Do’s & dont’s when using the fingerboard

There is little or no room for error in certain types of training. Meaning you should avoid it until you’ve gotten the proper coaching or instruction. The most typical example for climbers is the hangboard or fingerboard and also the campus board. Where I go to train most of the time there is little advice available from more experienced climbers on how to properly perform certain movements or exercises where the risk of injury is high. Most advanced climbers tend not to share valuable information when they see beginners trying the campus or clinging for dear life on the hangboard. Since I often meet new climbers telling me about their injuries most commonly in the fingers, the shoulders and the elbows, I wish this was different.. I get questions almost every session when doing my own training and figured this might be a good forum for bringing some basic information!

There are some good ground rules that I will outline below for the climber who has the intentions to start training for climbing with little or no experience. These are rules I’ve put up for myself in consent with more experienced climbers and coaches to avoid injury and to create a functional approach to this very specific training. Remember it’s always best to take instruction at the gym from a experienced trainer.

FINGERBOARD TRAINING; some ground rules

1. WARM UP. This means some mobility, some easy bouldering and some deadhangs on BIG holds for 2-3 sets. This part should take 15-30 minutes. The warm up is never useless and definitely not a waste of time. I use this time to practice my technique on easier climbs as well as finding focus for the upcoming training that will follow; sometimes it’s a tough session and requires that I take it seriously.

2. When hanging on the fingerboard, make sure you keep your shoulders low and stable. They shouldn’t touch your ears or feel like they are about to pop from their sockets! Pull your shoulder-blades together but don’t push your chest to much forward, instead keep your centre of gravity straight down. Focus on your breath being steady and controlled or even holding the breath during the hang; just like when lifting a heavy weight this creates a greater core control. (It even works for bowling as I noticed this weekend!)

3. Rest enough between sets. When doing hard hangs with added weight, rest at least 3-5 minutes between sets and use the time for some extra mobility training or some ”push” exercises. I find this a perfect combination when doing hangs of 3 sets of 8-10 seconds with added weight on 3-4 hold positions. This adds up to a good deal of stretching time! Something most climbers would benefit from. The risk of injury increases if you don’t rest enough and this should be the main focus during the session alongside getting wicked strong!

4. Don’t overdo it. 3 sets of 8-10 seconds on 3-4 different holds with added weight followed by 3 sets of repeaters 5:5 seconds for 6 repetitions on 2-3 holds is enough for most intermediate climbers. Doing too much fingerboard can also become an obsession keeping you away from the walls where there is invaluable room for improving your technique and understanding the movements.

5. Do the fingerboard training in the beginning of your climbing session. Do the warm up and then the fingerboard. After that there might be time to do some hard bouldering or system wall training. If you end the session on the fingerboard the risk of injury is greater since your ability to control the movements might be less after pulling hard on the wall. It’s is also harder to measure if you’ve gained strength between sessions if you do this in the reversed order. When you’re fresh there is a greater chance you’ll do it properly and therefore get stronger faster!

6. Take a brake after 3-4 weeks of training on the fingerboard. Do some power training or power endurance and return to the board after another cycle of something else. Strength lasts for a pretty long time so you won’t necessarily loose it if you focus on doing some hard boulder sessions every week. The risk of injury but also risk of getting stuck on a plateau is greater if you never allow yourself a brake to shock your system with new input.

If you keep this in mind I can assure you the risk of injury directly associated with the fingerboard training will decrease a good deal. But I still recommend taking instructions at the gym from a experienced climber if you feel the slightest unsure on how to perform the training.

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