The MoonBoard can be intimidating—think of its flashing lights, looming 40-degree angle, and surrounding throng of grunting climbers. And what’s more, the holds are all “fairly bad,” says pro climber and coach Justen Sjong. But, once you hit a certain level of difficulty with your climbing, this steep wall of tiny pockets, pinches, and crimps with a database of standardized problems accessible to climbers the world over can yield serious gains. We talked to Sjong, the instructor for Climb a Grade Harder: 5.12 and Beyond online course, to ask about the MoonBoard’s purpose and how best to work it into your gym routine.
The MoonBoard is “not very functional if you’re not easily climbing V4 or V5 in your gym,” says Sjong. V4s make up the easier climbs, and, Sjong adds, the MoonBoard is “notoriously sandbagged.”
The MoonBoard is great for training dynamic, “poppy” movement—especially for climbers with very controlled technique. But, dynamic climbers take note: You can use the board to increase body tension and controlled movement by not letting your feet cut. Also, since the problems never change, the MoonBoard is useful for perfecting technique and tracking progress.
There are no easy holds—so warm up elsewhere! Move up through the grades at the bouldering wall until you’re climbing at your limit, a progression that should take at least 20 minutes. Now, you’re ready to MoonBoard.
To get started on the MoonBoard, try the most popular problems on the MoonBoard app. If you’re barely getting through the easier problems, don’t spend more than 30 minutes per session. For more experienced climbers, a MoonBoard session typically lasts about an hour. Create a structure: You want to be trying the moves with power and precision, so rest thoroughly between goes. Sjong recommends alternating 10 minutes of climbing with a 10-minute rest.
The MoonBoard is a great tool because it lets users go “back in time,” says Sjong. In other words, the routes remain in the system, and after you finish one, you can come back after a period of training and test how your skills and strength have improved by gauging how the problem feels upon repeating it. “You can have a sense of what kind of progress you’ve made,” says Sjong. He recommends making a video “timestamp” by recording a classic MoonBoard problem—of any difficulty—and then re-recording it again after a climbing season or training period to track changes. Amid a gym environment of shifting routes and subjective grades, a training device like the MoonBoard offers a consistent gauge of progress.
“My biggest cautionary tale would be not to climb on it too tired,” says Sjong. “I know too many stories of people getting injured on it, just because they’re too tired.” The difficult holds require effort and make you “fight for it,” and going into a MoonBoarding session fatigued increases the risk of popping a tendon or similar injury.