Fingerboards or hangboards, are some of the most effective pieces of equipment that most climbers use to strengthen their fingers and upper body. It is not limited to only climbers though, and anyone who wants to enhance their hand and grip abilities can use them in their training routines.
This is one way those who are keen on ‘contact strength’ can improve their hold. It helps to move in between holds much easier, which for most climbers is one of the most essential things that they need to be able to do.
The Basics on Contact Strength
Contact strength or hold is a term often used by climbers and sports athletes. It is derived from the idea of holding onto something with maximum strength i.e. to be in contact. Some climbers have different styles of climbing for instance when they elevate their grip on each hold. It is noted that training this ability can help to increase the force exerted by a climber. More about this can be found in this study here
Athletes such as these are known to grip, hold and move onto the next step fairly easily and quickly. Anything from the activity of boulders to wall climbing can significantly benefit from the type of training that only the hangboards provide.
When moving from post to post your forearm and finger muscles stretch slightly, and force is added onto them from your body weight. The joints of the fingers tend to open somewhat and then contract, to provide some stability and advantage.
For those who do not train this part of their muscles, it becomes difficult to hold onto a position for a long time, but for those who do train them it makes things much easier and smoother and can also increase their speed over time, making them faster and flexible at moving around and climbing upwards or downwards.
Boulder walls, hangboards, system walls and climbing gyms, can be a great way to train yourself.
The Metolius Hangboards
The word itself ‘Metolius’ originated from Native Americans of the Pacific, meaning “white fish”. This comes from the Chinook salmon, which is a light-colored fish found in rivers back in the day but for some tourists, like the Europeans that came onto the lands originally, translated it as ‘spawning grounds’ or ‘stinking water’.
Every year these Chinook pacific salmon would return to the water of the Metolius to breed and would die right after. They would be washed to the beach and animals would take them for their food. Perhaps because of the smell of the rotting fish, the translation, at the time, seemed appropriate. This happens to date and many tourists get to see this natures marvel.
Now that you have a brief idea of the history, let us jump into how to train yourself using these boards. As an effective tool to train your upper body, there are a few ways you can take advantage of this equipment. Some suggestions have been provided for you below:
Grasping the grips: the way to use them is to via an open-handed grip. Strengthening your open-handed grip is a key fundamental when climbing. It may be difficult at first but after some time, you will get the hang of it. It increases your crimp and helps to hold pockets and edges a lot better. It also minimizes the chances of injury. The wooden compact boards are a great way to practice: https://gripstrength.com/products/metolius-wood-grips-compact-training-board
First, you need to warm up: you can do this by doing a few climbing sessions or by doing a few dead hangs or pull-ups on the bars at the sports center. You should also incorporate some gentle stretching exercises. Do this for about 15 minutes and then increase it over time with all the exercises. don’t forget to warm down, which is usually easier than warm-ups and should last about 20 minutes.
Open hand and crimping: now you grab the boards with your open hand while your steady on the ground and stretch it lightly then crimp it. Crimping is similar to almost making a fist but with your four fingers and not your thumb. But because you will be holding the board you will not fully create a fist but almost one. do this a few times to get the hang of it.
Once you get used to this movement you can climb up towards another hangboard and do the same while elevated in the air. If you find the hold difficult in the beginning, you can use a chair and put one foot onto it and have someone help you up, this will take off the majority of the weight when you pull up to crimp. When you jump off, make sure you have a cushioned landing pad so you don’t fall or sprain yourself.
Also, always rest between these workouts, as they can place a lot of strain on your body and arms. Do about 3 sessions, then rest for a decent amount of time and then repeat. You should always pay attention to your body and if you feel tired or in pain, rest it out till you’ve recovered, but never overexert yourself.
The SAID Principle
Refining your contact strength can be a tough and intense exercise. A lot of athletes find that paying attention to the SAID Principle i.e. Specific Adaptations to Implied Demands, they can win over the training no matter what age or ability levels you are regardless of our bodies demands.
The principle is based on the idea that, similar to most movements, when you stretch your body to its limits it will adapt specifically by compensating through other parts such as your cardiovascular system. Much in the same way, strength training adapts to muscle strength for instance.
Accordingly, when you do a cardio workout, your body will respond depending on the type of strength training to do. Thus, choosing those that are goal specific will bring the most benefit out of things and your body will learn to adapt.