Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Hangboard of 2021

We tested climbing hangboards from Metolius, So iLL, Trango, and more to find the best products for your training needs
Our team of avid climbers spent months training on the boards we revie...
Photo: Matt Bento
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor
Thursday September 30, 2021
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For 9 years, we've bought and tested the market's best hangboards. This review covers 10 top options available in 2021, each of which was extensively hands-on tested by our team of climbers. These boards are a must-have addition to any dedicated climber's training program. Our passionate group of hard-climbing experts logged scores of workouts, thousands of individual hangs, and performed countless lock-offs on each board. We added weighted resistance to test each model's textures and recommend which are best for specific training regimes and ability levels. If you are looking to boost finger strength and start building tendons of steel, we'll help you find the ideal hangboard to reach your climbing goals.


1

Best Overall Hangboard


Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center


Material: Polyester resin | Dimensions: 12.1" x 9.1", 2 pieces
Diversity of edges and pockets
Best progression of holds for strength-training
Works well for a wide range of users
Facilitates good form and ergonomics
Most challenging model to mount
Takes up more space than others
Straight-across 1/4" edge is hard on fingertips

The Trango Rock Prodigy is designed by well-known climbing coaches Michael and Mark Anderson, authors of the famed book The Rock Climber's Training Manual. Their board offers various pockets and edges that are the most systematic in its progression of difficulty of any board we tested. Many of the edges are tapered, becoming progressively shallower as you move across and down the board. This design makes it easier to be more systematic in your fingerboard training (something that will help you get stronger more efficiently) and to focus on and see subtle improvements in strength. This board also offers among the largest selection of grips of any model in our review, including several holds designed to be used in multiple ways. Our testers also love its two-part design that allows you to mount the two halves the perfect distance apart to match your body size and shape. This facilitates better alignment, encourages better form, and leads to reduced stress on your shoulders and elbows. The Rock Prodigy is super versatile from a difficulty perspective. It works well for just about anyone, from people just getting into fingerboard training to those working on intensive 5.13 projects.

Unfortunately, the sheer size and two-part, spaced design of this model requires much effort to mount it to the wall. It's easily the most challenging board to mount and can take up a fair amount of real estate. The Rock Prodigy is also a more substantial investment than many of the other options we tested. Still, if you're stoked to get the best training tool out there, the Trango Rock Prodigy is our top recommendation, and we think the price is well worth the payout.

Read review: Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center

2

Best Wooden Hangboard


Metolius Wood Grips Deluxe II


Material: Wood | Dimensions: 24" x 8.5"
Great progression of holds for strength-training
Smooth finish is skin-friendly
Rounded pockets are easier on fingers
Wider design encourages good form and ergonomics
Works well for users up to 5.13a
Larger size reduces mounting options
Wish there was a slightly smaller edge
Not the best board if you are already sending 5.13

The Metolius Wood Grips Deluxe II is our favorite all-around wooden model. With an excellent progression of subtly narrower and more difficult edges plus a few slopers and some jugs to warm up on, this board is a fantastic addition to almost any climber's home training plan. All of our testers loved this model's progression of edges that decreases in well-thought-out increments from 31mm to 25mm to 19mm in the 4-finger, 3-finger, and 2-finger depths. We found the dimensions to be elbow and shoulder-friendly, as this board slightly wider than average. Its smooth finish and slightly rounded-off edges are easier on your skin than any polyester board we tested. The texture struck an excellent balance between being smooth without feeling slick and offered the conscious overall favorite texture among any board we tested (along with the other wooden boards from Metolius we trained on).

We think the Wood Grips Deluxe is perfect for folks who might redpoint from the mid 5.11 the harder 5.12 range and will even still work for 5.13a. If you are consistently sending harder, we'd likely recommend a more challenging board. This model's smallest edge is 19mm, which is pretty small. Still, we wish it were just a little narrower (closer to 13-15mm) to help this board work for a slightly broader range of users. This model's 8.5-inch height means it should fit above doorways in most standard height ceilings (7.5-8ft) but might not work in tighter spaces or cramped basements. Despite these minor drawbacks, the Metolius Wood Grips Deluxe II is a top-tier option with the review's best texture and an excellent progression of holds to help motivate toward and achieve climbing goals.

3

Best Bang for the Buck


Metolius 3D Simulator


Material: Polyester resin | Dimensions: 28" x 8.7"
Excellent value
Great selection of edges and pockets
Wider design reduces shoulder and elbow stress
Good progression of holds
So-so texture
Not for high-end climbers
Larger size means fewer mounting options

The Metolius 3D Simulator is mega-popular and with good reason. This model has been through several iterations and updates over the years, with each new version steadily improving on the last. The most recent Simulator makes enormous strides in overall ergonomics while offering a more well-thought-out progression of edges and grips. These are some of the reasons it remains a stand-out and versatile model, even with more and more competition coming onto the market every year. The 3D Simulator is easily the best hangboard for your money, although a better description might be an incredible board that happens to be exceptionally affordable. The Simulator offers a plethora of edges and pockets that provide one of the better progressions of grips from a difficulty perspective of any of the models we tested. It also offers one of the most ergonomic designs that encourages good form while reducing stress in your elbows and shoulders.

Though it may not be the best choice for top-end climbers, it's ideal for folks whose projects are in the 5.11-5.12+ range and below, which is most of the climbing community. It also isn't the most compact model but still offers an impressive amount of edges and pockets while striking a nice balance of being small enough to fit above most doorways with average height ceilings (8ft). Don't let its lower price tag fool you; this board has what most climbers need to make progress and push to the next climbing grade.

Read review: Metolius 3D Simulator

4

Best on a Tight Budget


Metolius Prime Rib


Material: Urethane | Dimensions: 20" x 4.2"
Great price, especially for a wooden board
Smooth texture is easy on the skin
Nicely shaped and rounded edges
Small dimensions fit nearly anywhere
Takes creativity to keep workouts interesting
Limited to two training" edges and one warm-up edge

If you are on a tight budget or have limited mounting options, then the Metolius Prime Rib is your new jam. At only 4.2-inches tall, this model can squeeze above basement doorways or other places that most other training boards wouldn't even be a consideration. The ultra-smooth texture on this board is also among our review team's favorites and easily proved among the easiest on our skin even after extended sessions. It fits most budgets and spaces but also provides a great workout, albeit requiring some creativity by the climber.

This model only has three edges, 15mm, 23mm, and 38mm, which basically equates to two training edges and one warm-up edge. You will have to get creative to keep your workouts interesting. After extensive use on this board across several of our testers, we think that if we were only going to have three edge depths to match the majority of climbers out there, these three would be it. While not the most inspiring model, the Prime Rib is unequivocally a solid board that will work for a wide range of climbers who might have limited mounting options or are on a tight budget.

Read review: Metolius Prime Rib

5

Best Slopers and Pinches


So iLL Iron Palm


Material: Urethane | Dimensions: 27" x 11.5"
Excellent for sloper training
Best pinches we tested
Wide dimensions are easier on shoulders
Takes up a lot of space
Fewer edges

Breaking away from what most fingerboards offer, the So iLL Iron Palm more than lives up to its name. Whereas most boards tend to focus exclusively on finger strength and crimpers, the Iron Palm instead offers additional slopers and pinches that are the best in the game. Its two huge balls at the top two corners are the first thing you'll notice on this model. These rounded features are flatter on top while gently becoming more sloping as they roll off to the sides. This allows you to easily adapt your workout to be more difficult as your grip strength improves. While we tend to think of fingerboard training taking place on flat-topped edges, our minds were opened by these softball-shaped holds. The Iron Palm also has the best pinches of any board we have ever seen. Its two sets of pinches can be used separately or mixed to create three different sizes to help you squeeze juice from the rock. The unique slopers and pinch grips on this board are great for fine-tuning these specific skills, keeping workouts interesting, and building whole-hand strength. While the pinches and slopers help this model stand out, we liked its four distinct edges, too.

The Iron Palm has no traditional pockets, but the benefit of its four long edges is that it can make 1, 2, or 3-finger groups feel more difficult since you can't "cheat" by using friction on the sides of a stand-alone pocket. The board also has a nice progression of edges, but we wish it had one edge that was slightly smaller to increase its difficulty. It also has limited mounting options due to its large size. However, if you have the space for it, the wider board encourages better form and is generally easier on your shoulders and elbows. Overall, this is a great choice for folks who are sick of the same old thing offered by most other hangboards. We also think it is a good specialty option for folks who find themselves bouldering on a lot of slopers (such as Fontainebleau) or whose projects might be on steep block sport climbs where the training on bad pinches in addition to crimps will produce tangible real-world gains.

Read review: So iLL Iron Palm

6

Highest Difficulty


Atomik Yaniro Power


Material: Polyester resin | Dimensions: 29" x 9"
Plethora of holds
Great progression of difficulty
Excellent design of holds
Great ergonomics
Best texture
Large size limits mounting options
A poor option for a beginner or even modestly strong climbers
No real pinches

For strong climbers looking to take their climbing to the next level, we highly recommend the fully-featured and burly Atomik Yaniro Powerboard. With its impressive number of challenging holds, no other model we tested can compare with it regarding pure difficulty. Furthermore, the attention to detail in each grip's shape and depth offers a seemingly perfect incremental ladder of difficulty. Despite being made of polyester resin, this model is extremely kind on the skin and has some of the best texture in our review, even when compared to some wood models.

Because it's a great choice for stronger climbers, conversely, it isn't the best for folks who aren't already climbing in the mid-5.12 range. It isn't that 5.10 climbers can't use this board, but folks already sending 5.11+ routes or harder will get far more out of it. As the largest model we tested, the wide design encourages good ergonomics, making it more shoulder and elbow-friendly than narrower models. Simultaneously, this means mounting options may be more limited, but we found it can still fit above most doorways with average height ceilings (7.5-8ft). Nonetheless, this is an incredible training board to push those climbing at high levels.

Read review: Atomik Yaniro Power

7

Strong Value on a Wooden Board


Metolius Wood Grips Compact II


Material: Wood | Dimensions: 24" x 6.2"
Great value
Compact dimensions
Classy look
Fewer edges and pockets
Not our favorite wood texture

The Metolius Wood Grips Compact II offers one of the best combinations of holds and textures relative to its dimensions and price. While it hardly has the expansive and diverse number of holds that many larger models offer, it does pack in an interesting number of well-thought-out grips. Its smaller dimensions help climbers with limited mounting options squeeze it into areas where larger boards would have no hope of fitting. If the most convenient place to mount this board happens to be in a prominent location in your home, you can take solace in the fact that it's far from an eyesore; we think most people can appreciate the aesthetic nature of this board. All of our testers also found this model to offer some of the better texture of our test fleet.

While small, we feel that the Compact II still offers enough hold options to be used for consistent, long-term training, but only barely. We certainly like the grips that this model offers, but its small size means it simply has fewer holds available. If you have space for a larger board and can afford to spend a bit more, we think you can get a complete training board in another model. Climbers in the middle to the stronger end of the spectrum might also wish that this model had a few slightly smaller edges (the smallest edge is 19mm), perfect for those sending in the 5.10-5.12+ range we might recommend a slightly different model. For anyone tight on space or money (or both) who just wants a satisfactory board, the Compact II is certainly worth considering with a solid selection of holds for its size, easy-to-mount dimensions, and some of the review's best texture.

Read review: Metolius Wood Grips Compact II

8

Great for Tight Spaces


Metolius Project


Material: Polyester resin | Dimensions: 24.5" x 6"
Low cost
Very compact
A good number of hold options for small size
Just enough holds to get a good work out in
The most commonly used edges are in board's center
Not the most diverse hold selection

The Metolius Project is currently one of the lowest-priced options available and offers reasonable performance for its cost. Though it's far from the best board we tested, for those considering getting a hangboard but might not be willing to spend a lot of money on a tool they are unsure they'll even use, its low expense makes it a good option. The Project is among the most compact models we tested and fits nearly anywhere that you could consider mounting a hangboard, including several places you couldn't squeeze the larger or even medium-sized more. Without a ton of holds, there is still a nice progression to help build strength.

Those compact dimensions do come at the cost of some functionality. Mainly, it has fewer holds. The other main disadvantage of the Project is that most of the holds climbers habitually use are in the board's center. This centered placement makes them less comfortable to use and harder on your shoulders. Even though they are mostly in the middle of the board, this model does have a reasonable selection of grips for its size. It's not the perfect training board, but it's one of our top recommendations in this price range.

Read review: Metolius Project

9

A Decent Wooden Board Modeled After a Classic


Yes4All Rock Climbing Hangboard


Material: Wood | Dimensions: 21.7" x 5.9"
Great price for wood
Small dimensions fit most spaces
Uneven and uncomfortable pockets and edges
Extreme jump from warm-up to training pockets

The Yes4All Rock Climbing Hangboard boasts a great price tag on a board that shares some similarities in design to the classic Beastmaker 1000. It should be noted that while this model closely mirrors the Beastmaker 1000, it certainly isn't identical. The positioning of its edges is similar, but the depths are far less diverse. Its finish isn't near as smooth, nor are any of its edges rounded off. This board does have a few good warm-up edges and some truly challenging ones. There aren't many options at a comparable price that offer the same number of grip options as this one, especially in a wooden model.

While this board is wooden, the finish is downright irregular and bumpy. The entrances to its pockets are also quite sharp and much harder on our skin than other models. It also doesn't offer a good progression of holds compared to most of the other models we tested. It basically offers the jugs, slopers, and for what most people will be a warm-up edge, and then two very similar depths (10mm and 12.5mm), which is too small for all but the most elite climbers to use anything but the four-finger edges. The price is nice, though, and some sandpaper and elbow grease can at least improve the texture and sharp edges to some extent.

10

Decent Value and Performance


Get Out! Doorway


Material: Polyester resin | Dimensions: 19" x 8"
Lower price than most
Compact
Only requires 5-screws
Ergonomics
Lacks a solid progression

For those who might be unsure if they want to commit to hangboard training or throwing down on a more expensive option, the Get Out! Doorway is one of the lowest-priced hangboards available. Manufactured of a near-identical appearing material as Metolius's line of polyester resin boards, the Get Out is geared towards 5.10 and 5.11 climbers, so pretty perfect for those just getting into fingerboard training. We found its texture to be very similar to Metolius, and its smaller-than-average size makes it easy to find a place to mount.

The relatively low number of holds and their respective depths is this model's primary downside. Most climbers who buy this board will spend a lot of time using the 4-finger edges, and with this board, two of its three 4-finger holds offer the same depth; one is just at a diagonal. Additionally, there is only a single option for both a 2 and 3-finger pocket. They are designed to be nice depths for 5.10-5.11 climbers, but overall we didn't think this model offered as good a progression of difficulty as most other models, even more-priced focused ones. Folks who are or want to get serious about their training would be better off with a board that offers a better progression of holds from a difficulty perspective. However, we think this board is an okay option for those looking to get into hangboard training, just are planning to use it on occasion when they can't get out or to the gym, or as a warm-up board for a steep home wall.

Read review: Get Out! Doorway

Each member of our review team thoroughly tested each model and...
Each member of our review team thoroughly tested each model and compared them in five categories. We mounted each one to our walls, measured the size and the depth of each pocket, and spent hundreds of hours hanging off all of them for our review.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Why You Should Trust Us


All of these boards were tested by a motivated crew of strong climbers who are into training, to say the least. While this is unquestionably a group effort, longtime GearLab Editor and UIAGM/IFMGA guide Ian Nicholson leads the charge. Ian is an exceptionally avid climber who is passionate about training and incremental improvement. He has been climbing for over 20 years and working as an IFMGA/UIAGM guide for 15. He loves every facet of climbing, from bouldering and hard sport-climbing to El-Cap-in-a-day pushes and remote alpine first ascents. Basing in the damp and rainy Pacific Northwest, he is hardly blessed with being able to climb outside for the majority of the late fall, winter, and early spring. Instead, he turns to the climbing gym and his collection of hangboards to stay strong. Ian's passion for detail and thorough enjoyment of the training-for-climbing process helps him convey each board's pros and cons and analyze their benefits for certain types of users, from budding climbers to hard-sending veterans.

We hung up boards inside and outside our houses to assess everything...
We hung up boards inside and outside our houses to assess everything from training utility to ease of mounting.
Photo: Matt Bento

With the help of some friends, our testing team performed at least eight extended workouts on each board during our testing cycle. We pinched, crimped, and hung open-handed on each board. We wore a weight vest to increase power but also to truly decipher differences in texture and friction. After all of our extensive testing, we learned insight as to which models were better at certain training aspects or excelled at different types of training regimes or user abilities. Guided by the results of our unbiased testing procedures, we hope to give you the straight-up best advice possible on the best hangboards currently on the market.

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Click to enlarge
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How to Choose the Right Hangboard for You


Hangboards (AKA fingerboards or training boards) have long been part of climbing training regimes and with good reason. It's hard to find a better way to target pure finger strength than with a hangboard. If you have never used one, with a good training plan, it is hard not to be amazed at the impressive gains that can be had after just a few weeks. That may sound like an infomercial, but we're here to tell you about hangboards, and it's true in our experience. For not a ton of money, you can get an incredible amount of climbing-specific finger strength in a relatively short amount of time. For the price of one month's premium gym membership, you can train two to four days a week in your spare time for years.

Will it help you?

Jonathan Siegrist: "In the business of grabbing rock, our fingers can never be too strong."

Tony Yaniro: "If you can't hold the holds, then there's nothing to endure."

No climber ever complained that their fingers were too strong for a given route, and to the great Tony Yaniro's point, if you can't hold the holds to begin with, then endurance doesn't even play a factor. Plus, the "easier" the holds feel, the longer you can hang on. These dedicated training boards are the ticket to boosting finger strength tremendously, and in reality, hangboard workouts don't even take that much time to perform.

A lot of people climb easy routes at the gym over and over as a large focus of their climbing. While this is no doubt fun and great for the ego, in reality, climbing is a power-based sport, and climbing one route that you barely make it to the top of (or don't make it to the top of) does far more for you than climbing a route that is super easy for you 5-10 times. This couldn't be exemplified more than Yuji Hirayama, who trained for his Nose speed record attempt by climbing an approximately fifteen-move V14 boulder problem on repeat. Seem crazy? There are countless examples of this, and hangboarding is the epitome of this power-improving focus. It has the potential to help many aspects of your climbing, from pushing harder grades to giving you more confidence while you fiddle in gear or for that long, all-day route with a cruxy last pitch.

Related: Best Rock Climbing Ropes of 2021

We think this board provides unmatched value. The 3D Simulator is...
We think this board provides unmatched value. The 3D Simulator is loaded with holds, sports a shoulder friendly design, and is up to the training task for the vast majority of climbers.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Cater Your Board to Your Needs and Ability


The ideal hangboard for your ability should have several holds you can barely grip, and better yet, if there are some you can't yet manage to hang onto. Despite how many folks you might see cranking off pull-ups off a fingerboard, this is hardly its primary purpose. If you can hold onto the holds forever (or even like 20-30 seconds), you're not building much power, if any. You're just really inefficiently building endurance, and you should be hanging off smaller edges even if it's hard on your ego (because it's good for your finger strength).

We like the Trango Rock Prodigy for its variety of holds of...
We like the Trango Rock Prodigy for its variety of holds of different difficulties, providing great warm-up options as well as very challenging edges, and plenty of hold in between.
Photo: Matt Bento

Hangboards are built for enhancing finger power and maximizing crimping and grip strength. Pick a board with at least a few holds you fall off of after 7-10 seconds and others that you'll struggle on after 3-5 sets of 7-10 seconds. Finally, there should also be a few holds you can't yet hang at all from without a foot dab (bouldering term there). A few jugs and slopers are nice to warm up on and for use toward the end of your workout when your open-handed crimp strength is fried. However, you'll be best served if the rest is all business. Put your ego aside, crimp until you fail, and fail quickly, then take solace in the fact that you're getting stronger, even if you can only hang on for a few seconds.

Contrary to what is sometimes popular believed, fingerboards are not...
Contrary to what is sometimes popular believed, fingerboards are not primarily for pull-ups. They are for building finger strength which requires a good progression of holds that are challenging for their user.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Material


There are three materials commonly used: wood, polyurethane, and polyester resin, each with subtle advantages and disadvantages. For perspective, polyurethane and polyester resin are what nearly all climbing holds are made from, and the two share many characteristics.

While wooden boards tend to be more limited in their hold selection...
While wooden boards tend to be more limited in their hold selection, their flat edges and pockets provide plenty to work with. They offer other advantages like a more skin-friendly texture and an aesthetic appeal.
Photo: Graham McDowell

Wood

Wood's primary advantages are its low friction and smooth texture, which generally makes it far easier on your skin than most resin polyurethane or polyurethane models. The low friction aspect of it also makes holding on subtly harder, which is a small bonus while training. When using wooden boards, try not to use too much chalk. A little chalk is fine, but over time, excessive chalk use covers the wood's pores, creating an undesired gummy and slick feeling. Be sure to wipe it down occasionally with a warm, wet rag and allow it to dry completely.

Rebecca Schroeder crimps on the Metolius Prime Rib. The texture of...
Rebecca Schroeder crimps on the Metolius Prime Rib. The texture of this model, and all other wooden boards from Metolius, is our favorite, balancing a smooth feel without becoming too slick.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

The disadvantage of wood is that its shapes tend to be a little more limited, and they generally don't have the variety of holds compared to resin boards. For example, wood boards rarely have pinches or anything other than a linear ramp for a sloper. Wood is lower weight than resin, and while this makes mounting easier, once your board is up, this doesn't really matter.

As one of the best-priced wood boards, the value of the Metolius...
As one of the best-priced wood boards, the value of the Metolius Wood Grips Compact is not to be underestimated.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Wood is also a good choice for climbers who have to mount their board in a common area for no other reason than it looks nicer hanging on your wall. Lastly, in warm climates or hot attics, wood will hang onto heat a lot longer than resin resulting in potentially poorer friction or a warmer feeling workout.

We found a bigger difference between models and brands when it came...
We found a bigger difference between models and brands when it came to the shape of their wooden models. The Wood Grips Deluxe has skin-friendly, rounded edges.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Polyester Resin

Polyester resin is the material that many climbing holds are made of. However, in recent years, this material has slowly been replaced with polyurethane, which is lighter and slightly more resistant to cracking if a route setter happens to over-tighten them. Polyester resin's primary advantage is that it can be formed in almost any shape imaginable, and most resin boards have more diverse and interesting hold options than their wooden counterparts. Resin boards tend to feature more interesting slopers and cool arrays of pinches and rounded edges. Unlike with wood, you can use as much chalk as you'd like on resin, though it's still not a bad idea to clean it now and again.

While wood still garners the favor of many climbers, polyester resin...
While wood still garners the favor of many climbers, polyester resin and polyurethane continue to get better and better. A handful of models, like the Atomik Yaniro Power, offer a similar smooth finish, plus the advantages of cooling quicker and being easier to clean.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

The primary downside of resin is that the texture tends to be harder on people's skin. How much harder depends a lot on the manufacturer and the finish they use. Additionally, it is worth noting that it is rare that two models have exactly equal texture even when directly comparing two models under the same brand. Resin has the advantage that it will never splinter, but it can chip. Resin won't conduct heat as much as wood and thus won't feel as warm to the touch after extended sessions or workouts in hotter spaces.

The fact that polyester resin boards are heavier isn't a big deal...
The fact that polyester resin boards are heavier isn't a big deal except during the moment when you are mounting it overhead. The difference in texture has also decreased, and while wood is still superior, it isn't near as big of a gap as it was five or six years ago.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Polyurethane

Times are changing, and now more and more climbing holds are being made out of polyurethane than polyester resin because it's lower weight and less likely to chip while mounting, storing, etc. Polyurethane shares most of the same user interface characteristics with resin, providing unique shapes and a more diverse array of holds than wood. Like polyester resin, polyurethane is also harsher on your skin than wood. Technology is improving, though, and manufacturers are trying harder to produce polyurethane models with a smoother texture, with some models now being very similar or equal to wood.

The Iron Palm is made of urethane, which is quite strong and can...
The Iron Palm is made of urethane, which is quite strong and can make versatile shapes. Here you see the hollow backside of this model, which helps make it lighter overall.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Polyurethane breaks down quicker than resin when exposed to weather and is thus a poor choice for a board that will be mounted outside. Polyurethane also polishes slightly quicker after repeated use compared to polyester resin, which is an interesting note because it is otherwise more durable when it comes to resisting chipping or cracking. While Polyurethane does polish faster, few people will use their hangboard so much that they will wear it out in a non-commercial setting. We think this is true even if you share your home board with five or more roommates, with the main "wearing out" quickly issue more of a problem for climbing gyms. Polyurethane is the material primarily used by hangboards produced by So iLL, Trango, and the Detroit Rock Company (DRC). Metolius and Atomik recently released a line of climbing holds made of polyurethane, but as of now, their fingerboards are still resin.

You don't need a ton of holds to be able to train effectively but...
You don't need a ton of holds to be able to train effectively but you do need a nice progression of difficulty relative to your strength and more holds make it easier to hit that sweet spot and simply make training can more fun.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Variety of Holds


More holds don't necessarily make a given model better than another, but a good selection of ideally progressively more difficult holds is obviously important. What you should seek out is a nice progression of subtly more difficult edges and pockets of which at least some are currently too hard for you to hang onto.

It can be inspiring to have specific pockets, pinches, or other...
It can be inspiring to have specific pockets, pinches, or other interesting grips. Still, 3-4 flat-topped edges of progressively smaller depths is sufficient for most workouts and often costs much less.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Ideally, there are two to three hold options of incrementally smaller depths across the board. In general, our testers like pockets and edges that decreased by around 1/4 inch/6-10 mm, especially once they are smaller than approximately 1 inch/25 mm. While it's nice to have all sorts of pockets to inspire you, it's always worth remembering that it is okay to put 3-fingers in a 4-finger pocket.

A variety of holds helps to keep training a little more diverse and...
A variety of holds helps to keep training a little more diverse and interesting. The Trango Rock Prodigy has one of the largest arrays of holds on the market, several of which offer numerous uses for each edge.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Nearly all of our testers appreciated having at least one set of jugs and one or two sets of slopers to use for warming up. We think pinches are nice, and they can be useful for route-specific training, whole-hand power, or as a way to mix it up, but flatter edges are far more important because crimp strength will improve your pinch strength. While other hold shapes can be fun and may offer unique benefits, the bulk of grips should focus on shallow, fairly flat-topped edges and pockets.

More grip options are generally better, but a good progression of...
More grip options are generally better, but a good progression of holds regarding their depth and difficulty is the most important thing. Holds should get progressively smaller without large leaps in difficulty.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Edges and Crimps

Edges and crimps are the bread and butter of fingerboard training and what most climbers should focus their decisions around when purchasing a board and spend most of their time hanging from while training. Don't be afraid of the smallest-looking edges. The depth might seem impossibly difficult at first, but give yourself a month, and you'll be surprised by what you can hang onto. It's pretty awesome.

A good range of edges is an important factor when considering your...
A good range of edges is an important factor when considering your purchase. You can use 1-3 fingers on a broad edge to simulate a pocket, too. We like at least 3 different edge depths ranging from 1/4" or 1/2" to 1" in depth.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Our review team overwhelmingly prefers at least three non-incut/positive edges (we prefer flat edges) with widths around 1-inch/25mm, 3/4-inch/20mm, and 1/2-inch/12mm. We also like when edges are slightly rounded at the entrance because it is generally a less harsh feeling on your finger pads. This design also encourages a more open-handed crimp, which is better for training overall and is less prone to cause an injury than a curled-over crimp.

While you can easily put 3 fingers on a four-finger edge and there...
While you can easily put 3 fingers on a four-finger edge and there are advantages of this, having true pockets that are shaped appropriately can help reduce the chance of injury and straight-up inspire you to try the harder holds on your board.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Pockets

Pockets are great because they force you (or provide the opportunity) to isolate one, two, or three fingers on your board. This is an excellent training technique because it significantly increases the stress (typically your bodyweight) across fewer fingers, resulting in more efficient power gains.

While you can perform any hang on a wider edge than you can on a...
While you can perform any hang on a wider edge than you can on a dedicated pocket, a well-designed pocket can provide more support for the digit you are hanging off of. Using less than 4-fingers is another easy way to increase the load your fingers are taking to increase strength, though this needs to be worked up to.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Like edges, having a solid progression of pocket pairings is more important than some flashy pinches or jugs, as they will facilitate a better workout in general. Some climbers believe it's better to perform isolated finger workouts on longer, broader edges rather than in specifically sized pockets (like the So iLL Iron Palm or the Metolius Prime Rib). Inevitably, your fingers come into contact with the sides of the pocket and give you more surface area contact and friction, thus slightly increasing holding power and making the holds easier.

We love having a progression of edges where each edge is roughly...
We love having a progression of edges where each edge is roughly 5-10mm smaller than the last. Such as is the case with the Metolius Wood Grips Deluxe II.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

They would argue that, while subtle, this is somewhat "cheating you" of your power workout. We'll let you be the judge there. We are fine with both but slightly prefer having individual pockets to train as they tend to help inspire progression and motivation.

The Yes4All board had two full sets of very similar pockets at 10mm...
The Yes4All board had two full sets of very similar pockets at 10mm and 12mm deep. Most of our testers agree that more depth variation would offer a better progression of difficulty and make tracking strength gains easier.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Slopers

Slopers are great for helping you warm up, finishing your workout when your fingertips are trashed, and working on whole-hand strength, but you shouldn't put too much focus on them as this is only a small part of your workout. It's also worth remembering that most of the slopers featured on models we tested don't feel too crushing on their own. However, 20 minutes into a fingerboard workout and those same slopers can cause annihilating forearm fatigue. We like at least one set of slopers, but two is nice if only to mix it up.

A straight-on view of this uniquely designed board. The huge slopers...
A straight-on view of this uniquely designed board. The huge slopers on the Iron Palm provide a nice diversity of holds to utilize throughout a workout.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Jugs

All but one of the boards we reviewed features at least one pair of jugs. While they don't do a ton for making your fingers stronger, they are key for warming up, working on lock-offs (don't underestimate the benefits of these), or just cranking out pull-ups, weighted, assisted, or straight-up. We don't feel that any board needs more than one set of jugs, and they should be big enough that you could hang on them for more than a minute to work on the exercises mentioned above as to build arm, back, and core strength while not straining your fingers or tendons.

While atypical in shape, these jugs are still great for warming up...
While atypical in shape, these jugs are still great for warming up or weighted pull-ups.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Pinches

While pinches aren't a 100% necessary design feature, nor are they generally a large part of anyone's training regimen, they do add some variety and can be great for some route-specific training. This is especially true for people who frequent roofy crags or projects that are steep and blocky. We do think most of the models we tested offer mediocre pinches. They are often a normal hold that you can engage your thumb. While this is nice, we encourage people to look for a board with dedicated pinches rather than trying to make a pinch out of an existing hold as, generally speaking, it just makes the hold easier. For those looking for a pinch-specific board, it is pretty tough to beat the So iLL Iron Palm.

Pinches, like slopers, help increase whole-hand strength but are of...
Pinches, like slopers, help increase whole-hand strength but are of even greater benefit to climbers who log a lot of time in steeper terrain.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Level of Difficulty


Many climbers don't understand that there is a pretty broad range in difficulty between different models. For example, an intermediate climber won't get nearly as much out of a burly board, like the Atomik Yaniro Power Board, as something like the Metolius 3D Simulator, which is a more intermediate board. In our review, we tried to pick models that would work for the biggest population of climbers interested in a dedicated training board, around 5.10 to mid-5.13. Some products we tested would be best for climbers above or below that difficulty range, but that range still guided the selection process for our review.

Nailing the appropriate level of difficulty in your training board...
Nailing the appropriate level of difficulty in your training board to push you to grow and gain strength without being too hard is crucial to maximizing the effectiveness of your purchase.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

For the most part, when considering different models, the difficulty range starts pretty high, and there are no truly "easy" boards. At the easiest, they are aimed at hard 5.10+ climbers to low 5.11 climbers and go up from there. If you aren't quite climbing 5.10+ in the gym, fear not, you'll certainly get there, but a hangboard might not be the best tool for you to get stronger YET. At this stage in your climbing, you'll get more benefits from just continuing to climb rather than adding fingerboard work to your training.

Picking a board that is geared towards your current ability levels...
Picking a board that is geared towards your current ability levels can help you maximize how much training you get out of your board. A good start can be looking for a board that you can already hang onto around 1/3-1/2 of the boards holds with two hands.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

If you're not climbing at least 5.10 on top-rope in the gym, there is also a risk that you could injure yourself on any training board because your fingers and tendons aren't quite strong enough for the intense pressure they'll see while training on one.

What space you have in your apartment, house, or dwelling to mount...
What space you have in your apartment, house, or dwelling to mount your hangboard could be the number one factor influencing your purchase. Here the Metolius Wood Grips Compact II barely fits above a standard height doorway with a 7-foot ceiling.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

We think it's best to look for a board where you can only hang onto 35-50% of the holds with two hands. It is okay if you can hang onto 75% or more of the holds, but that means you are someone who should consider using a weight vest and or do more one-armed hangs. Don't buy a model where you can't already hang onto at least 1/3 of the holds using two hands. If you can't do this, it means the board is too difficult for you, and it likely won't offer as many options to help you progress.

Wide boards like the Atomik Yaniro more often offer more holds and...
Wide boards like the Atomik Yaniro more often offer more holds and generally encourage better ergonomics but can offer fewer options to mount. For example, this board BARELY fits above normal sized doorways in homes with 8ft ceilings.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Mounting Considerations


Hangboards vary wildly in size, dimensions, and mounting patterns. Having a bigger board typically means a greater array of holds, which is nice, but fear not, it is not a requirement. A compact board can still be very beneficial with an open mind and the drive to suffer on it if that is all you have room for.

A bigger board typically means more holds, but don't underestimate...
A bigger board typically means more holds, but don't underestimate how effective a compact board can still be if your space is limited.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

For most climbers, mounting boards to anything that is not open framing (just framing, no drywall, which is obviously easier) means at least considering mounting the board to a pre-cut 3/4"-1" thick piece of plywood first. Then drilling that into the wall to make sure you are drilling into studs to get the strength necessary, so you don't pull the board right out of the drywall. For a few more dollars, you can make it less of an eyesore with plywood that has one side finished (or you can finish it yourself). A handful of manufacturers, like Metolius, sell pre-finished plywood boards that are appropriately sized appropriately and look excellent in a communal area.

The Prime Rib's 4.2" height is the shortest in our review, making it...
The Prime Rib's 4.2" height is the shortest in our review, making it a great option for anyone limited on space.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

If you have limited space, then no model offers as much training prowess for its given dimensions as the Metolius Prime Rib. At less than 5-inches tall, it will fit above doorwards where few if any other models have a chance of fitting.

The Iron Palm is one of the larger hangboards we tested. This is...
The Iron Palm is one of the larger hangboards we tested. This is mostly due to its width, which is actually a good thing as it encourages better form, making it easier on your shoulders. However, this board is tough to mount in smaller spaces or under shorter ceilings.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Hole-Free Mounting

It's possible to "mount" a hangboard on a pull-up bar if you're a renter or simply don't want to drill holes in your wall. Our favorite option for this comes from Blank Slate Climbing, which offers expensive but super-effective systems.

We've seen enough variations of mounts to be confident that where...
We've seen enough variations of mounts to be confident that where there's a will, there's a way to mount a training board. DIY-folks will especially love the challenge.
Photo: Matt Bento

Training


Fingerboards are awesome training tools that take very little time to get an extremely productive workout right without even having to leave your home. These workouts are short but should be intense. Fingerboard workouts are pretty much like running wind-sprints or powerlifting for your fingers. Many incredibly strong and famous climbers like Adam Ondra, Tommy Caldwell, Alex Puccio, Jonathan Siegrist, Alex Honnold, Margo Hayes, Sonnie Trotter, and Daniel Woods use and have used hangboards extensively at different points during their training cycle.

Hangboard training is an easy way to finger power with just a little...
Hangboard training is an easy way to finger power with just a little bit of time every week but it is easy to overdo so be careful. Here Graham McDowell goes full beast mode.
Photo: Vanessa McDowell

Sonnie Trotter, over a winter working a full-time construction job, once trained almost exclusively on hangboards, rarely visiting a climbing gym while preparing for his ascent of Necessary Evil (5.14c) in the Virgin River Gorge. He claims there was no doubt in his mind that this is what helped propel him to the next level.

There is a reason so many pro and top-notch climbers use these...
There is a reason so many pro and top-notch climbers use these boards for targetted finger-strength training. The key is picking a board with enough bad holds that you can barely hang onto and some grips that you can't at all.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

The key to this type of training is to hang off of BAD holds and those that are extremely challenging for you (once warmed up, of course). Every rep doesn't have to be super severe, but it should rarely be easy, and most of the time, it should be a battle to hang on. This is the key to effectively building power. After you are thoroughly warmed up (minimum of 10-15 minutes), you should be training on grips that you will hold onto for less than 10 seconds, and some training resources suggest even less than 7. You don't need to fail in those early sets of 7-10 seconds, but it should be a slight battle for you to stay on. Later in your workout, there should be reps where you are fighting 100% for those seven seconds, which will feel like an eternity, and you are dabbing (putting your foot down) and or at times, only able to hang on for 2-4 seconds.

There are many training programs, books, and inexpensive apps to...
There are many training programs, books, and inexpensive apps to help you focus your time and effort to improve finger strength. Here Graham Zimmerman uses a structured and systematic training regimen that has helped him open difficult new routes across the globe and get nominated for his second the Piolet d'Or.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Most training regimes involve 5-8 hangs for 7-10 seconds and then a 3-4 minute rests, equaling one set. Your goal is to perform 5-8 total sets, ideally really struggling or failing towards the end of those sets. It's okay to spot yourself by putting your foot down or by grabbing a bigger hold with one hand. If it's too easy, try hanging with just one hand for a power boost, or by hanging a weight off your harness or wearing a 15-lb backpack. There are plenty of great videos of suggested workout regimens available for free online.

One common method of training is finger grouping. Training while...
One common method of training is finger grouping. Training while hanging from two fingers, index and middle, middle and ring, and ring and pinky. If your finger grips seem too difficult, consider two sets of three fingers.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

It's important to note that this type of training will greatly increase your finger power and, to a lesser extent, your contact strength (ability to latch onto a hold dynamically), both of which will enable you to hang onto progressively smaller holds. While finger increased finger strength will undoubtedly help any climber, for most people, these workouts should just be part of their training regimen that also involves the continued development of technique and skill via climbing of some form.

Adding Resistance


Adding resistance, similar to power-weightlifting, will boost your top-end finger and crimp strength. However, like any ultra-strenuous exercise, you need to be extra careful not to injure yourself. After effectively being able to hang off of all, or nearly all of the holds on your board, add a little weight (10-20 lbs.) and start with some of your board's larger grips before progressively working down in the hold size again.

Here Billy Gierach brings the ruckus with a one armed hang and...
Here Billy Gierach brings the ruckus with a one armed hang and 35-lbs weight.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Consider doing more one-armed hangs as you continue to progress, or one arm with a little assistance with your second hand lightly hanging onto a nearby sling or large hold. All of these methods will continue to build finger strength quickly. It's a good idea to do some weighted sessions with two hands before committing to one-armed hangs on smaller holds because it will surprise you how much more difficult this is.

Read up on Training


Read up before diving headfirst into your first session. Nearly all Training For Climbing type books include a comprehensive fingerboard section. Some of our review team's favorites include The Rock Climber's Training Manual: A Comprehensive Program for Continuous Climbing Improvement by Mike Anderson and Mark Anderson, Training for Climbing by Eric Horst, and The Self Coached Climber by Dan Hague and Douglas Hunter. While those are some of our favorites, there are unquestionable other useful resources out there.

A selection of training books from our review team's library...
A selection of training books from our review team's library. Options abound, but few are as in-depth as the Rock Climbers Training Manual by Mark and Mike Anderson.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Conclusion


Training on a hangboard is an excellent way to increase finger strength and improve your climbing, regardless of the style of climbing you prefer. They are an affordable training tool that should last for years and hopefully offer some inspiration to train when you might have less than half an hour to spare. This is a review we are quite passionate about; we love climbing, training for climbing, and seeing people get better. We honestly hope that this review can help you decide between the different materials, types of holds, and difficulty levels to ultimately select the most appropriate product for you.

Ian Nicholson

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