With the current state of things, many climbers who have not previously set up a hang board and/or training area at home are tackling these tools up at home and getting their hang on. Many others who had a routine of hanging at home prior to COVID-19 are back at it in full force. This is a great time to develop a more systematic approach to training.
Through this experience, trial and error has revealed some key points to consider when hanging at home. First and most important, how do you pull off a proper warm up without a climbing wall? I strongly believe your home warm up needs to be systematic to properly warm up while gauging how you’re feeling on a given day. It’s vital here to let go of your expectations (and ego) and to honestly assess your recovery from your previous bout of training. Sometimes you realize you’re feeling a lot better than you thought as you progress through your warm up. And sometimes you feel heavy and weak when you expected to feel great. Listen to your body and respect the process.
The first 20-25 minutes of your session should consist of a progression with light loading on larger holds trending toward the holds the given workout will emphasize. If you have the space and ingenuity to safely anchor a pulley set to offload some of your body weight (plenty of DIY info out there on this) this can be really helpful for warming up. For many this will enable you to train safely as your connective tissue in you fingers, hands and elbows adapt to this form of loading. You can also unweight your feet to progressively increase load keeping a little body weight on the floor, perhaps progressing to both or single tippy toe position.
Start with a set of 2-3 minutes with 10 seconds on, 10 seconds off hold times on a large 4-finger pocket edge or a jug on the top of the board. This should feel fairly easy; you should feel warmth in the forearms and hands but not enough strain to develop a pump. Take an equivalent timed rest period, 2-3 minutes. During this time you should perform active warm up drills for the upper body, perhaps a few push- ups or pull-ups, anything to get the blood flowing in the shoulders and arms. Repeat another warm up set, now 3 minutes in duration, still 10 seconds on, 10 seconds off but increasing the load or perhaps starting to decrease the hold size. Change one variable at a time and see how things feel. At the end of this set, you really want to feel the forearms working, working up to 60% effort to complete the set. Rest an additional 3-4 minute while performing continued dynamic upper extremity warm up drills.
For the last warm up set, I would recommend trending your on/off time to match the workout you are doing that day. A very common work out called repeaters involves 7 seconds on followed by a 3 second rest per rep. This set should be exclusively on the holds you are training on that day. I like to extend the rest time this set using 7 seconds on and 13 seconds off for the entire set to accommodate increased load. I find this fends off burning key energy needed for a successful workout while loading closer to the time and resistance for that given workout. This set should be 3 minutes and should be followed by a 5-minute rest prior to starting you workout for the day.
If you haven’t spent much time hanging recently you may surprise yourself and start the season stronger and more durable.
The Excel PT Climbing Lab exists to keep you climbing and improve your performance. We offer comprehensive injury management, video-based climbing analysis, and training plans.
Matt Heyliger, DPT, COMT of Excel Physical Therapy completed his Doctorate in Physical Therapy at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington and is a Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist. He has a particular treatment focus in the relationship of cervical/thoracic spine mechanics and upper extremity conditions. Matt treats climbers through integrating video analysis and specialized biomechanical assessments in the Excel PT Climbing Lab in the Bozeman, Montana clinic. An avid rock climber, telemark/backcountry skier and mountain biker, Matt regularly practices yoga and enjoys frequent adventures in the mountains with his family.