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The Best Time to Hangboard: Before or After Climbing?

Updated: May 31

There is no need to beat around the bush; if you want to hangboard, do it before climbing. Sure, you can hangboard after a session, but the risk of finger injuries increases significantly. So, why risk it?

 

With the short answer out of the way, you may wonder if there are other reasons to hangboard before climbing. Generally speaking, there are three ways in which a climber utilizes hang boards: strengthen fingers, increase power, and pull-ups. If you want to improve your finger strength and power the advice holds, do it before climbing. However, if you only plan to use a hangboard for weighted pull-ups, you can go against the advice and do it after climbing.

 

It’s also important to note that when you do a hangboard or campus session before climbing, you’ll likely want to climb easier problems or routes. Opt to do a max bouldering or limit climbing session on a day you don’t hangboard beforehand, as your fingers won’t be as tired, and you’ll be less likely to injure them while climbing (because the hangboard isn’t the only place to rupture a pulley). Keep reading if you are curious why timing hangboarding around climbing is important beyond injury prevention.


Timing of Hangboarding Workouts Based on Goals


teenage girl climbing a wall

●     Hangboard to Stregnthen Fingers

Climbers use a hangboard to strengthen their fingers. An introductory anatomy lesson teaches you that no muscles are in your fingers, just tendons. However, you can improve your tendons through progressive overload like a muscle. If you want to maximize the gains in your finger strength, you’ll want to complete the hangboard session when your fingers are most fresh (before climbing).


●     Campusing to Build Power

Technically, climbers use campus rungs, but the size of the rungs often mimics the edges of a hangboard and puts a significant load on the finger tendons. Like hangboarding, you’ll want to be as fresh as possible to increase finger strength. Campusing also requires upper body strength, but the fresher your fingers, the more pull power you can generate on a campus rung, and the easier it will be to catch the next edge!


●     The exception to the pre-climbing hangboard rule: Pullups (weighted or regular)

You can perform weighted or regular pull-ups on a bar, but climbers often like to train them on the 20mm edge on a hangboard because it is more replicative of rock climbing. If you use at least a 20mm edge, the exercise is relatively safe even if you’ve already taxed your fingers climbing. The pull-up, whichever variation you’ve chosen, focuses on the muscles in your back and upper arms, which are larger and more challenging to injure from overuse than your finger tendons.


You know your body best, and if you want to or prefer hangboarding after your climbing session, go for it. Just pay attention to how your fingers are feeling and opt to err on the side of caution if you feel any niggles or aches arising. But, if you have the time and means to hangboard before hopping on the wall or rocks, it may pay off, in the long run, to climb second and hang on campus first. Your fingers will thank you, and you’ll likely feel better during the workout.


Hopefully, this article provided insight into structuring your training and timing your workouts for productivity and safety, but if you have any questions or comments, please submit them below!

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