Improving on the Hangboard but not translating over to climbing


Original Post
Erez L · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 20

Hi guys,

This may or may not have been asked and addressed before but it is really bothering me and kind of perplexing.

I have been training on and off for the past 2 years on the hangboard and have noticed significant gains on what I am hanging on and how much weight I can add. Also, did some hangboarding with a friend who climbs at roughly the same grade as me but he is significantly weaker on the hangboard.

I am not seeing these gains translating over to my climbing very well. Technique aside, as I am well aware that technique is a very important factor, what else is there to consider? My technique is pretty good and I am constantly working on that aspect of my climbing but I want to see if anyone else out there has any ideas on what can be worked on to progress.

If it helps, I am 5'9 165 pounds and about 9% body fat. I have a muscular composition and no I do not lift weights.

Micah Klesick · · Vancouver, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 3,894

Are you doing a limit boulder phase after each hangboarding phase? I find that it takes a couple weeks to notice the improvement, and that you really need to focus on power to get the improved strength to show.

Erez L · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 20
Micah Klesick wrote:Are you doing a limit boulder phase after each hangboarding phase? I find that it takes a couple weeks to notice the improvement, and that you really need to focus on power to get the improved strength to show.
I try and boulder as a way to build recruitment and power.

On the hangboard I am doing 1 arm hangs on a pad crimp assisted with 25 pounds off for 10 seconds on and 2 minutes off. Also, I am finding the smallest edge I can hold on to for 10 seconds on and 2 minutes off.
Jon H · · MD/DC · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 123
Erez L wrote: 10 seconds on and 2 minutes off.... Also, I am finding the smallest edge I can hold on to for 10 seconds on and 2 minutes off.
That's your problem right there. The gains you're making don't translate to climbing because... that never happens in real climbing. Try 7 seconds on, 4 seconds off for 2-minute cycles. I think the Anderson brothers call it them "repeaters."
Erez L · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 20
Jon H wrote: That's your problem right there. The gains you're making don't translate to climbing because... that never happens in real climbing. Try 7 seconds on, 4 seconds off for 2-minute cycles. I think the Anderson brothers call it them "repeaters."
I'm training for maximum strength not for hypertrophy. Unfortunately I am a boulderer at heart.
Micah Klesick · · Vancouver, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 3,894
Erez L wrote: I'm training for maximum strength not for hypertrophy. Unfortunately I am a boulderer at heart.
Then you need to be adding WAY, way more weight
Erez L · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 20
Micah Klesick wrote: Then you need to be adding WAY, way more weight
On my 1 arm hangs on a crimp?
Micah Klesick · · Vancouver, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 3,894

No reason to do one arm hangs imo, it doesn't use your fingers as much as it does shoulders, and does't really transfer all that well to climbing.
Do small to medium crimps, two hands, and add as much weight as you can for 6-8 seconds. You should be falling off at 8 seconds or so, then rest 2-3 min, and then do again, times 8-10 reps. This of course, after doing a 20-30 min bouldering warmup, and then about 10 reps of lighter weight sets to warm up.
I would shoot for using a hold size that you can add a minimum of 50lbs to and just barely hang the 8 seconds.

reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125

Why are you failing? Because you can't hold on or because you can't make the move? Unfortunately, fingerboarding is really lousy at training hard moves.

Micah Klesick wrote:No reason to do one arm hangs imo, it doesn't use your fingers as much as it does shoulders, and does't really transfer all that well to climbing.
Let's just say you don't know what you are talking about..
Erez L · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 20
Micah Klesick wrote:No reason to do one arm hangs imo, it doesn't use your fingers as much as it does shoulders, and does't really transfer all that well to climbing. Do small to medium crimps, two hands, and add as much weight as you can for 6-8 seconds. You should be falling off at 8 seconds or so, then rest 2-3 min, and then do again, times 8-10 reps. This of course, after doing a 20-30 min bouldering warmup, and then about 10 reps of lighter weight sets to warm up. I would shoot for using a hold size that you can add a minimum of 50lbs to and just barely hang the 8 seconds.
Interesting, I can give this a try. Would be fun to try something new anyways.
Erez L · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 20
reboot wrote:Why are you failing? Because you can't hold on or because you can't make the move? Unfortunately, fingerboarding is really lousy at training hard moves.
Can't make the moves generally. But at the harder grades I can't comfortably hold onto the holds to even attempt to make a move.
JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 95

I think the short answer is that pure finger strength (hangboard strength) is not a limiting factor right now in your climbing. These two statements both indicate this:

Erez L wrote: a friend who climbs at roughly the same grade as me but he is significantly weaker on the hangboard. I am not seeing these gains translating over to my climbing very well.
Also, there's this:

Erez L wrote: My technique is pretty good
You sure about that? I've noticed that seemingly all climbers have "above average" technique, in their view. You may want to reassess. Believing that you have good technique can be an impediment to recognizing all the things there are to learn and improve at. First you have to accept that your technical skills require massive improvement, and then you will be able to really start working on them. This is almost uniformly true, regardless of your climbing level.

Anyway, you should climb as much as possible with better climbers, and pay attention to what they do differently. This (especially) includes your weak friend. Watch how he gets up things, despite having less strength.

Physically, there are various other factors that could be at play. Maybe you are bad at recruiting? Or maybe you lack endurance? It is very specific to the individual and their goals.

As a reference point: What grade do you climb (and where)? How hard do you boulder? What grade, type of climbing, and area are your goals? All these are important diagnostic details.

Side note: don't stop hangboarding. The hangboard is still a good thing to include in your training even if finger strength isn't limiting right now. As you work on all the other aspects that are holding you back (whatever those are) you may eventually run up against limitations due to finger strength. Continuing to hangboard will help you in the long run, and also help prevent finger injuries. Just don't make the hangboard your main focus, or let it distract you too much from things that will help you improve now.
reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125
Erez L wrote: Can't make the moves generally. But at the harder grades I can't comfortably hold onto the holds to even attempt to make a move.
Being able to hang on straight-armed is rarely the hardest part in bouldering. There really is no substitute to actually trying hard moves. Not saying that doesn't require finger strength, but it's hard to translate immediately from dead hang gain. On a finger board you are a bit limited: you can try doing some pullups on small holds, including offset pullups w/ a sling for the lower hand, but these are all significant compromises.
TheBirdman Friedman · · Eldorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 65

I could also point to your core. While finger strength is key, being unable to maintain adequate core tension could be a reason you're unable to make hard moves or why holds are feeling too small while climbing. Holds feel a lot better hanging straight off them (like on a hangboard) than on a steep wall with poor feet if your core strength is inadequate.

Also, despite being a boulderer, is your endurance up to par? Are you typically falling near the end of problems? Assume your bouldering limit is V5. Are you more likely to send a V5 with the crux being the first move or a V4 with the crux being the last move? If your answer is the V5, you may need to train your endurance.

I typically agree that max hangs are better for pure finger strength than repeaters. With that said, you are only as strong as your weakest link. You can push the ceiling of your finger strength up but if the floor of your core strength, technique, or endurance remains low, you won't perform. It sounds like your finger strength is likely not the problem. You need to worry about improving your weaknesses, not improving your strengths which it sounds like finger strength is one of.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Might be a power endurance issue...have you tried mixing 4x4s into your training? I agree with the others that it's hard to diagnose without knowing what you climb and what exactly is tossing you off.

Jon Marek · · Sioux Falls, SD · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 2,515

Campusing sounds like the ticket.

Edit to add: don't hurt yourself

Erez L · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 20
JCM wrote:As a reference point: What grade do you climb (and where)? How hard do you boulder? What grade, type of climbing, and area are your goals?
I am bouldering around the v6 grade at the the gunks, LRC, and governors stable (East Coast climbing). I can reliably send v5 at these areas, can send 6's when worked and sometimes can send a 7.

I am trying to be a well rounded climber so I do not focus on any specific style of climbing.

Appreciate the suggestions
Erez L · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 20
Ted Pinson wrote:Might be a power endurance issue...have you tried mixing 4x4s into your training? I agree with the others that it's hard to diagnose without knowing what you climb and what exactly is tossing you off.
Haven't done 4x4's yet. Typically its not me getting tired that is causing me to fall off, its just the inability to do a move.
Charlie S · · Ogden, UT · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 1,471

So 1, as previously pointed out, finger strength is just one of many factors. And strength is just one factor out of many for a good performance training cycle. After building strength on the hangboard, you want to focus on power, then power endurance. They all work together synergistically.

And 2, it based on your description of hangboarding, you're not getting nearly enough volume in. Here's how I am currently hangboarding to give an idea of an intermediate hangboard workout routine:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTJvfRnLwdw

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 130
JCM wrote: First you have to accept that your technical skills require massive improvement, and then you will be able to really start working on them. This is almost uniformly true, regardless of your climbing level. Anyway, you should climb as much as possible with better climbers, and pay attention to what they do differently. This (especially) includes your weak friend. Watch how he gets up things, despite having less strength.
Let me print this out and paste it on my wall!
Rich Liang · · Millbrae, California · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 290
Erez L wrote: Haven't done 4x4's yet. Typically its not me getting tired that is causing me to fall off, its just the inability to do a move.
It may just be a technique/beta reading problem. This also sounds like a very specific case by case problem. Also are you falling on problems that are way out of your pay grade?

I boulder v7 outdoors, v8 indoors. I have never encountered a problem or a section, v8/13- or under, that I just couldn't do. I also don't really "project" I consistently flash v7s (gym) and piece 8s in couple gym sessions.

Also 4x4 or more rope climbing will significantly help, when you do endurance training try to move as statically as possible and a emphasis on perfect footwork.

Most of the time when I watch people flail its because they don't read the beta right (footwork and feet set up, or utilizing a hold correctly) or don't have the base strength to climb that grade.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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