Enhance Rock Climbing Training With These Campus Board Exercises: Campusing in a Climbing Workout Program Can Improve Contact Strength

A campus board allows an array of rock climbing training exercises packed into a relatively small area, making it a great addition to an at-home climbing training setup. Most indoor climbing gyms have a campus board, too. Traditional campus board climbing exercises develop greater contact strength, dynamic timing, and explosive power, while other exercises include building lock-off strength and improving finger strength and endurance.

Campus Board for Beginners

Before launching into a full-scale campus board workout, it’s important to ascertain if you’re ready to campus using good form that won’t promote injuries. When campusing, your hands should be in the open-hand (not crimped) position, and you should always keep a slight bend in both your elbows and your shoulders at all times. If you cannot campus without “opening up” into a straight-armed, skeletal position, you’re not yet ready to campus with your feet off.

This doesn’t mean that the campus board is useless as a climbing training tool, however. You can perform a number of useful exercises on the board, including “campusing” with the assistance of placing a foot on a crate or hold to take weight off, thereby allowing you to have the right form. This still trains contact strength, timing, and power, especially if you move through the exercise quickly.

Using the weight-off technique, you can also pull up and then reach up as far as possible on the board and hold this position for five or 10 seconds, then return to the starting hold. Repeat this on both sides three to five times for a lock-off workout. You can also change rung size to increase or decrease the intensity of this workout.

Classic Campus Board Workouts

Once you are able to campus with good form as described above, you can move into more classic campus board workouts. The simplest of these, explained in exercise number three of Rock Climbing Training, Climbing Dynamically, is a good place to start for campus board beginners. After this exercise becomes easy, you can consider gradually moving on to more intense and difficult campusing workouts.

A favorite classic campus board workout involves up and down-campusing the board on each size of campus rungs. After thoroughly warming up, you start with the biggest rungs, and campus up and down to failure. You can match on each rung, if necessary. Rest two to five minutes, and repeat this on each set of rungs, down to the smallest possible. Then, reverse the process, moving your way gradually back up to the biggest rungs.

For more advanced climbers, the campus board provides a plethora of additional climbing training exercises. These include skipping rungs on the campus board as well as double dynos up and down the rungs. Slow-motion campusing promotes even more controlled one-arm power and precision. Adding a weight vest or isolating finger groups increases intensity, but also increases the risk for injuries if attempted too soon.

Other Campus Board Applications

Along with actually campusing and in addition to the more beginner-friendly climbing exercises already covered, climbers can use the campus board for grip-strength training purposes, using the exercises described in Hand/Grip Strength to Improve Climbing. The campus board can also be incorporated effectively into coupled sets climbing exercises, as explained in Weighted and One-Arm Pull-Ups for Climbing Power.

Campusing for Improved Rock Climbing Performance

A valuable climbing training tool, climbers of all levels can incorporate campus board exercises into their rock climbing workout programs. Beginner-friendly exercises do not involve true campusing, but encourage the development of the skills necessary to achieve this step. More advanced climbers can improve their explosive power, dynamic timing, and contact strength by campusing regularly. Consider using a campus board to build overall finger strength and in conjunction with power workouts, too.


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