Climbing training equipment: which are the most used tools?

Specific climbing training has a relatively recent history, especially when compared to other sports. The first prototypes of the instruments that we can now find in any climbing gym were designed by some climbers who, during the 80s and 90s, looked for the most specific solution to improve the fingers strength. It is said that the first beam prototype was invented by John Bachar, who in 1980 screwed wooden lists in his shed, thus giving birth to the most used instrument by climbers of all times.



Today the hangboard is undoubtedly the most widespread tool to work on strengthening the fingers, with mainly "isometric" exercises, such as dead-hangs and lock-offs. Although there are many other tools that make more complete the training of climbers, the hangboard remains in all respects the most compact, easy to carry especially in the "portable" versions, and perfect to install even in the cellar or at home. In a few crucial features, it contains all the essence of the specific training for the fingers.



Owl Climb

A new generation climbing gym - photo Owl Climb



Standard hangboards


The most classic hangboards must typically be installed on a wooden panel, then fixed to a self-supporting structure or a wall. In this typology of we find most of the solutions that represent the greater part of the offer today available. Hangboards can vary among themselves for: size, material, type of holds, and customization.





If you do not have space problems, as in the case of a gym or an entire garage dedicated to training, you can orient yourself on the many large hangboards that all companies offer. In addition to having a wide variety of grips, they allow you to diversify the exercises you can do on the hangboard, allowing you to make sequences of movements from one grip to another, as suggested by Alessandro Lamberti in the first Jollypower manual.



This type of beam also allows you to make the exercises more and more difficult as your strength level increases, without having to force you to change instruments to move from a dedicated beam to a beginner level, with good grips and always arranged in a symmetrical way for working with two hands, a hangboard with smaller grips, and maybe already prepared for single arm work.



Small hangboards have, on the other hand, very obvious advantages, especially for those who need to install them in the house or for those who want an "additional" tool to make a specific call on the fingers within a more complete and diversified training plan.




Beastmaker hangboards





Hangboards are made of three very different materials: resin, polyurethane and wood. Resin hangboards were the first to be designed for the big public of gyms; this type of material has been widely used in the past because of its excellent characteristics of "grip" and washability, therefore also durability. But, although the resin is still widely used for the realization of the climbing holds, in the hangboard field the preference is more and more oriented towards the wood.



Those who experienced this phase of "transaction" about fifteen years ago, which more or less coincided also with the birth of the Beastmaker in 2007, remember very well the initial skepticism towards this material. The wood has represented a "return to the origins", considering that the first prototype of hangboard was certainly made with very handmade wooden notches, screwed on a rough panel. Yet, smoothing the sharp edges and eliminating any roughness in the grain, the first feeling that you have touching the surface of one of these hangboards is that they are "difficult to hold".



Anyone who has overcome the first perplexity then realized that their strength is right in the smooth texture: being less aggressive on the skin, they allow more frequent and more intense workouts, leading you at the same time to do a more complete workout, because it is practically impossible to hang up "leather". You will need to pull back and shoulder muscles in order to overcome gravity, for example, on more inclined wooden flares.



Today wood is the most common material not only for the construction of hangboards, but also for many types of equipment for suspension training.



Owl Climb

Owl Climb hangboard 



Type of holds


The different types of holds that a hangboard offers give you a measure of how varied your training can be. In the most essential models, there are usually crimps or edges of two or three different depths, which are the only true constant of any hangboard, and are usually enough for those approaching the world of deadhangs and training on finger strength. Other models also have various types of slopers, which are a much sought-after option for those who want to raise the level of open-hand grips or, at the opposite extreme, are complemented by larger jugs for general warm-up or for different exercises such as chin-ups. In addition to crimps, slopers, and jugs, in the most advanced models for climbers, you can also find edges, mono and two-fingers pockets. As we said in the introduction, some models have a central row of grips, generally quite good, which are dedicated to single-arm training.





Some particularly sophisticated models give you the possibility to vary the available holds, to combine the compactness of a small hangboard with the variety of holds of a larger model. In general, this can happen: by rotating the beam that is hung up to brackets fixed to the wall (such as for Owl Climb Poker), or by composing in different ways the individual modules that you will attach to a metal bar (such as the unique Gripmonkeys Climbing Fingerboard), or even adding additional grips or reductions compatible with your beam to vary the thickness of the edges (such as the reductions for Beastmaker).


The portable hangboard


We are not sure, but the portable hangboard was probably born as a heating tool for high-level climbers who needed to specifically warm their fingers before an intense attempt on the rock. Often the "high performances" happen with decidedly low temperatures, and often we find ourselves with cold fingers after having rested for the necessary time between one attempt and the other. So even a very small hangboard to hang on the branch of a tree, or the first spit of a route, can be a great ally to find the right body temperature and avoid possible injuries.



The portable hangboard is not only intended for experienced climbers for this reason: its most obvious feature, that of being hung - and therefore necessarily unstable - makes it much more difficult to use. The downward rotation resulting from the weight of the climber that hangs up, makes the deadhang very unstable and the crimp, which would seem perfectly "horizontal", becomes incredibly inclined downwards as soon as we detach our feet from the ground.



Portable di Owl Climb

Portable by Owl Climb



Campus Board


Campus Board, known as Pan Güllich in many non English-speaking countries, was named so because it had been installed for the first time in the Campus Gym in Nuremberg. In the rest of the world, it brings the name of the climber who invented it in the late 80s, Wolfgang Güllich. His quest for the perfect training to prepare his physique to face a route like Action Directe, which later became the first 9a in the world, led him to devise this revolutionary training system.



Realizing how important it was to work also on the concentric force, he completed the specificity of the work of fingers on crimps by combining it with dynos and push movements, thus getting closer and closer to the simulation of the real movements that the rock involves. One of the key features of this panel is its inclination, which allows you to simulate the same intensity of movements on the overhanging walls.



Campus Board is also totally customizable: if you decide to buy one, you will have to choose the type of lists you want to install above. There is no standard and universal version, but you can create it with lists of different thickness and make it super complete with the addition of holds, rung, slopers and holds designed for this use, such as Metolius Blocks.



Any gym is now equipped with one or more Campus Board which, however, considering the size and space they require, are hardly adopted as a tool to be installed at home.



The equipment for suspension training


Before the hangboards and before the specific tools for climbing, there was free body training and muscle strengthening that found their origins in gymnastics. Every climber is familiar with pictures of John Gill performing a textbook Front Lever in the late '60s, and on one arm, on the bar. To characters like him, who have been able to break out of the schemes of a very generic training, we must recognize the importance of intuition of how useful it could be to apply the training principles for gymnasts to a sport in very different appearance, such as climbing.



The rings represented the first type of suspension training: still today many manuals for climbers offer ring exercises both to increase the strength of the arms, back and core, and to work on the antagonist muscles of climbers. From this principle were born many tools for suspension training such as pairs of grips, balls, cylinders, etc.



Owl Climb

Owl Climb climbng holds for suspension training 



The training boards


The latest generation of tools for the training of climbers has found a large space - literally speaking - in the proliferation of the many new climbing gyms around the world. Being able to take advantage of increasingly large surfaces, the type of panels has also diversified considerably, starting from System Walls, with symmetrical sockets to ensure a work of the same intensity on both sides, at MoonBoard, with the unique advantage of being a mini wall with countless boulders already traced and available to anyone, and finally the Japan Wall and the Tension Board.



These panels help to give references of difficulty on which to confront globally and, given the high concentration of holds in a relatively limited space, to have a variety of boulders on which to train virtually endless. They are usually used by climbers of intermediate or high level, especially for their inclination and for the type of holds, generally very flared or rounded, which reflect the latest trends of a more creative and dynamic route setting.