At this point, most climbers understand that using a hangboard is the best way to build finger strength.  However, while hangboards are simple tools, using them properly and with minimal risk of injury is a little more complicated.

To help you steadily build finger strength without injuring your fingers in the process, here’s an article from Climbing Magazine by coach and trainer Steve Bechtel about how he uses hangboard ladders to systematically train his fingers while safely controlling the training load and volume.

“Don’t be in a hurry to get strong fast. Quick strength gains lead to quick losses. Slow gains are the ones you keep. Research shows that high-intensity training can lead to quick strength increases, with the gains coming from improvements in energy-system efficiency. On the other hand, a slow, steady progression creates more efficient neurological pathways, which leads to long-term persistent gains.” – Steve Bechtel

As Steve notes, the goal of hangboarding is a long term increase in finger strength.  This is not something that can be rushed and there are no short cuts.  Play the long game and you will be rewarded with strong finger instead of injured ones.

Hangboard Ladders Program:

Steve’s hangboard ladder program is relatively simply and consists of training three different grips: open hand, half crimp, and full crimp.  All three of these grips are described in detail and pictured in the full article.

Using these three grips, Bechtel created a easy to follow, 4-week hangboard program.  Here it is:

Week 1 (x2)

  1. Open hand: 3 sets of 3-6-9
  2. Full crimp: 3 sets of 3-6-9
  3. Half crimp: 3 sets of 3-6-9

Week 2 (x2)

  1. Open hand: 4 sets of 3-6-9
  2. Full crimp: 4 sets of 3-6-9
  3. Half crimp: 4 sets of 3-6-9

Week 3 (x2)

  1. Open hand: 5 sets of 3-6-9
  2. Full crimp: 5 sets of 3-6-9
  3. Half crimp: 5 sets of 3-6-9

Week 4 (x2)

  1. Open hand: 3 sets of 3-6-9-12
  2. Full crimp: 3 sets of 3-6-9-12
  3. Half crimp: 3 sets of 3-6-9-12

Beyond just giving you this skeleton ladder to follow, Bechtel also outlines exactly how to go about performing this workout including hold selection, intensity, and rest times.  Then, he describes how and when to progressively increase the workout’s difficulty to continue producing finger strength gains.

Even if you aren’t going to switch to this hangboard ladder program yourself, click through below to read the full article.  Bechtel does a great job of outlining exactly what the goals of hangboarding should be by describing some of the science behind this kind of isometric training.  Whether you are new to hangboarding or have been doing it for years, I bet this article will at least make you pause and think about how you’ve been training your fingers.

Full Article: Hangboard Ladders with Steve Bechtel

climbing training programs

(photo courtesy of

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