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Improving on the Hangboard but not translating over to climbing
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Mar 15, 2016
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.
Erez L
Joined Oct 29, 2012
20 points
Administrator
Mar 15, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Pulling the lip on Angle of the Dangle. Photo by S...
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. Micah Klesick
From Vancouver, WA
Joined Aug 18, 2013
4,237 points
Mar 15, 2016
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.
Erez L
Joined Oct 29, 2012
20 points
Mar 15, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Best climbing pants EVER
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."
Jon H
From Boulder
Joined Nov 24, 2009
138 points
Mar 15, 2016
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.
Erez L
Joined Oct 29, 2012
20 points
Administrator
Mar 15, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Pulling the lip on Angle of the Dangle. Photo by S...
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
Micah Klesick
From Vancouver, WA
Joined Aug 18, 2013
4,237 points
Mar 15, 2016
Micah Klesick wrote:
Then you need to be adding WAY, way more weight


On my 1 arm hangs on a crimp?
Erez L
Joined Oct 29, 2012
20 points
Administrator
Mar 15, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Pulling the lip on Angle of the Dangle. Photo by S...
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.
Micah Klesick
From Vancouver, WA
Joined Aug 18, 2013
4,237 points
Mar 15, 2016
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..
reboot
From Westminster, CO
Joined Jul 17, 2006
163 points
Mar 15, 2016
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
Joined Oct 29, 2012
20 points
Mar 15, 2016
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.
Erez L
Joined Oct 29, 2012
20 points
Mar 15, 2016
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.
JCM
From Seattle, WA
Joined Jun 9, 2008
65 points
Mar 15, 2016
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.
reboot
From Westminster, CO
Joined Jul 17, 2006
163 points
Mar 15, 2016
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.
TheBirdman
From Eldorado Springs, Colorado
Joined Jan 4, 2010
70 points
Mar 15, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Belaying 2nd (or was it 3rd? 4th?) on Turk's Head ...
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. Ted Pinson
From Chicago, IL
Joined Jul 11, 2014
178 points
Mar 15, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Wild Iris
Campusing sounds like the ticket.

Edit to add: don't hurt yourself
Jon Marek
From Sioux Falls, SD
Joined Sep 30, 2009
2,612 points
Mar 15, 2016
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
Joined Oct 29, 2012
20 points
Mar 15, 2016
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.
Erez L
Joined Oct 29, 2012
20 points
Mar 15, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Cams above the arm bar moves on Three Pigs in a Sl...
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:
Charlie S
From Ogden, UT
Joined Aug 23, 2007
1,509 points
Mar 15, 2016
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!
Nivel Egres
From New York, NY
Joined Dec 10, 2014
21 points
Mar 16, 2016
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.
Rich Liang
From Millbrae, California
Joined Nov 16, 2014
293 points
Mar 16, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: 1
Erez L wrote:
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


There are some very good recommendations, get out and climb with a variety of people.

Stop pebble pinching and number hunting.
It sounds like you are plenty strong so take it easy on the hang bored for a bit.

You say that your training is not translating to harder higher numbers, stop trying to prove it.
The Gunks has some of the best 5.10 -12 leads anywhere. Rope up, Get on easy climbs do lots of climbing.

Leading or top rope just get out and work on fluid movement.

Crank all those things; Dirty Gerdie, Red Cabbage, Retribution, Nose Dive, top rope; No Solution.
Don't stop, hit Apoplexy, Stir-up Trouble & p-38.

Do some climbs in one long pitch & link ups. Have you done Big Chimney to Miss Bailey?
The link up ( Cosmic Charley ) Travels With Charley to Strictley From Nowhere to Shockley's? (IIRC)

By not focusing on numbers & grades you may find that you get past the plateau.

Do you stretch ? Do yoga?
(Informal; on your own may not get it done, at 1st. Get into a class. A bit of formal instruction; to get your breathing & posture right)

By building alternate strengths, getting focus through meditation, and increased body awareness
You may find that you unlock your potential.

Pick 5 pitches in decreasing difficulty,
For example start on Suppers Ready ( Hans's puss to set it up) then move to Feast Of Fools,
All pitches of Erect Direction, CCK direct or Modern times ( direct finish ) if you have time do another pitch from the GT ledge,milage to push your endurance for 6 weeks then go get that New Pair Of Glasses or the Illustrious Buddha.

EDIT:
Peterskill & Lost City, do they still climb in the quarry in Kingston ?
Michael Schneider
Joined Apr 24, 2014
489 points
Mar 16, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: KenR below Wahoo gullies
JCM wrote:
pure finger strength (hangboard strength) is not a limiting factor right now in your climbing.

Hangboard as it's usually done (as static dead hangs) is not "pure" finger strength.
Any more than holding a dumbbell out in front of you with 90-degree-bent elbow for 7 seconds is "pure" bicep strength.

Hangboard performance is only one kind of finger strength: static isometric. Likely not the most important kind for success with higher difficulties of climbing - (unless you're leading hard Trad and spend lots of time just hanging on, fiddling with placing protection).

Maybe this is a signal that it's time for Erez L to get systematic about training other kinds of finger strength.

Ken
kenr
Joined Oct 29, 2010
7,293 points
Mar 16, 2016
Michael Schneider wrote:
Have you done Big Chimney to Miss Bailey?


Haven't done too much on rope at the Gunks. I don't lead trad and I'm not a huge fan of TRing.

Michael Schneider wrote:
Do you stretch ? Do yoga? (Informal; on your own may not get it done, at 1st. Get into a class. A bit of formal instruction; to get your breathing & posture right) By building alternate strengths, getting focus through meditation, and increased body awareness You may find that you unlock your potential.


I actually don't do a a good job stretching. I have flexible hips but when it comes to splits I am terrible. I can easily incorporate some stretching in and will.

Michael Schneider wrote:
EDIT: Peterskill & Lost City, do they still climb in the quarry in Kingston ?


Yeah but the bolts are super old.
Erez L
Joined Oct 29, 2012
20 points
Mar 16, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: At the BRC
kenr wrote:
Hangboard performance is only one kind of finger strength: static isometric. Likely not the most important kind for success with higher difficulties of climbing - (unless you're leading hard Trad and spend lots of time just hanging on, fiddling with placing protection).


Care to share your reasoning why isometric finger strength isn't useful on hard climbs?
Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Joined Nov 29, 2007
517 points
Mar 16, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Afrika Bambatta V12 Elkland
There is a lot of random advice here! OP you have to decide what you want to do with hangboarding. Assisted 1 arm hangs are pretty nebulous unless you keep close track of what you are doing. If you want pure strength adding weight on 2-arm hangs to get to the 8-10 second limit is good to start. Then per Reboot think of ways to develop lock-off/pull-up strength into the mix, i.e. 1RM pull-ups, 3 pull-ups with weight, 5 and so on up to 10. Twice a week max and focus on climbing more than training.

Then if you want to boulder switch to the campus board and work your max ladders. Once or twice a week, again focus on bouldering hard.

Laps on moderate pitches at the Gunks will make you weak so don't climb endurance unless that's your goal.
Peter Beal
From Boulder Colorado
Joined Jan 1, 2001
2,056 points


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