How to Do One Arm Hangings

How to Do One Arm Hangings

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If there was a single measurable determinant of climbing ability, maybe it’s just the strength of the fingers. If you can’t hold the grips, it doesn’t matter if you can do one-arm pull-ups or front push-ups.

There are many ways to train finger strength, the first being rock climbing itself. Hangboarding, due to its specificity, might just be the most effective non-climbing workout you can do. It allows you to isolate the strength of your fingers and focus on them systematically. It is an easy to control and as such relatively safe way to gradually improve your holding abilities. It’s also incredibly simple, or so we’d like to think.

As the (almost) saying goes, variety is the spice of hangboarding. If you do the same exercises over and over again, your physical gains will stagnate, especially if you’re an advanced climber. The best way to promote adaptations is to change the stimulus, i.e. your suspension routine. Switching from two-arm suspensions to single-arm suspensions is a great way to do this.

Who is it for ?

One-arm hangs are an advanced exercise. They are not intended for beginner or even intermediate climbers. Generally speaking, you might be ready to incorporate single arm hangs into your routine if you can climb 5.13+ or V10. If you can hang with both hands with 70% or more of your body weight, that’s another good indication that you might be ready for a one-arm hang.

Two arms against one

Besides the benefits of variety, there are other reasons why you might consider incorporating one-arm hangers into your routine. For one thing, once your finger strength is relatively high, you will likely add significant weight to your suspensions. For many climbers, the extra weight can become uncomfortable. Additionally, some climbers may find that two-handed hangs can cause pain in the front of their shoulders. Hanging with one arm instead of two would lessen that pain because your shoulders would open up rather than fold in.

In addition to working finger strength, one-handed hangs will also increase shoulder stability and strength. This is helpful in preventing shoulder injuries and even increasing pulling capacity.

There are a few downsides to single arm suspension that are worth mentioning. You rarely need to hang on to just one arm while climbing. For this reason, positionally speaking, these suspensions are less specific to climbing. Also, as mentioned, one-arm suspensions test your shoulder stability and strength. If your shoulders are not strong enough, the strength of your fingers will not be the limiting factor and therefore your fingers will not be sufficiently stimulated. Also, if your finger strength differs from hand to hand, you need to be careful not to increase the difference. Avoid the temptation to push the stronger arm and keep the same exercises for each side.

[Want to learn from a pro? Check out Jonathan Siegrist’s 6 Weeks to Stronger Fingers Course]


Shift hangs: This is an excellent one for progressing in one-arm suspensions. Hang with one arm over an edge that you can almost, but not quite, hold without the help of the other arm. The other arm will grab a hold that is below the target edge and is ideally worse. For example, if you can almost hold a 25 millimeter edge unaided, hold the edge with your left hand and your right arm can grab a 20 or 15 millimeter edge that is down and to the right of the 25 millimeter. Depending on your hangboard setup, you can also play with the number of fingers you use with the assist hand to add or reduce assist.

Use a block: Attach the weight to a portable suspension board or training block. You can practice the deadlift using a 20 or 15 millimeter edge. Once you can lift your body weight, you should be able to do a one-arm hang (assuming your shoulders are strong enough).

Use of support with sling or bandage: Perform one-arm hangs while grabbing a sling or band with your free hand to reduce the load.

Weight removal with pulley system: Use a pulley system to counterbalance your weight while performing the one-arm hangs (you’ll need to attach the weight to a sling that goes through a pulley and then attaches to you via a harness). You can also use a pulley system to attach weight to a suspender (same setup as before but instead of attaching the suspender to you via a harness, just hold it so you pull on the suspender while you hang it) . Both of these methods are advantageous over using a sling or band without weights because you can track how much weight you use to help you.

Faucets: Similar to staggered suspensions, you’ll grab an edge that you can almost hold without help. The other hand will also grip an ideally offset edge (below), although this is not required. The assisting hand will release and re-grasp the grip so that you are temporarily hanging on one hand. Repeat until failure.

Workout example

A standard protocol can be suspended for 10 seconds, repeated with the other hand, then rested for three minutes before doing another set. Repeat for at least three sets in total. You may need to use assistance or remove weight with a pulley system. The idea is to use as little assist as possible (or remove as little weight as possible) while hanging on for 10 seconds.

You may want to try switching from a hanging exercise to a pull-up weight using a block between each set. You can also do the workout mentioned above and then do three sets of tapping (again, three minutes rest between each set) until failure. You can also start with a one-arm hanging workout and then do a two-handed workout afterwards. Instead of doing 10-second hangs, try increasing the intensity (smaller rim or less weight) and only hang for five seconds. There are tons of ways to mix it up.

Another thing to keep in mind: the position of the handle. An open hand stance may be more specific to climbing, especially if you are a lead climber, while a half crimped stance is more active and will require more strength. You’ll probably want to change your grip position or just stick to a half crimp.

Taylor Parsons, an Australian talent known for landing the second ascent of wheel of life (V15), developed a well-known protocol: perform three sets of 10-second suspensions (again, with three minutes of rest between each set) for each arm with an extended arm suspension. Then do three sets per arm but using a slightly bent arm. You may need help to maintain the light lockout position. Finally, repeat all three sets in a 90 degree lockout position. This protocol is great for training finger, elbow and shoulder strength, but just one precaution: if you have elbow tendonitis, stay away! This workout will put a lot of pressure on your elbows.

Tips and Precautions

As with any finger training, it’s best to do this before climb, but after a good warm-up. Take your time warming up and make sure your mind and body are on the same page. Try holding on to a jug or bar first, do a few pull-ups and a two-handed hang on good edges before moving on to smaller ones, then an arm hang.

Training doesn’t make you stronger; remains done. Depending on your level of climbing, one hangboard training session per week may be enough, although two is probably the sweet spot. Just be sure to take plenty of rest days. It’s incredibly easy to overdo it when it comes to your fingers, so be sure to back off if you start to feel tenderness or pain. Also consider cycling in your training to include hangboard-free weeks. Finger training can and probably should be done year-round, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have short bursts that allow systemic inflammation to subside and tissues to fully recover.

Finally, everyone has different finger anatomy and hanging predispositions. Don’t compare yourself to your buddy and look for some magic formula that will tell you if you can hang on the X edge with Y weight, then you’ll climb V15. Remember that strength is only one factor in climbing.

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