The new Rock Prodigy Forge hangboard will be available from Trango beginning this week, and I’d like to share with our loyal readers just how it came to be. I’m confident The Forge is the most technologically advanced finger strength training device ever created. While it may not appear to be a complex product, it was developed iteratively using the latest engineering technology, and based on the latest finger strength training research.
In 2013, we launched the Rock Prodigy Training Center, and we’ve collected user data on its effectiveness, and compiled customer suggestions for improvement. The Forge is the result of all of that experience and a published, peer reviewed research paper on the Rock Prodigy Training Method and Training Center, and what we have developed is incredible. Of those who have had a chance to product test it…four-out-of-four psycho-hangboard-fiends love it!
Perhaps the biggest innovation is in how the Forge was designed. Like with the RPTC, we wanted to apply the latest Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) tools and techniques to what has traditionally been considered the “art” of hold-shaping, and the Forge is the result of that which yields perfect symmetry in the design and some pretty cool other features. With this computer-aided process, we would only need to design one half of the board, then the other half would be replicated automatically. Besides the obvious manufacturing advantages, the computer-aided processes would allow us to quickly create prototypes to test different grip shapes so that we could iterate on the shape of each grip individually. This iterative process was an enormous improvement, and enabled us to really perfect each grip. For example, we created over 8 different designs and prototypes for the Closed Crimp grip alone!
The Forge is intended to be a compliment to the Rock Prodigy Training Center, not a replacement. It is more compact and in most cases it offers more advanced (i.e. “difficult”) grips for those climbers who have experience with hangboard training and would like to progress to more difficult holds, while other holds are simply improved to benefit climbers of all abilities. Many of the holds are replicated from the RPTC, but have less depth in their geometry, making them more difficult. There are also some new holds, and other features to increase the training intensity. These are all described below in more detail.
First, let me introduce some of the key new features of the Forge:
1. New Holds:
The Forge incorporates several new holds, which I’ll detail here.
– Advanced Micro Crimp with DIP guard technology:
This is similar to the Micro Crimp on the RPTC, but Mark ingeniously came up with a “thumb support” to prevent climbers from wrapping their thumb over their index finger during training. This practice is perfectly acceptable on hard moves, and makes a stronger grip, but doing so repeatedly in training is risky because it places a lot of stress on the Distal Interphalangeal (DIP) joint of the index finger. It also can create skin problems in the cuticle of the index finger. This guard allows you to train the grip in the proper position, without excessively loading up your DIP joint.
The “support” was designed with a lot of depth to accommodate climbers of all sizes, but I added some shims to mine to make the grip extra difficult to hang onto. Only super-psycho crimping fiends would want to do this 🙂 Most thumbs will fit perfectly. I also sanded a little bit of the texture off the thumb support to prevent myself from “milking it” too much. That’s one great thing about this board…it can easily be customized. Early testers love this re-designed crimp!
– Slopey Crimper:
This is something our customers have been clamoring for, and I was happy to be able to incorporate it into the Forge. The new Slopey Crimp was modeled after an eGgrips hold I’ve been training on for years. It uses a slightly open-hand crimp grip with a thumb catch, and is complimentary to the closed crimp grip. This is a grip I find on routes all over the place, so it’s useful to train. This grip took some work to perfect, but you can see in the photos below that, in the end, the new slopey crimp creates the finger joint positions we were designing for:
– I: bent at the DIP
– M: bent at the PIP
– R: bent at the PIP
– P: bent at the DIP
You asked for steeper slopers, so here they are! The Forge incorporates two slopers; a totally heinous 40 degree sloper on the top-center of the board, and a more reasonable 30 degree sloper above each pinch. Note that the 30 degree sloper is an add-on caused by the pinch, and the palm will sit on the pinch when training this hold. Boulderers may find some application for this in training for slopey, groveling topouts, but most sloper lovers will stick to the 40 degree sloper.
– Re-designed Pinch with Honesty Technology
The pinch grip has all-new geometry (detailed next), but we also added a little bump to keep us all “honest” while we train 🙂 This will make it harder to migrate higher on the pinch, or reach the sloper with our fingertips. This was another feature that YOU, the customer asked for, so thanks for the great suggestions!
– Large Flat Edge
This was added in place of the large jugs on the RPTC. It can be used for standard grip training, warming up, or just as a convenient surface to do pullups, etc. The geometry was designed to allow it to be used without interfering with the Slopey Crimp just below it.
2. All-New Hold Geometry
As I said, we intended the Forge to be complimentary to the RPTC, not a replacement. Therefore, every grip on the Forge is distinct from the RPTC. There may be similar grips (i.e., 2-Finger pockets), but the depth is different, generally creating a more difficult grip for more intense training. The changes are summarized in this table:
For the Variable Depth Edge Rail (VDER), we also reduced the range, or rate of change of depth, which is another suggestion we received from multiple users. Doing so makes the VDER more consistent for each finger because the depth change is less noticeable. But wait, there’s more! We changed the basic sizes of all of the grips, but we also made other modifications to improve ergonomics and/or increase training intensity, which I’ll detail below.
3. Equation-Driven Hold Lip Radius
Typically, climbing holds and many hangboards are shaped by hand, and it’s up to the shaper’s artistry. For hangboard training, little details like the shape of a hold’s lip are absolutely critical because a bad shape can cause major skin irritation, and flappers. Our computer-aided design and manufacturing process gave us more control over the lip designs, and we wanted to take advantage of that. This would allow us to ensure consistent shapes across several different hold types (e.g., the VDER (Variable Depth Edge Rail) and two-finger pockets have the same lip profile). The RPTC features circular lip radii, which were very comfortable, but on smaller holds you have to make those radii pretty small to be functional, and we wanted to push the envelope of comfort and training specificity on the Forge. We knew that a logarithmic shape would be a better lip profile for most grips, so we west to work. The design software I used enabled us to specify the shape of a curve, and apply it anywhere on the design. We developed several different profiles, created prototypes of each, and tested them until we settled on the perfect shape. Our automated process allowed us to apply that shape to all of the pockets, and the VDER. Who knew math was so cool? 🙂
4. Drafted Pockets
“Draft” is a slightly increased slope on the interior of a concave surface. All of the pockets, including the VDER are drafted at a slight angle, which essentially turns them all into slight slopers. It may seem like this would make the grips harder to hold onto (and it would, if taken to an extreme). However, if the optimal slope is added, it reduces the resulting angle of DIP joint flexion without noticeably increasing the difficulty of the grip. This allows for greater skin contact in the back of the hold (where a flat surface would leave dead space), thus increasing skin comfort and DIP joint safety.
To experiment with the draft, Mark modified his RPTC hangboard setup to allow it to rotate about the base, as shown in this photo (note the hinges at the bottom):
We experimented by setting different angles, then hanging from edges and pockets on the board to find the perfect draft angles:
Those of us who have tested it absolutely love the draft! In some cases we find it makes the holds easier to use, and in all cases they are much more comfortable on the skin.
5. Improved Texture
Sorry, no pictures for this one, but trust me…when you get your hands on the Forge, you’ll love the texture. It’s not as rough as the RPTC, so grips may feel a little more slippery at first. However, this should produce a more consistent training surface across the life of the board, and it absolutely creates a more comfortable grip when using high levels of resistance. It’s also a safer option for preventing skin injuries on the smaller holds of the Forge. And Highly Obsessed Hangboard Fiends (HOHFs) should note that a very rough texture will wear more over time, making it difficult to compare results. Additionally, users have the option to make adjustments to the texture to meet their preferences. Just a little sandpaper can remove or add texture (finer grit to remove, coarser to add). You may want to practice first on an unused surface!
6. Rotatable Board
Ok, so this isn’t really new or unique to the Forge…the RPTC had this capability too, but I think it bears repeating while I’m on a roll here. The great thing about the split hangboard design is that the spacing can be adjusted, but the angle of rotation can be adjusted as well! This should be done to improve ergonomics for certain grip types. For example, I find this particularly helpful on my “Index-Middle” finger, two-finger pocket grip. When you hang from a two-finger pocket with your index and middle finger, your middle finger is longer, and the load on each finger is unbalanced, and often uncomfortable. (The opposite is true for MR grips, which is why the MR two-finger pockets on all Rock Prodigy devices are slightly angled.) By rotating the pockets (rotate the right pocket counter-clockwise, and the left clockwise), the holding surface for the middle finger moves farther from your wrist, and it is possible to create a really comfortable grip. Take a look at the photos:
To create this rotation, I simply place a 3/4″ shim material (wood block) under the outer bracket that holds the Forge (see this post on how to create an adjustable mount, with more adjustable mount designs on their way). The angle of rotation can be adjusted by changing the thickness of the wood shim, or placed under the inner bracket to rotate in the opposite direction (which you might want to do for your “Middle-Ring” two finger pocket).
Finally, please remember, the Forge is a more advanced hangboard than the RPTC! If you’re transitioning your training over to it, you need to adjust your expectations in terms of what weight you expect to be able to hang on these new grips. The new features of the Forge such as reduced geometry, draft, new texture are all conspiring to increase your training intensity, so expect to need to ratchet back the externally applied intensity (the weight you hang) on each grip.
Now go out there, get a Forge, and hammer your fingers into the best shape of your life!