Bare Naked Hangboarding.

A year or so ago, shortly after a post concerning hypertrophy, I received a nicely written blunt message from my friend Ryan Palo.

These aren't Ryan's exact words, but it basically said, "Hey, idiot.  Why are you hangboarding after bouldering?  Hangboarding should be the main focus, with bouldering second.  Everybody knows this.  And what does your skin think about it?  Stop being a jackass."

I replied, somewhat meekly, that I felt I still had a lot to learn from bouldering as far as technique goes, and that I felt my limited time would be better spent that way.  I also complained that it's too hot and humid here to get much out of hangboarding in the summer.

Again, I'm paraphrasing, but Ryan replied,  "Whatever, dude.  It's hot here, too.  Just man up and get your ass out of bed earlier.  Act like you want it."

Ok, then.  Point taken.

Funny thing is, my best season came after a winter spent focused on the hangboard.  For some reason, once I found that I could hold onto much worse holds, I decided to head back to bouldering while my hangboarding was reduced to post-bouldering workouts.  Same with any kind of campusing.  It was an afterthought.

In my defense, I did have alot to learn from bouldering.  Thing is, if I had structured it right, I could have had my cake and ate it, too.  But I didn't.  Live and learn.

So heading into this summer of training, I've made some drastic changes for the simpler concerning the hangboard.

First, my hypertrophy, or strength, phase had to be more focused on the hangboard.  No more post-bouldering sessions.  Also, to take advantage of the cooler temps, I'd have to be up early getting it done.  Manning up.  The latter means that I can't do it at the gym anymore.  I'd need to either bring one of my boards home from the gym, or come up with another answer.

Again, I simplified.  After many skin shredding sessions on commercial boards with lots of holds, I always found myself stuck on the smallest crimps, and those are either too big, or too sharp.  I needed to save skin, make something for inside the house that would look good enough to hang there (we have a TINY house... nowhere to hide), and keep it very, very basic.

So I built this guy:

Three edges: the top is 1/2" and rounded, the middle is 3/8" and very slopey, and the bottom is 1/4" and rounded.

No, I won't build you one.  No, I'm not selling this one.  It's easy; get your hands dirty and give it a try.

I bought the wood from The Home Depot.  The rungs are all hardwood.  The 1/2" and 1/4" came in the right sizes, and I just rounded the edges with a sander.  For the 3/8", I used a 1/2" rung, sanded almost 1/4" off the back, and then drastically rounded the edge with the sander.  I predrilled the holes, screwed it onto a stained 24" long, 7" wide, 3/4" deep board, and mounted that.  Took about an hour.  Cost me about $15. 

The wood is much friendlier on the skin.  I've had no skin issues at all with it.  The 1/4" hold hurts to hold onto, particularly now that I've started adding weight, but any time all your weight is on a 1/4" edge, it's going to be a little painful, no matter how rounded it is.  Man up.

Hanging it at home and making it accessible assures that I'm going to be on it.  Actually, I rather enjoy getting up early and having my workout done by 7ish.  If you look back at my workout schedule, you'll see that I'm often bouldering in the evening on the same day.  I've noticed no reduction in my finger strength on those evenings.  The 11 hours or so between the hangboard and the bouldering seems to be plenty to rest and have it all back.

The biggest hurdle to hanging in the morning at home has been the warmup.  I invested in a little grip trainer, use it while I'm watering plants or making coffee, and constantly stretch my fingers and clench and unclench my hands.  I rotate my arms and make sure my shoulders are loosened up.  I then start by doing a few hangs on the top of the board: the 3/4" edge.  A few hangs on the top and middle rungs, and I'm ready to slowly move into the workout.

Have I mentioned that I went simpler?  The workout itself adheres to this as well.

In trying to keep more with the principles of true hypertrophy,  I ignored the classic "repeaters" workout in favor of something more streamlined with fewer reps, meaning less volume, and more intensity.  It goes something like this:

Half crimp grip.  Each rep lasts 8 seconds or until failure.  10 seconds rest between reps.  1-2 minute rest between sets (grips).  F3 denotes front 3 fingers.  R3 denotes rear three fingers.  M2 are middle 2 fingers.  If no finger count is specified, it is with all 4 fingers.  I started on each rung with bodyweight.  Upon finishing a set of 3 reps with bodyweight, I add weight on a belt or vest with 4 fingers, and begin trying it with only 3 fingers.  Once I've completed a set with that weight, I add more.  I add weight until I reach 20 lbs, which is where I draw the line.  I just feel that the added weight beyond that point is less valuable than time spent on smaller holds or with fewer fingers.  I continue doing the 20 lb. hang in the workout as a means of warming up to weighted fewer finger hangs (which is denoted below).  When no weight is listed, it's because the weight grows from session to session in 2-6 lb. increments until it reaches the 20 lb. limit.
Warm up with 1 set of 3 reps of bodyweight hangs from top and middle rungs.  
Top rung.  20 lbs.  3 reps.
Middle rung.  20 lbs.  3 reps.
Top rung.  F3. 20 lbs.  3 reps.
Middle rung.  F3.  20 lbs.  3 reps. 
Top rung.  R3.  3 reps.
Middle rung.  R3.  3 reps.
Bottom rung.  3 reps.
Bottom rung.  F3.  3 reps.
Bottom rung.  R3.  3 reps.
Top rung.  M2.  3 reps.
Middle rung.  M2.  3 reps.

At the end of the workout, if my fingers feel pretty good still, I'll add in a few extra bodyweight hangs on the bottom rung, just for good measure.  I don't use a stopwatch for the workout.  I count in my head, estimate the rest times, and go with gut feeling.  If my fingers are sore and tired (like from sledgehammering a sidewalk and laying a stone patio all weekend), I don't hesitate to skip or shorten a workout.  If I just can't commit to the small edge, I skip it.  Those things have only happened a time or two, but it's best not to force it and get injured or set back.

I'm a weekend warrior.  My time is precious.  This entire workout, warmup included, lasts all of 30 minutes.   My skin loves me for it.  My finger strength is seeing gains like it did in what I consider my best season, which has me pretty excited for the coming fall.  Thanks, Ryan.

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