When you first get into climbing, your natural abilities take you soaring through the grades like there’s no tomorrow. Most people find their natural limit after a few months of climbing a couple of times a week, and hit a grade-plateau. Pushing to the next grade from here usually means training hard, doing some climbing specific workouts and finding where the weakness lies, which for many people is in the finger strength. Because there’s no muscle in your fingers themselves, finger strength relies on having strong tendons connecting them to the muscles in your forearm. What this means is that doing hundreds of pull-ups on a bar, while it may show some gains, won’t be as beneficial as doing some climbing specific training at the climbing wall or on a fingerboard at home. Being able to train with an open grip, specific fingers or on specific types of hold is one of the quickest ways to see real gains in climbing.
There’s a huge range of fingerboards on the market, all offering different ranges of holds and edges, made from different materials and available in different colours. Here at Boulders, we stock fingerboards from Beacon, Moon, Metolius and Beastmaker. This article aims to give you a rundown of the features all our boards have to offer, to hopefully help you make your mind up and choose which is the best fingerboard for you. In alphabetical order…
The Fender is a huge board that’s probably the most comprehensive on offer. It comes with a huge central sloper, as well as a range of sloping pinches which is an area that many boards lack. Fingertips are covered in the middle of the board with three varying depth edges, and there’s a hole in the centre for one/two finger pocket practice or threading for assisted pull-ups. This is also the only fingerboard which comes with a wooden mounting board, which you might need if you’re mounting your board on a stud wall. Also, Beacon are based in North Wales, so if you’re local to Boulders national pride might be enough to swing your decision in the Fender’s favour.
Summary: A huge board that’s full of features, if you need to work on your pinch strength then this is the one to go for. There’s lovely isn’t it.
Beastmaker boards are all lovingly made in the north of England by a dedicated team of keen (read ‘superstrong’) climbers. They’re all machined from a solid block of tulipwood, which is kind on the fingers and leads to some amazing colour variations. The variety of holds on both Beastmakers have been carefully crafted to help you get the best from your workout, without damaging your tendons or shredding your fingertips. The 1000 series comes with some warmup jugs and a selection of deeper pockets and edges, whereas the 2000 comes with some gnarly sloping mono’s and a mean selection of slopers and tiny edges. The 1000 is recommended for anyone climbing around Font 5a (around V1), and the 2000 for those climbing above Font 7a (around V6), and if you need any proof of how strong a good Beastmaker training plan can get you, just check out Dan Varian’s ticklist.
Summary: These boards come with some real prestige, and are a great way to support small scale British manufacturing.
Another monster of a board, the Contact is huge and has a lot to offer. The range of edges and pockets is really extensive, and the sloping sides can be used for pinch and sloper practice. Up top there’s warmup jugs and some more slopers for your delectation. One of the best things about a board of this size is the ability to work out a small circuit, and move around the board rather than sticking to hangs and pull ups. The funky upside-down appearance of the Contact makes the sloping/pinchy sides useable the whole way up, and the whole thing is tapered to be narrower at the bottom to avoid bruised forearms. We stock the contact in blue, green and black & white, but we can get hold of them in brown if you really want us to.
Summary: Another huge board that offers a better range of edges and pockets than the Fender, and you can pick your colour!
If you’re limited on space or cash, the Project is the board for you. It’s condensed all of the most important parts of the Simulator into a smaller unit which still allows for a really decent workout. You keep the warmup jugs and the central slopers, and there’s still a good range of edges and pockets underneath. As with the rest of the Metolius range, the Project has a well thought out taper, a smooth, finger friendly grain and a range of colours to choose from.
Summary: A compact solution if space is an issue, and an absolute bargain.
The Simulator is a classic fingerboard, which is boldly claimed to be the best selling fingerboard in the world. Believing this isn’t hard though as the Simulator comes with all the holds a fingerboard needs, including a good couple of slopers and three jugs to make offsets easier. In the middle there’s a range of pockets of varying depths, from 2 to 4 fingers. Similar to the Contact, the Simulator tapers towards the bottom to help forearm clearance and the resin has a very fine grain to be kind on the fingers and help increase your workout duration. One of the great things about all Metolius fingerboards is that they come with a handy training guide to get you started, until you find your weaknesses and come up with your own workout routine.
Summary: One of the originals and one of the best, the Simulator has all the holds you need for a decent finger workout.
Probably the best looking boards on offer, the Woodgrips models are an elegant shape and finished in a dark varnish. If you need to put a board up somewhere that it might irritate non-climbers, one of these might be the safest bet! Style doesn’t eradicate the functionality though, both models feature a good range of pockets, with jugs and slopers up top. You might not get the variety that something like a Beastmaker or Contact offers, but there’s still plenty there to give your fingers a serious workout. One suggestion we’ve heard from customers is to lightly sand the smaller edges, as the varnish can get a bit slippy with sweaty hands.
Summary: Great fingerboards that wouldn’t look out of place in a stately home, but can still get your forearms screaming.
One for a more hardcore workout not, the Moon fingerboard does away with pleasantries like warmup jugs and replaces them with 1/4 pad crimps and shallow pockets.The minimal look of this board is certainly appealing, and it still features everything an intermediate/advanced climber needs for a good finger workout. The texture of the resin is really fine, which means it’s grippy enough to hang the smallest crimps without ruining your fingertips during your training session. This board has won numerous awards, and it lives up to Moon’s ethos of ‘100% climbing’, there’s nothing you don’t need and everything you do.
Summary: Want to climb as hard as Ben Moon? Well this fingerboard alone won’t get you there, but it sure will help.
The Phatboy is esentially a beefed up version of the classic Fingerboard from Moon, aimed at newer climbers. It follows almost the same design as it’s more hardcore brother, but all the holds increase in size. The Phatboy is perfect for newer climbers due to it’s deeper holds and warmup jugs, while it still gives plenty of scope for progressing into the hard grades.
Summary: A beefed up and mellowed out version of the Moon Fingerboard, the Phatboy is compact and stylish.
Wildcard: the Lapis Rollybar
A pull up bar with a difference, the Rollybar isn’t strictly a fingerboard but it could d wonders for your climbing. It’s made from a resin bar mounted on an axle with smooth bearings at each end, so the bar spins freely and easily. You might not think it, but this makes a huge difference when you’re trying to do a pull up on it! It takes a serious amount of strength in your wrists and core to make it happen, and because the bar has quite a large radius it’s a much more open-handed workout than a standard pull up bar.
Summary: Not a fingerboard, but great for your core and wrists.