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Pulley System for Hangboards


John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 577
Eric Fjellanger wrote:

It's okay if you're too lazy or cheap or undisciplined to actually train. Just don't give training advice. Nobody runs a random distance without a stopwatch and calls it training, nobody goes into a gym and lifts some random weights a random number of times and calls it training.

Eric, what you just wrote is just pure bullshit and arrogant as well.   There are many ways to train, not just your way.

In this case, if you must measure progress,  one can put marks on the floor 3" apart and using the chosen holds, progressively move the bucket further away and record that.  Then you eliminate the bucket.   Then you can hang weight from your harness.  Then you can repeat the process with smaller holds.  All of these things measure progress, just not the way you do.

A pulley system is nice, but it's unnecessary for the vast majority of climbers.   A bucket/chair/box is effective, simple, immediate and costs almost nothing.    (It also trains your core/feet to maintain body tension on steep routes.)

And "training" doesn't necessarily require some sort of measurement/record.    Like millions of other climbers, when I go to the gym for a training session, I don't record every warm-up, on-sight, redpoint, top-rope or best top-out.  It's still training, regardless of what you think.    I can feel the results when I get outside on the rock, and that's the result I'm looking for.  
John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 577
David Kerkeslager wrote:

I was disagreeing with the claim that the pulley is "gonna be useless in a few weeks when you get stronger". The pulley remains useful, and is the way I've seen some very strong climbers work into one arm locked-off hangs on very small holds.

Okay, point taken.   It's just that the OP seems to be a novice that can't hold onto the board at all without help, so once he can do that,  it'll be a long time before he needs to take weight off again.


The pulley's certainly not the only way. You'll note I didn't say you can't work into harder holds using a chair/bucket, I said you can't always work into harder holds by increasing load on easier holds.

Maybe this is a question of semantics, but most of the hangboard programs I've seen/used do exactly that.   And Steve Bechtel's program builds strength and power without changing the holds!   

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 577
Mike McKinnon wrote:

You need repeatable and trackable resistance if you are going to progress. Putting your feet on a chair where some days you push harder with your feet (and feel strong) and other days you push less hard (and feel weak). How are you supposed to know if you are getting stronger if you cant track the resistance?


Apparently you haven't tried it.  As I outlined in another reply, it's quite simple to track your progress by putting marks on the floor, and moving the chair/bucket further away each session (if you can).

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 577
Mark Paulson wrote: I got 50# of weight plates off Craigslist for $20.  I have a sling and biner on each plate for ease of switching weight (I usually HB with my partner[s]).

So, "an inferior method of training is easier than a superior method".  Weird advice. The easiest thing to do is nothing at all, but that's not really the point of training, and certainly not what the OP asked about.

Easier, yes.  For someone like the OP, who is apparently a novice, finding a chair or bucket around the house is far easier than spending time (days?) on Craigslist looking for plates, buying pulleys,  mounting them, etc.  In a month or so he'll probably be able to eliminate the chair: no money spent, no time wasted and now he can continue on whatever hangboard program he chooses.

And BTW,  simply using a chair or equivalent has been recommended by professional trainers since Neumann & Goddard's Performance Rock Climbing back in 1993.  Eric Horst has it in all his books.  So when you write your book, you can call it inferior.
David Kerkeslager · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 119
John Byrnes wrote:

Maybe this is a question of semantics, but most of the hangboard programs I've seen/used do exactly that.   And Steve Bechtel's program builds strength and power without changing the holds!   

You can definitely work onto harder holds as long as they use similar muscle groups or the relevant muscles are already strong. But again, this isn't always the case.

I keep bringing up the one-arm hang case because it's the most climbing-related example I can think of. People expect that because they can hang on a tiny hold with both hands they'll be able to hang on a moderate hold with one hand. But the asymmetry turns the body and loads the shoulder differently. On two occasions I've seen older teenagers at my gym start working into one-armed hangs and bam, rotator cuff injury.

A similar thing happened back when I was doing more strength training (this was before I got serious about climbing). I was doing StrongLifts 5x5 (a weight lifting program) and later played around with Convict Conditioning (a bodyweight strength training program). With weights, if someone started with the bar and added weight gradually with good form, I never saw an injury. Injuries were fairly predictable because I'd see some guy yanking the bar and hunching his back with way more weight than he should be using. But with Convict Conditioning, only using body weight meant that the progression happened by changing exercises to harder variations. So the other guys I talked to about it would get injuries when switching exercises, because the new exercise worked muscles that they hadn't trained. Particularly I saw a bunch of elbow injuries when switching from asymmetric push-ups to asymmetric raised pushups, and had a fair amount of elbow tendonitis myself before I had to back off that program. I'm not sure the physics of it, but it seemed that placing something under the hand on that's out to the side when doing asymmetric push-ups was putting some pressure on the elbow that wasn't there before.

What it comes down to is that training is exercise-specific, and significantly different grips are significantly different exercises. It's like if someone only did squats, and then started doing deadlifts with a bunch of weight. Squats and deadlifts work a lot of the same muscles, but there are a few that deadlifts work that squats don't. So if you start deadlifting expecting to deadlift a lot because you squat, you're setting yourself up for injury in the muscles that deadlifts work which squats don't.

But yeah, if you do similar holds that work pretty similar muscles (i.e. same grip with slightly smaller holds) you're probably okay. I'm pointing out a specific exception but I suspect we agree more than we disagree.
Mark Paulson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 95
John Byrnes wrote:

Easier, yes.  For someone like the OP, who is apparently a novice, finding a chair or bucket around the house is far easier than spending time (days?) on Craigslist looking for plates, buying pulleys,  mounting them, etc.  In a month or so he'll probably be able to eliminate the chair: no money spent, no time wasted and now he can continue on whatever hangboard program he chooses.

Seriously?  I literally just found 50 CL postings for used weight plates in about 8 seconds.  I got two pulleys and two screw hooks at Lowes for $8.  I like how you're talking about one of the six classical simple machines like it's some newfangled, highfalutin tech.

And I would argue that investing in a pulley system, even at a novice level, makes it much more likely that you actually stick with hangboarding long-term.  It makes it both more quantifiable and safer: both paramount factors in effective training.  I've seen plenty of dusty, unused Simulators over the years (including at my house), and it wasn't until I set up a pulley system that I actually stuck with hangboarding long-term.  Also, to the whole "eliminate the chair in a month or so" thing; have you ever hung on the small crimp on the RCTP Forge or the 7mm edge on the Tension board?  Introducing negative weight is pretty much the only way to safely and progressively train full crimps on a hangboard.

And BTW,  simply using a chair or equivalent has been recommended by professional trainers since Neumann & Goddard's Performance Rock Climbing back in 1993.  Eric Horst has it in all his books.  So when you write your book, you can call it inferior.

I don't need to write it in "my" book, because the Anderson bros., Steve Bechtel, and pretty much any other modern expert on training for climbing has already endorsed the pulley system in -their- books.  You're referencing a 25-year-old book that came out before modern climbing gyms existed. 

Connor Erickson · · Brandon, SD · Joined 26 days ago · Points: 0

Jesus I didn’t mean to start an argument was just looking for some suggestions. Any of these will work. I literally have about 10 dollars rn so buying stuff isn’t a real possibility for me currently. All of these are good suggestions for me. Thanks a bunch

Mark Paulson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 95

Chair it is!

Connor Erickson · · Brandon, SD · Joined 26 days ago · Points: 0
Mark Paulson wrote: Chair it is!

Haha at least for now. I’ll do my best to keep my progress traceable for all you discipline junkies out there. It’s how I am too

reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125
Mark Paulson wrote: have you ever hung on the small crimp on the RCTP Forge or the 7mm edge on the Tension board?  Introducing negative weight is pretty much the only way to safely and progressively train full crimps on a hangboard.

I mean, I front lever off of 6mm Beastmaker micros w/o needing to progress from a pulley. I think pulleys are great if you got the room (i.e. not just a door frame) to mount it. I only have a single pulley (so plenty of crotch chaffing) at home and I rarely use it. The eyelet does get used w/ a TRX often.

IMO, the point of tracking progress (besides making yourself feel better) is to figure out what works and what doesn't, and whether to change something. Being able to control one (albeit important) variable is nice, but I train on 3 Beastmaker 2K boards (home, work, and gym) and they are all different, and also very ambient condition dependent. At this point of my training, gains are slow and between the aforementioned and skin+physical condition variances, if I did try to track my "progress" closely, I'd just be worrying about a lot of noise.

Anyways, I'm sure our positions are all pretty similar in real life. But this is the intardnet, so we must magnify the differences. 
John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 577
David Kerkeslager wrote:

You can definitely work onto harder holds as long as they use similar muscle groups or the relevant muscles are already strong. But again, this isn't always the case.

I keep bringing up the one-arm hang case because it's the most climbing-related example I can think of. People expect that because they can hang on a tiny hold with both hands they'll be able to hang on a moderate hold with one hand. But the asymmetry turns the body and loads the shoulder differently. On two occasions I've seen older teenagers at my gym start working into one-armed hangs and bam, rotator cuff injury.
I agree.  But I'll also mention (ducking down of course) that having the opposite foot on a chair/bucket when working into one-hand hangs allows you to easily stabilize your body (lessening the stress on the shoulder) and is a more common climbing position.  

But yeah, if you do similar holds that work pretty similar muscles (i.e. same grip with slightly smaller holds) you're probably okay. I'm pointing out a specific exception but I suspect we agree more than we disagree.

We do.

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 577
Mark Paulson wrote: Seriously?  I literally just found 50 CL postings for used weight plates in about 8 seconds.  I got two pulleys and two screw hooks at Lowes for $8.  
Okay, 8 seconds.   So how long will it take you to contact the seller, arrange to meet/pay online and have it shipped, and have the stuff delivered.  Now you gotta go to Lowes and buy the pulleys, find some appropriate cord, then come home and mount the whole thing.  

I can walk downstairs and get a bucket/chair in 8 seconds for free and be hangboarding in another 8 seconds.  Easier, QED.

I like how you're talking about one of the six classical simple machines like it's some newfangled, highfalutin tech.
I like how you're talking about a pulley-system like it's some sort of miracle device that has no rival.  

...  Also, to the whole "eliminate the chair in a month or so" thing; have you ever hung on the small crimp on the RCTP Forge or the 7mm edge on the Tension board?  Introducing negative weight is pretty much the only way to safely and progressively train full crimps on a hangboard.
There ya go again.  It's not the only way.  And I suspect you've never tried having one foot on, eh?

I don't need to write it in "my" book, because the Anderson bros., Steve Bechtel, and pretty much any other modern expert on training for climbing has already endorsed the pulley system in -their- books.  You're referencing a 25-year-old book that came out before modern climbing gyms existed. 

You missed my point.  Using a chair or equivalent to take off weight has been around for 25 years and has been endorsed by experts that entire time.  Even in Horst's current videos, although he recommends pulleys, he also mentions that you can put a foot (or both) on to take off weight as you ease into a new exercise.  

reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125
John Byrnes wrote:

Even in Horst's current videos, although he recommends pulleys, he also mentions that you can put a foot (or both) on to take off weight as you ease into a new exercise.  

Seems perfectly reasonable, but also we are talking about different things: you are primarily talking about using something as a stop gap measure during a phase where gains are quick, in which case large variances are easily tolerated. The other guys are talking about making small improvements over a long time, where small variances makes session to session progress hard to track (although IMO, it's hard to track regardless).

Also the whole chair thing, there are holds I can't (one arm) hang easily but as soon as a foot can weigh (and especially pull in on) anything (doesn't matter how far it's front of me or to the side), it becomes quite easy (other than the core tension needed to hold the position),  not to mention it completely changes the body balance and the direction the hold is loaded. So yeah, it may work, but it's vastly inferior, and is recommended only because it's easy and cost nothing extra to most people.
Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 569

If you are truly short on cash, don’t buy a hangboard. Just get some wood strips from Home Depot and nail them up somewhere. 

Connor Erickson · · Brandon, SD · Joined 26 days ago · Points: 0
Mark E Dixon wrote: If you are truly short on cash, don’t buy a hangboard. Just get some wood strips from Home Depot and nail them up somewhere. 

I’m short on cash because I bought a hangboard, am 13, and don’t have a job yet

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 569

Good luck with your board. Most of them are pretty nice.
Here's my setup, definitely on the cheap side, but it works. No chair  :-)

David Kerkeslager · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 119

One benefit to Mark E Dixon's solution is you can spend the money you saved on a hangboard on weight plates and a pulley. :P

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 569

Plus you get to know the basement spiders.
I've met their children and watched them grow up.

John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 577
reboot wrote:

Seems perfectly reasonable, but also we are talking about different things: you are primarily talking about using something as a stop gap measure during a phase where gains are quick, in which case large variances are easily tolerated. The other guys are talking about making small improvements over a long time, where small variances makes session to session progress hard to track (although IMO, it's hard to track regardless).

I agree with you!  
It seems that only two of us actually read the OP's profile before posting.   I recommended the chair solution to a novice who, as you say, will be making large, quick gains and (one hopes) will be eliminating the chair very soon.  And once he's hanging free, it may be many years before he plateaus and actually needs a pulley system.  By that time he'll be employed ;-)


Also the whole chair thing, there are holds I can't (one arm) hang easily but as soon as a foot can weigh (and especially pull in on) anything (doesn't matter how far it's front of me or to the side), it becomes quite easy (other than the core tension needed to hold the position),  not to mention it completely changes the body balance and the direction the hold is loaded. So yeah, it may work, but it's vastly inferior, and is recommended only because it's easy and cost nothing extra to most people.)

Easy and zero cost are important factors!   When I can tell my butler to have a pulley system rigged up for this afternoon,  I'll change my mind.

But again, I agree with you.  Having been climbing since the Jurassic, my hangboard abilities have had many ups and downs due to time off, injuries and ski seasons.   Putting a foot on during a come-back allows me to maintain the contraction for 12-15sec over 3 sets and multiple grips when I couldn't if I was free hanging.    Thus my re-gains are faster.   

Sure, I could install a pulley system but I've never felt the need.  Once I'm free-hanging and moved to somewhat smaller holds, I just add weight as needed.  I've only had three finger injuries in 38 years and I want to keep it that way.  

And yes, having a foot on changes the balance and direction of the hold.  This is good IMO because it mimics steep climbing positions.  I've never hung one-handed on an 10mm edge on a climb, so all of you who do need to cut the rest of us some slack.
John Byrnes · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 577
Connor Erickson wrote: Jesus I didn’t mean to start an argument was just looking for some suggestions. Any of these will work. I literally have about 10 dollars rn so buying stuff isn’t a real possibility for me currently. All of these are good suggestions for me. Thanks a bunch

Conner: don't worry about starting arguments.

Just about every topic on MP provokes a broad spectrum of highly opinionated, conflicting responses.   Just roll with it.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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