FACT: STRENGTH BUILDS CONFIDENCE
Let’s face it, when it comes to climbing at your limit, finger strength is EVERYTHING!
Doing big moves on big holds is fun, but at some point we all realize the same thing, our fingers are the weakest link.
UNDOUBTEDLY, the best and most effective way to build finger strength is to weight them and stress them safely, multiple times per week. Kyle’s photo below from Hueco Tanks, illustrates exactly why weak fingers will make climbing feel harder, and strong fingers will make it feel easier. If you want to improve your rock climbing, focus on your finger strength. It’s the only way.
So, what is the V-Board? The V-Board is a fingerboard (or hangboard), which I designed over the last few years and built one by one. I’ve used hangboards my entire life, because like many climbers (and unlike some) if I wanted to climb well, I had to earn it by building up my contact strength.
The best way to do this, is by deadhanging on progressively worse holds. During the winter of 2000, I trained exclusively on a homemade fingerboard preparing myself for the next level. With a full time construction job, no gym membership and harsh Ontario winters, I needed to find a way to stay strong so I could climb my dream route, Chris Sharma’s Necessary Evil 5.14c. Ben Moon picture below.
So, with little more than a few strips of hardwood from my dads basement, I built my first hangboard. The holds were made of solid oak and much sharper than I would have liked, so I sanded them down a tiny bit and hung and hung and hung. I barely did anything else, no pull-ups, no climbing and no weights. I used the board after work about 4 times per week for three months, maybe 50 sessions in all, and on my first trip to the Virgin River Gorge in March, I sent the route. In fact, in one year I went from climbing one 5.14b, to climbing my dream route and then later my first 5.14d, and there’s no doubt in my mind, that it was all because of this thing. Below is the very first model V-Board, built in 2000. ha ha.
What makes the V-Board different?
#1 – Wood feels Good.
#2 – The V-Board is handcrafted from hardwood, not poured from liquid plastic or cut by a CNC machine. So there’s no toxic chemicals in the product and less waste. But more importantly there’s no texture to “help” you cheat. The wood is Red Oak, so it’s built to last a lifetime, but it’s also very smooth and very slick, forcing you to ENGAGE all your little finger muscles and apply more FORCE to stay off the ground. It is this extra force, that will give you the edge.
#3 – There are no weird or funky angles to create any overuse injuries in the wrist, elbows or shoulders. Many new boards today try to make their fingerboards look cool by adding big curves to them, great if you like the look, but not great if you want to get stronger safer and faster. With the V-board every hold is pulled on from a straight down position. So you can use it more often without any pain. Simple.
#4 – There are NO pockets. In my experience, the curved sides of pockets make for another way to cheat. When you insert your finger and the side walls of the pocket GRAB your skin, that creates friction. This added friction is a crutch. Inversely, if you hang on flat edges, you eliminate the ability to cheat at all. Look at this picture of the late, great Wolfgang Gullich training mono’s. Not in a pocket, but on a flat edge, which is much harder to do – and harder is likely what made him stronger.
#5 – Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, The V-Board is a systematic finger board, what I mean is, it has been designed to create improvements whether you’re climbing 5.10 or 5.14 and even then, you’ll still be challenged by the V-Board. Nobody’s left behind. Look closely at the photo below and you’ll see the three different slopes cut into each rung. Imagine the same hold getting smaller and smaller and less positive – 9 times.
What does it look like exactly? There is a warm up on top, and two wooden strips to challenge yourself. Like a mini campus board, great for your dorm room, office or private dojo. The two edges get progressively smaller by exactly 1/4″ of an inch, and each edge contains 3 different curves or slopes if you will. The blade we use is called a round-over.
Each slope or round-over also gets progressively worse. So, as you master the first one, you can safely move onto the next. The edges are curved, so it’s safe on your tendons as you evolve. Your fingers will get tired, but they won’t get injured. The smallest edge is 1/2″ an inch with a 3/4″ round-over, so there’s really not much material left over to grab, which is precisely what we want when building finger strength.
Isn’t Hangboarding really boring? Well I suppose it could be, but so can falling off your dream project 200 times. I personally find it very motivating and satisfying. It depends on how bad you want to improve. It doesn’t take much effort or time, starting with about two 20 minute sessions, 2 times per week. The bottom line is, the sooner you get to work on the V-Board, the sooner you’ll develop more finger specific contact strength, more endurance and more confidence in your grip. The greatest benefit you’ll get from the V-Board is to use it sensibly, avoid injury, and gain strength over time. Imagine a year in quarters and months, not just days and weeks. Take your time and enjoy the process.
The V-Board Mini and V-Board Mini Pro. For those of who don’t have the space above your doorway (or perhaps the funds) to purchase the full size V-Board, there is also the V-Board Mini. The Mini’s give you exactly the same hanging experience, but with one less rung to choose from.
V-Board Mini OPTIONS: You can either select the Mini (3/4″ edge), or the Mini Pro (1/2″ edge) model. For 90% of climbers, I would personally recommend the V-Board Mini, over the Mini Pro. However, if you’ve been climbing for a few years (at least) and your fingers are already 5.13 steel strong, then the Pro (1/2″ edge) will have you getting right down to business immediately. See picture below for the difference in edge size.
Below is the V-Board Mini. It’s about 3/4 of an (average) finger pad deep.
Below is the V-Board Mini Pro. It’s about 1/2 of an (average) finger pad deep.
SIZE? V-Board is 27″ wide x 6.5″ tall V-Board Mini’s are 27″ wide and 4″ tall.
PRICE? Please contact me with your mailing address for a quote on shipping.
When buying a finger board, and thinking about the cost of the board, think about it in terms of days, months and years. A gym membership costs $500 – $700 and lasts for only one year, where as a board can be used hundreds of times throughout its lifespan, bringing the price down to mere pennies per use, plus, it’s always ready when you are.
CONTACT? – Please email me at… firstname.lastname@example.org
– STRENGTH BUILDS CONFIDENCE –
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY AND INSPIRATION
I have loved climbing for as long as I can remember. When I think back to my teenage years, I recall flipping through old magazines and catalogs that featured amazing pictures of guys like Yvon Chouinard making their own pitons by hand. This concept captured me. After all, culture is driven by imagination.
As I discovered Yvon and his craftsmanship, I also discovered the World of surfing, and surfers who built their own surfboards. For years now I have been in awe of guys like Gerry Lopez and Tom Wegener. Wegener turned me onto a culture of surfing artists who carved wooden boards by hand, like Grain from Maine. And now I’m into all things built by hand and made from wood, like snowboards, skateboards, skis and guitars…
…And so between roadtrips and adventures, I began my own journey to create a fingerboard that not only worked, but didn’t look half bad either. More and more friends began to e-mail me, asking when they could have one. And finally, I unearthed the V-Board, and it’s exactly what I had hoped it would be. Each board is truly one of a kind.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please fire away.