Academy: Train Hangboard Repeaters to Increase Climbing Strength Endurance
Part of our "Toes to Knows" Climbing Academy series--covering climbing from footwork to mental preparation.
Tags: Coaching, Hangboarding, Advanced, Intermediate
Climbing training is specific. That means that whatever style of climbing you’re focused on, you should dedicate some of your training on mimicking that climbing style. If you’re into route climbing, then strength or power endurance needs to be one of your training targets. Repeaters are a great hangboard protocol that target strength endurance.
The idea behind repeaters is to mimic the load and recovery cycle of redpoint climbing. If you think about a redpoint crux section, it might take a minute or so to move through a 15-foot section of a cliff. While in this crux area, you’ll have your hands on holds for most of the time, only taking them off for moving between holds.
One of the most common repeater protocols in use is the 7x3 repeaters, popularized by the Mike and Mark Anderson. 7x3s do a decent job at mimicking hard redpoint climbing and training the strength endurance you’ll need to send your route projects. You’ll definitely feel that familiar pump when executing a solid set of 7x3s.
Here are the specifics of a 7x3 repeater protocol:
- Choose 3-5 holds
- For each hold, you’ll do three reps
- For each rep, repeat 7 seconds hang and 3 seconds rest for one minute (6 cycles)
- After each rep, rest for one minute before moving onto the next rep
- After doing three reps for a given hold, move onto the next hold
- Choose holds and/or add weight so you’re close to failing at the end of the third hold
- Write down your results
The objective with a 7x3 protocol is to get near failure at the end of the third rep for each hold. Choose holds that accomplish this.
One convenient way to measure near failure is the concept of “Rate of Perceived Exertion” or RPE. If something is really easy for you, it might have an RPE of only 10%. If you’re failing on a given exercise, that’s an RPE of 100%--you can’t exert any more effort. I target my stopping point at 85% to 95% RPE rather than true failure (sliding off a hold) as having a little left in the tank lowers risk of injury.
As with all training, it’s important to build progression into a repeater set. Progression means making the exercises a little bit harder each time so your muscles continue to be challenged as they adapt to the exercise. You can accomplish repeater progression by making holds a bit smaller, or by adding weight to the hang. Don’t feel like you need to add weight to every hold every time—you might just progress on one hold any given day.
You can add weight by hanging weights on your harness. You can also subtract weight using a pully system. Both are useful tools when building a quantified training regimen.
Let your effort level, or RPE, guide you to how much you should progress on the next session’s hangs. If RPE was low, add a little weight next time around. If RPE was high, don’t change anything. Add weight slowly to minimize injury risk.
Below is an example chart for tracking 7x3 repeaters. This example shows two hangboard sessions per week for three weeks, followed by a week of rest. There are four holds (sloper, pinch, pocket, half crimp), with three reps shown for each hold. Inside each box, mark down how much weight was added or subtracted (using a pully) for the hold and the RPE for that particular rep.
This example adds 5 lbs. on the Wednesday sloper because the RPE on Monday was pretty low. The pinch and pocket had a good final RPE on Monday, so the weight doesn’t increase on Wednesday.
Notice the failure on the pinch rep 3 on Monday. “Failure” here means not completing the third rep on the pinch. When you fail, I recommend stepping off the board, or putting a foot down—try to avoid peeling off the holds.