Sonnie's Simple Training Tip of the Week!

Hey Gang,

So, I’ve been wanting to write about this sort of stuff for a while now, but it seems every week I get sidetracked by something or rather, but now I have made a new commitment to focus at least one blog post per week to a training tip.  I seem to have an uncontrollable curiosity for strength training, and while some climbers are born strong, and others develop strength, I find the act of training the body and mind a fascinating topic.  I say this because although I was born with relatively okay genes for climbing, I’ll never be as strong as the Worlds elite boulderers – and quite frankly, I’m cool with that, I just want to climb the best that “I” can and if that means maxing out on V12 then so be it.  But nevertheless, I’m always going to try and improve and I’ll always be “that guy” who requires training, because if I don’t I start to suck really bad, really fast.  Here’s the first installment, it’s also a plug, you’ll know what I mean when you get to the end….

Training Tip of the Week.

I noticed a very interesting post some weeks back that I would like to share with you today.  I sincerely hope the people involved don’t mind me bringing this to light on my own web page, but I couldn’t help but be intrigued by this as I am a firm believer in hangboard training for climbing.  For more great posts, interviews and articles please go to

Since R&I is my homepage (for obvious good reasons) I couldn’t help but notice this topic posted on their forum.  The remark grabbed me because it’s something I used to wonder myself.  I don’t mean to impose on Dr.J, the man knows his stuff surely and I have no doubt he’ll have great advice, but still, I wanted to share this with you and see if any readers here have had similar effects.  I know I have, in fact, I had a problems with most market hangboards, that’s why I ended up just building my own to offset the problems I was noticing.

Here’s what the letter said….

“Hi Dr. J,

I use an old Pusher Powerjunkie hangboard and have a concern about the geometry of the main jugs on it. In the past I have had elbow problems, and I was wondering if it is bad to do pull ups on grips that are not horizontal. The grips on the Powerjunkie are slanted to the outside of the board. Do you think that this set up could have a negative affect on my elbows? Is it healthier to have the grips set up horizontally as most other hangboards do?   Thanks for your opinion!”

Here’s my personal take on the subject from my own experience (and if you don’t know what a powerjunkie is, ask a friend, I’m sure they can fill you in)………

Being a one-time user of the power junkie myself, this question captured my attention for a couple of reasons, although I loved the look and simplicity of the board, not to mention the smooth texture, I had the exact same issues in my elbows and wrists.  The reason I think this happens is because the elbows bend slightly inwards and the wrists get bent or cranked to one side.  The same holds true for pinches on hangboards, they often fail on flat surfaces because they torque the wrist to bend inwards, thus putting unnecessary strain on the tendons, bones and elbows.  It’s not 3D and there is no room for (ROM) range of motion, it’s all fixed.   Climbers don’t particularly like “FIXED” positions for training, because climbing in essence is RANGE OF MOTION, there are millions of angles, holds, shapes, distances and variables in climbing, so by being stuck to just ONE position i.e. a pocket or a set of jugs, you could potentially develop overuse injuries.

So, in conclusion, I agree with this person’s observation, hangboards or fingerboards should be horizontal, aka, ‘NEUTRAL’ to eliminate discomfort over time.

Furthermore, to gain proper pinch power, I prefer to use free hanging blocks, like the ones in this picture below.  This way, you are using straight down GRAVITY or WEIGHT and maximum PURE grip strength, not just hooking the thumbs over a sharp edge.  By this method, you’ll know exactly why you fell off and where your threshold is, also, there is never any joint pain.

This is a picture of my original hangboard, I call it the V-Board because I use it to measure where I’m at on the V-scale.  If I can climb V9 this month, it always reflects in my hang time, on the different edges, if I can climb V11 or V12 this too reflects in my time on the board and the weight in which I can add to my belt.

Many of you know by now from my posts, and from word of mouth that I’ve been busy building this V-Board in my workshop from home.  So far it’s been an experiment of sorts, and I’ve been custom building each board to fill very small orders, for friends and friends of friends.  So now, my enthusiasm for training for climbing has turned into a small venture and the feedback so far has been very exciting.

If you wish to know more about this V-board, it’s design, materials or philosophy and how it will get you stronger feel free to contact me via e-mail with any questions you have.  I’m still taking some pre-orders before I go into production and release the new website, so you can get yours early.  But please be patient, as this is a very modest operation and we are only capable of producing a small run every week.  Like I said, so far it’s been for friends and friends of friends. We are still learning about shipping costs, so each order will be handled in person.

May this week bring all sweet and wonderful things to you.  Namaste.

  • Sonnie, I’m pumped about this new emphasis on training for rock climbing. I live in Savannah, GA and it’s in the middle of the flatlands – nearest mountains 5 hours, nearest boulders 3 hours, nearest gyms 4 hours. Like all climbers I’m trying to constantly climb harder, but needless to say I have to get clever with training. I am interested to hear about the things you do in your own life and suggestions you might have on training. Keep it up!

  • sonnie

    Hey Aaron,

    Great to hear from you, and great to see your enthusiasm too. I’ll keep it up, if you do. Thanks for the note, you got me charged with good energy. The new site is looking good, nearly there and will be a lot more interactive. Also, thanks to all the emails I’ve gotten, I wasn’t expecting them so quickly, but I’ll make time to get back to all of you tomorrow, I promise. Thanks so much for the support and happy climbing.

  • Bob Arctor

    Hi Sonnie,

    I’m interested to know more about the pinch grip blocks. I’ve never seen them before. What kinda weight do you get up to and how do you incorporate them into your workout routines?


  • Hi Sonnie,

    Great post. I was slightly confused by your photos where you are using the triangle block, are you just hanging weights on them? or are you hanging from them after attaching them to the roof with a sling?

    I am interested in training finger/grip strength but have no walls in my house strong enough to support a board (what can I say, I like food :o) ) So I’m interested in any way you can acheive similar results without pulling down a small portion of your house.


  • Matt

    Hi Sonnie,

    I too am looking forward to more training articles. I’ve been enjoying your blog and I think you have a knack for making topics really accessible. Keep up the good work!

  • joel

    hey sonnie, did you think about selling your v-board through a retail outlet, like, say, joe rockhead’s? might be a good way to sell more units… just a thought!
    thanks for the tips and as aaron says, more details on the specifics of your training would be welcome and helpful

  • Danny

    Thats a sweet looking hangboard man, nice craftsmanship!

    Meant to ask, hows the construction under the chief? I tend to resist change at first, I prefer old and rustic, I guess familiar is a better term. But I m sure it will look nice once its done.

  • Felix

    Hi Sonnie.

    Funny to see the triangular blocks. I built myself two free hanging wooden slopers (with rotatory degrees of freedeom such that it is very hard to stick them) and I have also played around with other wooden “toys”, one of my favorites being wooden spheres connected to my Campus-board at variable length. The advantage of spheres is that you can pinch them or use them as a regular hold. However, the diameter is aproblem (could be larger). So if any of you are willing to play around, here are some (few) pics:

    I should definitely update my blog by the way so don’t bother with the text which is completely messy.

    What I find would like to try out is mounting a second hangboard on top of my first one in order to be able to do offset lockoffs and laddering with wider moves. Anyone has had some experience with this?

    Well, nuff said. I’m getting some cold beer, anyone want some? 😉

  • Cool post! That’s a really nice hangboard. You’ve inspired me to design a custom board – we have very low ceilings in our fat, and nowhere to mount the standard Moon/Metrolius boards, but this could solve the problem!

    I look forward to further training tips – could I put in a request for a post about food/nutricion. That’d be cool!


  • Bobby K.

    I’m so glad to see you took an interest in my Dr. J inquiry. I really appreciate your feedback, especially since Dr. J wasn’t familiar with the board and I’m sure he will have trouble finding one. I too like the board, but I have wondered about those jugs ever since an extremely painful elbow injury popped up about five years ago. A doctor told me that it is some sort of strain/tearing at the base of my biceps. It pops up every time I get to feeling stronger. I think I’m gonna ditch the board after reading your post. Anything that makes this injury go away would be worth it. By the way, nice woodwork skills on your boards. What type of wood do you like to use, and what tools do you use for shaping/sanding? Thanks again for the post! I’ve really enjoyed your blog since I found it a few months ago.


    Bobby Kurtz
    New Orleans, LA

  • Bobby K.


    When I posted my first reply I didn’t read thoroughly enough to realize you were getting set up to slang those hangboards. I retract my inquiries about your techniques. Suffice to say the wood looked dreamy, and your grips, smooth and pleasurable. Good luck with your all ventures! Sidenote: your last few posts have also inspired me to get yogic with it. Perhaps this too will help me throw my bows.

  • “I’ll never be as strong as the Worlds elite boulderers”
    Now THAT is a limiting belief, my friend. Relinquish it!

  • Brian

    I just did a workout on my Metolius Simulator the other night. It has been a while since doing a hangboard workout and it made me remember, the holds are painful on the Simulator (especially the large crimps and pockets)! The CNC edges hit right on the tendons, and the aggressive texture isn’t to pleasant either (except on the slopers).

    Your board is very aesthetic, and looks like it would be much better on the fingers. I see that you use free hanging blocks for pinches, what do you use for slopers?

  • Charlie

    Ben, not to steal Sonnie’s thunder, but I thought I would throw my two cents in on food and nutrition. The biggest part of my training this winter has been getting rid of my excess weight and keeping the so called ‘winter fat’off. I recommend picking up Tosca Reno’s Clean Eating Diet. Without any effort I dropped 10 lbs by just eating clean.

    You get to eat 5 to 6 times a day, with portions such that you eat every 2 to 3 hours without becoming hungry. The food is awesome and tastes great. Lose the refined sugars and you are half way there.

    I feel stronger – mentally and physically – than I have ever before in my life. And I have never been as lean except for when I was a scrawny kid in elementary school.


  • Ella Clarke

    Hey Sonnie,

    Thanks for that post! Sweet hangboard – wondering what type of wood you used and if it makes any difference?

    Ive got another question though wondering if you might have an answer.

    I am in temporary place right now where I cant screw anything into the walls. I do have some beams in the basement i might be able to tie something around but not able to screw anything anywhere. I am desperately missing my finger board – and am noticing my strength dwindle as Im not climbing as much as Id like to right now but when i do – there is a definite change since not having my finger board. Wondering if you have any creative/make-shifty ideas that could work that doesnt involve screws and large holes in the wall but would still be ideal for maintaining/building my strength?


  • @Charlie: Thanks for the tip off. I’ll have to look into that. I think the nutrition side of things is a factor that often gets overlooked but it makes such a huge difference!


  • Sonnie,

    Any update on the availability of the V-board? I know it’s a cottage job but I’ve not found any updates on your website or deadpoint mag (for instance).

    Thanks again for your inspiring photos and insights. It certainly adds more pleasure to this endeavor.


  • Sonnie

    Thanks Skyler, funny you should ask. I just finished a model that’s better than ever. I’ve just kept hangin on them and improving them every few months, I’m more than happy and satisfied with the latest version of the V-Board, and yes it’s a home job, but damn do they ever feel good. I’ll be releasing more soon. Thanks EVERYONE for your patience.

  • Pingback: The Ideal Gym – pt. 1 – Upper Body Conditioning | Rest Jug dot com | Rest, Read, Restart | Climbing interviews and articles()