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Scared of the Boards in the Gym’s Corner? This New Training Book will Help

Pro climber Ned Feehally’s new book, Beastmaking: A fingers-first approach to becoming a better climber, has everything you need to know about training for climbing.

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Beastmaking: A fingers-first approach to becoming a better climber

By Ned Feehally

Available on Vertebrate Publishing or Amazon for $25.99.

“I never wanted it to be too prescriptive. Everyone is different,” said Feehally, of his new book Beastmaking: A fingers-first approach to becoming a better climber.

Feehally has climbed several V15s, and he’s one of the few climbers in the world to have flashed V14, with Trust Issues, in Rocklands, South Africa. As you might have guessed, he’s also a co-founder of the popular Beastmaker finger board. For Feehally, Beastmaking is the result of years of self-experimentation and insights gleaned from fellow pro climbers. 

[Read an excerpt here]

The 208-page book is designed to give readers everything they need to know while still leaving ample room for creativity. Beastmaking covers what finger strength is, how to best achieve it, how to train on a board, upper body strength exercises, mobility drills, and more. It offers sample training sessions, and details how to modify each discussed exercise. The result is a starting point, but also endless possibilities for how you might structure your training to meet your goals. 

Beastmaking cover (Photo: Beastmaking Collection)

“I want to just encourage people to learn little bits and put it together for themselves, because I think at the end of the day, that’s more satisfying for the climber,” said Feehally in an interview with Climbing.

Feehally was prompted to write the book with encouragement from his wife, Olympic climber Shauna Coxsey. “She’d kind of nag me about it,” Feehally said, grinning. “She’d say, ‘Why don’t you write something? Why don’t you write something?’ Because I’ve always been interested in training and everything about it.” Although the idea was hatched years ago, the pandemic lockdown provided Feehally with ample time to devote to the project.

The overarching theme of the book, as the subhead suggests, is on fingers. “Finger strength is basically what sets people apart from others,” said Feehally. “I think all the best climbers in the world have really strong fingers.” 

(Photo: Beastmaking Collection)

The book is incredibly comprehensive in this department. It begins by outlining finger and flexor  anatomy, then talks about  what finger strength actually is ( differentiating between active and passive strength), and finally provides an intro to finger boarding, grip types, forms, and exercises. (I personally found his breakdown of the benefits of one arm vs. two arm hangs particularly interesting.)

Some of my other favorite chapters include details on how to structure your session on a board and how to train endurance on a board. Another describes campusing drills. As someone who’s had finger, wrist, and shoulder injuries in the past, I appreciated the chapter on hand and upper-body maintenance. 

One thing I missed was an in-depth discussion of periodization and strength training. Feehally does touch on some of those aspects, briefly, but not as much as some of the nerdier training enthusiasts (me) might want. To be fair, Feehally purposely left all the nerdier stuff out.

“I think all the training literature that’s around is geared towards the people that are already really psyched on training,” said Feehally. “It’s aimed at people who kind of know it all. Whereas I wanted a book that was for the people who were almost intimidated by training, or who didn’t want to dive into it because it was too big a subject, because they didn’t understand it. I wanted to make it [training] understandable and simple.”

At the end of the book, there are interviews with Alex Puccio, Adam Ondra, Jerry Moffat, Melissa Le Nevé, Tomoa Narasaki, Alex Megos, Alex Honnold, and Coxsey. Questions range from “What is your five-second maximum one-arm hang on the Beastmaker 2000 middle edge?” to “What is your advice for climbers who want to improve?”

“That’s my favorite part of the book,” said Feehally. “Because everyone was so willing to give away loads of info about how they trained. But as I was reading their answers, I kept thinking ‘Wow, actually loads of this backs up what I’ve written.’ That was the best surprise for me.”

In addition to the Pro Tips section, the back of the book contains easy-to-reference lists, making it convenient to quickly construct your training plan. You can play a game of mix-and-match with each type of exercise, in addition to making modifications.

Feehally hopes readers will walk away from the book feeling inspired and excited to train. “Training can make climbing more fun,” he said. “Training doesn’t have to be this boring thing that you tack onto climbing. By doing a bit of training, you can improve, and then you’ll end up enjoying climbing more. So it’s a way of getting more from climbing.”

Overall, the book is empowering. You end up with all the right ingredients and the know-how of a master chef.