The Campus Board & Training Harder

Campus board training

The Origin Of Campus

We’ve all heard people shouting this as our feet pop off a hold or when there are no feet to even begin with. What exactly does it mean? And where did this absurd word for such a movement come from?

It all started with one man’s journey to climb harder. Back in the time before Youtube and the information overload.. There were highly psyched climbers who had to be creative about the ways in which they trained.

Problems on rock demanded solutions in the gym. There was one such climber, named Wolfgang Gullich, who had a pretty flippen hard project in Frankenjura which demanded such power that he needed to invent a training tool for the gains that were required.

Developing The Campus Board

The climb that inspired this new tool was called Action Directe which had massive moves to two-finger and mono pockets through a heinous overhanging prow.

So Wolfgang and his mates came up with a way to train for these movements in their local university facility, known as The Campus Centre. Their solution was a set of equally spaced planks of wood mounted to a slightly overhanging board.

The first rung started around head height and went up as high as possible. Different sized rungs could be used for people to slowly progress their strength.. But what Wolfgang needed were single pad edges that he would lunge between using just one finger. 

This, along with a bit of other stuff, is what lead to the first ascent of the world’s first 9a in 1988!

So the term ‘campus’ comes from the movement trained on the ‘campus board’ originally in The Campus Centre where feet are not used to assist the climber in ascending or descending the set of holds.

Campus boards are a universal system of nine or more (or less) edges spaced exactly 220mm apart, ranging from tiny crimps up to sinker jugs. Most campus boards today have a set of footholds which make it a little more approachable and assist with training other energy systems. 

Campus boards are a great tool for training explosive power and contact strength (the term for quickly applying high force onto a hold). These qualities are easily trained on the campus board because there are no feet, so big moves to little edges really work the larger muscles in the arm as well as the fingers.

campus training

How You Can Train On The Campus Board

There are plenty of exercises for the campus board on the internet, but here are two that I quite like: one of Steve McClure’s for endurance training and one for explosive power that I have found useful.

McClure’s Cure… for getting pumped:
The idea behind this is to make many moves at less intensity for as long as possible. So find a set of edges that you can hold with a bit of difficulty, keep in mind your feet will stay on for this exercise, and have a timer ready.
Start matched and proceed as follows: 1(match) – 4 – 6(match) – 4 – 2 – 1(match) and repeat with the other arm. You can walk your feet up and down which also trains a bit of skill.
Where this exercise shines is in the brainless-full-throttle-monkey pump you will develop. Once you get a hang of the sequence, you needn’t think about which hand needs to be where.. Just repeat the numbers in your mind and get swole.

The Big ones:
This exercise is super simple and that’s its beauty. To develop max power, the idea is to try hard and rest hard. 

Choose an edge that makes you feel like you can rip it off the wall. Smaller edges aren’t always better for this exercise, rather stay on a large edge, preferably jugs that you can seriously crank on.

Choose a challenge for yourself  i.e 1(Match) – 4 – 7.
Explode off the first hold, catch the second and crank to the next hold without matching on the way up.  Perform this on both sides after a brief wait and then proceed to rest for at least 3 minutes before repeating the exercise. Do 3 sets and call it done.. Unless you still feel very strong, then change the holds you’re shooting for.

In response to many requests, Scallywags will be releasing their ‘Standard’ campus rungs in a few weeks, so keep an eye out for those if you’re thinking about building your own board. If you’d like to read more about campus technique you can read this comprehensive guide. 

Stay safe out there. Have fun. Try hard and rest harder 😉

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