If your progress hit a plateau and you feel like “just climbing” is not enough anymore, it is time you should consider starting some supplementary training. Here you will find detailed descriptions of the most popular training protocols for developing both strength and endurance.
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. My goal was 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.
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. Go ahead and find out the details!
The Hangboard Moving Hangs (HMH) climbing training protocol was described by Eric Hörst in his book Conditioning for Climbers. Because the intensity of the exercise is rather low, even beginner climbers with a couple of months of training under their belt can give it a try.
The Hangboard Moving Hangs climbing training protocol is a perfect introduction to hangboarding, because it’s safe, it puts less strain on the shoulders than typical dead hangs, and it’s easy to do. This routine is a powerful and versatile technique for developing forearm endurance, and it is worth including in any climber’s training portfolio! I started hangboarding with the Hangboard Moving Hangs climbing endurance protocol myself, and I would recommend it to both beginners and advanced climbers.
The One Arm Hangs protocol was made popular by Chris Webb-Parsons, an Australian V15 boulderer. The One Arm Hangs can be particularly useful to climbers who are so strong that they need to add very high loads, even over 50 kg, to make their two-handed hangs challenging enough, and for whom reducing the hold size may at some point become painful. Since the One Arm Hangs protocol is very different from any two-handed hangboard protocol, if you never tried it before, you are likely to notice quick strength gains, owing to the entirely new stimuli it provides. This can make One Arm Hangs the perfect tool whenever you need to break through a plateau.
The Eva López SubHangs strength endurance protocol is characterized by long hang times of up to 45 seconds, at relatively low loads, between 55 – 85% MVC-7. This approach is aimed primarily at improving strength endurance and potentially also strength itself, through hypertrophy. The Eva López SubHangs strength endurance protocol is quite similar to the more old fashioned way of hangboard training, where long hangs till failure were preferred. The protocol can be executed in two versions, the minimum edge with no added weight (SubHangs MED) and with added weight (SubHangs MAW). Use this method if you want to reduce recovery times between sustained sections of a route, or if you need to be able to hang on to small holds for longer!
The Zlagboard comes with a built-in Forearm Endurance Workout protocol. The idea behind the method is to generate a severe forearm pump, targeting the anaerobic lactic energy system and improving both the physiological and psychological tolerance to high acidic loads. While not very climbing-specific, the Zlagboard Forearm Endurance Workout might be just what you need to get you through long, hard, and pumpy cruxes. Boulderers may also benefit from faster regeneration between attempts, as well as from muscle hypertrophy caused by growth hormone release triggered by lowered blood pH. Go ahead and give the Zlagboard Forearm Endurance Workout a try if you like suffering, but keep your climbing goals in mind!
Steve Bechtel designed his 3-6-9 Ladders protocol as an effective and safe strength training method that can be used both off-season and during the season, while not leading to overtraining or injury. His idea was to reduce the load to the necessary minimum and progress the volume instead. But that does not mean that the loads used are light! Try an 8-week cycle with Steve Bechtel’s 3-6-9 Ladders protocol to trigger both neural and structural adaptations of the forearm muscles!
Endurance Repeaters are a less known modification of the standard 7/3 Hangboard Repeaters protocol. The idea behind this method is to perform intermittent hangs until failure, with the load reduced to only 30 – 40% of your maximum voluntary contraction (MVC). Such training is known to introduce adaptations, which include improved capillary density and vascular conductance, increases in size and density of the mitochondria, aerobic enzymes and fat oxidation, as well as sparing of muscle glycogen, reduced rates of lactate (La-) production and enhanced La- removal. Ultimately, you should expect improved oxygen supply to the muscles and better maximal endurance capacity. Give Endurance Repeaters a try if you often get pumped before you even reach the crux on those long sport routes!
The Maximum Hangs (MaxHangs) protocols were developed and popularized by Eva López. The training protocols are low volume and high intensity, and their effectiveness is scientifically proven! MaxHangs became widely accepted in the climbing community and are among the most popular hangboard protocols. The routine can be executed in two versions, the minimum edge with no added weight (MaxHangs MED) and on a fixed edge depth with added weight (MaxHangs MAW). Both methods trigger neural adaptations through short TUT and high loads.
The Intermittent Dead Hangs (IntHangs) protocols were developed by Eva López for strength endurance training. While similar to the classic Repeaters, IntHangs are generally characterized by lower volume. IntHangs should constitute only a part of a training session and be combined with other activities. lntHangs can be executed in two versions, the minimum edge with no added weight (IntHangs MED) and fixed edge with added weight (IntHangs MAW). Both methods trigger muscle hypertrophy because of the relatively long time under tension (TUT) and medium loads.
The classic 7/3 Repeaters are a typical strength endurance training protocol, designed to mimic the grip and relax sequence that is characteristic of climbing. The loads used are generally low, compared to the Eva López MaxHangs protocol, or to the Eric Hörst’s “7-53” protocol, which makes Repeaters safer for intermediate climbers. The rest times between hangs are on the other hand very short, typically just 3 seconds, which stimulates the anaerobic lactic energy system and inevitably leads to severe muscle pump. While Eric Hörst doesn’t consider repeaters to be the best strength endurance protocol, he still thinks it can be useful as a pre-season preparation for lead climbers.
The Maximum Weight “7-53” protocol is a highly effective strength training method developed by Eric Hörst as something in between the classic 7/3 Repeaters protocol and Eva López’s MaxHangs. This highly time efficient protocol is the middle ground between strength and strength endurance training, and it is recommended for intermediate and advanced climbers. With this method, Eric progressed from 22.5 kg to 41 kg added weight on a 14 mm edge and it’s his favorite hangboard protocol!