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Injuries and Medical Advice

Elbows: Minimizing Fingerboard Injuries

I use an old Pusher Powerjunkie hang board and I'm concerned about the angled geometry of the main jugs. In the past I have had elbow problems. Is it bad to do pull-ups on grips that are not horizontal? Do you think that this setup could have a negative effect on my elbows? Is it healthier to have the grips set up horizontally as most other hang boards do?

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I use an old Pusher Powerjunkie hang board and I’m concerned about the angled geometry of the main jugs. In the past I have had elbow problems. Is it bad to do pull-ups on grips that are not horizontal? Do you think that this setup could have a negative effect on my elbows? Is it healthier to have the grips set up horizontally as most other hang boards do?

boredEnuf | Rock and Ice Forum

I hate hang boarding. Aside from some vague mechanical similarities, it is everything that climbing isn’t. Did I mention the brain-numbing boredom? That said, I bore quite easily. And I’m weak …

Hang boarding is the fodder of finger strength. Muscle strength, as opposed to tendon strength, develops faster than it took the conservatives to denounce Obama’s veggie patch as heretical environmentalism. When the holds are angled rather than horizontal, your wrists are cocked to the outside. This causes excessive loading of flexor carpi ulnaris (FCU) — the drama queen of your musculoskeletal system.

The moonshine of modern training, hang boarding can be the distillation of chronic finger overload. FCU is tempestuous by nature and this training method has the propensity to catapult you into tendonosis. Training on angled holds is not so much poking funny faces at FCU as it is punching it in the nose.

Many studies have shown that strength and stability are maximized in neutral. Sonnie Trotter had similar issues with angled holds and outlines as much in his blog. Theory, and anecdotal evidence like yours and Sonnie’s would suggest that anything outside of neutral is more inclined to cause an elbow tantrum.

The distance between the holds is also a factor. A very wide or narrow grip will push the wrist out of neutral and invite punitive damages. Horizontal holds on a standard width board are the way to go.

Like animals low on the food chain, your elbows have an aversion to surprises. If you can’t design or follow a program properly, pay someone to help you. It will be cheaper and less painful than rehab.

Pull-ups alone are a complete waste of time. Pull-ups on a board are a close second. Think beyond the box. For example, erect an easel several feet behind your board. Tape a paintbrush to your toe. Now hang from your beloved board, pull into a front lever, and paint a portrait of your favorite celebrity. I am good at dead presidents and porn stars since they are fairly ugly anyway.

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