As promised, here is some hangboard resistance data from my recently concluded Strength Phase. This was my first full phase using the Rock Prodigy Training Center. I thought it would take a while to get the loads dialed in correctly but I was able to get pretty close to the right resistance during the first workout.
I trained the following grips, in the order listed below, performing 3 sets of reps (7 reps for the first set of each grip, then 6 reps, then 5), except where noted.
The below chart shows the resistance added to body weight during the final set of each grip (the Large VDER is omitted since this is a warmup grip and the resistance rarely changes).
If I complete every rep of all 3 sets for a given grip, I add 5 lbs (to each set) during the next workout. For example, during the first workout, MR 2-finger resistance was:
-10 lb. for the 1st set,
0 for the 2nd set and
+10 for the 3rd set.
During the first workout, I completed all reps of each set of that grip, so for the next workout the goal resistance was:
-5 lb for the 1st set,
+5 lb for the 2nd set and
+15 for the 3rd set.
So you can infer from the above chart that if the 3rd-set-resistance increased between workouts n and n+1, then I succeeded in completing the prescribed sets (at the prescribed resistance) during workout n. If the 3rd-set-resistance did not increase, you can infer that I failed to complete all reps during workout n. I almost always complete the first two sets of each grip, so one can further infer that if I failed to progress, I failed on the third set.
Some interesting “conclusions” can be drawn from this data.
- You can see where I started to plateau, between the 6th and 7th workout. After the 7th workout I struggled to make progress between workouts on most grips. I’ve experimented with trying to burst through this plateau by performing more and more workouts, but it never seems to work. Usually by the 10th workout or so I won’t see any more improvement (I’ve done as many as 12 workouts in a phase)
- The earlier grips in the workout progressed much more than the later grips. The most improvement over the course of the phase was seen in the Mono, Thin Crimp, and MR 2 Finger (the first 3 grips completed). The least improvement was seen in the Pinch, IM 2 Finger and Small VDER (the last 3 grips). This is typical in my experience, and this is why I suggest working the most “important” grips early in your hangboard workouts. Here is another way to look at this phenomenon:
- The Pinch grip was a disaster! After the second workout I flatlined, then after the 6th workout I actually got worse! This is somewhat exaggerated because after the 6th workout (and several straight workouts of failing on the third set), I purposely reduced the resistance in the hopes of jump starting this grip. That worked once (workout 7), but then I plateaued at a lower level. Part of this is because this is the last grip of the workout. However, you might expect that I would at least get better at managing fatigue, and thus would show some improvement. You certainly would not expect that I would regress. So what is going on here? Each workout is a little bit harder (overall) than the preceding workout. This is because initially the loads applied are conservative, so early in the Strength Phase many sets are completed with relative ease, leaving more energy for the later grips in the workout. Later in the Phase, the loads applied are much closer to my limit, and I really have to scratch and claw to complete each set of every grip. Thus I’m much more tired when I arrive at the last few grips of a given workout. The amplitude of this effect increases each workout within a phase. So while the loads applied in this example are more or less constant, the apparent difficulty of completing three sets at those loads is increasing each workout. A question worth asking is, does training this grip improve my pinch strength, or would I be better off ending my workout after 5 grips? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I think it does make me stronger (or at least better at managing fatigue), even though the accumulating fatigue prevents me from capturing that improvement “on paper”.
Moving on, the first chart I posted illustrates only the load applied during the third set of each grip. There are many other ways to slice the data. During each set, I strive to perform a certain number of 7-second dead hang repetitions (7 for the first set, 6 for the second set, 5 for the third set). Often I reach the end of the third set, having completed each rep without failing. In these situations I usually try to perform a 6th rep at the end of the third set (in rare instances I will add extra reps to the second set, but only if it feels really easy). On the other hand, often I fail to complete all of the prescribed reps. For example, I might complete the first 4 reps of the third set of a given grip, but my fingers fail 5 seconds in to the 5th rep. Capturing these variations and plotting them provides slightly more fidelity into apparent plateaus:
The TUT for each workout in the above chart “should be” 42 seconds for the 2nd set (6 reps times 7 seconds per rep) and 35 seconds for the third set. As you can see, there was a good deal of variation between workouts despite a constant applied load. The problem with looking at the data in this manner is that it only works when the load applied is constant. Another option is to look at the “Volume” of a given set. Qualitatively, Volume = Intensity x Duration. However, coming up with a practical quantitative Volume formula can be challenging.
The most simplistic method is to simply multiple the hang duration (TUT) for a given set by the load applied. However, the load applied is only a fraction of the load on your fingers. It makes sense to add body weight into the formula (so Volume = (Body Weight + Load Applied) x Duration. The below chart shows this data for the 3rd sets of the IM 2 Finger grip.
The problem with the above metric is that it “values” duration much more than load. It’s easy to achieve a high Volume figure by using lower loads and performing extra reps. For example, during the first 5 workouts of this phase, I managed to complete all 5 reps of each 3rd set, and then at least attempted a 6th rep. During the last five workouts I only completed the 5th rep once and never attempted a 6th rep. As a result, the “Volume” on the left side of the chart (the first five workouts) is greater than the Volume on the right half. This is not what we want to strive for as athletes. We want to strive for higher loads, more so than extra reps, so it would be nice to use a Volume formula that “rewards” higher loads. Another option is to consider the Volume of the entire grip, not just the Volume of the 3rd set. This method gives you “credit” for the extra load used later in the phase in the first two sets of each grip.
The Total Grip Volume method of calculation is an improvement. The Volume for workouts 7-10 is greater than that of workouts 1-3, but it still implies that my workout 5 performance of 5 reps of 7 seconds and 1 rep of 6 seconds at +30 lbs. is “superior” to my workout 10 performance of 4 reps of 7 seconds and 1 rep of 4 seconds at +40 lbs. Maybe it is, but I can tell you the latter seems much more difficult to do, and it would be nice if the “Volume” calculation captured that. So there is room for an improved Volume formula.
Finally, for the “fun” of it, below is the Total Workout Volume (the sum of the above volume calculation for each grip):
At least it seems the Volume is more or less increasing each workout, and this shows some indication of a plateau appearing around the 9th workout.
I know I’m not the only spreadsheet nerd out there, so if you have a novel way of analyzing your training data, please share in a comment below!