Round #154

Hey Eric, After chatting with you at the gym, I recently started doing some one-arm finger hangs. I am using a pad and a half edge (half-crimp grip position) with a pulley system to remove a little weight. I also have a sling hanging that I hold onto very lightly just to prevent my body from pivoting at the shoulder. I do a 7 second hang with probably 7/10 effort. Wrist straight. Elbow slightly bent. Shoulder active. Does that sound about right to you guys? –Ryan (Pennsylvania)

Ryan, For development of maximum grip strength the effort needs to be more like 9 out of 10…with the hang ideally ending just a few seconds before failure. Half crimp or open crimp is the way to go—it’s best to get strong both ways, since the two muscles used are stressed to different proportions with each grip. One-arm (with some bend) or one-arm with helper sling is fine, although the helper sling makes it hard to precisely quantify the amount of weight you are supporting…thus making it difficult to track gains. Ultimately, you may want to do a combination of weighted two arm hangs, weighted or unweighted one-arm hangs (sans helper sling). Be precise in your hang and rest timing, and keep good records to track the gains. Happy training!

Hi Eric, I’m returning to climbing after a long time off. I’m gym climbing 2-3 days a week and looking at hang board training to improve my performance. As a previous sufferer of elbow tendonitis I’m wary of overdoing it. I’m also 54 now. So I’m wondering if you have any tips on how much and how often to hangboard train while still actually climbing in between. I’m not in a rush, slow and steady works just fine for me. –Mike (Canada)

Hey Mike! First, you and I are about the same age, and there’s no reason you can’t get on a program and get back into pushing into the higher grades! Injury is a very real concern, however, both as an older climber…and with your history of injury. Without knowing more about your past elbow injury, I can’t give any really specific advice. However, in easing back into both climbing and hangboard training, I suggest you try for two days of actual climbing and 1 or 2 days of supplemental hangboard training. Also important: training to optimize body composition, some modest amount of aerobic training, and antagonist/stabilizer training to help make your elbows and shoulders more bulletproof to injury.

Hello! Five days ago I had an AC joint dislocation at my right shoulder while skiing and I’m waiting to have my medical visits and then physiotherapy. May you suggest some training tools and how I should use them in order to keep in shape or even strengthen my fingers and forearms as won’t be able to climb for some time? Thank you very much, Eric, for helping me through this difficult moment! –Luca (Italy)

Hello Luca, Sorry to hear about your shoulder injury! That’s tough, because you really can’t do much climbing-specific training for the arms without stressing the injured shoulder. So for the next month (or more, depending on doctor prognosis), I feel you need to focus on core training (with exercises that don’t stress the shoulder) and aerobic activity (running, etc.) to keep your body composition where you want it for a quick return to climbing once your shoulder improves. Some basic finger exercises—squeezing a tennis ball or similar, dumbbell finger curls, and such–might help maintain a little forearm conditioning, but make rehabbing your shoulder top priority. Good luck, my friend!

Hello Eric, I just watched your Epic-TV video on hangboard training and am psyched to get started! I have one question: At what point during a climbing session should hangboard training be done? I know a thorough warmup is required, but should the training be done in the beginning or at the end of a climbing session? Or should it be done on rest days? I usually climb 2 days on, one day off. FYI, I boulder around V6/V7. –Dean

Hey Dean, Yeah, that’s the magic–getting the programming right…both when to do an exercise in the workout and what days to train and when to rest. Anyway, intensive hangboarding is best done about two-thirds of the way through your session. Do a complete warm-up and most of your “serious” bouldering & other climbing. Then give yourself a 10-minute rest before beginning your hangboard training (and perhaps a bit of campusing too). Finish up your session with a little cool-down climbing and other generalized exercises for the core and stabilizer/antagonist muscles. BTW, if doing weighted hangboarding, limit it to two days per week…with a total of 4 climbing/training days and 3 “rest days” (antagonist and aerobic training okay) with no climbing-specific weighting of the fingers. Hope this helps!