Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Testing > Hangboards Part One > Metolius Hangboards

At some point in your climbing career you're probably going to have to hang on a board... to get into the 5.10's (for some people) or into the higher grades for others a hang board becomes a necessary evil. Now we're not trainers in any way shape or form, but we've read the reviews and we do train on hang boards... we wanted to write a review on what we've found with Metolius' new boards and how we found them. We have a fairly good base knowledge of what we're doing... here we're going to give you an overview of what we've been doing with two new Metolius boards, in the future we'll expand into other brands of boards and then we'll compare them against each other... look at their pros and cons and what could be improved

We've actually got three boards :) The Project Board / Simulator 3d and a Slim Gym... all three are from Metolius with the Project Board and the Simulator 3d being either new or redesigned for this year... the Slim Gym is the only that's remained the same.

Project Board
Project Training Board
  • Compact board that's easy on the wallet, yet delivers a solid assortment of holds
  • The master is CNC milled for perfect symmetry
  • The holds are arranged along a broad arc that tapers outward and downward for better ergonomics and reduced injuries
  • Tapers from top to bottom in both dimensions for better forearm clearance
  • Fine texture
  • Includes comprehensive instructions, training guide and all mounting hardware
  • 24.5" x 6" (622 mm x 152 mm)
  • Price: $54.95
Simulator 3D
Simulator Training Board 3D

  • The next generation of the #1 selling training board in the world!
  • The master is CNC milled for perfect symmetry
  • The holds are arranged along a broad arc that tapers outward and downward for
    better ergonomics and reduced injuries
  • Tapers from top to bottom in both dimensions for better forearm clearance
  • Fine texture
  • Massive variety of holds
  • Includes comprehensive instructions, training guide and all mounting hardware
  • 28" x 8.75" (711 mm x 222 mm)
  • Price: $79.00
Now if you go to your local gym(s) chances are somewhere in a dusty corner you're going to find a finger board or two. When it comes to training boards there is a lot of choice out there... and you should shop around and see what fits your price range and most importantly YOUR training needs. Technically most simple boards should give you what you want... but it's best to look about and see what would be best for you; for instance despite the fact that we have a Slim Gym (from a number of years ago) it doesn't get used very much because despite Noodles loving the slopes on the board the two finger pockets are just horrible so when it comes to him doing a 2 finger exercise he'll switch to a different board!

If you're looking for a board then here's a handy list of what's out there (It's not a full list):
  • Revolution's Grillito: here
  • Entre Prise's Hangtime: here
  • Cryptochild's Ironpalm: here
  • Asana's Talon: here
  • Uprisings Revolution Board: here
  • Rise Hold's Fingerboard: here
  • Holdz Fingerboards: here
  • Osm'ose boards: here
  • Moon Climbing's Fingerboard: here
  • Nicros Hangboards: here
  • Bendcrete's Classic: here
Got a door way ready? It's pretty much all you need! Thankfully we didn't have to make a video for this... Metolius has already made one for you!

Now as we have a wall what we've done is made up a frame that extends the wall (which means our routes are now longer) and we have places for hang boards. We could have gone for the door frame route and in the past Noodles has mounted a bunch of boards from different company's but as we had space in wall we went in that direction. The other option that people who are renting or have parents that really don't want some holes in the wall is you can build a simple freestanding frame with wide feet that you can mount your board onto.

Here's a link to the Metolius Training Boards basic training regime: here
We either run their 10 minute sequences or if we find that a person is having trouble then we modify the routine. There are three sequences that you can try, the easiest was tested on non climbers to make sure it wasn't too evil! Also in this link is a section on cyclic periodization...which goes into a little bit about how to train/and how to schedule the various cycles of training and when you want your training to peak really worth reading if you are serious about improvement

Noodles & Training
Now my introduction to hang boards was a long time ago, I grabbed a Bendcrete Classic board and had it mounted over a doorway that led to our back garden. It wasn't the best place to have it and it wasn't the worst. In the winter the house could get a little cold from the breeze :P At the time there wasn't much literature on hand boards or training on them, sure there was a smattering of information here and there but I'd not read it. What I used the board for with one of my old longterm partners was "The Pull Up Challenge".. what this consisted of was doing a pull up on every hold on the board (alternating people between holds)... so with that board you ended up doing 14 or 15 pull ups with the only rest being when the other person took their turn. I think if my memory serves me correctly we managed to get to round four... so you did four pull ups on each hold and then the other person went for their turn.... that's roughly 150 pull ups. Not only was that hard enough but if you do check out the board you can see the bottom corners are what looks like really thin slopers! That's because that's exactly what they are, and you can take it from me that any wobble or shake as you we pulling up on these holds resulted in some very nasty accidents (Couple of broken windows etc)

Then... then I had a (P)usher board, which I never trained much on in the traditional sense. I made a campus board with some S7 rungs in the back garden and then mounted the boards that I had out there and used them as campus rungs... I later grabbed some (P)usher system tiles and had a big system wall.

Anyway, I digress. When we said we had three boards, we actually lied, we have the Nicros Infinity Board (Pre-Release-Review: here) that we used for a while but because of mismatched holds we stopped using it as a board and made it into a feature instead... the Metolius boards are both good boards in their own rights... I prefer the larger board (Simulator) over the Project board just because there's more variety in what you can do with it, there are more pockets of varying depths that allow me to work on one of my weakness', and having the edges all over the place is nice... I do kind of prefer the edges on the Project Board as you can vary your spacing of your hands on a uniform shape. Now here's a surprise, the Slim gym has much better slopers in my mind... there's a nice little thumb catch that helps out a weaker climber and there's way more surface area which means you can get more skin onto the hold and hang about longer... and the Slim Gym has slightly more texture.. not much just a little

After a number of months training on these boards I can pretty well get through the 10 minute sequences without too much trouble.... I tape my fingers and I take it quite easy. Fingerboard training despite being a necessary evil at times is also a good way of getting an injury if done incorrectly or on hands / arms / fingers that haven't been warmed up correctly. I generally climb for a good long time before hand; as we climb and film when we're reviewing whenever I get near the board I'm well warmed up but not completely tired. I've played about with the sequences as well, modifying the routine so that I could work on my weakness' as much as needed... my weakness is finger pockets, specifically two finger pockets. So what I do is I train opposing pairs (middle & first finger / middle and fourth finger) and I also train at different pocket depths, but not too much as you risk a RSI (Repetitive strain injury). The other thing I don't enjoy too much is pull ups, I can run them off as needed... but I blew out both of my elbows (inner and outer tendons) so I tend to take it a little easier than say Chris.

With my training I always tend to use the Simulator and it's a nice width and as the board is angles downwards and slightly inclined I find it easier on my elbows in general, I also like the slopers on this board they're nice and friendly. The Project board is nice and compact and I'd er towards this board over the Slim Gym as it's friendlier for your hands and the skin wear you'll get is far less.

As we look at further boards I'm going to keep the same training regime but I'll tweak it out more so that I can work more on my weakness. I don't think that the boards will be taken down anytime soon.

What board from these two would I suggest people buy? Well if space is no problem then I'd go with the 3D, it has a lot of variety and it's a tool that you can use as you get stronger. Of course if space is limited them the Project board is the other best option. I'd never say get the Slim Gym as I hate the pockets that are on there... but that's just my taste.

I'd have liked to see placements for adding bungee cords to help someone that has trouble with pull ups... it's a little thing that should be added to most boards IMHO and the lack of pinches is a shame... it's something that should be added to these boards in the next generation!!

Chris & Training

When I started climbing, I quickly rose the ranks to 5.10 and the transition from 5.10 to 5.11 was one that took a lot of effort to achieve. During that time I read a few books on training for the sport, reviewed an array of articles in magazines and the Internet and have even found helpful advice from climbers around the gym. I tried my hand at training, trying out the hang board and campus rungs at the gym. I wanted to try to out the hangs on the two and three finger pockets and I wasn’t able to do it. But on the campus board, I was able to get through a tough sequence. The sequences involved me doing a dyno up two rungs and then falling down one, and repeat all the way up. I’ve stayed away from the campus wall since and the first few years of climbing took a big strain on my fingers where now my fingers can’t handle the strain of campus board training.

I had been told and read that the best thing to improve your climbing skills is climbing itself. I meet Chris Sharma (and to be honest, back then I had no idea who he was and I had to ask what the big fuss was about) and asked him about training and he told me the best thing was to climb. So with this in mind, my first goal was to get a grip on crimps. In the college that I attended there was a climbing wall in the atrium of the school and I spent most of my free time traversing and doing short problems on crimps. I’ve also done similar “exercises” at the gym. They had a short problem that was set with nothing but slopes and I made sure to get onto it every time I went to the gym. I worked each and every move its own and eventually got the send. Those weeks of working on the problem helped me work out the nuances of climbing on slopers. My experience has made me a firm believer that climbing is the best way to improve climbing skills, however, I have also come to realize that there is a time when climbing alone will not get your climbing grades to the next level, and training…real training, like ab work and finger board, becomes a must.

When it comes to hang boards, the ones that I have seen most often are the Globe training board and the Metolius Simulator. They have a board at the gym with the same kinds of variations as the previous two, only with an added pinch hold. They also have an old Pusher board that’s much smaller and compact. The highlight of this board are the slopes. The slopes themselves on this board are much rounder and feature a larger radius but they’ve even incorporated the slopes to the edges on the board. These kinds of boards lend themselves to a more specific kind of grip training and don’t offer the versatility of some of the larger boards on the market.

So which one do I prefer? The Simulator is a great board, and has tons of holds and its easy to make up a routine for the board. Its also just as easy to take the Metolius routine and make it easier or harder on this board. I prefer the Project board. It’s a tougher board without as many options as the Simulator, but for me it had all the necessities I needed in a board. We trained on these boards using both sequences, the Metolius Simulator sequence on the Project and vise versa, and the sequence was much harder on the Project. Now one of the main reasons (other than its getting me stronger) that I prefer the Project board is for the fact that its harder to make those sequences easier. We would train on the boards with the rule: if you can’t get through the exercise, chose easier holds and continue. There is a difference in size of the holds and the width of the boards. It doesn’t seem like much, but when you get onto them, the difference is obvious. Now if you’re like me and have never gone through a routine on a hang board, take it from me, it hurts. The Project board hurts more. The sequence that Metolius put together for this board is probably aimed at stronger climbers and the first few times I couldn’t get through it. Now, after doing the sequence once a week for a couple of months, I can hang 5 seconds on the two finger edge. The sequence on the Simulator is also hard. I’ve read that this kind of training should be reserved for experienced climbers and you could easily tweak a finger or muscle on the board, especially on the two and three finger edges. The main attraction for me is being able to train these kinds of grips. I’ve hurt my fingers in the past, and it’s always been on small crimpy edges and I shudder every time I come across one. The board will help develop those grips and will hopefully have a hand in me sending some 5.12's! OVERALL BUILD
There's nothing really to complain about with the boards, they're solidly constructed and pretty heavy. Both boards are CNC milled and are made from resin, the difference between the boards are the layouts and depth of the grips... (both images are clicky for larger)The texture on both boards is pretty fine and you should get no skin damage if you've been climbing for a while... Nick on the other hand had his skin destroyed on a few occasions :) The board masters (from what they're molded from) are CNC milled so the boards are completely symmetrical, something that's pretty hard to do if you're shaping by hand... this also means that production should be smooth and the product will be correct every time they roll out off of the production line. (Noodles went and checked at the local stores) But if you don't like texture or a radii of a hold you can sand that area down, just be sure it's what you want as you can't put it back!

Over the last few months the boards have been used on a weekly basis by a lot of people and they're pretty well chalked up; they need a clean from time to time and depending upon the board you're going to end up brushing them for a fair while. The texture is still ok even then the holds are well chalked up but sometimes the slopes and edges need a brush as you'll start to slide off backwards if you swing a little when you're trying to do pull ups or hand your moves.

Resin, all the Metolius range is made from resin, except the Wood Training boards and their Wood Grips

Both of our boards came in one package and there was no damage whatsoever

The boards are well built and a good price, not too expensive... there's a reason why the Simulator is one of the best selling boards on the market, the Project board is going to be a close second in a market that is expanding month to month and year to year... next up? Well we don't know what's up next what are you guys training on?


ZJEich said...

The Moon finger board is a great one. The guy I climb with just got it. I have the old Simulator and after playing around with it I'm considering getting the Moon board. If you guys get a chance to review one that would be great to hear what you think.


Anonymous said...

simulator 3d holds