The Scottish powerhouse Malcom Smith always seemed to have a strong statement to make. Or at least his statements always seemed to catch my attention anyway. And although they may or may not be debatable, they tend to make one stop and think. For example, he was once quoted as saying “Nobody trains as hard as I do. If they did, they would be as strong as I am”. Now at first glance this may seem like a jab at the weak, skinny punters of the world. It also may seem as though modesty is not his strength, in comparison to say slopers, pinches and front levers. However, I don’t think Malcom was trying to sound arrogant in the least, I think he honestly believes that hard work pays off. And he’s right. Of course, it’s possible he may have a “genetic” advantage over most of us, he still proves that he has earned his power, it was not ‘just’ giving to him.

Sharma also belongs to this category. I often hear people say, “Oh Chris never trains – that’s what makes him so inspiring, he doesn’t even train”. C’mon people. Do not buy into this, even if it makes you feel better about going to the bar instead of the gym “Chris Sharma doesn’t train, why should I” – well please think about it for just a second. Yes, Chris is genetically gifted. It took him less than a year and a half to climb 5.14 (at age 14) and he’s been setting standards for the last 14 years since. Chris Sharma trains. Do not be fooled. But he trains in a different way then say Malcom, for example, or Ben Moon, or even myself. Chris Sharma has the luxury of training wherever he wants. Since, his first sponsor set him up on a trip to Europe Chris has been driven to climb as hard as he possibly can. And this is what makes Chris so inspiring. His motivation. You would think after 14 years of climbing the worlds hardest routes, he may drift and take up other interests, but he still goes out to the crag or the boulder field and he still gives it 200%, every time, 5 days per week. He puts in everything he has.

I’m not saying you can’t enjoy your beer with the boys, (or girls) just that if you really want to improve, you do need to invest the time and earn it.

This past summer has been a complete write off for me it seems, with weddings, work, family, terrible weather, sickness and homelessness all combined, I haven’t had anytime or energy for hard climbing at all. But with that being said, I have finally managed to settle down this past week. I have finally unpacked my boxes and set up a homestead in the beautiful Squamish Valley and I could not be more content right now. this is a turning point in my life, I’m home again.

Two weeks ago, I shipped out my OLD hangboard from Ontario, the one that I used to train on when I was a teenager, preparing myself for ‘Just Do It’ 5.14c, a climb I sent about 8 years ago. It’s the hangbopard that’s been locked up in my mom and dads basement ever since. The one that collected dust, but stood the test of time and is now back in my hands, literally. Anyone who knows me, knows that although I’m a HUGE fan of outdoor climbing, I always believed that finger strength training was a top priority. My only issue was that I loved travel so much, I hardly ever took my own advice.

Until now. Training isn’t complicated, it’s doing it that makes it feel that way. There is a science to it yes, if you want peak performance, but if you can’t seem to follow a regime, it will still help you tremendously to just hop on and hang for a few seconds each day, or 3-4 days a week, if you’re not climbing much it will launch you over the hump. I’ve only been doing it two weeks now and I couldn’t believe the difference it made. Of course I need to remember that this is not real strength, this is just muscle memory, my muscles have forgotten to squeeze this tight and they are only responding to this instinctively. As a rough rule, I’d say it takes 3-6 months to see TRUE noticeable gains in contact strength.

The homemade version that got me up my hardest sport climbs back in tha day.

It doesn’t take much, just a 30 min workout, 3-4 times per week and you will absolutely, positively get stronger. You will never go home from a road trip empty handed again. You will send climbs faster than ever, I promise you this. I was never too excited about the hangboards on the market, I’ve tried them, but they bored me. All those fancy shapes were just too freaking complicated, and I found they didn’t apply to rock very well at all. The idea is to lock down on a small edge for as long as you can. Remember it does not matter how small the hold is, what matters is how much intensity you put on that hold. So if you are feeling healthy and strong, ADD WEIGHT. Try to avoid holding for longer than 10 or 15 seconds. This is entering into a different catagory of training. Which is also very important, but you (we) need to be able to distinguish what sort of training we are trying to do, and for what purpose.

Here is a tip. Do not install your board in a fancy part of the house, (I.E. You dining room) chances are you will never use it. Instead, try putting the board in your basement or your garage, the GRITTINESS of the location will make you feel free to sweat, grunt and use chalk as needed. Also, put on some music, I’d like to suggest EYE OF THE TIGER, from the ‘Rocky’ soundtrack. Or if this doesn’t blow up your skirt, try “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. It works for me. ha ha ha ha. No seriously. Seriously. Stop laughing.

Weldon, showing me his 90 degree lock off, on a board he never ever uses.

That’s because it’s in his living room and his mom (who’s incredibly cool) probably doesn’t appreciate the chalk dust on her sofa too much. Try explaining a layer of white powder smeared across your glass coffee table to the neighbors next door when they come over for tea. Oh, that’s my boy, he’s addicted to crack, I’d say. Like mentioned above, try to install it somewhere gritty, where the sun don’t shine, where a pool of blood can collect and dry up on the floor and it only adds character, where Tyler Durden would bring his Club of fighters to release the pain of the daily grind, where mom doesn’t dare to enter with a fresh batch of muffins, and where only you and your committed friends can earn the sort of strength needed to be stronger tomorrow than you are today.

  • elias

    wow….britney??? now i’ve figured it out…that’s why you climb so hard….you’re definetly sick!!!!

  • Rob

    At least Weldon took the time to make the board’s color fit with his mother’s wall! A cool mom with a thoughtful son!

  • zach

    yo sonnie-
    good timing on your post. chris just sent the clark mtn. project.

    and by the way… you got to step your cheap training up. door frames man, that’s styling. its all about door frames.


  • Sonnie

    Ha, Zach, you are correct, door frames work well – for about ten seconds. If I had a nickel for every time I ripped off someone’s fancy trim…smirk!

    Rob, agreed mate, the paint job was very thoughtful, a compromise to make both parties happy. It does look good doesn’t it.

    Props to Chris for the Clark Mountain Proj, sounds horrendous, the question is now, who’s gonna step up and repeat it?

  • C.

    Hi Sonnie. How wide are those edges you train on roughly?

  • suzanne

    I’d much rather opt for the ‘footloose’ soundtrack; “I’m Free”

    2nd would be Billy Idol, and 3rd, likely Bruce Springsteen.

    But hey! if ‘Britney rocks’ your boat then enjoy.. Yes I did laugh 🙂

  • tim m

    how about building contact strength with argentine tango?…works for me.It hurts the fingers alot less…

  • Danny

    I heard from a little bird that you might be makin your way down to Horse Shoe, I might try to swing down on Saturday for the day, Beers on me…

    Get em’ Pa!!!

  • Will

    Can you give me an idea of your workout.

    Maybe a few tips ect.


  • Sonnie

    Hey guys,

    Danny, looking forward to the beers in the deep south.

    C. The size of the edges are hard to determine, I sanded them down quite a bit so the edges wouldn’t dig into my skin and I could put more force and focus on my contact strength. Two things will make you weaker, one is when you grab an edge that has ‘side walls’ like a drilled pocket. Those walls give you a tighter fit and more friction, not actually making you squeeze tighter. Wolfgang never used pockets to train, but Action Direct is full of them. The second thing that will make you weaker and not stronger is a sharp edge, the edge is what keeps you hanging on, not your strength, so if you build something, sand it down a ton, make it round and you will receive higher gains.

    Will, I like to train on my hangboard 3-4 days per week. But I’m usually outside climbing, so my schedule has been WAY out of whack over the last few years. Until now. My goal is to train 4 days per week and my workouts rarely less than 25 minutes, but I don’t go beyond 45 minutes. Depending on what you want to train for determines what a work out looks like. Right now, I’m trying to up my contact strength, so I am doing heavier loads, fewer hangs and less time. 3-5 seconds with weight.

    Also, I avoid doing too many pull ups. I see a lot of people getting board stiff with deadhangs and start doing a pile of pull ups on the bigger holds. This will only hurt your elbows and not make you that much stronger. Use weight to get you stronger. I promise, you won’t GROW much bigger, but you will gain power.

    Let me know if this helps and if you need any more info.


    That’s inspiring, thanks. I feel like I have no excuses next time I’ll be going to Squamish to send my V4/5 projects. So far I’ve always felt quite uncommitted about training, I love climbing but plastic holds and worst campus boards,no way… I think what I needed was a good kick in the ass, sorry a few kind words to start squeezing hard…

    Thanks again, I’m gonna pull those holds out today at the gym and put 200% to my future projects.

  • Jasper

    Excellent post Sonnie. Absolutely spot on about Malc.

  • maciek

    great text:)

  • c

    Stumped: But what if there are NO non-fancy parts of my house? Oh shit.