Over the years I’ve searched for a hang-board routine that’s safe for beginner climbers. The “golden rule,” as it were, was that persons without at least 1 year of climbing experience should steer clear of hang-boarding all together; but why should experts have all the fun? First, let’s discuss why this is the golden rule for hang-boarding.

Hang-boarding puts an amazing amount of stress on the fingers, joints, and muscles. Without proper training, most hang-board routines will cause more harm than good. A climber should be well warmed up to hanging on minuscule edges, and essentially no other training method exists to prepare a person for the extreme conditions it puts on the human physique. Having a year of conditioning before starting to hang-board is highly recommended.

While I’m not going against industry standards for the sake of being rebellious, I am posing the question, “Why should experienced climbers have all the fun of failing over and over again?” After all that’s primarily what hang-boarding is; failure! I started doing tons of research to find the right hang-board routine for “me,” and this is the alarming truth about what I discovered.

All the routines for “beginners” were ridiculously difficult! This isn’t an exaggeration either. Many of you have shared your frustrations with me as well, which is on par for the statement that most beginner routines were, quote, “Designed for beginners who climb well into double digits and 5.13+ regularly.” This reality set me on a path to design a true “beginner hang-board routine,” versus listening to what all the other guys were saying about the practice.

Let’s be realistic! How many beginner climbers, (or advanced climbers for that matter), can do lock-offs on mono-pockets for a prolonged period of time? It’s no wonder people get hurt performing hang-board workouts, because the common theme during my intensive research is, even beginner hang-board routines are dangerously complicated and strenuous. Literally all of the routines not only felt impossible, but my body sent red flags to inform me that I was coming closer to massive injury then I was to making gains. This should never be the case with any training routine!

Am I crazy for thinking that there should be beginner hang-board routines for novice climbers looking to improve?

Am I an idiot for thinking hang-boarding shouldn’t be dangerous?

Simply put friends, the answer is NO!

After years of research, I’ve designed a true beginner hang-board routine that is geared for “normal people”; beginner climbers, intermediates, and crushers alike! Honestly, I feel I’ve bridged the gap between hang-board routines that promote hero gains via serious injury, and those that almost anyone can do. Keep in mind, however, hang-boarding is STILL and always WILL be about failure and can be dangerous. Don’t overdo it and listen to your body.

When the workout starts feeling “too easy,” it’s time to incorporate variations in the form of smaller holds. Thus, it’s still always going to feel hard and you WILL become frustrated. I’ve been doing the routine for around 6 months now and although I’ve seen gains in finger/forearm strength, I still get depressed about not being able to finish because (and here’s a shocker people), THAT’S WHAT HANG-BOARDING IS ALL ABOUT!

If I had to put it into words, this is what my hang-boarding journal looks like:


Unlike other routines where they make combinations of holds damn near impossible, (even as a climber who’s been climbing a good portion of their lives mind you), this routine is about fairly decent holds, doing tons of reps over a 30-minute period, and promoting longevity and endurance. Most routines on the market are promoting REALLY REALLY HARD hold variations that can cause injury, and this one is far easier for the average climber. That being said, it’s also longer than other routines so you have to dedicate time and stay motivated to perform it on a regular/semi-regular basis.

I promise you if you do, you will see leaps and bounds in your finger/forearm strength that absolutely translates to real rock, and plastic. Mentally it will help as well, you just have to stay positive because nothing happens overnight; especially with a difficult sport like rock-climbing.

THE ROUTINE: Please keep in mind “my routine” may reflect other’s on the market because I studied so many and came up with what I thought was better and more realistic for true ‘beginners.’ There are slight variations and similarities therein:

“The Realistic, All Encompassing, 30-Minute Hang-board Routine for Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Climbers”:

Repetition Number Start Time End Time Activity
1 0:00 0:10 Deadhang
0:10 0:15 Rest
2 0:15 0:25 Deadhang
0:25 0:30 Rest
3 0:30 0:40 Deadhang
0:40 0:45 Rest
4 0:45 0:55 Deadhang
0:55 1:00 Rest
5 1:00 1:10 Deadhang
1:10 1:15 Rest
6 1:15 1:25 Deadhang
1:25 4:25 Rest

BEGINNER HOLD SETS (open hand only!):

Jug:                                                                              6 sets (Failure)

3F Pocket:                                                                   6 Sets (Failure)

Large Edge (Alt. Med. Edge):                                  6 Sets (Failure)

Jug:                                                                              6 Sets (Failure)

Large Sloper (Alt. Sm. Sloper):                               6 Sets (Failure)

Combo 2F Pocket/Medium Edge:                          6 Sets (Failure)

Dead Hang Jug till failure (Alt. L. Sloper):  Set Timer & Record!

I’ve been climbing for many years now and even the most beginner variation of this hang-board regimen (using large-edges, large-slopers, and jugs), feels hard. The reality is that it feels impossible at first, and while our results will vary in nature because we’re all different climbers with different bodies, I believe the routine can be challenging for EVERYONE. Again, if it starts to feel ‘too easy’ and you’re finding yourself blasting through the routine every time you do it with a smile on your face, that means it’s time to drastically reduce hold size.

Make it hard and be honest with yourselves. Cheating will not promote gains!

I use the bottom end Metolius Training Board because I feel more expensive versions are pointless. Even the most advanced climber in the world can reduce hold size on the lower end training apparatus and still be satisfied with the workout, thus (in my opinion), the larger boards are expensive, bulky, and therefore unnecessary.

Hang-board: Metolius “Project” Training Board (Approx. $55)

Campus Rungs: Atomik 1″, 90 degree, and 80 degree rungs (positioned under the Metolius Training Board) (Approx. $25)

IMPORTANT: This hang-board routine is meant to be performed every 3-days! Climbers should never do the routine on climbing days or consecutively. If you get the itch and have to climb, replace your hang-board routine with training time at the gym during your session. You should never do the routine on the same day you climb. It’s common sense among climbing specialist’s, (coaches and industry professionals will warn you not to overdo it. It’s important to take breaks, especially as novice climbers).

Many of our members at North Country Climbing Center have already started using this routine and the feedback has been awesome! People are improving rapidly and the personal growth it promotes is fantastic. I hope by sharing this routine that people will improve both mentally and physically. As mentioned, hang-boarding can be grueling and quite difficult, but keeping a journal of progress will help you to see leaps and bounds in your climbing world, and I believe you’ll feel more confident on the rock when the snow starts to melt next season!

I sincerely hope you enjoy this project and if you have any questions, feel free to stop by the gym and ask, or get my contact info from another employee and shout out your questions. I’m happy to help people improve upon what’s already there. Enjoy!

By: Jonathan Hogue