A fingerboard is for life not just for Christmas

 

Climbing is a strange sport, it's one of the few that I can think of which involves the need for strong fingers, especially as you progress up the grades. Fingers are often peoples' limiting factor in terms of their potential; they can't be ignored either as those digits ultimately keep you holding on and no matter how strong you are, if you cant hold the holds, you can't pull on them.

The good news - Finger strength can be improved, however it doesn't come quick and easy. There are various methods, using a fingerboard is one of them.

Why?
A pull up bar is often found in a climbers' home. They are great for some basic exercises, but they don't work the fingers. The next step up is a fingerboard which gives you access to more exercises, whilst you can still perform some of the bar work on the larger holds.

  • A fingerboard takes up relatively little space - good for those who don't want to build a climbing wall in their living room.
  • Fingerboard sessions can be short - say an hour or an hour and a half, which means you can grab a quick climbing related workout when real climbing is an age away.
  • For those with the mental stamina to keep a fingerboard training routine going, gains are almost certain.


Choices

Considering that a fingerboard is in essence quite a simple tool there are loads of choices and variations, all different shapes and sizes. Not to mention every colour under the sun!

The first thing to consider is space, there is no point in buying a behemoth such as the Metolius Simulator if its not going to fit!


Hold choice is usually the next criteria - some have lots, some few. What you want is a variety to test your fingers and arms in different ways. The main criteria is an open handed edge; this is the most common type of hold on a fingerboard, they will be different sizes on different boards. You'll probably want a slightly larger hold, either a nice flatty or a jug to help you get warmed up. There are ways to make things easier or harder for a given hold which will be pointed out later.

Pockets can be good, but remember you don't need to have them as you can use 2 or 3 fingers on an edge anyway. Some boards also come with a meaty sloper or two, definitely worth your consideration, especially if you're rubbish on the things like me!

The numbers of holds on a board varies; you may only want a few to avoid the kid in the sweet shop scenario, where there is too much choice or you may want to go for the maximum sugar content!

Fingerboards are made out of either resin or wood, which means that there will be a range of textures, however I don't think it should be the crucial factor when considering a purchase. I don't think texture on a finger board is too important compared to climbing holds as you are not really moving on or off them. It's not like slapping up a gritstone skin trasher that's for sure! In general the smoother the texture, the less grippy but more skin friendly.

The smoothest finger boards are those made of wood such as the Metolius Wood Grips and the Beastmaker boards . Wood is a very skin friendly material, and is very popular with those who do a lot of training/climbing and constantly have worn fingertips.

You will be glad to know that most current designs are pretty finger friendly, some older boards have issues, as you can see, we pad the jugs on the fingerboard at Rock + Run.


"Why not make your own?" you say! Well I'm not stopping you but bear in mind that fingerboards designs are not quickly knocked up, they have been carefully thought about and tweaked so you don’t tweak yourself. Also these days they are reasonably priced and hassle free.

Whichever you decide to get please make sure that you attach the board carefully and follow the instructions, we don't want you to pull so hard that your house falls down!

Training
So you have got your fingerboard, what next? Remember its not just an ornament or a talking piece for when your non climbing mates come over and go “What's that big lump of pink stuff attached to the wall?”

Okay, so I use a fingerboard regularly but I ain't no pro. I have no revolutionary information to give, no mathematical formulae for the ultimate flexors of steel, but I feel I do have enough experience to guide you towards some of the better websites out there - because banging in “Fingerboard training” into a search engine will only improve your mouse clicking skills (and not much else) as you trawl through the masses of pages.


Ben Moon's site has a whole heap of training articles. As this is a mini article on fingerboards I will stick to that area (but definitely have a look around). Out of all the training articles I have come across, a good job seems to have been done, including the fingerboard articles.

What's good about his site is that it tells you what other equipment you might want to enhance your training session and how to add difficulty or ease to your routine. He uses weights and a pulley set up, or bungee cord. There are also descriptions on the the techniques and exercises involved, all explained in an 'easy to understand' manner.

The site also boasts a really good routine to follow - you will probably want to tweak it to match your needs (which is also commented on within their site). Although it is written with a Moon Fingerboard in mind, you can apply it to any holds which are similar on your own board.

beastmaker.jpg


The Beastmaker site also has loads of great information for the training enthusiast. The best places to start are the 321 training and Fingerboarding 101 articles.The regularly updated blog should also help keep you psyched if determination is wavering.


Another firm favourite has to be the fingerboard articles produced by Metolius.

This first link has a run down of what fingerboarding is and some information on a cyclic training plan, where you alternate weekly with high intensity and low volume or the other way around. Cyclic routines can be very beneficial in improving your performance if you keep them up. After all, it is hard to keep going at maximum intensity without burning out.

The second link has a routine which has been thought up for use with the Simulator, again you can amend this routine to fit in with the hold types on your board.




So far this winter I have been spending my time doing something very similar to the “Training Contact Strength with 'Repeaters'” found on the Nicros Site. Nicros is a hold/wall manufacturer. They also have close dealings with Eric Horst who has written a book called "Training For Climbing".

I like this routine as it fits into a small time slot. My fingers have improved substantially since the summer, this routine may be having something to do with it.

General Tips
There are some common themes in pretty much any article, warming up is one of them. This doesn't just mean a couple of pull ups, make sure you put in the effort to warm up and you will have a much more productive fingerboard session.

If fingerboarding is new to you it will take a few sessions just to get used to the activity, after a week or so you should get into the swing of things.

You will probably find that the routines on various sites will not suit you at first but don't be put off, its worth sticking with for a bit as it will take a few sessions just to adapt to this style of training. But remember, no matter what - insert rock god name here - has said is a good routine, it may not do the business for you.

You can vary the difficulty by adding weight or using some form of assistance such as a pulley system or a bungy cord (as explained in the Moon link earlier).

Don’t expect a '1 hit wonder' workout to be the answer to all your gripping problems, it takes some time to reap the rewards of training.

Remember a fingerboard is not a replacement for climbing and is nowhere near as fun, but it has the potential to open up new possibilities outside your front door.

My Moon Fingerboard
I went for a Moon Fingerboard a few months ago now and have been using it regularly since then as a supplement to my normal climbing. My decision was swayed by its compactness and the fact that it has “proper crimps” as I end up crimping a lot outside so why not practice them inside.

My opinion of the board is excellent; I personally don’t want millions of holds, and the Moon covers the basic selection I want. The open hand holds all have rounded edges to prevent pressure points on your fingers. The crimps are incut to help stop you popping off. The smallest holds, especially the crimps, are quite tricky which is good as it forces me and my fingers to work hard.

One thing to note about the Moon board is that there are no jugs, the top of the board is flat. This is great as the space it takes up is reduced which means you can also full crimp the top - just a warning for those who may need a more positive grip to get going on.

A Chalk Tip
I find that using liquid chalk is great on a finger board 'sesh', you don’t need to chalk up as regularly, and it also creates less mess than loose chalk billowing up all over the place, though you will still want to clean the holds and have a quick hoover up when you're done.



Metolius Rock Rings - An alternative to a fingerboard
Before I started using the fingerboard I used to use a pair of Metolius Rock Rings a lot. I wasn't able to put up a fingerboard, though so I had a pull up bar which I hung the rings off. Whilst the hold options are limited to four, the edges had a really good profile and are great to use. Also one main benefit I found is that they were much more elbow friendly when doing lock offs and pull ups.

Purchase Fingerboards here.

 

 


Small Amazing Things - Video Clip

This is a clip which has been floating around on the net for some time, but if you have not seen it I would recommend watching for the crazy fingerboarding madness. Enjoy.


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