The Perfect Edge?

One of the questions that has plagued me as a coach, and likely many other climbers and trainers out there, is what is the best edge size for hang boarding? What is the best routine or program? What will give me the finger strength of Daniel Woods or Janja Garnbret?

Bouldering in austria on purple simple volumes
Bouldering in Austria with the AUS team


The frustrating reality is that not enough research has been done since Eva Lopez’s work in the 90’s, on the training effects of systematized hangboarding. Lattice seems to have done lots of work, created great products, and made a bunch of money (probably), but peer-reviewed literature, the stuff that really pushes our scientific understanding of what is happening? Nothing from nowhere. Some of the ‘best’ work I have seen has been done in Reddit feeds, with surveys and peer review performed by other ‘sub-feed’ data fanatics, like this one here - https://www.reddit.com/r/climbharder/comments/6693ua/climbharder_survey_results/

Beastmaker doesn’t even publish their edge sizes officially, probably due to general inaccuracies during manufacture, and who can blame them? The climbing community tends to have this fanatical undercurrent when any little training information emerges or new data that might be the ‘secret sauce’ that will give you access to the upper stratosphere of climbing. I mean, if Alex Megos can do it, then why can’t I? Can you imagine if you discovered that he trained on the 16mm edge with a particular program? Exactly……

So, with all the information out there, the random edge sizes from Beastmaker, the 20mm edge from Lattice, for some unknown reason, the multitude of Hangboard protocols and hang boards out there, what is the best one?



Chatting to Jacky about finger strength, or routesetting....
World championships in Russia, chatting to Jacky about finger strength..... or Routesetting...

This is the part that I take the easy road out and tell you that it’s the best one for you. Which is really another way of saying I don’t know, make up your own mind, but this time, I’m not gonna do that.

There are 2 protocols and one edge size that I have seen work, every time, with every athlete.

First up, let’s talk edge size. The best edge size to Hangboard on is…… drum roll please….. approximately the size of your first pad (that first part of your finger before the knuckle. You’ll find it’s probably around 20 - 18mm….. Coincidence? I think not! And the honest truth for everyone who says, but what if I can’t hang that size edge yet? Go climb more, you’re not ready for hang-boarding.



cutting loose in a Berlin bouldering gym
Climbing is the best way to get good at climbing

Now, on to protocols.

So first of all, let’s all acknowledge something. Most of us, most of the time, don’t have a very specific training objective. It has been so rare to meet someone who is like:

‘there is this 11mm open hand pinch cross that I just NEED to get stronger on to finish my project’

If you happen to be one of those people, you are a very rare individual! The answer for you is pretty simple. Either hang or pull on 11mm pinches with increasing weight (intensity). Good for you! For everyone else, like me, we just want to have stronger fingers in general. Ideally have some capacity to hold small things on anything we are trying to climb. So, what do we do? Let’s follow the below-thought progression.

Question 1: Can I hold a single pad edge for about 10 seconds with some energy to spare?

Answer: No = Climb more (don’t forget to try hard)

Answer: Yes = Move to Question 2

Question 2: Have I been climbing for more than 24 months continuously?

Answer: No = Climb more (keep going, you are doing REALLY WELL!!)

Answer: Yes = Next Question for you!

Question 3: Have I done any hang boarding before?

Answer: No = It’s a repeaters program for you

Answer: Yes = Great! Follow-up question - Have you been doing it for at least 6 months?

Answer: No. It’s a repeaters program for you

Answer: Yes. It’s time for max hangs!

Repeaters:

Repeaters are just the category name we have given hanging off an edge repeatedly. The usual program is 7 on 3 off, which is 7 seconds hanging, 3 seconds resting. If it’s your first time, I usually suggest decreasing the hang time and increasing the rest. You could start with 5 on 5 off (5 seconds hanging 5 seconds resting). You do this 5 - 6 times (total of about 1 minute), rest for 2 - 3 minutes and then do it again at least 1 more time. Your aim is to get to 3 sets, with a 7 on 3 off format with a 3-minute rest between sets.

So:

- Beginner -

5 on 5 off 5 times (50 seconds total)

3 minutes rest

Repeat 5 on 5 off (50 seconds total)

  • Advanced -

7 on 3 off 6 times (60 seconds total)

3 minutes rest

Repeat 7 on 3 off 6 times (60 seconds total)

3 minutes rest

Repeat 7 on 3 off 6 times (60 seconds total)

Repeaters are great. When you think about it, it’s just slowly pushing your body to be able to hang for more time on small holds. That is perfect! Lots of people get super hung up on the rest time between hangs and between sets. Don’t, it’s not worth the stress. Pick something you can stick to and just do it, 2 times a week, after a warmup and before climbing. Your fingers will get stronger.

If all this is old hat to you and you made it through all the questions, then it’s max hangs for you!

Max hangs are super simple. It’s a 10-second hang on your one-pad edge, with weight. I typically do 4 - 5 reps with a 3-minute rest between hangs. For this one, you will need to find your max weight on your chosen edge. For that, try and do a good warmup and hang off your edge with the weight slowly increasing. The first time you do it, it will feel weird and hard to know where to start and stop, but after a cycle through max hangs you’ll figure it out, so don’t stress. You will also see your weight increase pretty quickly, but be warned! Quality over quantity! Try and keep all your posture perfect before you move up weight.

So:

  • Finding your weight -

Warmup and pick your edge

Try and add weight till you can just complete 10 seconds with perfect form (half crimp engaged scaps).

Take that weight and multiply it by 0.8

That’s your workout weight

(On the next training day)

Hang for 10 seconds with your workout weight

Rest 3 minutes

Repeat 4 - 5 times (I usually start 4 if it’s a new PB weight and aim to hit 5 at my 2nd or 3rd session)

DONE!

That’s it. That is all you need. Simple right?

Yep, that’s because it is. Good luck, and go get it! If you enjoy these blogs, please subscribe! It will help me write more and produce more content for you!

Will

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