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How to Use the Campus Board for Rock Climbers

March 12th, 2015

This is a guest feature from my long-time friends, Chris Rice & Andrew Durniat. Chris is an avid rock climber and Andrew has been doing more and more of it in recent years, with big plans for the future. With Chris and Andrew being so knowledgeable both in the areas of climbing and grip work, I asked them to put together a feature on Campus Board Training, and they knocked the ball out of the park. Thank you SO MUCH, Chris & Andrew, for your contribution to my site. This information is going to help a LOT of people! -Jedd-

Campus Board Training for Climbers

The Campus Board

First a warning, climbers do NOT train like Grip Sport people do – not even a little bit. Both sports are VERY SPECIALIZED, meaning the preparation the athletes do match up to what they encounter in their sport, and there is not much overlap to speak of at all.

Second, climbers are lightweights in comparison to the vast majority of lifters. A 200# climber is huge for example, oh sure lots of 200# guys climb but I can’t think of one of the top people who are that big. Many of the things climbers can do in their training is because of their size (or lack of it).

Third – and maybe most important is that the use of a Campus Board generally comes along well into the training career for climbers when they have a solid base of tendon and specific strength development targeting these exact muscle groups. This is where you advance TO in your climbing training – not where you should start.

There is no one path to becoming a good climber but the newest programs do have some common themes. First you should learn how not to die and how not to let your partner die – the ropes and gear used does serve a purpose besides looking cool – learn to use it all safely.

Then comes the technique work – or learning the various movement patterns that allow you to climb efficiently with the use of the legs and entire body, not by just hauling yourself up by doing pull ups until you can’t anymore.

Learning to climb by climbing a lot is no doubt the best way to become a better climber up through the moderate levels of difficulty – and some extremely good climbers have not done much else over the years.

Climbing is competitive like everything else so people began actually “training” to climb better. In the beginning they did lots of pull ups (regular and fingertip), pushups, sit ups and all the normal exercises – the use of “finger curls” etc – which are all great at the beginner to intermediate levels.

As difficulty levels went higher and higher – something else became necessary. A lot of mistakes were made with some high risk movements done – traditional weight training was a failure for the most part – the Bacher Ladder destroyed lots of elbows etc.

I’ll skip all that and go into what might be called the “common” programing today. This assumes you have been climbing for a while and have developed some skill and basic level of strength in your hands.

Common Training & Programming for Rock Climbing

First – Develop increased mitochondria and capillarity in the working muscles with long continuous easy to moderate sessions on a climbing wall or real rock. For years I used very high reps wrist curls in an attempt to do this – it is a poor substitute but can help if you do not have access to anything to climb locally.

Think about Zone 1 LSD type Aerobic work done for your overall conditioning as similar but done for the forearms and hands in this case. This is the base level building block that I think most lifters neglect to their detriment in most of the training they do. They never “set the stage” so to speak.

Next comes strength: some (relatively small amount of) climbing specific overall body and core work done in a way that no weight gain is allowed – and legs are often allowed to shrink by some serious climbers – bodyweight is the enemy here.

The Hang Board / Contact Board

Then specific climbing strength is developed, generally, by training on a “Hang Board.” This item has various sized edges, pockets, and pinches that you can hang from with anywhere from 4 fingers down to 1 finger of each hand. Workouts generally consist of multiple timed sets with timed rests and then done on different sizes of holds in a workout. People often “deload” or subtract bodyweight with a pulley system in order to be able to do certain smaller holds or fewer fingers – or add weight to achieve their target times, reps, and sets on a larger sized or shaped hold.

How to Train for Climbing Strength with the Hang Board

Several companies make Hang Boards – some are better than others but most work just fine. Look for smooth curves on the edges and a sort of semi smooth texture. My recommendation is that no one “campus” without having spent some serious time working the Hang Board first. Campus rungs are sometimes used as Hang Boards but they are not ideal for this purpose.

After this comes Power and “contact strength.” Here we finally come to Campus Boards. Campusing is done dynamically, with fast pulls to long reaches and catches, pull, catch, and drop to a catch (various distances etc) and numerous other drills and skills.


Get your Contact Board / Hang Board on Amazon

Something climbers need is the ability to recruit motor units very quickly. If you think about pulling up quickly or even jumping up and grabbing a very small handhold, you will need to go from zero strength to 100% recruitment instantly – not something that comes naturally to most people.

Campus Boarding is basically plyometrics for your climbing muscles. It is very hard on the elbows and finger pulleys – the general recommendation is to not Campus until you have a couple years of climbing behind you, have reached the point of very good climbing technique skills, and are relatively speaking an advanced climber, climbing at moderately higher level climbs.

Non climbers beware even if you are quite strong in a regular gym setting – stay with the larger rungs for longer than you feel is necessary before dropping down to the medium or especially small rungs and certainly don’t go to using 2 or 1 finger until you are certain you are ready. Campussing injuries are usually not very pretty.

Next is Power Endurance or taking the abilities from the Campus Board to longer durations with real on-the-rock or climbing-wall sessions. In a way this might be compared to “peaking” in lifting terms – this stage cannot generally be maintained for long.

Something to remember is that strength and endurance are local as it pertains to climbing. The ability to squat, DL, Bench Press, run, bike etc is not only unnecessary but probably detrimental to better climbing. Many people have tried to become very good climbers in the traditional weight room (including me) and it simply cannot be done as well.

I have been deeply involved in the sport of Grip for a decade now and have decided that nothing we do here really helps climbing very much – EXCEPT for injury proofing by allowing us to work for a more balanced strength across our joints. I wanted it to help, and I still want it to help as I enjoy it – it just doesn’t and uses time that could be better spent training in ways targeted more directly towards the goal. At the early stages, the strength and fitness from the weight room can be valuable if one can stay light, but as you advance, you need other things much more.

What is a Campus Board

The Campus Board

A campus board is a very basic piece of equipment, consisting of a slightly overhanging (generally around 15 degrees) wooden board with wooden rungs (holds) evenly spaced upwards. There are generally 3 approximate sizes of rungs – ¾” – 1” – and 1 ¼”. The idea of this apparatus is that you campus (climb) up the wooden rungs without using your feet, therefore all the stress is going into your arms and fingers. Obviously campus boarding is no use if you neglect climbing which involves your feet as well, but is a good supplement to normal climbing. It is possible to campus using your feet on small holds in the beginning also. If you are a larger person or not as advanced, THIS IS AN EXCELLENT IDEA.

It wasn’t long before the idea of the campus board caught on amongst the world’s elite. The campus board is a common piece of equipment seen in climbing gyms all around the world. They are used by large numbers of climbers of all abilities to help improve climbing specific strength in the fingers and arms and break into the next grade.

Some exercises are easier than others and work slightly different grips, and types of strength. However it is worth noting that a campus board is a very physical piece of equipment and there is a higher than average risk of injury when using one. I wouldn’t recommend the use of a campus board to anyone who isn’t a good strong climber and has not been climbing for a couple years and is at a slightly above average climbing level.

Campus Board Rung Sizes and Spacing

An ideal campus board will have a few different sized rungs, spaced at around 8.66” (Called Moon spacing after Ben Moon) apart with up to 9 numbered rungs going upwards. It is also very common to install “half” (Metolius Spacing) spaced rungs. It is important that you use the correct sized rungs when campus boarding. Obviously campussing on huge jugs won’t increase finger strength but while using smaller rungs will be more beneficial, it will increase the risk of injury greatly.

Campus Board Rungs Available on Amazon

Clearly some common sense is required when selecting which rungs to use, if you are new to campus boarding then I recommend that you use bigger rungs and gradually decrease the size. You should be able to perform 5 or so pull ups on the rung you wish to campus on, if you can’t then they are too small. Always err on the side of caution – you can always change the next training session if you are healthy – not so much if you are injured by too much too soon.

Campus Board Grips

When campus boarding there are three main types of grips you can use, although I recommend staying open handed or half crimped.

open hand
Open Hand Grip

Open Handed Grip: Open Handed Grip is an important grip to train since it is generally trained less when bouldering/ climbing indoors but is important to be strong in this position. It is also possible to experiment using only a select few fingers, as if you were climbing in pockets. But beware this is a very intense exercise, and for all but the few mortals using all 3 fingers open handed will be best.

half crimp
Half Crimp

Half Crimp Grip: Half Crimp Grip is often preferred when campus boarding since it will help improve both crimped and open handed strength. Most people’s anatomy will automatically put you in a half crimp if you use your pinky and do a 4 finger grip on the rung.

full crimp
Full Crimp

Full Crimp Grip: With Full Crimp Grip, the fingers are bent, knuckles up, and fingertips coming down on the rung. I do not recommend campussing in a full crimped position.

Campus Board Exercises

Always warm up before using the campus board, best is easy climbing around for a while. For most climbers it is best to campus board when you are totally fresh. Aim for quality over quantity and a session should last no more than 1 hour and probably much less.

Each rung will be numbered. You should campus between these rungs with alternative hands. For example if I were to say do 1-4-7 leading with the left hand, you should start matching on rung one. Then campus up to rung 4 (approximately a 35” reach) with the left hand, then pull straight through to rung 7 with the right hand without matching. This is advanced stuff.

Touches: With Touches, be aware since they require lowering back down onto the arms (plyometrics); therefore they carry a higher risk of injury. Touches work explosive upwards movements as well as deep locking off strength and contact strength.

Campus Board Training Part 1 – Entry Level Campus Board Training & Conditioning

For Touches, 1-3-1 or 1-4-1 should be more than sufficient for most climbers. Be sure to use both arms equally. To concentrate more on deep lock off strength you should not drop back to rung one, instead go 1-4-3-4 etc. This should be repeated for each arm

Laddering: Laddering is the most simple and obvious exercise done on the campus board and can be done on any of the preferred grips as mentioned above.

The idea of laddering is that you move up the board in a symmetrical fashion moving with the opposite hand for each movement.

You can experiment with several different rung combinations, such as 1 -2 -3 -4 or 1-3-5-7-9 or 1-4-7 and so on.

With laddering it is important to use several different sequences to get you to the top. To make this more difficult you can use fewer hand movements to make it to the top, two current benchmarks are 1-4-7 or if your unbelievably strong 1-5-9.

Campus Board Training Part 2 – Intermediate Training Methods

Doubles: Doubles should increase hand eye co-ordination and timing. As well as improving explosive power and contact strength.

Doubles involve moving between rungs with both hands at the same time, causing a moment of flight before catching the next rung. Again there are many different sequences to be tried, but generally people will use 1-3-2-4-3-5-4-6-5-7-6-8-7-9 and so on, basically going up 2 rungs and down one.

Power endurance training: A campus board’s best training asset is possibly its ability to allow top end power endurance training. However training power endurance on the campus board is very physical and I only recommend this type of training to people who are experienced with campus board use and also have a good level of strength. You should be pretty advanced before starting these.

Campus Board Training Part 3: Advanced Training Methods

Basically it involves going up and down the campus board for a period of time, usually between 40 – 60 seconds. It is done in sets, usually about 6 or so sets with 2 minutes rest between. It is important that you don’t go to failure in your early sets and that you only begin to fail in sets 5 or 6.

It’s a good idea to have a big clear area behind you with a nice pad of some kind on the floor – sooner or later you might fall on your butt.

Campus Board Training Plan

Normally, just 1 or 2 campus board sessions per week is all that is necessary, as well as at least 2 climbing/ bouldering sessions after an initial break in period.

The above is for a serious rock climber with experience. A non-climber but grip sport athlete really needs to be very careful if you decide to try campussing. To be honest I would not recommend it for grip sport training. There is little benefit to be gained that cannot be found in a far safer and more controllable manner with the use of a Hang Board for the development desired for Grip Sport competition.

Once again, big thanks to Chris and Andrew for working together to bring this project to completion. Awesome guys! -Jedd-

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7 Deadly Sins of Strength Training

February 27th, 2015

I had the amazing opportunity to put together an article for sponsor, Onnit’s magazine, Onnit Academy.

It’s called “The 7 Deadly Sins of Strength Training.”

Here’s a picture of the magazine:


Here’s what you’ll learn from the article…

No matter what your main objective in your training is, it takes a LOT more than just getting your workouts in, to be successful.

There’s other stuff you’ve gotta do to support your training and recovery in order to ensure you see the results you want.

Whether you’re trying to build a massive yoke, excel at strongman, or training to close bigger grippers, when you get these 7 things right, you see better results in your training.

As my sponsors, Onnit has sent me a special link so that my readers can get a copy of this issue, and all you need to do is pay the shipping charges.

Special Onnit Academy Link for my DIESELS

This is a complete STEAL of a price, too.

This is easily the highest quality fitness magazine I’ve ever seen. The cover and pages actually feel more like catalog quality than cheapo magazine stock.

Plus, the information is top notch. This issue alone features contributions from:

    Mark DeGrasse, me, Lance Brazil, Joe Defranco, Jim “Smitty” Smith, Travis Stoetzel, Travis Janeway, Trey Hardee, Doug Fioranelli, Evan Brand, Luke Hocevar, Marcus Martinez, Joe Daniels Ryan Mortensen, Ken Blackburn, and Matt Wichlinski

Plus, I flipped through the thing and found just ONE ADVERTISEMENT in the whole issue.

So you’re not staring and endless supplement ads as you go through it like most magazines that are out there.

Instead, you’re getting solid information.

So, get yourself a copy for as cheap as you possibly can, by just paying shipping:

Onnit Academy Magazine – pay just $4.95 to cover shipping costs

I hope you pick it up and let me know what you think of the article!

Thanks and all the best in your training.


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Grip Hogs Day – A Success for New Grip Athletes

February 11th, 2015

Grip Hogs Day 2015

GHD normal

In December, I decided to run a contest with the primary objective to help get new Grip Sport Athletes involved in the sport.

I chose 2/7/15 and since it was right after Groundhog’s Day, I decided to name it Grip Hogs Day.

There were two divisions: the Open Class and a Super Match between my partner, Luke and myself.

I am happy to say that the entire contest was quite a success, as 7 out of the 12 lifters were first-time competitors and ALL of them reported they loved the contest and can’t wait for the next one!

Before I get too far into this, I want to send out a thanks to Luke Raymond, my Dad, and my wife. With everything they did, it was the easiest contest I’ve ever run! Thanks everyone!

Grip Hogs Day

Here are videos of each of the events:

Silver Bullet Hold

This event involves holding the IronMind Silver Bullet between the handles of a #3 Captains of Crush for as long as possible. Everyone got one chance to get their best time on the #3, and if they could not do get a legal hold, they could try the #2.

I have been dancing very close to the World Record in this event for the last few months. I was close again this time, with 43 seconds, but just didn’t have enough to break the record.

Two Hands Pinch

The Adjustable Pinch Device was used, so each competitor could use the width that felt best in their hands. Each got 4 attempts to lift the biggest weight possible.

I broke a new World Record off the ground in December on this lift and I was hoping to complete it at GHD, but a rash of thumb tears really affected my training the last couple of months and I had to settle with 248.

Double Overhand Axle

This lift is like a regular deadlift, only a 1.9″ OD Axle is used with a double overhand grip, both of which tax the hands more than a regular deadlift. The highlight of this event for me was watching newcomer, John Stepien, pull 383lbs, matching my lift, in his first ever Grip competition.

I truly thought this would be the day I hit 400lbs in competition, as I hit it recently in training, but I couldn’t quite pull it to a legal height, or control it as needed to be legal.

Pickaxe Lift

This event is similar to the Sledge Choke, only instead of moving away from the head of the hammer in order to increase the difficulty, everyone grips in the same spot and weight is added to a loading pin at the front of the handle. To keep the lift strict, a shot is balanced on a nut on to the top ridge of the Pickaxe.

The record prior to the contest was something like 11.4lbs. I had broken this several times in training, as had my partner Luke Raymond. As we anticipated, the end of the event ended up being a shoot-out between Luke and me, as we both set new records of 11.77. I won the event, lifting 12.18 and 12.51lbs in my later attempts. Luke tried 12.51lbs on 2 separate attempts, but his wrist power just wasn’t there due to an injury he sustained in December.

The Bull Ring Extensor Lift

This is a brand new event that was introduced at GHD. You place your hand inside the ring and lift the weight with the strength of the extensors.

The Bull Rings are available now. Contact me for ordering details at jedddotdieselatgmaildotcom. Aside from effectively allowing the extensors to be worked heavy and progressively, the Bull Ring can also be used as a hub device.

Looking Back on Grip Hogs Day

I would say this is easily the most fun I’ve ever had at one of my own contests, despite failing to break the records on the Silver Bullet and Two Hands Pinch. The group was all great, and I was so happy to meet all of the new competitors!

GHD Flex

As you can see, we started everything off with a Flexing Pic, and aaalllmost everybody took part. Eli Thomas couldn’t believe the size of the guns on Napalm.


Mike Chaffee, Jedd Johnson, John Stepien

Mike Chaffee, who won the Novice Class award (first time competitors), and John Stepien, who came in 2nd place in the Novice category, both said they were hooked! I can’t wait to see what else they are capable of down the road!

I wish you would have been there, brother. You GOTTA make it to the next one!

Until then, all the best in your training.


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Giant 200lb Kettlebell Goblet Squats

February 2nd, 2015

What You’re Capable of When Your Back’s Against the Wall – 200lb Goblet Squats


Over the last year, I’ve had on loan a GIGANTIC 200lb Kettlebell from a business partner of mine.

From time to time, I would work it into my training, with the objective of hitting legit Goblet Squats with it.

Heavy Goblet Squats are AWESOME: If you haven’t done Goblet Squats in your training, they are a great alternative to Front Squats, as you get that frontal loading, but don’t have to deal with the same pressure in the wrists, as you would feel when supporting the bar in Olympic-style Front Squats.

Goblet Squats with this massive chunk of iron proved to be very very challenging, and as a result, I got frustrated and tried them less and less.

Recently, my business partner said he’d be coming to grab it and take it back to his gym, so I decided I’d better pursue Goblet Squats a few more times while I had the chance.

It’s amazing what you are capable of when your back is up against the wall.

I knew that my time with the Kettlebell was short, so it became very important to me to accomplish this goal.

So, I essentially cut out all off the negative thinking that was keeping me from succeeding with these 200lb Goblet Squats and finally just went after it.

Here’s a video series showing my most recent success with the 200lb Kettlebell Goblet Squats, which will then be followed by previous, less impressive attempts.

Obviously, once I began inverting the Kettlebell, these became quite a bit easier.

And once I got a taste of success with these, I’ve been able to improve every single time I’ve tried them.

So, here’s the BIG QUESTION: Have you been holding yourself back?

I know I was. I kept telling myself these were hard and because of that, they never got any easier.

I encourage you to take a look at your training, take a look at your thinking, and honestly ask if you’re talking yourself out of success in your lifting.

And if you are, stop doing it.

Tear down the mental barriers and make it happen.

So much of this stuff is mental. Get your head right and your lifting will follow.

All the best in your training.


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Diesel Crew Site Directory – All Posts at

January 27th, 2015

Welcome to the Diesel Directory, Brother

This is the site directory. It has all the posts added from 2008 to 2011. The purpose is to help you find the exact information you’re looking for.

All the posts are arranged by topic, so that should help you out big time. For even quicker search abilities, hit the “Ctrl” Button and the letter “F” at the same time, to bring up a search window. You can then type in the term you are looking for, and it will help you find that specific word.

I still have several years’ worth of posts to go through, and I will make sure you know every time updates are made. Please be sure to add your email address so you know when this page is updated, as well as anytime new posts and videos are added to the site.

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Grip Strength