Quick summary

8-month finger strength training program – Abstract

Background: Running a full-time professional career, a family, and a blog leave me with little time do train and sleep for recovery. I can rarely afford to go to the gym, let alone climb outdoors. The bulk of my training consists of hangboarding. In this post, I describe the results of my eight-month hangboard finger strength training program with Steve Bechtel’s 3-6-9 Ladders routine.

Objective: To verify how much I can progress my absolute and relative finger strength while undergoing a weight loss intervention, and under conditions of chronic sleep deprivation.

Design: The hangboard training program consisted of three training cycles. After each cycle, I increased the hang loads. I trained three hold positions, the 14 mm edge full crimp, 14 mm half crimp, and 20 mm 3-finger pocket. I tested my maximum finger strength with 7-second hangs on a 20 mm edge in half crimp position (MVC-7 HC 20).

Results: With the program, I increased my MVC-7 HC 20 absolute strength from 108 kg to 116 kg. During the last training cycle, I managed to reduce my body weight from 65.5 kg to 61 kg through Intermittent Fasting and Low Carbohydrate/Keto Diet. As a result, I increased my relative finger strength from 163.5% to 190%, allowing me to improve from the 7A benchmark to 7B benchmark level on the Moonboard Masters 2017 hold setup.

Conclusions: Hangboard training is an effective and efficient method of improving maximum finger strength. Satisfactory gains can be expected despite inadequate sleep and undergoing a weight loss intervention. Losing weight contributed to the increase of my relative finger strength and allowed me to progress my Moonboard bouldering level significantly.

Hangboard finger strength training – Introduction

Finger strength is one of the most important, if not the most important aspect of sport climbing and bouldering. I found on multiple occasions that a thoroughly executed finger strength cycle on a hangboard allowed me to send projects, on which I’d been stuck for months. I’ve been hangboarding practically ever since I started climbing, back in 2005. The first hangboard workout I ever tried was the fingerboard moving hangs, described by Eric Hörst in his book “Training for Climbing” [1]. It’s basically a strength endurance training routine, and the good thing about it was that it was safe, a significant factor for a beginner climber I was at the time. Still, it was not until 2010 that I became serious about hangboarding and made it the cornerstone of my rock climbing training. I began experimenting with Hangboard Repeaters, and for a long while, it became the only hangboard exercise I did [2]. But in 2018, I noticed that I wasn’t able to add more weight to the hangs any more and that my strength had plateaued. I went out on a search for purely strength-oriented hangboard training methods, and I started with the Eva López MaxHangs [3][4]. The results were pretty impressive, and I began to gain strength quickly. At that point, I read “Logical Progression” by Steve Bechtel, and I became immediately interested in his new approach to rock climbing training [5]. If you don’t know who Steve Bechtel is, you can listen to one of his interviews at [6].

Finger strength is the most crucial facet of sport climbing and bouldering. If you're stuck on a grade, first check if your finger strength is sufficient to progress!

Last year, after testing a couple of different hangboard strength training routines, including the “7-53” protocol by Eric Hörst, and the One Arm Hangs hangboard training routine, I decided to finally try out Steve’s 3-6-9 Ladders strength training workout [7]. I must admit that, like many other climbers, I was a bit skeptical in the beginning, because I came across opinions that the loads used in the protocol are insufficient to trigger neural adaptations [8]. Still, I figured Steve surely knew what he was doing, and besides, I wasn’t risking much anyway. In this post, I will briefly describe the finger strength training progress I made in 2019/2020 with this underrated, but safe and surprisingly effective rock climbing training protocol.

Steve Bechtel’s 3-6-9 Ladders finger strength training Cycle 1

According to the protocol instructions, the first thing you