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This story originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of our print edition.
For every climber, whether intermediate, advanced, or elite, hangboard training is one of the most proven and time-tested ways to break through a plateau. Finger-specific training isolates and improves forearm strength, and hangboards are a guaranteed way to give you strength gains like you’ve probably never seen before. We hung eight of the newest boards in our favorite local gym, The Spot Bouldering Gym in Boulder, Colorado, and had hundreds of hard-core climbers train on them for a period of three months, and then offer us feedback. The following five boards are the best of the best, and whether you’re new to the hangboarding scene or you’ve recorded every hangboard session you’ve ever done for the past 10 years, we’ve got a board for you.
Review: Metolius Contact Board
Testers with tweaky shoulders and wrists gravitated to this board every time, and the fine-grained surface texture was just grippy enough without tearing up irritated skin. Read the full review.
Customize and Personalize
Review: Trango Rock Prodigy Board
The personalization on this board, from variable-depth edges to a customizable overall width, the high-friction surface, and 15+ grips make this a board that’s great to have for the long haul as you progress as a climber. Read the full review.
Beginner’s Best Friend
Review: So iLL Boost Board
This super-comfy board is incredibly easy to train on, and it will keep you motivated because you can track progress with the evenly spaced increases in hold difficulty. Read the full review.
History of Hangboards
In the early 1970s, Rob Candelaria was a member of the University of Colorado’s gymnastics team. He picked up climbing and as a self-proclaimed “gym rat,” Candelaria and his friends were always looking for concepts to improve and ways to get stronger by training inside. He was even accused of cheating in the early ’70s because he was training indoors for climbing. In the mid-1980s, Candelaria found himself with a large kitchen cutting board that was too big for his current space. “It was a great piece of wood so I didn’t want to throw it away. I started thinking about what I could do with it,” he says. So Candelaria, who is now the owner of CATS gymnastics and bouldering gym in Boulder, drilled a few dozen holes, pockets, and edges of all different sizes, tacking on a few blocks of wood to the outside for pinches. Manufacturers of climbing goods eventually picked up what Candelaria was doing and started making hangboards out of materials like urethane and various plastics.