Using a hang board is a great way to build finger strength over time and the beginner fingerboard program, or max weight, minimum edge sets are a good place to start. Once you have gone through a few cycles, there is a way to step this up again and make it even more effective with single arm hangs using a hangboard pulley system. Believe me when I say that this has been very beneficial for not only my crimp strength but also my lock-offs and one-arm pullups.
You have probably seen videos and pictures of strong climbers hanging by one arm, often on the small middle edge of the Beastmaker 2000. Some climbers can even add weight to their one-arm hangs! In this article I’m going to cover the best way to get started on one-arm hangs, how to do it safely and how to measure your progress along the way.
This hang board training method was implemented very successfully by Chris Webb Parsons and he has a video of his own detailing the way he does this exercise. This version is loosely based on the one devised by Chris, but it has a few differences, in particular the use of a hangboard pulley system. You can check out the program outlined by Chris in the video below, it’s definitely worth a watch.
To start with, you are going to need an edge that you can hold at least 90% of your body weight on. If this edge is bigger than 35mm or 1 and ½ finger pads, then you shouldn’t be doing 1-arm hangs. You also need to be able to hang the edge in an unbroken half crimp and engage your scapula so you aren’t just hanging on your shoulder. If you haven’t been training a lot of half crimp in the past, then don’t even try this hangboard program.
Next you need a sling, or piece of rope and a way to move it from one side of the edge to the other quickly and easily so you can support your weight with your other hand. I use some screw in eyelets either side of my hangboard and a carabiner to simply unclip and clip between the two. You can simply hold a static sling or rope and take off as much weight as you need by pulling harder with your opposite hand, or like me you can use a hangboard pulley system to track your progress a little more precisely (more on that below).
Before you get started, make sure you are ultra warm, by doing some jumping jacks and push-ups, then some hangs and pull-ups on different sized edges. Once you are ready, start the timer available in the link at the bottom of this post. There are 3 different hanging arm positions and the hang duration is short, but you should be working hard to hold your full body weight for 5 Seconds. Hang off each hand, one after the other for 5 seconds, then rest for 3 minutes (this is one set).
The timer will give you 10 seconds to change the sling/rope position between hangs and 3 minutes between reps and sets. The entire program is actually pretty quick, just under 30 minutes, with just 9 hangs on each arm.
Try to use the support as little as possible. The idea here is to hang fully on one arm, but you may find you need more support as you go though the sets. It’s also possible to use a basic hangboard pulley system (I just use a carabiner and some thin rope) with weights to track how much weight you need to take off and reduce this over time. Once you can hang all of your weight on one arm, reduce the edge size and start over. Once you get to an 18mm edge I’d suggest adding weight rather than continuing to reduce the edge size.
The rest period for these hangs is quite long and believe me you are going to need it for your grip to recover, but if you want to maximize the session, it doesn’t hurt to mix in some other exercises that don’t require grip strength, like push-ups, dips or squats.
This exercises is best performed 2-3 times per week and can be done all year around. You will notice a drop in crimp strength if you stop for a while, but it does pay to rest about one week in 6. With consistent training, you should see some pretty quick and satisfying gains (I couldn’t do a one-arm pull-up before I started doing these!).
If you are an advanced climber and need to take your crimp strength to the next level, give these one arm hangs a try and track your progress over time using the climbing meta web app.
Remember train hard and climb smart!