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We get a lot of comments from folks that they would love to use the Rock Prodigy training method, but they can’t because they don’t have access to the right tools; primarily a hangboard and campus board. They may live in a small apartment, a dorm room, etc where they don’t think they have the space, or authority to put up these essential apparatus. Unfortunately, it’s easy to take a circumstance like this and magnify it into an excuse to delay training. Delaying training is delaying your life! It’s putting off being the best climber you can be; which means putting off getting the maximum satisfaction out of your passion. Don’t do that! Live your life, carpe diem, be all you can be, etc, etc.
Compromising your life’s satisfaction based on a perception of your boarding constraints is absurd. It’s possible to setup a hangboard almost anywhere with creativity, resourcefulness, and most importantly; DESIRE! Make a commitment to maximize your climbing experience by training properly for it; that’s the first step. The next step is to get the right training equipment. No matter where you live it is possible; here’s how….
When I first started hangboard training, I lived in Sijan Hall at the US Air Force Academy. Short of a prison cell, I defy you to find a more restrictive living situation! We had daily room inspections, and physical alteration of the rooms was out of the question. Nevertheless, it was possible to (temporarily) mount a hangboard, and that’s where I started to develop the Rock Prodigy method. This is one of the key advantages of the Rock Prodigy method; that you can develop amazing fitness with very little equipment, or access to a climbing gym. I’m a case in point. I live in Florida, the nearest decent climbing gym a five-hour drive away, and I’m able to train effectively with just a hangboard, campus board, and a Tread Wall (a small woody would serve the same function).
After experimenting with many different configurations over the years, we’ve found the best method for mounting a hangboard is that shown in the adjacent photo, because it can be installed in any room with a corner (most rooms). It doesn’t require tall ceilings or special geometry, and it permits maximum clearance around/behind the board, and plenty of room to mount multiple training tools (the mount pictured has a pull-up bar mounted on the back side of it, but it could house additional hangboards). You will need to be able to drill holes in the wall, which could be a show stopper in some scenarios. To mount a hangboard with this method, you’ll need to locate studs approximately 2-4 feet from the corner of the wall, then attach two base mounting boards that the main beam will be strung between. Studs are typically located on 16-inch centers, meaning the distance from the center of each stud to the next is 16 inches. That means, that if you measure from the corner of the room, it’s a good bet there are studs located in multiples of 16 inches from the corner. In this example, studs are located 48 and 64 inches from the corner of the room.
The base boards are 24 inch long 2x10s. I cut them at an angle to make it look nicer and reduce the chances of head+corner accidents. Mount these base boards with four “Lag Screws” (beefy wood screws, at least 5/16” diameter), two for each stud. You’ll need to pre-drill the holes. Put some thought into the height of these boards above the floor, because this will determine your hangboard height. I like to have the bottom of my hangboard 83” above the floor. At 5’ 8” tall with a +3 ape index, this height allows me to reach the lowest holds while comfortably standing flat on the floor, and I can reach the highest holds if I stand on my toes and/or a platform (described later). Therefore, I’ve mounted these 81” above the floor, and the hangboard will be mounted 2” from the edge of the 2×10. YMMV.
Once the base boards are up, you can mount the main beam that the hangboards will go on. The main beam in this example is about 72” long. You may have to dust off your high school geometry, but you can easily calculate how long it should be using Pythagorean’s theorem (a^2 + b^2 = c^2). Ideally it would be mounted in the center of each of the two base boards, evenly distributing the weight between studs, and allowing plenty of space to mount your joist hangers (described below).
Before hanging it up, it’s a good idea to plan out where your hangboard(s) will go, and completely mount it (mark the holes, drill them out, bolt down the board). Then UN-MOUNT it before hanging it up (to reduce weight and generally make it easier). Once the beam is mounted, it will be much easier to re-attach the hangboard with pre-drilled and tapped holes. I’ve mounted the beam with some 45-degree framing brackets like these, available at any hardware store.
These have been adequate, but not ideal because they only support the beam on the front, and the board can rotate slightly under a heavy load. Better yet are these angled “Joist Hangers” which support the beam from both sides and provide a much more secure connection. Just make sure you have enough space on each side of the base boards to mount these. They come in sizes suitable for 2×6’s or 2×10’s.
These brackets are intended to be mounted with nails, but nails are hard to disassemble, so I recommend using wood screws instead, just make sure you use wood screws that will mount flush with the joist hanger (aka pan-head or wafer-head), not the typical fillister heads (angled).
Most hardware stores have screws made specifically for mounting joist hangers; you can find them stocked near the joist hangers. It’s best if you can make a 45-degree angle cut on your 2×10 so it mounts flush with the base boards. If you go to a Lowes or Home Depot, they can often make these cuts for you on a big table saw that will do a nice job. This also makes it easier to fit these pieces in your car.
Once your framing is done and your boards are mounted, you can easily add eyebolts for pulleys (as shown ) and any other amenities you like. I have hooks and holsters for chalkbags, stop watches, and tooth brushes, and I like to hang up motivating photos and messages as well.
The “next-best” hangboard setup is to mount your board(s) over a doorway. A doorwary mount is easier to install, uses less space, and is much more discrete (handy if you’re flying under the radar of a landlord). The disadvantages are that they may afford less clearance between you, your weights and the doorframe when you’re hanging, they can get in the way of everyday things (like doorways), it’s harder to mount multiple boards, and they give you less control over the mounting height of the hangboard. A closet doorway is ideal to use for a doorway mount because it’s generally wider, it won’t impede traffic flow of other residents, and it allows you to train in a closed room so your kids don’t get brainwashed by your gangsta rap and/or death metal.
A doorway mount job is much easier than the corner mount. Simply locate the studs, mount a base board flat against the wall with lag screws and mount your hangboard to the base board. Try to mount the eyebolts for the pulleys so that there is enough clearance for the pulleys to hang freely without rubbing against the doorway molding. If using an entryway, it may be impossible to prevent the weights from contact the door frame…nothing’s perfect.
If your accommodations don’t permit you to drill holes for a permanent installation, there are other ways to mount a hangboard, but you’ll need to get creative and resourceful. I’ll show some examples that will hopefully inspire you.
This very simple setup was used by my wife Janelle when she was deployed to a remote location in the Indian Ocean in 2003. It’s just a 2×10 bolted to a 2×6 to create an “L” shape that is draped over a 2×4 she had in her dorm room. It’s not ideal, but it got the job done for the 3 months she was there:
The downside of this installation is that it only works if you have an exposed beam to drape the structure over.
When I was recently deployed to Afghanistan, I had a similar problem. My “dorm room” was a 7’x20’ Conex shipping container that I shared with a roommate. Drilling holes was out of the question, but I did have a bunk bed and wardrobe closet I could utilize.
I used a 2×6 (on the right) as the main support for the right end of the beam. It reaches to the floor, and I lashed it to my bunk bed to give it support. The left end of the beam is supported by a shorter 2×6 sandwich resting on my closet. I added a “kick plate” near the floor, which is a board with screw-on footholds that allowed me to mock-climb from the hangboard. Believe it or not, I did 30-minute ARC training workouts on this setup! It turns out boredom can be very motivating (a laptop full of movies didn’t hurt either). Note the accoutrements: Portable fan, chalk bag, pulleys to remove weight, toothbrush, stopwatch, and motivational photos.
The final touch to any hangboard setup is a portable platform, shown here. This allows you to adjust your height to make it easier to reach the various hangboard grips. This platform is simply 2x4s nailed together. Configured as it is in the photo, it gives me a 3” boost. If I flip it over, it’s only a 1.5” boost.
If your current living situation limits your options for home improvements, don’t despair; there are ways to get your training fix without crossing your landloard/warden.
You’ll need to get creative and handy, but you can do it. For more inspiration, check out this Mountain Project thread that has numerous examples of other low-impact hangboard mounts, including free-standing designs that anyone can use.
I love this ingenious Attic Mount also from Mountain Project.
Portable Hangboard Mount
When Mark was in the Air Force, his job required many 2-3 week work trips to destinations with no access to rock or climbing gyms. He built this portable hangboard mount that could be checked in his luggage and easily assembled on sight with only a single wrench, and then suspended from any standard door (such as the door in his hotel room).
This setup is actually very similar to what I first used in my dorm room at the Air Force Academy XX years ago, with a backpack full of textbooks used to adjust the load. This contraption will hold body weight but not much more, so its best to use this with a hangboard that has tiny grips, and then use elastic bands to remove weight. This design is marginal at best, but hopefully it will inspire an improved concept in the future. For this portable scenario, it may be best not to use an entire hangboard at all, but rather, just a 2×6 with a selection of tiny plastic holds bolted on. A portable setup is far from ideal, but it’s often much better than not training at all.
And finally, I’ll leave you with this ultimate inspiration…the pinnacle of hangboard setups that we can all aspire to.
This is the training area in the Cleveland Rock Gym, submitted by “friend-of-the-site” Lena Moinova. Hangboard training in a public gym is problematic because it’s hard to achieve the right level of focus, your workout can easily be interrupted, you can’t control the environmental conditions, and the hangboards wear out very quickly. That said, if you had to do it, this would be the place…and who says you couldn’t build something like this at home? This structure has space for 16 hangboards, all equipped with tethers connected by an internal pulley system to a centralized weight station. The climbers can hang from any board with hundreds of grips to choose from, and can control the load from a central location, without hauling weights all over the place. (Note: as sweet as this is, it would be better if the hangboards were located such that the bottom edge of each board was near-flush with the bottom edge of the mounting board, or a silhouette spacer were installed behind each board to allow ample clearance for inactive fingers when using the lowest row of pocket grips).
Stay tuned for Part II, Campus Boards….