only have 30-minutes to spare. This is a review we are quite passionate about; we love climbing, training for climbing, and seeing people get better. We honestly hope that this review can help you decide between the different materials, types of holds, and difficulty levels to ultimately select the most appropriate product for you.


Ian Nicholson