The Benefits of Hangboard Training: When to Start and Why


In some ways, the strength and skill set required for rock climbing are similar to those of other sports. Body awareness in climbing is similar to gymnastics. Upper body and core strength are on par with calisthenics gurus, and the mobility demanded equals that of a yogi. Yet, anyone climbing from one of these backgrounds will quickly find that one unique group of muscles and tendons is critical in climbing: forearms and fingers!

The learning curve for climbing is steep. The best way for any new climber (read: climbing for a year or less) to strengthen the forearm muscles and finger tendons is by climbing! The need for stronger fingers comes with more difficult climbs littered with small crimps, bad slopers, and fat pinches. However, any rock climb requires forearm flexors and extensor conditioning, even at lower grades.

For a beginner, it is expected to plateau after six months to a year of consistent climbing. The climber will be able to climb significantly more challenging boulders and routes than before. But, there will come a point where intentionally training forearm muscles and finger tendons will be necessary for further gains. Just like someone does squats to strengthen their quads, it is possible to enhance the finger tendons using a (drumroll, please) hangboard!

When to Start Hangboarding

Thus, the best time to start hangboarding is when you feel your climbing stagnating and want to increase your finger strength specifically. It will also increase the muscular endurance in your forearms, although the degree of increase will vary depending on the hangboarding routine and workouts you choose.

Why Hangboard? The Benefits.

You may still find yourself wondering, why hangboard? In short, it increases finger strength. There are different ways to achieve that goal using a hangboard setup. Are you aiming to increase power (how hard you can pull on smaller holds)? Or are you aiming to increase endurance (how long you can hang onto small holds)? Maybe you’re looking to improve both, increasing your power endurance capacity. To help you narrow the focus of your training, here is a breakdown of the benefits of each.

Hangboarding to increase power will improve your contact strength and ability to generate force off small or “bad” holds. You’ll also want to be training power during climbing sessions, but because hangboarding isolates the fingers – it’s great to incorporate on days when the rest of your body is tired. Make sure to use the hangboard workout before any climbing if you aim to use it for a power workout, as doing it after a climbing session when you have tired fingers is an injury waiting to happen. Using a hangboard workout to increase fitness or endurance is efficient. As you build up to longer hangs on smaller holds, you’ll find you can hold on longer on the wall. Combining power and endurance on the hangboard will directly translate to the ability to make multiple moves at or near your limit in a row before fatiguing.

However, as with any benefits you gain from hangboarding, the benefits will only come to fruition if you adopt a consistent routine. Increasing tendon strength and synthesizing new forearm muscle fibers takes time. A constant loading (hangboarding) routine and appropriate rest are critical to realizing gains in your climbing ability.

The beauty of hangboarding is that there is no right or wrong way to approach it. Once you decide on your end goal, find a workout online catered to that and start hanging. Take care and be wise, as there is always the risk of injury if you load your finger tendons too hard and fast. If you have any lingering or unanswered questions/comments/concerns, please feel free to post them below!