Training Board Hold Systems

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training board hold systems

training board hold systems

The modern standardized training board is an invaluable investment for climbing gyms large and small. By committing only a small fraction of a facility’s footprint for training boards, gym operators open up bottomless climbing options for a huge variety of customers. No routesetting is necessary since all systems come with an app packed with thousands of problems, and the only real maintenance required is cleaning the holds. No longer do private trainers or youth team coaches need to wander the gym to find climbs for their clients’ workouts.

“They create a friendly, or cutthroat, way for people to train together, whether in the same gym at the same time or with partners across the continents,” said Fabrizio Zangrilli, who owns Monkee House in Carbondale, Colorado, and uses five different board systems in the gym.

The concept of a training board is not new. Practically since the advent of indoor climbing, training aficionados have built “system boards”: usually DIY mirrored walls that enable climbers to work on specific goals in a confined space and are effectively extensions of the campus board and hangboard. But modern training boards take it to a whole new level, driven largely by technology. Combining LED lights and databases of routes on an app in your pocket―and built on a standardized layout that can be replicated anywhere in the world―the training boards of today can pack a lifetime of climbing into a 10×10 space.

 

There are four primary training board hold systems on the market today in North America. (Training board frames will be covered later in a separate CBJ product roundup). In other parts of the world a few others are currently in use, and it seems many new options are in development publicly and in secret.

chart of climbing training board hold systems
All details above are accurate as of the publishing date. New options may have been added and prices may have changed since then, and new routes are added every day to the apps.

MoonBoard
The MoonBoard, which is widely considered the first training board system on the market.

MoonBoard

Legendary climber Ben Moon pioneered the training board concept with the release of his original MoonBoard in 2006, which was based on designs he had used since the late 80s. Since then his namesake board has been installed in thousands of climbing gyms and homewalls all over the planet, and the MoonBoard boasts a huge following and countless beta videos online.

Over the years MoonBoard has released multiple unique hold layouts―2016, 2017, 2019, 2020 (Mini)―with each designed for a 25° or 40° wall. The holds tend to be small, with the grades starting around V3/V4, which can limit beginners and warm-ups. Ben said the initial idea was to cater to “the needs of a small but dedicated group of climbers who understood that a small fixed hold training board was an exceptional strength training tool,” and he couldn’t have been more right.

MoonBoard was voted Favorite Homewall Board System in CBJ’s Grip List 2021. They also proudly give 1% of all sales to environmental charities.

“The holds are perhaps the most realistic to outdoor climbing. I think the OG yellow holds do the best job simulating some of the nasty holds you have to grab outside.”
―Eddie Morillas, The Front Climbing Club (all four board systems installed)

“The small, deep in-cut holds favor a more powerful and tension-based climbing style.”
―Matt Waits, High Point Climbing & Fitness (three board systems installed)

“This board forces the climber to not hesitate and to be very deliberate with their movement. I also like the fact that this board is pretty simple and can fit in pretty small spaces.”
―Ken Klein, Whetstone Climbing (three board systems installed)

Learn more about the MoonBoard at www.moonboard.com

 

Tension Board
The Tension Board, with its mirrored layout and 100% wooden holds.

Tension Board

The folks at Tension introduced the second widely-used training board in 2017 with their Tension Board. It has a mirrored layout like system boards of the past, but with the modern conveniences of LED lights and a route database app, and the Tension Board was also designed for use on adjustable angle walls. The symmetry has attracted users who wish to target left and right-side movements, and by using 100% wooden holds it’s the eco-friendly choice and a skin-friendly board for long sessions.

“The wood holds are friendly on the skin and the symmetry helps identify weaknesses in your climbing. The climbing style leans more towards slower static movement.”
―Matt Waits, High Point Climbing and Fitness

“The ability to climb on the board without skin damage encourages users who want specific training or are nursing a split.”
―Fabrizio Zangrilli, Monkey House Carbondale (all four board systems installed)

“It’s probably the most appropriately named board. You need to keep it tight and have good technique for this one.”
―Eddie Morillas, The Front Climbing Club

Learn more about the Tension Board at www.tensionclimbing.com

 

Kilter Board
The full-perimeter LED lights in action on the Kilter Board.

Kilter Board

Legendary sculptor Ian Powell brought his deep experience in hold shaping to the training board space with his introduction of the Kilter Board in 2019. Comfortable and varied shapes have made his board a good choice for entry-level and elite climbers alike, and the unique full-perimeter LED lights which encircle the holds make route sequences super easy to follow, on and off the wall. Kilter also introduced the first paired manufactured frame, produced in partnership with Lemur out of Canada, which offers a sleek look for the modern gym.

Just two years on the market, Kilter Board was voted the Favorite Board System by routesetters in CBJ’s Grip List 2021.

“The large, friendly hold shapes and fully-lit hold design are less intimidating for new climbers and is the best way to introduce them to the world of climbing training.”
―Matt Waits, High Point Climbing and Fitness

“Accessible to beginners at lower angles.”
―Eddie Morillas, The Front Climbing Club

“I feel this is the easiest board to climb on.”
―Ken Klein, Whetstone Climbing

Learn more about the Kilter Board at www.setttercloset.com

 

Grasshopper Board
The Grasshopper Board, the newest entrant on the market, with its bolt-hole LED lighting option.

Grasshopper 

Boone Speed launched his Grasshopper Board in 2020 during the pandemic, with a layout developed by Josh Larson. The company’s modern adjustable frames pair with the hold systems for a sophisticated aesthetic look. On the marketing front, Grasshopper has exclusively partnered with USA Climbing, and it’s not uncommon to see climbing Olympians training on this system on social media. The mirrored Grasshopper was the first to include some larger slopers and pinches, and the bolt-hole LED lighting option improves on systems that have lights below the holds.

“Grasshopper has the most diversified set of holds, from big slopers to crimps.”
―Fabrizio Zangrilli, Monkey House Carbondale

“Ergonomic grips… I like having larger and slopier holds.”
―Eddie Morillas, The Front Climbing Club

Learn more about the Grasshopper Board at www.grasshopperclimbing.com

 

Additional Training Board Hold Systems

The popularity of the four main training board hold systems above means inevitably there will be new entrants into this market as time goes on. Below are three more newly available systems, one that is currently being developed, and two great DIY solutions:

  • Formik: They just installed the first Woods Board, it has a mirrored layout with mostly wooden holds but also some plastic holds.
  • Wataaah: Their Dojo board system is available in Europe and the US featuring 210 dual-tex screw-on holds (105 unique shapes) with a mirrored layout for 20°-45° boards.
  • Satellite: Their Satellite Board system is distributed worldwide and comes in two sizes: 40° with 304 holds mainly for gyms, and a Mini (30° with 105 holds) for homewalls.
  • Decoy: They have been refining their set that will be mirrored with mostly dual-tex holds.
  • Atomik: While they don’t make a full board system, Atomik does produce a variety of  plastic system holds for DIY board layouts.
  • Metolius: Recently launched wood system holds for DIY board layouts, featuring marks  on the perimeter every 10° to assist positioning.

More Resources About Training Board Systems

Here are more articles that provide additional details and perspectives on these invaluable training tools:

Editor’s Note: Grasshopper, Kilter, Atomik and Metolius are financial supporters of CBJ.