Latest Training Articles

  • MoonBoard Origins Video
    MoonBoard Origins Video

    Where did the MoonBoard come from? A short film on the history of getting stronger and climbing harder. 

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  • 6 Shoulder Stability Exercises for Climbers by Olivia Ratcliffe

    Why train shoulder stability. Why do these tedious, boring exercises? Well, for one it reduces your risk of shoulder injury, and two, it can enhance your climbing performance and ability. There's two good reasons for a start! 

    Most climbers focus on getting stronger, doing pull ups, muscle ups, lock off training and weighted dead hangs. These training methods will get your mobilising muscles stronger, however, what about the stabilising muscles? Stabilising muscles work at a lower intensity for long periods of time. They help with posture and also help the mobilising muscles to function better, therefore making you stronger. The rotator cuff muscles work to stabilise the shoulder. One study found that a decrease in rotator cuff muscle force, resulted in a greater humeral head displacement, making you more susceptible to shoulder injuries. In climbing this is very common and this means a lack of shoulder flexibility, which again isn't great for climbers. 

    The following exercises can help injured and non-injured climbers and should be done regularly. The joy of these exercises is that you can do as little as one session a week or do it every other day. However, I'd recommend working up to it or adding some of the following exercises to your warm up.

    1. Wall Arm Circles

    Stand with your side to the wall. Complete an arm circle. Try to go as slow and controlled as possible. Try and keep the palm of your hand flat against a wall. Set your shoulders before completing the circles. Start off by standing a few inches away from the wall and gradually work your way closer to the wall, as shown in the photo. 

    This is a great way to increase shoulder flexibility and may help you gain a few extra inches on your reach, so this activity is great for short climbers like myself.

    2. Gym Ball Prone Balance

    Lie on a bed or on the floor on your back. Start off with a tennis ball and try to balance it in your hand. Hold your arm a few inches away from the floor and have a play about with the angles and height. Try to hold it for 15-20 seconds. It should feel easy at first and you should start to feel a burning sensation in your rhomboid muscles and rotator cuff muscles. If a tennis ball is too easy, try to use a football. Again, if this is too easy try to use a gym ball. The gym ball is a lot harder to balance and you should try not to pinch the ball to hold it still. It sounds a lot easier than what it is, so why not give it a go! 

    Try and do 5-10 reps of 15 second holds

    (excuse the right hand and don't just keep the arm at 90 degrees, have a play with different arm positions and see which angles are your weakest.

    3. Resistance Band On A Wall

    Stand a foot away from a flat wall, hold a resistance band between your hands. Hands should be parallel and elbows should be kept bent at around 90 degrees. Move your hands up and down the wall in a step-like manner. The amount of stretch/resistance in the band will make it either harder or easier.

    4. Pole Prone Lift

    Lie on the floor on your front. With your arms above you, hold onto a pole, broom stick, clipping stick etc and hold it above your head. Then lift the bar/pole a few inches off the ground, but try not to use your upper trapezius muscles. Instead, tense your rhomboid muscles and hold the pole this position for 30 seconds and slowly bring it back down. The key is not to see how far back you can get the pole, but how well you can turn off the mobilising muscles (traps) and turn on the stabilising muscles. 

    5. Kettlebell Hold

    Again, lie on your back and hold a kettlebell in the air. Sound easy? Well, when you hold the kettlebell make sure that your wrist is straight. Don't bend the wrist inwards. Whilst holding this position, try and let the weight of the kettlebell drop your arm into the socket. You should be able to feel this sensation. Aim to have your arm straight, exactly perpendicular to your body. See how long you can hold it for. You should be able to hold it for around 2-3 minutes, aiming for 3-4kg weight. This may be harder than it looks.

    6.Resistance Band Row

    Attach a resistance band to a solid base and take a few steps back. In a lunged position, arms straight, pull the resistance band back so your arms are in a 90 degree position. Both at the shoulder and the elbow. Then rotate the arm so your hands are facing upwards, then press out of this position so that your arms are straight. Then reverse it to get back to the start, so bring your arms back down, rotate so arms are then flat and then straighten the arms to finish. 

    A progression from this is to press out, once your arms are at 90 degrees. 

    If you suffer from shoulder instability and want a tailored shoulder stability training program, or want more information, email 

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  • The MoonBoard just might make you a better all-around climber by Seiji Ishii

    If you’re a serious boulderer or sport climber, chances are you’ve heard about the MoonBoard. Over the past year, it has shown up in our social media feeds with alarming frequency, and has even sparked live-feed climbing competitions on its relatively miniscule 12 x 8 foot climbing surface. But, while it is currently trending like crazy on the Internet, the MoonBoard’s history actually predates Twitter.

    During the infancy of rock climbing training in the 80’s and 90’s, dingy garages and cellars spawned makeshift climbing walls that were dubbed “woodies.” These simple plywood panels were erected at steep angles, with scrap wood screwed on for bouldering holds. The problems were necessarily short due to the low ceiling heights, and by default, power was the main factor being trained. This was a precursor to today’s artificial climbing walls; modern rock jocks eschewing cramped basements for towering three-dimensional structures littered with colorful multi-shaped holds, in comparatively luxurious conditions.

    The School Room was a small training facility in Sheffield, England that produced a disproportionally large number of incredibly strong climbers, Ben Moon and Jerry Moffat amongst them. These names are synonymous with gritty bouldering and sport climbing; Moon did the first 5.14c in the world and Moffat was considered one of the best overall climbers of the 80’s. Perhaps it was the dismal weather, forcing so much indoor training, or the “old school” nature of the facility that turned out some of the best climbers of the day. Although the School Room was a purpose built climbing center, the four walls emulated the simple woodies; flat plywood panels, limited ceiling height, steep angles and powerful bouldering. 

    Working within the physical confines of the School Room, Moon created the first “MoonBoard” in 2005. Three sheets of plywood and a kicker panel fit under the ceiling of the School Room, the angle set at 40 degrees overhanging. Moon attached 140 simple holds on a grid pattern (198 positions notated by letters horizontally and numbers vertically), standardizing their location and orientation. Out of this simple, yet ingenious, idea the MoonBoard was born. “Tracking,” meaning the handholds are also the footholds and the lack of large features forced climbers to use mobility and power. Moon created wall building specifics and a list of boulder problems, sharing them by way of downloadable documents. This marked the first truly standardized climbing system. Progress grew organically; notebooks listing problems morphed into a website, allowing true global problem setting and sharing, the site eventually showcasing more than 1200 unique problems.

    Although the MoonBoard was a groundbreaking training tool, its use and fanfare were still moderate. In 2016, Moon introduced two breakthroughs to greatly enhance his original concept: the MoonBoard App and MoonBoard LED Kit. The free app allows climbers to access the crowdsourced (and Moon’s very own) boulder problems, rate them, create and share new problems, as well as log their efforts, and create personal lists. In addition, the app connects via Bluetooth to the LED kit, a light under each grid location illuminate to indicate start holds, holds on the problem, and finishing holds. Both of these advancements rocketed the use and popularity of the MoonBoard to the frenzy it is experiencing today.

    There are over 7500 problems in the app as of this writing, a number that has nearly doubled in just a few months time. Commercial climbing gyms are scrambling to obtain their own MoonBoard to appease the demand from their members. Climbers’ social media feeds buzz with videos of MoonBoard problems being shared, as well as virtual competitive training sessions happening across the world via app, not to mention plenty of text and Instagram call outs. 

    I have a MoonBoard to use with athletes that I coach at the Austin Rock Gym, and I recently built one at my home too. I find the MoonBoard generally more akin to real, difficult rock climbing than most gyms, where the setting tends to lean more towards a competition style. The single angle, flat surface and simple holds produce movements that mimic most hard outdoor climbing, stressing body tension to link squished or long moves between marginal handholds. The style is more straightforward and the beta is usually apparent visually or within the first few attempts. It may not be quite as “entertaining” to watch, but it’s definitely more applicable to real cliffs and boulders.

    The value of so many preset boulder problems through the app cannot be overstated. I find this the single biggest advantage of the MoonBoard system. It provides variety and motivation, with the differing setting styles stressing weaknesses that maybe I wouldn’t address myself unless I had this endless number of problems forever stoking the fire. The relative permanence of the hold set and problems also provides a yardstick of performance that is motivating in and of itself. There are “benchmark” problems that give you a standard of grade, another means to gauge progress, and the logging and list making functions can fan the flames for the next session. It is also fun to share problems with friends, setting ones that cater to their weaknesses as they do the same to you.

    For all the positives surrounding the MoonBoard, there are a few negatives as well, with one of the mains strengths also being one of the weaknesses. The simplicity of the MoonBoard dictates that there is really only one style of climbing; basic two-dimensional movement, mostly lacking gymnastic attributes or compression. The flat surface and steep angle negates the use of most slopers and swings that are often used in competitive indoor climbing. The MoonBoard also caters exclusively to advanced climbers, the lowest grade within the app a stout V4. There is a substantial cost and associated labor to build your own as well, but I don’t feel the cost of the holds to be outlandish (all available holds are about $606 USD at the time of this writing and must ship from England) as you get the system and all its “setting” at no charge. The LED system ($648 USD) is not mandatory but it does make viewing and climbing the problems much more convenient. A disadvantage to the potential home MoonBoard builder is that the structure doesn’t fit under standard garage or home ceilings. Some modifications are necessary which ultimately can affect the validity of the grades. Also, some climbers find the resin holds to be somewhat aggressive on skin, but this is a common when training on problems of advanced grades.

    Future renditions of the MoonBoard and the app will address some of the negatives. The app will be configured for a 25 degree MoonBoard, most likely allowing grades attainable for intermediate climbers. This, of course, won’t apply unless the board is built to adjust or is built at the newer angle. The revised app will also contain an interval timer, allowing a problem to remain “in session” and illuminated for those with the LED kit, for a prescribed time period, at which point the next problem will come into play and so on. On top of that, a new hold set is being released as well, nearly filling the remaining unused grid locations. Some of those holds will be made of skin-friendly wood.

    The MoonBoard represents one of the biggest innovations in climbing specific training, but it isn’t a singular solution. It is an effective and fun tool for developing power (and power endurance for the elite) but is best used in conjunction with other training apparatus and methods for an all-encompassing program.

    Big kudos to Ben Moon though, as the cellar woody sessions of his youth eventually produced an incredible tool that has ignited the stoke in many and undoubtedly has added to his own ability to crush 5.14’s in his 50’s. 

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