Hangboard Repeaters strength endurance protocol

Quick summary

Hangboard Repeaters strength endurance protocol

The knowledge as to who exactly invented the Hangboard Repeaters strength endurance protocol is lost in the darkness of history, but it’s probably the first structured hangboard protocol ever developed [1]. It’s designed to mimic the grip and relax sequence that is characteristic of climbing. The loads applied are generally low, compared to Eva López’s MaxHangs protocol, or to the Eric Hörst’s “7-53” protocol, which makes it safer for intermediate climbers [2][3]. The rest times between hangs are on the other hand very short, typically just 3 seconds. This means that your body will have to tap into both the alactic energy system, burning the creatine phosphate (PCr) stored in the muscles, but also to the lactic energy system, where anaerobic glycolysis is contributing to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. Enhanced blood flow will be induced to enable lactate and hydrogen ions removal, which will in turn inevitably lead to muscle pump. While Eric Hörst doesn’t consider Hangboard Repeaters to be the best strength endurance protocol, he still thinks it can be useful as a pre-season preparation for lead climbers [1].

The 7/3 Hangboard Repeaters strength endurance protocol details

  1. Choose three to seven different grip positions. Consider including:
    1. An open crimp
    2. A full crimp
    3. A three-finger pocket
    4. Two-finger pockets: index-middle (IM), middle-ring (MR) and ring-pinkie (RP) – advanced
    5. A sloper
  2. For each grip position determine your MVC and the respective training load.
  3. For each grip position:
    1. Hang for 7 seconds, rest for 3 seconds.
    2. Complete a total of 6 hangs.
  4. Rest 2 – 3 minutes and switch to the next grip position.
  5. The set is finished once all hangs for all the chosen grip positions are complete.
  6. Rest 12 – 15 minutes between sets.
  7. Complete a total of 1 – 3 sets.

Table 1: The 7/3 Hangboard Repeaters summary table.

7/3 Repeaters
MVC hang test time [s]5 - 10
MVC-7 load (beginner)40 - 50%
MVC-7 load (advanced)60 - 80%
Sets1 - 3
Positions/set3 - 7
Hangs/position6
Hang time [s]7
Rest betw. hangs [s]3
Rest betw. pos. [min]2 - 3
Rest betw. sets [min]12 - 15
TUT [s]126 - 882
Total time [min]7 - 105

Hangboard Repeaters routine remarks

  • For the maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) determination use 5 – 10-second test hangs.
  • The load for Hangboard Repeaters strength endurance protocol should be equivalent to 60 – 80% of your MVC.
  • Beginners should start with 40 – 50% of their MVC and do no more than two sets.
  • The last hangs are supposed to feel hard, and you should get pumped.
  • You should be able to complete all the hangs – use a pulley system to adjust the load.
    • If you can’t complete all the hangs, reduce weight.
    • If the hangs are too easy, add weight.
  • Alternatively, you can try doing Hangboard Repeaters till failure (Endurance Repeaters).
  • If you want to experiment with the hang times and the rest times, you can try:
    • 6 seconds hang, 4 seconds rest
    • 5 seconds hang, 5 seconds rest
    • 5 seconds hang, 2 seconds rest
You will need to devote one or two training sessions to determine the optimum loads for particular hang positions. It is impossible to give one general rule, as the loads will depend on the number of sets you choose to execute, the rest times between sets and hangs, and even the sequence in which you order the grip positions in a set. The time for the MVC measurement is not strictly defined, but it is normally assumed between 5 – 10 seconds [4][5]. Throughout this blog, the 7-second MVC measurement is generally used for consistency (MVC-7). The exact determination of the hang loads for Hangboard Repeaters strength endurance protocol, or “intermittent isometric contractions” is a science in itself, and touches on the subjects of “critical force” (CF) and the “energy store component” (W’) [4]. But you don’t have to be that precise – as long as you get pumped and you’re able to complete all the hangs, you’re probably on the right track. If you want to shift the balance of the exercise more towards strength or simply adjust the intensity, you may choose a different version of Hangboard Repeaters, such as the 6/4, 5/5, or 5/2. Another concept you may explore is doing Hangboard Repeaters till failure (Endurance Repeaters), as it was suggested by Tom Randall in the TBP interview [5][6].

The exact load determination for each grip position may be tricky, but as long as you get pumped in the end and still manage to complete all the hangs, you're on the right track.

In Figure 1 below, my example exercise logs for the 7/3 Hangboard Repeaters strength endurance protocol are shown. The routines were done on the Moon Fingerboard for six different hang positions: 3-finger sloper, 3-finger pocket, two 2-finger pockets (index-middle, middle-ring), full crimp, and half crimp [7]. First, a 30-second hang test was done for each grip position, corresponding to roughly 80% MVC-7 intensity [8]. For each position, the added/subtracted weight was recorded and subsequently adjusted. However, because of the large variety of holds used, which lead to a relatively high exercise volume, it was impossible for me to complete the routine. I recalculated the hang intensity and reduced it to 75%, based on the MVC-7 measured for each hold position. Yet, for the 3-finger pocket (3p) and the 2-finger middle-ring pocket (MR), I still was not able to complete all required hangs. Finally, once the loads were decreased to 70% MVC, the right balance between volume and intensity was struck.

Hangboard repeaters strength endurance protocol log

Figure 1: Make sure to keep a log of your hang loads, rest times between hangs and between sets.

Hangboard Repeaters strength endurance protocol results and discussion

The traditional 7 seconds on, 3 seconds off Hangboard Repeaters protocol was thoroughly explored by the Anderson Brothers in their article from 2015 [9]. They report strength gains as high 21.5% after a 4-week cycle and 32.0% after full eight weeks of training with their Rock Prodigy Method (RPM). On top of that, their protocol was proven to have a direct impact on the climbers’ performance of the rock.

The mean redpoint climbing grade improvement within the group of climbers taking part in the experiment was +1.44 YDS letter-grade within the first season and +2.50 YDS letter-grade after multiple seasons. The mean onsight climbing level was improved by +1.51 YDS letter-grade within the first season and +2.03 YDS letter-grade after several seasons. A somewhat surprising result, taking into account that Hangboard Repeaters are a strength endurance training protocol. In contrast, Eva López reported strength gains of only 20.6% in four weeks and up to 28% after full eight weeks of her strength training dedicated MaxHangs protocol [2].

So where’s the catch? As far as the Anderson brothers’ experiment is concerned, the subjects were reported to be relatively undertrained and had high potential to improve [9]. On the other hand, the climbers who took part in the Eva López’s experiment were mostly well-trained sports climbers (French 7c+/8a, YDS: 5.13a redpoint climbing) so a specific ceiling effect may have taken place, similar to the one observed by Eva herself [10].

Popular and safe protocol - excellent introduction to hangboarding.

While Eric Hörst claims that Hangboard Repeaters grip strength endurance protocol is not the ideal exercise for building strength endurance, it’s still probably the most popular hangboard protocol around. It’s also relatively safe, as it is easy to control the loads and easier to predict failure than it is in the case of maximum strength protocols [11]. I think that it is an excellent introduction to hangboarding, notably if you reduce the initial load to 40 – 50% of your MVC. The low load will allow the fingers to undergo the necessary structural adaptations, required for the more advanced hangboard protocols.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Please subscribe to the blog, to keep up to date with upcoming posts on cutting edge methods of climbing training!

References

  1. E. Hörst, Training4Climbing Podcast #10: Maximum Strength Fingerboard Training’, Mar. 1, 2017. (link)
  2. Eva López Blog – Fingerboard Training Guide (II). Maximal grip Strength and Endurance Methods and Load Training management, May 23, 2018. (link)
  3. E. Hörst, Training4Climbing: 4 Fingerboard Strength Protocols That Work, Nov. 1, 2016. (link)
  4. Giles, D., Chidley, J.B., Taylor, N., Torr, O., Hadley, J., Randall, T., Fryer, S., 2019. The Determination of Finger-Flexor Critical Force in Rock Climbers. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 1–8. (link)
  5. N. Quinn, Lattice Training – 5 Training Hacks for The Time-Poor Climber, Trainingbeta Podcast 114,  Oct. 10, 2018. (link)
  6. J. Banaszczyk, StrengthClimbing – Endurance Repeaters, May 2, 2019. (link)
  7. MoonClimbing.com (link)
  8. Limonta, E., Cè, E., Veicsteinas, A., Esposito, F., 2008. Force control during fatiguing contractions in elite rock climbers. Sport Sciences for Health 4, 37–42. (link)
  9. Anderson, M., Anderson, M., 2015. A Novel Tool and Training Methodology for Improving Finger Strength in Rock Climbers. Procedia Engineering 112, 491–496. (link)
  10. López-Rivera, E., González-Badillo, J.J., 2019. Comparison of the Effects of Three Hangboard Strength and Endurance Training Programs on Grip Endurance in Sport Climbers. Journal of Human Kinetics 66, 183–195. (link)
  11. The Power Company Podcast, Episode 58: Comparing Hangboard Protocols with Steve Maisch, Sep. 21, 2017.  (link)

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2 thoughts on “Hangboard Repeaters strength endurance protocol”

  1. Hi Jędrzej,
    love your website! Well done. Seems to be very new. Contains very interesting training stuff.
    I’m an old veteran climbing guy who loves still training for climbing.
    Can you recommend a specific training which focuses on gaining more forearm muscles?
    Or what would you do when plateauing with your finger training?

    Best Regards,
    Martin

    1. Hi Martin,

      Thank you very much for your comment. I’m glad you like the site! It is, in fact, quite new, I only launched it in October. I hope you will find it helpful and inspiring for your training.

      Regarding your questions, strength improvements are a combination of neural and structural adaptations. Neural adaptations are the way the activation signal is transferred to your muscles, the number of muscle fibers activated at the same time, fiber firing rate, etc. Structural adaptations include muscle size, capillarization, the quantity of glycogen your muscles can store, metabolic pathways, and so on. If you can combine or cycle these adaptations in a smart way, you are bound to gain strength continuously (within reason, of course).

      The standard way to increase muscle size is to use Hangboard Repeaters, or Intermittent Dead Hangs (IntHangs). These are high volume exercises at low loads (50 – 80% MVC-7), with long hanging times, short rests, and a lot of sets. All this makes these protocols intensive and stressful on the body. Furthermore, to notice improvements, you need to stick to the protocol for at least 6 weeks, but 8 – 12 weeks would be much better.

      On the other hand, protocols leading to neural adaptations, such as the Max Hangs, 7-53, or Bechtel’s Ladders, require high loads (above 90% MVC-7), fewer repetitions, and long rests. This makes them easier to follow, mainly because gains are quickly noticeable, and this helps you stay motivated. However, a plateau is usually promptly reached.

      It’s up to you to decide which protocol is best for you at the current time. It’s best to begin the training cycle with the neural methods and then switch to the structural methods. This way, you will be able to use higher loads and shorter rests with your Repeaters or IntHangs.

      If you reach a plateau, the most straightforward answer is “just change something.” I remember that between 2017 – 2018, I focused solely on Repeaters. I kept adding load, but at one point, I plateaued. I then switched to MaxHangs and started gaining strength again. Then I turned to One Arm Hangs, and now I’m doing Bechtel’s Ladders.

      I highly recommend Bechtel’s Ladders, because in my opinion, they let you combine neural and structural adaptations, and they have a naturally built-in system of varying intensity. I’ve been continuously improving with this protocol for the last six months, and I still haven’t hit a plateau.

      To sum up, there are no simple answers here – it all depends on your current strength level, your previous training history, injury history, and your goals (do you boulder, or sport climb?). I hope I at least in part, answered your questions. If you would like me to help you design a hangboard training plan for this winter, write me an email – I’ll be glad to help, for me, it’s an opportunity to learn!

      Kind regards,

      Jędrzej

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