how to train on hangboard

How to train on a hangboard without getting injured

Table of Contents

How to train on a hangboard without getting injured? This is a question climbers normally ask after they get injured from hangboard training. A hangboard is a great tool for strengthing fingers and when it comes to climbing, your finger is one of the easiest to get injured. We will look at what to look out for when training on hangboards.

Types of hangboard

There are many types of hangboards in the market. Hangboards come in 2 variances. Wall-mounted fixed position or hung version. The wall-mounted hangboards are preferred, especially for climbers looking to set up a hangboard at home for regular training.

Wall-mounted hangboards

Wall-mounted hangboards are fixed in position and stable. Thus the climber can focus on his fingers, arms and shoulders when hanging. Wall-mounted hangboards are also more suitable for beginners looking to incorporate hangboard training at home. For advanced climbers who want to do weighted hangs, wall-mounted hangboards are preferred over the hung versions.

How to train on a hangboard without getting injured
Wall-mounted hangboard

Hung hangboards or Rock Rings

Hung hangboards or rock rings are pivoted to a single point of contact. When using such hangboards the climber will encounter instability such as swinging or vibrating. The climber will need to engage more of his core to stabilize himself during training. If the climber’s core is weak he will experience tilting of the hangboard and body position will start to shift. Due to these reasons, it is more likely for climbers to get an injury.

Of course, there are advantages to having a hung hangboard. It is easy to install and remove. Simply hang it on a stable overhead structure and you are good to go. It is lightweight which is good for bringing to the crag to warm up your fingers before climbing.

hangboard portable

Best portable and affordable hangboards to buy

Types of grips

There are 4 types of grips used for hangboard training. Openhand grip, half crimp grip, full crimp grip and 3 fingers drag. Which type of grips to use depends on the depth of the holds and how strong your fingers are. Climbers should train with all types of grip to strengthen the fingers for a variety of holds. However, some grip positions put a lot of stress on your finger joints, especially for beginners and should be avoided if possible.

Open hand grip

The open-hand grip has the least impact on the finger joints. Hence, climbers should use an open-hand grip when possible. Although the open crimp grip is less powerful, especially on small edges.

open hand grip
Open hand grip

Three fingers drag

The 3 fingers drag is by having only your index, middle and ring fingers hanging onto the edge. It’s similar to an open-hand grip but without the pinkie.

3 finger drag
3 fingers drag

Half crimp grip

The half crimp is a stronger grip compared to the open hand grip. It allows climbers to hold on to small edges.

half crimp grip
Half crimp grip

Full crimp grip

The full crimp grip is something beginner climbers should avoid when starting. The thumb is wrapped over the index finger with the fingers’ Distal Phalangeal joint (DIP) joints bending outwards (hyperextended position). It is a grip that is necessary when hanging on to very small edges (< 15mm). The full crimp grip will put a lot of stress on your finger joints and can result in injuries.

full crimp grip
Full crimp grip

The DIP Joint

DIP joint

When applying full crimp the DIP joint is over-extended (bending outwards). The overextension will stress load on your finger joints and tendons.

Closed crimp grip with thumb
Full crimp with DIP joint overextended (bending outwards)

Pull-ups on hangboards

Should you be doing pull-ups on hangboards? There isn’t a yes or no answer to this. But when it comes to preventing injuries when training on hangboards then no you should avoid doing pull-ups on hangboards. Except on large jug holds.

Pull-ups do not train your fingers. If you are training on a hangboard to strengthen your fingers stick to the program. Pulling up your entire body weight with your fingertips on a 25 or 15-mm edge is a recipe for injury. Especially if you are new to training on hangboards. Incorporate pull-ups into your hangboard programs only after you have built up adequate finger strength.

Frequency and duration

How often and how long should climbers train on hangboards? The frequency and duration are dependent on the climbers’ experience. However, it’s not advisable to be doing hangboard training at the end of your climbing session. Hangboard training should be done when you are fresh. Doing it after an intense climbing session will increase the likelihood of injuries.

There are many hangboard training programs out there. You can use training apps as well to structure your hangboard training program. Below is a good starting program for beginners new to hangboard.

Grips & Grades hangboard app
Metolius hangboard training
Hangboard timer

How to hang on hangboard

To hang on a hangboard correctly to prevent any injury you’ll need to observe the following.

  1. Place your fingers onto the selected edge and slowly ease your weight off the ground. Never jump to cling onto the edge. If the hangboard is too high use a stool to set yourself up.
  2. When hanging on a hangboard, look forward, and keep your arms slightly bent. Your shoulders and back need to be engaged throughout the hang. This is to prevent straining due to overloading your arms and shoulder joints. Also, it is to maintain your body in an upright position during the hang.
  3. If you are not able to maintain a good body position. Or your grip is opening up in the middle of your hang session. When these happen, it means either the edge is too small or your hang duration is too long. You will need to increase your resting intervals, reduce the hang time or use a bigger edge.

Max hang vs Repeaters

Max hang requires climbers to add weight and hang for up to 10s to hit failure. Meaning you will need to add sufficient weight to your hang so that you can’t hold the hang for more than 10s. Rest for 3 minutes and repeat.

max hang training
Max hang training with weights

Repeaters on the other hand are less demanding. Thus it’s more suitable for climbers just starting to train on a hangboard. Repeaters require climbers to hang for approximately 7 to 10s and rest for 3 to 5s. Repeat 4 to 6 times with 1 minute of rest between each set.

For weighted hangs, it is recommended that the hangboard is not too high. Your feet should be able to rest on the ground when fully straightened.

Warm up before you start

Just like any type of training, it is necessary to warm up before you start your session. Although hangboard is a finger-specific training you don’t just warm up your fingers. Your warm-up needs to include your fingers, arms and shoulders. You should never start your max hang or repeaters sessions without any warm-ups.

Video: Shauna Coxsey

Rest to get stronger

Hangboard training when done properly is considered a very intensive form of training for your fingers. So if you had scheduled a rest day after a few days of hard climbing sessions then you should not do any training, hangboard included. If you have finger injuries you should not be doing any hangboard training. But then again you have 8 fingers minus your thumbs so you can still train the other injury-free fingers. It’s your choice (disclaimer applies).

Training hard on hangboards will make you stronger fast. But resting and being injury-free will allow you to keep your gains from your training. So do not overlook what resting can do for you.

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