So I've been hangboarding for just about two months now, and it's been going really well. The gains in finger strength are slow, but noticeable. The grade I occasionally onsighted, I now onsight consistently. The grade of problem where most of my projects fall are no longer plagued by the constant 1-2 impossible/improbable moves, but are instead dropping in about 2-3 sessions. My other weaknesses have been revealed and I'm pretty excited about that progress.
Here are a few things I've learned and experienced along the way:
3-FINGER POCKETS ARE THE SHIT.
3-finger pockets are an awesome way to work up to 2-finger pockets, which I found very painful and difficult when I had just begun hangboarding. I divided my hand into two overlapping parts: "Inner 3" (3 fingers closest to the thumb) and "Outer 3" (3 fingers furthest from the thumb. The "inners" are significantly easier than the "outers" and you'll probably find that they progress similarly to your 4-finger crimp strength. "Outers" are subject to a little more torque and decreased strength, so work these up slowly.
2-FINGER POCKETS CAN BE PAINFUL, BUT ARE AWESOME IF DONE RIGHT
Be careful with pockets, and progress slowly. Pain is never a good thing, but not necessarily a limiting factor. I had trouble with finger placement on pockets, because I'd try to slot my fingers in too far on my hangboard, which would cause a lot of torquing. If you experience this, slide your fingers out of the pocket slightly (heh) so that the joint of your finger is just at the edge and your fingers can lay flat (I call this a relaxed grip, as opposed to half-crimping within the pocket).
However, at the same time, realize that a lot of load is being placed on a few fingers and make sure to work up to pockets by doing a lot of 3-finger hangs if you feel uncomfortable. When I add weight to pockets, I do them in really small increments (2.5 pounds added per workout) so as not to injure myself.
Someday I hope by doing these I'll work up to the fabled mono pocket... but I'm guessing that'll be awhile.
COUNTER INTUITIVE, BUT HEY... DECREASED OVERALL TENDINITIS.
Within a few weeks of doing hangboard workouts, I noticed a marked decrease in tendinitis in my forearm. I'm chalking this up to my fingers being overall pretty weak and needing some extra stimulus to strengthen. Overall, bouldering has been hurting less and I hardly think about my tendons while climbing anymore.
IF YOU DO MORE THAN 10 GRIP STYLES, MIGHT WANNA BREAK IT UP.
If you're like me and want to work a thousand different grip styles, you may want to consider hangboarding in an A/B day fashion. I recently split my workouts so that I do crimps and pockets one day, then slopers and pinches the next workout.
SPEAKING OF PINCHES... GET SOME. WHEN THEY GET EASY, GET MORE.
In climbing you can often turn a terrible crimp into a decent hold just by pinching it. Many of us, however, have terrible pinch strength and can benefit from some targeted pinch-strength training. However, pinches are a little bit rarer to find on a hangboard, and therefore it may be necessary to install some pinch holds on/around your existing hangboard surface. Here's a picture of a re-settable hangboard I built in my basement (all the holds are removable and replaceable).
YOU LEARN ALL THE OTHER STUFF YOU'RE SHITTY AT.
Now that finger strength is somewhat less of a limiting factor, you realize all the other stuff that has been holding you back. Like technique... and power... and endurance...
YOU'RE GONNA LOSE SOME CLIMBING TIME.
Or at least, some time attempting to climb for maximum strength. Even if you distribute your hangboarding and subsequent climbing throughout the day, you won't climb as hard as you like until you've gotten appropriate rest. In my case, I pretty much never get fully-rested bouldering sessions in anymore, as I hangboard every other day. If you predominantly climb routes, this may be less of a problem for you.
In a month or two I'll post another review and my progress. I also recently began doing heavy finger rolls, which in the past have caused me some injuries (I believe due to inefficient warming up). I'll let you know how these work out.
Until then, enjoy all your hangboarding adventures!
-The Weak Machine