Many sites review bikes, shoes, and wetsuits but this series of reviews for some of the not so common accessories that we have found useful when training for a triathlon. Each article in the series aims to find unique ways to break up the monotony of training recovery a triathlon. Check out the others in the unlikely training tools series.
Why Is A Climbing Hang Board Useful for All Training
One of the best benefits of doing multi-sport races is the ability to train in a variety of ways and still be working toward a singular goal. For us, adding in climbing and bouldering has been a great way to replace the tedious stretching that is so often recommended. Climbing is a unique way to work on strength training, that is benefited by the smaller frames that many triathletes are striving for (in comparison to the common lifting physique).
There is a common misconception that all of climbing is about upper body and arm strength, when in reality it is primarily about core strength and body control.
One of the areas where strength is key for climbing is in finger strength. A popular way to train finger strength is with a device called a hang board. These are typically simple finger holder of various depth cut into a board, which is then mounted on a wall or hung from a ring. A hangboard pull up bar of course provides additional benefits in being able to do traditional pull up workouts on a single piece of equipment.
Mount Hangboard on Pull Up Bar
Typically you can use a hangboard as a variation of a pull up bar, but many folks will wind up looking for a way to mount one to the other. If you are able to get a single strong piece of wood and some lag bolts, nearly all hangboard can be mounted to a pullup bar, or to a board that hangs across a pull up bar.
The setup we prefer is a free swinging hang board that is attached to a ceiling mounted ring with a carabiner. This setup makes it easy to unclip and take the board with you, but does make for a less traditional climbing training tool. A free swinging hang board has very different performance than a mount one. A carabiner with long enough cord allows for hanging from trees, rafters, or ceiling eye bolts (which can be picked up for a few dollars and work great in garages or place where you can screw into rafters).
An added benefit of the free hanging style is that you can use a traditional curl-up or pull-up grip and simply use the board as a chin up bar. Pull ups are quite simply one of the best compound movements to build strength. Of course a series of core strength movements are also available once you have a hang board pull-up bar. Knee raises are great for training abs strength for a swim or good posture, while dead hangs feel great after a long training session.
Some articles even argue that grip strength is directly beneficial to cycling. This makes sense especially if you plan to cycle on rough terrain. Off-road triathlons with mountain bike or gravel courses can wreak havoc on the hands since gripping brakes and tensing forearms can zap energy in a muscle group that should go mostly unused after the swim.
Hangboard vs Pull up Bar
The question remains, is a hangboard better than a pull up bar. It is a simple fact that the two are made for different activities. While a pull up bar is designed for gripped pulling and strength exercises that mainly target the arms, shoulders, and back, a hangboard is primarily designed for grip strength and finger strength training.
If you can only afford a single option, considering which one you are trying to train is important. Still, it will often make sense to find a reliable hangboard as the design of them is significantly harder to find in a natural environment. Many outdoor parks or gyms have existing pull up bars. You can even fashion a pull-up bar or do similar exercises on a wide variety of ledges found around the home.
Contrast that with a hangboard and ledges that are harder to find. Can you do some hangboard exercises on a door frame? Possibly but cheap framing is unlikely to hold up to a lot of long holds. The reason we prefer the hangboard we have is that it is so easy and versatile to attach anywhere.
The Sender One Craggin’ Board – A Unique Hangboard Pull Up Bar
Shown in the image above is a handmade hangboard that is branded by Sender One. Sender is a massive climbing gym in Southern California (they have multiple locations) and was the site of some of the Olympic Qualifiers as well as Pan Am games events. They released the hang board on a limited basis and the uniqueness of it is easily the coolest feature. Other popular hangboards include the Beastmaker series which is one of the more popular name brands.
The Sender One Craggin’ board came with the small cord which makes it easy to string up from a carabiner. This is in contrast to all the wall mounted versions. Training on it is dead simple and even after a few sessions of finger strength training the difference was obvious. It wasn’t until a few months later that I stopped switching it out for TRX straps, and just kept the hang board up all the time. Daily hangboard pull-ups are an easy habit to create when there is a bar dangling from the middle of the garage. I do miss some of the more deluxe hold options from other hang boards, which can double as small campus boards. But when it comes to using it for all around training, building back strength, stretching out after a long run, and ensuring enough grip to manage handle bars, the Sender One board is a great addition to an all around training plan.
You can also attach the hang board to an existing pull up bar, if it is high enough. A simple cow’s hitch knot is all that’s needed to attach it to a bar. So if you have a doorway pull-up bar and the hangboard with a single loop of rope, you can easily attach it in just a few seconds. having the board dangle from the bar does make actual finger strength exercises harder. That is because it will wind up sloping down slightly so the crimp edges are not parallel to the ground. In the end this still accomplishes the same task.