Campus Training for Climbing

Hopefully you got motivated to start Kingsley’s hangboard workout and were able to get your whole setup organized and put together. Since I’m following his training advice, I had to stop the hangboard workouts a few weeks ago and get into the campusing phase. (Next comes systems, and we’ll get into that soon!)

Luckily I already had the campus board built earlier this winter, so I was all ready to go. Now that I’ve been using my board more, I would make a few changes (and will get Mario to make them for me eventually) to the design. First, I would set it slightly higher off the ground since I never use the very bottom rungs (as you’ll notice on my numbering for my workout) and take about a foot and a half off the top, since I only really go up high on the big rungs. Second, I would move the small and medium rungs farther apart to the standard 22 cm distance (like my big ones are), with extra rungs halfway between them for the smalls and mediums. Since those won’t go up as high (I really only want a long distance on the big ladders, everything else happens on the lower rungs for me), I will have enough to add the halfway rungs on the smalls and mediums. The big ones are great the way they are, the standard 22 cm apart without any extras at the halfway point. I’m also going to move the big rungs to the center lane since I use them the most and occasionally I kick the support beams when I’m in the side lanes. So eventually I’ll have Mario pull it down and we’ll edit it. But overall, it’s great. The Metolius rungs are perfect, and are holding up well outdoors in the sun which was my only concern with being wood. Mario did treat all the plywood with Sikkens, and also the bottom half of each rung (!).

The hangboard phase was pretty strict and precise, but Kingsley told me to just do what I want for the campusing for 3 weeks. He does suggest timing your breaks between sets and taking 2 minute rests. But there is some key knowledge you MUST HAVE, so read on…

My campus workout is:
warm up on the climbing wall for 1/2 hour or so
3 ladder
Ladders (up and down):
big rungs, numbers 2-7-2 (these are the numbers on my board right now–doesn’t matter what you do, just number them and keep track so you know in your training journal) (3 sets)
medium rungs, numbers 2-8-2 (3 sets)
4 lockoff 3
Lock offs (up and down)
bigs, numbers 2-5-2 (3 sets)
mediums, numbers 3-7-3 (3 sets)
Reach throughs
bigs, 2-3-5 left-right and match (3 sets), right-left and match (3 sets)
mediums, 3-4-7 left-right and match (3 sets), right-left and match (3 sets)
bigs, 2-4-5 left-right and match (3 sets), right-left and match (3 sets)
mediums, 3-5-7 left-right and match (3 sets), right-left and match (3 sets)

Kings suggests adding some weight (1-5 pounds) when the ladders get too easy, and also doing some double dyno up and down sets, but I haven’t yet done that.

Whatever you do, just put numbers on all of your rungs and keep record of the exercises and sets you do in your training log.

However, the key beta for this workout is to take care of your elbows. I’ve never had any elbow problems ever, and on my second campus workout in this phase, I felt a sore spot on the inside of my left elbow. I’ve been noticing that one rest day is not enough after campusing, but due to scheduling that week, I felt I had to force myself to do the workout with only one rest day. I was sore and kind of low energy, but I made myself do it, which as we all know by now is NOT SMART (obviously we don’t grow out of not-smartness, but I will keep trying to learn). So first of all, don’t do that: listen to your body, and take 2-4 rest days between the campus workouts and never do a campus workout if you feel fatigued and have to force yourself to do it with lots of caffeine. Second of all, take initiative to keep your elbows injury free. When I got the sore elbow, I was pretty scared, so I took 5 days off completely. When I told Kings about it, he said, “well you need to do your elbow exercises too!” After the first 2 days of his elbow exercises, my elbow soreness stopped and hasn’t been back since.

Here’s what you do:
2 reverse curl
First, the standard reverse curls are key. I’m using a dumbbell because that’s what I have, but a weight bar (maybe a broom stick with weights on it) works really well.
1 elbow bell
Second, make half a dumbbell by using a pony clamp and your weight pin, or reconfiguring a dumbbell and rest your elbow on your knee and rotate your wrist from side to side 10 times. I started with 2.5 pounds and am now using 5 pounds. You can grip higher on the dumbbell to make it easier.

I do both of these exercises between sets while campusing, and I do the dumbbell rotation when I’m sitting around the house once in a while. It takes very little time, and it works!

So if you are interested in following Kingsley’s entire periodization system, basically you will have done the hangboard workout for 4-6 weeks, and now it’s time to switch to campusing for 3 weeks. The final thing will be the systems training–right now I’m getting my Nicros HIT strips up on the 45 degree section of my climbing wall so I’ll be ready to go next week.
cajun antler

  • I’ve seen this elbow exercise done with an cast iron frying pan – everyone has one of those, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • great idea!

  • starting campus board workout today. first time ever. with fingerboard being already a part of my strengthening routine, i think it’s time to step up to the campus… but somehow i still look at the tiny rungs with the eyes of a total rookie! we’ll see how it goes, maybe once i get on it, it won’t be that bad… but it will take some time to get to the advanced exercises you describe! thank you for the inspiration ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • eljovendario

    I already made a campus board, but Iยดm not sure about the gradient. Which one should be a good one?

  • mine is 15 degrees–I’ve been told that anywhere between 15 and 20 degrees is good. The very best would be if you could adjust your board between 15 and 20 degrees (easily)

  • foley

    such good training we just built one at Blackrock

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  • Douglas Hartman

    i love the website/blog by the way… as an aspiring yosemite climber, it’s a humbling road and tons of your recs are really useful. now that the winter is upon us, i built a campus board in my garage to help keep up to a respectable level with all the local bouldering gym rats… here’s my thought, i don’t really believe all this hype about needing long recoveries after campusing, so i am doing my personal experiment: For the next two months, I’m going to try to campus every day… days that i feel good, i’ll go bananas, and days that i feel bad, i’ll still try to do something on the board for 40-60min. i might end up with two sore arms, but what the heck, it’s the winter anyway, and i’ll heal by the spring. either way, i’ll let you know how it goes.

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