Long holidays, extended business trips, bad weather, with nothing to do apart from slouch around
and pile on the pounds. It’s a familiar dilemma. Many rock climbers struggle to know what to do during downtime, especially on vacations when they’re
away from their usual training facilities or shut down by storms. Sometimes there’s no point in trying to maintain peak fitness and you might as well
enjoy yourself and play catch-up later—especially if you were due some rest anyway. But sometimes an enforced break will sabotage your momentum,
and you do need to improvise in order to keep the ball rolling.
Here’s what to do:
1. Make a Portable Hangboard
This is a three-hour job that will make a ton of difference for your climbing, especially if you spend a lot of time on the move and away from decent climbing
gyms. A porta-board is no more hassle to lug around than a laptop and should fit easily into hand luggage. All you need is a small piece of ¾-inch
plywood, approximately 20 inches x 6 inches, and a campus rung. Order a rung or make one yourself from a wood dowel or a strip of pine. Intermediates
(5.10 to 5.12) should use a 1-inch rung. Advanced (5.12 and up) use a 3/4–inch rung. Beginners shouldn’t train on a hangboard.
Simply screw or glue the rung to the base of the board and drill holes in the top corners so you can thread 5mm cord loops to secure the board in place.
I’ve tied my rig to the pull-up bars in gyms, swing-sets in children’s playgrounds, wooden beams at hotels, trees and so on. Drill holes in the bottom
corners of the board to attach cords or bungee loops to use for assisted training (i.e. off weighting with a hand or foot).
Keep in mind that you’re much better off training this way than settling for the easy option of going for a run or using weights. Building finger strength
is the priority for climbing and a hangboard can deliver it as effectively as any bouldering session. In fact, using a porta-board can be a really
positive step for your climbing. Back home, we all tend to favor climbing over hangboard training, so a portable board will provide you with an opportunity
for some dedicated, measured training.
2. Hangboard Strength-Training Routine
Here is a standard hangboard session for intermediate climbers. Elites may choose to add extra sets and exercises. Beginners are not advised to use hangboards.
3. Hangboard Endurance-Training Routine
There are many different options here, but the classic “quick-hit” workout is to perform sets of fingertip pull-ups with a fixed-rest interval. You’ll
need to determine the exact number of reps and rest time yourself, but a good generic formula is to do each set “on the minute.” In other words, rest
one minute between sets. A rule of thumb is for intermediates to do 5 or 6 pull-ups, advanced to do 8 to 10 and elites to do 12 to 14. Do 5 or 6 sets
continuously, with 5 or 6 minutes rest between each block, and aim to complete between 3 and 6 blocks total. You can follow this up by doing the same
thing with straight-leg raises hanging from a bar to train power endurance for your core muscles.
This article was published in Rock and Ice 227 (July 2015)