/ Fingerboard training isn't working

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Liamhutch89 - on 06 Jun 2018

I've been fingerboarding for 3 months on a transgression board doing 3 to 4 max hangs (10s) on the largest (18mm) edge with added weight (10kg), as proposed by Eva Lopez and others. These have typically been performed Mon, weds, Fri after a 10 minute warm up and always after a rest day.


During this period my diet has been excellent as it always has been, weight has remained within 2lbs variance, sleep has been good, stress levels low (doesn't sound like I should have much to complain about on paper!), but the progress on the fingerboard has been precisely zero. I note my hang times in my phone and it's always along the lines of 

9 9 8 7

9 8 8 7

10 9 8 8

9 8 7 8



My goal was to get to 10 10 10 10 then add more weight. But no progress has been made in 3 months. 


I have around 3 years climbing experience, boulder v6/v7 ish indoors, sport climbing outside mainly at 7b/7b+ ish. Any ideas? 

Stone Idle - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Liamhutch89:

3 months is not that long but try cutting the weight, get to ten all round then start adding small weights, say 2kg increments each week back to 10 kg. Is your climbing ok, which is the crucial bit?


slab_happy on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Liamhutch89:

Well, Eva Lopez's protocol involves a hang for 10 seconds where your absolute maximum (the point you'd fail at) would be 13 seconds, meaning you stop significantly short of failure.

Whereas you seem to be training to failure on all hangs.

The plural of anecdote is not data, but I found training to failure on max hangs produced the same total lack of progress for me.

Also, fingerboarding three times a week is a lot, especially if you're also climbing. Some people might be able to recover from that adequately, but a lot wouldn't. Training to failure is particularly intense in its demands on your body, and it's possible you're simply exceeding what your body can recover from.

You could try dialling it back and trying her protocol as written.

Alternatively, you could try another sets/reps scheme (e.g. something based on repeaters) and see if your body happens to respond better to that.

ericinbristol - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Liamhutch89:

Here's my experience which you may or may not find useful. I have made dramatic progress in a few months (average hang time increased 3X/4X - was about 2 seconds and is now 6-8 seconds. I have been doing max hangs to failure. I have my own wall in my garage and I screwed a medium and a large Beastmaker rung directly to its 30 degree overhanging panel. When I first started, the longest I could manage for even a single hang on either rung, using no extra weight, both hands, four fingers and being sure to keep my thumb off, was two seconds. Pathetically weak I know but it has got me up F7c+. After trying various options I settled on a goal of 8 seconds hang followed by 2 minutes 52 seconds rest x 24 hangs (6 on the small rung then 6 on the big rung then 6 on the small then 6 on the big). If I come off before 8 seconds I just take that as more rest. When I get to being able to do 8 seconds for all 24 hangs I will go to three fingers. My approach goes against the stopping short of failure protocol but hey I am making big progress so I will stick with it for now. HTH

Post edited at 21:35
cpowell - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Liamhutch89:

Having started fingerboarding this year I have noticed gains to strength and power using weight but I use it to counteract my bodyweight not add to it - normally about 10kg on a pulley attached to my harness.

This way I can hang either for longer or on smaller holds - being able to hold small holds comfortably means I have more in the bag for later.  I also don't aim to train for failure, in fact I use the beastmaker app normally doing 12 sets of 7 which each rep being 7secs on 3 secs off with 2:30min in-between sets.  I'm normally failing by the end.

It moved by grade from f6b/6c to being strong enough to onsight f7a - when I could read the route properly that is!

So try switching up your routine looking to hold smaller holds but with less weight, you may find it useful.

ericinbristol - on 06 Jun 2018

Lots of useful stuff from BIgYeti86 and I agree about aiming for smaller holds.  It's worth distinguishing between 7 seconds on 3 seconds off repeaters (mainly a strength endurance protocol) suggested by BIgYeti86, and 7 seconds on 3 minutes off (a strength protocol).

RX-78 on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Liamhutch89:

Check out my thread on fingerboarding. I changed mine so i used at first one big and one narrow hold and then a pulley system to take weight off.

UKB Shark - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Liamhutch89:

A 10 minute warm up to get fully recruited is far too short. As an indication I can take up to an hour to get recruited with sometimes 5-10mins between progressively harder hangs. “If you are timing rests between hangs you are not training strength” (Bechtel quote). Go on feel and psyche not the stopwatch.

You both need to get fully recruited before doing max hangs (obviously) then do the hangs as if your life depends on it for it to be a max hang. Most people think they are trying really hard but aren’t.


Hope That Helps your Hangs ;-)


I do go to failure though which works for me which Slab Happy correctly notes above is not what Lopez recommends. I have been climbing regularly and for a long time and believe that I probably need more intense stimulus to provoke a response.


Post edited at 22:43
thebigfriendlymoose - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Liamhutch89:

I'd recalibrate, perhaps you are always failing at 9/10s, because you expect to, it's an artificially imposed end-point? Investigate your max hang duration  at higher added weights, you might  have improved without knowing it. 

papashango - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to thebigfriendlymoose:

Yes, it is easy to complete a block of fingerboard training and then try a higher weight and find it OK, so you weren't trying hard enough in the training block. Worth checking.!

What got me through into 7c/+ was 45 degree board training in addition to fingerboard. Worth a go too. Good luck.

Liamhutch89 - on 06 Jun 2018

Rather than quoting everyone individually here's a collective thank you to everyone who has responded.


There's quite a lot of conflicting advice given, as expected due to everyone having different experiences. Some are suggesting stop before failure, some are saying go to failure, bigger holds more weight, smaller holds less weight, etc. What i'm doing clearly isn't working at the moment so i'll test some of these other methods for a month each. I find it very hard to not go to failure, but i guess i'll just have to trust the science and go with that for a while. Come to think of it, I haven't ever heard anyone say stopping before failure didn't work for them, which is not true for those going to failure. 


During this period of fingerboarding my climbing has improved, which is a little perplexing having not gained finger strength! 

UKB Shark - on 06 Jun 2018
In reply to Liamhutch89:

Just spend more time on the warm up.

Tomtom - on 07 Jun 2018
In reply to Liamhutch89:

The advice here isn't conflicting, because there is no one set method. 

Think of it as reps in the gym, you can do more or less reps, more or less weight, more or less rest. How you change these variables will change the energy system that you are training, and will give different gains. 

There are many protocols to follow, so you not only need to chose one that will benefit your goals, but also mix it up from time to time as the body will get used to the stimulus, and will no longer adapt and you will plateau. 

To figure out what protocol you're following, ask your self what your weakness is compared to what you want to achieve. Can you hold on as long as you want to? Can you hold small enough edges? Routes or boulders? Once you find the answers, you can find the proper protocol to train those weaknesses.

also bear in mind that finger strength gains are very slow, and can take a long time to see solid progress.

a few good references to look at would be Eric Horst training for climbing and the lattice training materials from tom Randall. 

Hope this helps. 

Fishmate - on 07 Jun 2018
In reply to Liamhutch89:

I wont add my own hanging experience per se, but will reiterate what Shark and Tom Tom have said because it is very important to understand.

1. Warm up. Take your time and be patient. Think of the whole system that you are engaging when fingerboarding and address each, i.e. fingers, scapula, forearms etc. I personally FB after a TRX session as that pretty much guarantees my body is ready. In addition I will do (assuming a weighted small edge protocol, al la Lopez) progressively harder hangs until fingers are in the right place. I notice you are half the age of Shark and I so may not need a full hour but take your time, quality over speed gets results.

2. Returns, as Tom Tom observes, take time. Be patient and don't look for short cuts, just the right protocol for you and do it properly from start to finish.

Best of luck and oh yeah, warm up well and be patient ;)

stp - on 07 Jun 2018
In reply to Liamhutch89:

Interesting question and some interesting replies.

I don't the answer, the generalisation for all strength training is to change what you're doing if it isn't working. Obvious I know but it's very easy to get stuck trying the same thing.

Have you seen Dave Mac's video on fingerboarding? Well worth watching. He's trained in sport science as well as having been obsessed with training for years.

Post edited at 19:57
Liamhutch89 - on 09 Jun 2018

Yesterday I tried implementing one new thing by warming up for longer. I spent half an hour bouldering and this led to marginally better performance. 

On what would be my final hang I took notice of my form and realised that my wrists twist outwards placing most of the force on my back 3 and my index fingers are not doing much. Why was this happening? Well Ive been adding weight via my rucksack and it's tilting me back slightly, so I decided to try an extra set with my rucksack on my front which kept me vertical. Wrists turned Inwards more, index fingers engaged and hang time increased by 50%!

Hopefully this will lead to new gains going forwards. It might explain why my climbing has been improving despite not seeing hang time gains - my back 3 have been getting stronger and I've probably been engaging my shoulders more!

I'll report back with more experimentation.

Kristof252 - on 09 Jun 2018
In reply to Liamhutch89:

Are you also training contact strength on a 45 degree board? I found that improving my deadhangs were really helpful in making smaller holds feel more comfortable but my gains weren't fully applied unless I trained it in conjunction with power.

They're great for teaching you body tension and coordination as a bonus too.

Liamhutch89 - on 09 Jun 2018
In reply to Kristof252:

I usually go on the board straight after fingerboarding. I alternate each day between the 45 board and 30 board as both tend to recruit different strengths and techniques. 

jezb1 - on 09 Jun 2018
In reply to Liamhutch89:

Hang weight off a harness 

slab_happy on 09 Jun 2018
In reply to Liamhutch89:

Thanks for the update -- interesting discovery!

UKB Shark - on 09 Jun 2018
In reply to jezb1:

> Hang weight off a harness 


A key piece of info missing from the OP

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