Ready to punish your fingers and push higher grades? We bought our hard-climbing, dedicated team of climbing experts our 6 favorite models for testing after researching and considering 25+ models. We target boards that are good for every climber whether you're climbing 5.10 to 5.13+. Our testers all performed more than 30 workouts, doing hundreds of pull-ups and dead hangs. We even added resistance to truly compare the texture and type of holds. Through these numerous workouts, we didn't only acquire steel tendons and rock hard abs, but we provide you with all the information you need to know to find the best hangboard to push to your personal goals.
The Best Hangboards for Home Training
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
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
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
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
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
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
Why You Should Trust Us
The strongmen (and women) that took the time to truly test each hangboard is led by AMGA certified guide, Ian Nicholson. As an avid climber, Ian's lust for adventure commonly takes him into remote places such as the Kichatna Spires of the Alaskan range and the Waddington Range of British Columbia. Earning grant offerings, he has explored a-many rock walls throughout the country. As the youngest person to ever pass the American Mountain Assistant Rock & Alpine Guide, he proves to be inspired, diligent, and full of vigor. With such endeavors, he trains hard, making him (and his team) a perfect crew to provide insights on the benefits and detriments of different hangboards.
In the testing cycle, we had several people perform at least five workouts on each board. We crimped down hard, pinched on frictionless surfaces, and even wore a weight vest to truly decipher differences in texture and friction. With these tests, we are able to provide insight on which are sufficient for different training regimes. With these tests, and with our unbiased testing procedures, we give you straight up advice on which is the best and which simply doesn't send the standards.Related: The Best Climbing Harness of 2019
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.Related: The Best Rock Climbing Ropes of 2019
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, which offers expensive but super effective systems.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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