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.