The Art of One-Arms // Zach Lerner

Since there’s still time to gain a little strength before peak sending season, I thought I would dedicate a blog post to my favorite training tool: the hangboard.

Having climbed in the gym all summer, I’ve recently realized how weak my fingers are, and therefore, how unprepared I am for climbing on rock.  While upper-body strength and technique can sometimes be interchanged, there’s usually no substitute for hanging onto bad edges, crimps, and slopers. Unlike indoor problems, which are typically gymnastic in style, outside climbs mainly revolve around the difficulty of the holds. In other words, you need strong fingers to climb well outside. Here’s what I think is the best way to gain finger strength for moderate to advanced climbers, and what I’m personally doing on the finger board to get stronger for this fall season:

The setup is simple. On my first finger board workout of a new training period, I find 3 edges of incrementally increasing difficulty. The largest edge I can hold for 2-3 seconds on one arm with no assistance. I find a slightly smaller “medium” edge I can hold for 1-2 seconds, and an even smaller “small” edge I probably can’t hold with one arm unassisted. For example, I recently used the 18mm edge in picture as the large hold, the 16mm edge as the middle hold, and the 14mm edge (shown with my hand) as the small hold.

The workout is simple. I hang on the largest edge without assistance until failure. I do this on both arms, and rest for 1 minute. Then I use an elastic band so that I can hang on the same “large” hold for 4 seconds. It’s important that the amount of assistance gained by the elastic band is the bare-minimum needed not to fall. Again, both arms, rest 1 minute. Finally, still on the same hold, I go back to a 4 seconds hang, using the elastic as needed, completing the 4-8-4 “pyramid”. After a 5-minute rest, I repeat the same modified “pyramid” routine on the medium sized hold; max 1-arm hang with no assistance, then 4 sec, 8 sec, 4 sec, hangs with elastic assistance as needed. Another 5-minute rest, and I do the same on the smallest rung. For the first few weeks, I may do a 2 sec, 4 sec, 2 sec pyramid on the smallest edge, working up to 3-6-3, and finally a 4-8-4. After a few weeks, my “medium” edge turns into my “large” edge, and so forth.

After the three “pyramids” on all three edges, I do assisted 1-arm pull-ups on the large and medium edges, typically 3x each arm.