One of the most commonly used, and effective training tools, is the hangboard.
Yes, hangboards have been around for some time now, and you’ve likely seen one or even used one at your gym. Because of their growing popularity, a number of training programs have been developed. With so many on the market at this point, it can be a bit overwhelming to make an educated decision about which one will help you meet your climbing goals.
To make that process easier, here is a comparison of three popular offerings by:
- Anderson Brothers
- Chris Webb Parsons
- Athlete By Choice (Duncan Brown)
Let’s start by noting the commonalities:
- All of these programs can be performed on any hangboard.
- They all have a shared target of increasing finger strength.
- For maximum gains, they should all be supplemented by additional training.
With that in mind, let’s break down what makes each unique.
Anderson Brothers training program
The Anderson Brothers—forefathers of the Rock Prodigy Training System—have recently turned out research to confirm that hangboarding does indeed positively effect climbing-specific finger strength.
Now, of course, it’s important to note that their research was solely geared toward their product, the Rock Prodigy Training Center. It’s compelling nonetheless.
Anderson Brothers hangboarding at a glance
- Based on repetitions of short hangs (7 seconds), called repeaters
- Targets a variety of holds and does well to build overall finger strength
- Scalable program: entry-level hangboarders can use the pulley system to take weight off, while advanced climbers can use it to target more advanced grip positions or add weight
- Great power endurance program
Rock Prodigy Training Center
Rock Climber’s Training Manual
Chris Webb Parsons training program
Chris Webb Parsons is an ungodly strong boulderer from Australia who a developed a rather intense hangboard routine, guaranteed to make gains for the right climber.
This program is not a good choice for a novice hangboarder or new climber due to its intensity. If you’ve never hangboarded before, look at the Anderson Brothers program to start and work your way up to this.
Chris Webb Parsons hangboarding at a glance
- Simple to follow
- Quick workouts: this program works on the target grip position for 5-10 seconds with ample rest
- Intense: one arm hangs (with the assistance of a rope for the other)
- Targets crimps
- Addresses lock off strength in addition to finger strength
- Strength-based program
Watch for full details of the program:
Athlete By Choice training program
Athlete By Choice trainer, Duncan Brown, has developed a series of programs to target different training goals. While I’ve used many of his hangboard programs, these two stand out as solid options to check out.
The Opposing Pyramid hangboarding at a glance
- Simple: this program incorporates a combination of pull-ups and dead hangs; starts with longer hangs and minimal pull ups, works its way up to short, intense hangs with max pull-ups, then back down
- Quick: this program takes about 10 minutes
- Scalable: this program is great for entry-level and expert hangboarders alike
- Can be adjusted to also target power (make the pull-ups explosive!)
See the full workout here.
Red Dragon hangboarding at a glance
Duncan created this program to train specifically for a project route. It’s a wonderful program that also speaks to using the hangboard like a systems wall to create and target specific movement that you’re trying to develop.
- Rather involved: this is not the most simple program to follow; I needed my computer next to me the whole time to remember what to do next.
- Full body workout: targets core, pull muscles, finger strength, and includes a bit of cardio
- Power/strength routine
- Fun: the variation keeps the workout far more interesting than monotonous dead hangs
- Adjustable to address your specific needs if you are targeting a project or grip position
See the full workout here.
What program is right for you?
Now that you know all of this, how do you make your decision?
1. Consider where you are at in your climbing career
If this is your first time hangboarding, be aware of the work you’re going to put your finger tendons through. Hangboarding is notorious for creating finger injuries, so be safe and select a program that eases you into this type of work. You can always make it more intense later.
2. How much time do you have?
Pick a program that fits your time commitment level. If you know the only time you can hangboard is for 20 minutes before the kids wake up, don’t choose the 45-minute program.
3. What are you targeting?
Are you just starting off? Then perhaps the Anderson Brothers’ program is best for you. By contrast, if you have done the Anderson Brothers program 100 times, consider a more intense program like Duncan’s or Chris’ … especially if you know you need to develop lock off strength or power.
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