by Carlos Tkacz
Welcome to Moonboarding 101!
Today, I will be giving you a brief primer on using the sandbaggiest of all boards, the destroyer of egos, the tendon wrecker, the Moonboard!
In this short article, we will cover The Basics and Using the Board as a Training Tool. Let’s get started.
First of all, what is the Moonboard? The Moonboard is a product developed by Moon Climbing, based on Ben Moon’s experience training. The product consists of several sets of holds arranged on a 40 or 25 degree (some walls are adjustable), 8ft x 12ft board (with a small kickboard) in specific ways, or “seasons.” The Moonboard will be set up to match one of these seasons. No matter where you go in the world, whether in a gym or on someone’s home wall. This, then, is matched with the Moon Climbing phone app. Users can make problems by choosing certain holds as “on,” indicating start and finishing hold. That’s basically it!
The first thing you will need to do to get started on a Moonboard is downloading the app. It’s free and available on both Android and Apple. You’ll be prompted to make an account and to set up your wall (if you are not, you can get there from the drop-down menu by going to “Setting” and then “Moonboard Layout”). Here, you will have to enter some information: Moonboard type (most will be Standard), hold setup (seasons), what hold sets you have, and the angle. It is fairly easy to figure out, but if you don’t know any of the information necessary, ask whoever owns the wall.
Next, you can start going through the list of climbs. Here, things can get a little confusing, as there are LITERALLY tens of thousands of climbs, and not all of them are meant to be taken seriously. Also, your phone has to update all the problems the first time you go to a new season; this can take a few minutes.
In the top right corner of the app, you’ll see a symbol with three lines making an upside triangle. This is the filter tool, which allows you to filter the climbs you see in the list by various factors: difficulty, repeats, quality, etc. This is also where you can choose to filter for Benchmarks (more on that in a bit).
Once you find a line you want to try, you’ll see a representation of the board with the appropriate holds circled. The start hold will be circled in green, the end hold in red, and all other holds in blue. You should also see a lightbulb in the bottom left. If your wall has lights, this is how you’ll connect your phone to the Bluetooth setup and light the holds up on the wall. Most gyms have this, and it usually requires you to press a button somewhere near the Moonboard to connect your phone. Again, ask around if you’re having trouble!
Now you should be ready to climb! Get some! When you send a line, you can hit the “+” symbol at the bottom to add it to your logbook, which keeps track of your sends. You can also, using the same symbol, add it to a list, say where you keep projects or climbs useful for specific training goals. There is also a button for information and another, a small camera icon, that will send you to a video of someone doing the line (this button only shows up if there is a video available).
Now, the Benchmarks. You can filter for these in the menu mentioned above, and Benchmarks will have a yellow/orange circle with a “B” next to their names. Here’s the deal: the Moon Climbing team, either by setting them themselves or choosing from the crowd-sourced lines, identifies certain problems as being “benchmarks” for the grade. Think of these like the classics of an area; they tend to be stout for the grade (indeed, Moonboard Benchmarks are VERY stout) and of good quality.
Ok, that covers the Basics; let’s talk training!
Using the Board as a Training Tool
The Moonboard is an excellent training tool for several reasons, but perhaps the best reason is its simplicity. The climbing on the Moonboard is HARD, no matter the grade, and there is really no way around it. The holds are small, hard to match (or hand-foot match for that matter), and you basically can never relax on them (even the big ones!). This means that a session on the board can be very intense, from start to finish. Whereas in a gym, we often unconsciously gravitate towards problems that suit our strengths and involve tricks. The Moonboard is all about pulling hard all the time. As such, and not surprisingly, it gets you strong and accustomed to trying hard.
Finger Strength & Power
The Moonboard is probably best suited for the V-Max or Limit Bouldering portions of your training. Just be aware that, even at the lower grades, the Moonboard is very hard on the fingers. So be careful when using it during a hang board cycle. It can be safely done (I use it this way), but you need to be aware. Generally, the Moonboard can help you with finger strength, as the holds are small and require constant gripping. It can also help you with your power, as the problems tend towards large moves, often dead points, between distant holds. Some of the climbing can be called awkward (I know I complained about that at first) – moves often involve strange crosses or jumping from very scrunchy positions – but this is actually, I think, one of its good points.
This kind of climbing can teach you to use your body in ways you never thought possible. It will teach you how to engage your climbing muscles from all sorts of positions. That said, you can also use the board for various drills and endurance exercises if you so choose. Hover drills, 4x4s, etc.… you can pretty much do any drill on the Moonboard that you would do on a normal wall.
Try Hard, Send Hard
One last thing worth mentioning is the mental effect the Moonboard can have. This shouldn’t be underestimated. The sandbagged nature of the Benchmarks can really bruise some egos (believe me, mine hurt for a long time). But if you can let that go, you will be rewarded when you go outdoors, and your project feels easy for the grade compared to the Moonboard. And, after some time on the board, I think you will find your “grit” greatly increased; you’ll try harder and, likely, send harder too. The fact is that climbing your hardest is hard. The Moonboard helps you get used to that.
Ok, that covers what you need to know to at least get started! Have fun, listen to your body, train hard, and smash those projects. If you have any questions about this article or training on the Moonboard or general, feel free to reach out to me through Flashed or on Instagram!