Weight Resistance For Hangboard Training 2/3 Finger Pockets


Original Post
MattChun · · Bend, OR · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 0

Climbing Brethren and Sistren,

I seem to have a weakness for really locking off 2 and 3 finger pockets, and would really like to start isolating and strengthening this weakness in my climbing game. I have started experimenting with hangboarding the IM, MR, and IMR pockets on the Rock Prodigy hangboard, but found that body weight is far too much resistance for the 2 finger pockets (3 finger is ok). Does anyone have any suggestions of resistance/weight to remove at the start of training these grip positions? Or is there another preferred way to train these grips/positions?

Cheers

David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 45

The two ways I have seen people reduce weight for hangboarding are:

1. Resistance band attached below the hangboard, put your foot in it and press into the band to reduce strain on fingers. Progression is indicated by reducing the thickness of the resistance band. This is fast and easy to set up, but generally the resistance bands provide very different resistance so there's not much granularity of progression. The band resistance is also dependent on how much you press your foot into it, so it can be hard to regulate how much the band is helping you.

2. Pulley attached below the hangboard, toss some weights on the end of a cord, put the other end through the pulley and tie to your harness. Progression is indicated by reducing the weights attached to rope. This takes longer to set up, but the weights can be in very small increments, which can give very small granularity to your progression.

If it were me I'd use resistance bands until I was hitting a real plateau in progress, then switch to pulleys and weights to inch forward in progress. It's my observation that most people in my gym who use these aids use resistance bands for most two-arm exercises but switch to pulleys and weights when going one-handed.

slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,045

if you aren't using a pulley system and consistently tracking and adjusting the loads you are not optimizing your tools.  i can't stress this enough.

Brandon.Phillips · · Portola, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 55

Use the pulleys!  I think I started by removing 25 lbs when I first started doing 2 finger pockets on the Rock Prodigy. 

Ryan Sommers · · Lyons, CO · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 5

I can recommend pulleys and counterweight (I just wrap slings through barbell weights).

That said, when starting out I'd go slow in removing weight. At least from my personal experience doing MR/MRP pockets seems to be where I have had injury problems because of trying to remove too much weight too quickly. And nothing is worse than injuring a (finger) pulley and having to sit out a few weeks of training.

Good luck!

Ryan

Micah Klesick · · Vancouver, WA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 3,909
slim wrote:

if you aren't using a pulley system and consistently tracking and adjusting the loads you are not optimizing your tools.  i can't stress this enough.

This. I started with 45lb removed via pulley's when I first did 1 pad pockets on the hangboard. After 7 sessions, I was at +10lb. made a huge difference. Be very deliberate with your workout, and take it slow at the start and remove more weight than you think you need to. 

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 10,634

I'm coming to think that the main advantage for using static isometric contraction to build finger strength (rather than the well-proven dynamic concentric / eccentric contractions used for most other muscles) is that it's consistently and accurately measurable.

So if you're not getting that benefit from static hanging, you might as well be doing some dynamic finger exercise with resistance.

. . . A pulley system (instead of resistance band) makes it simple to get consistent accurate measurements, and simple to quickly change the resistance force in a well-controlled way.

So why not focus on dynamic finger exercise?
I think the big problem with accurately measuring both the resistance and work load with a dynamic contraction exercise is that the motion of the finger joints is so small that it's really hard to know if the start position and finish position are (even roughly) the same with each repetition -- first because it's just difficult to see it carefully - (and perhaps also because the percentage in change of position due to varying thickness of skin and related soft tissue under pressure becomes significant when the range-of-motion is that small).

Even more so to measure (or at least control reliably) the range-of-motion distance between different sets in a session - (never mind between different days). So even if you accurately know the resistance / force on each (dynamic) contraction, you might be getting that force through a different range-of-motion distance. Since range-of-motion distance is a key factor for determining the Work load of each (dynamic) repetition (and also the Power rate), then you don't reliably know what your Work or Power output really was.

So like perhaps you might be slightly increasing the resistance force (accurately measured by your pulley system or simply added weight in a belt or vest), but at the same time (unconsciously?) decreasing your range-of-motion distance (not well measured). You might then believe you're getting stronger, but really there's no change (or even a decrease?) in Work output per repetition. 

But if you can't consistently accurately measure your Work load progress in a dynamic special training motion, likely to get better results for climbing strength by just performing actual climbing motions (which you're not measuring accurately either).

Summing up . . .  
1. Strength + Hypertrophy of  finger/forearm muscles and tendons is way critical for improving climbing performance.
2. For most muscles and tendons used in most sports, static isometric contractions are an inferior means of training strength + hypertrophy.
Concentric / eccentric contractions achieve faster bigger gains, and both resistance force and range-of-motion distance for those can be measured (or reliably repeatedly controlled) for the larger motions of larger muscles.
3. But for fingers the (small) range-of-motion distance is not reliably repeatedly well-controlled.
4. Therefore static isometric training makes sense for the special case of finger/forearm muscles + tendons for climbers.

Anyway climbers also get lots of valuable dynamic concentric/eccentric contraction stress on their finger/forearm muscles + tendons -- from performing actual climbing moves near their limit.

. . . Just thinking (too much) . . . 

Ken

David Kerkeslager · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 45
kenr wrote:

I'm coming to think that the main advantage for using static isometric contraction to build finger strength (rather than the well-proven dynamic concentric / eccentric contractions used for most other muscles) is that it's consistently and accurately measurable.

Another reason to use isometric contraction to build finger strength is that it mimics the contraction of the fingers during climbing.

RobG814 · · Wilmington, NC · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 335

I am currently rehabbing a finger injury and starting to regain strength by hanging in a two finger pocket. Started with taking 45lbs off with a pulley system and now down to 30lbs.

It's better to start by taking too much weight off then not enough. If it feels easy then go down 5lbs on your next session.

As others have said, a pulley system is a great way to track progress.

Stanley McKnight · · Paradise Valley, Arizona · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 268

Steph Davis has a good video of the pulley counter weight set up she uses with her hangboard if you want a visual. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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