Hangboard Training Program – Piotr

Piotr is an extremely motivated and experienced lead climber, who excels at crimpy slabs and vertical walls. He lives in Mexico, where he has access to vast areas of high-quality virgin rock, which allows him to bolt his own new lines.

To me, Piotr is a bit of a mystery because, based on the score from my lead climbing grade prediction algorithm, his level should only be 5.11d (7a). So far, the algorithm has been pretty accurate at estimating the current lead climbing level for other climbers on the program. And yet just a while ago, Piotr managed to send his fourth 5.13a (7c+) route. I believe that what Piotr lacks in terms of physical determinants, he makes up for with experience, technique, a strong mental game, and commitment. On top of that, being six feet tall gives him an extra edge on crimpy and slabby routes. 

Piotr is currently climbing a lot outdoors, so he follows a low volume hangboard training program, which strikes an equal balance between strength and endurance development. It also needs to be mentioned that Piotr never really trained on the hangboard before, so he still has a huge potential for physical development. I believe that if he combines his improved strength and endurance with his technique and experience, he will significantly progress as a climber.

Climber on an overhanging route in Mexico

Photo: Piotr in his element – projecting a 5.13a route in Mexico – Project sent in Dec. 2020.

Here's what Piotr says about the Program:

"Tired of reading, analysing, and piecing together everything I found on- and offline, I decided to look for help. Being a 43-year-old with very specific needs, I decided to contact various online coaches, who unfortunately could or did not want to take me under their wings. Through sheer luck, I came across StrenghtClimbing website, and upon having read all (sic!) its content in one go, I decided to contact Jedrzej to ask a few questions. He got back to me quickly, answered all my Qs and offered help with training. I started Jedrzej's training programme 7 months ago. At present, I can feel my fingers (crimping and grip) much stronger than before and my endurance has grown substantially. For the very first time, I am motivated to train on a fingerboard, which I had avoided and used infrequently before. I meticulously write down my results and J meticulously gets back to me with his feedback. In short, I have found my coach!"
Piotr (5.13a/7c+)
Sport Climber (Mexico)
5/5

Results of Cycle 1

When Piotr entered the program his MVC-7 on a 20 mm edge was only 114%, a result typical for a V5 climber. His critical force was 33% of his MVC-7, which is more common for boulderers than lead climbers. For sport climbers, this number normally lies above 40% and it’s not uncommon to see ratios as high as 50% or even 55%. Taking into account Piotr’s results, and the fact that he never trained systematically on the hangboard, I decided to put him on a balanced program, with a slight emphasis on endurance development.

Cycle 1 was three months long, from mid-June until mid-September when we ran the performance assessment. As a result, Piotr’s strength increased by 4 kgs, which is a very respectable 5% improvement. However, Piotr’s gains in terms of endurance were even more spectacular. In only three months his Critical Force went up to 40% MVC-7, and 47% body weight. In August Piotr confirmed his physical fitness by redpointing a 5.13a (7c+) project. 

I believe that Piotr still has some way to go before he’s ready to lead his first 5.13b route, but he’s on the right track, and with his commitment and discipline, it’s just a matter of time.

Results of Cycle 2

Cycle 2 was also three months long, from late September until the end of November. Regarding strength training, this time, we opted for a more relaxed approach, with shorter and less intense hangboard sessions and with a lot of lead climbing and a bit of gym bouldering. The results exceeded our expectations by far! 

Piotr’s strength increased by 5 kgs, which is almost a 6% improvement. What is also very interesting, Piotr managed to improve both his anaerobic and aerobic endurance significantly. His time under tension (TUT) for the 80% MVC-7 Repeaters on a 20 mm edge increased from 42 seconds at 68 kg to 60 seconds at 72 kg. The TUT at 45% MVC-7 increased from 341 seconds at 38 kg to 510 seconds at 41 kg.

After five months of training, Piotr continues to progress systematically. He also keeps relentlessly ticking-off more 5.13a/7c+ routes from his projects checklist. Piotr is now physically ready to tackle his 5.13b (8a) lead climbing projects. I’m keeping my fingers crossed in the hope that he will soon reach his personal best!

Results of Cycle 3

Piotr started Cycle 3 at the beginning of January 2021 and completed it by the end of March, with regular strength and endurance tests. Cycle 3 was a mix of Tyler Nelson’s Density Hangs and Steve Bechtel’s GO plans. Piotr’s half crimp strength continued to improve, albeit at a slightly slower rate, to reach 92.5 kg for 7 seconds on a 20 mm edge (MVC-7). 

However, it was his aerobic endurance improvement that surprised us immensely! And while the anaerobic endurance did not change significantly, Piotr managed to exceed 20 minutes of total exercise time on his 45% MVC-7 test. That means that his Time Under Tension (TUT) increased from 510 seconds at 41 kg load to 894 seconds at 42 kg load! Quite an achievement and a testimony to the effectiveness of the program.

Table 1: Hangboard Training Program progress.

 Beginning (06.2020)After Cycle 1 (09.2020)After Cycle 2 (12.2020)After Cycle 3 (03.2021)
Completed cycleJust climbingStrength /EnduranceStrength /EnduranceStrength /Endurance
MVC-7 (20 mm) [kg]81859092.5
Body weight [kg]71.571.572.571.5
MVC-7