The Pegboard – the sky is the limit

When the pegboard appeared the first time in the Reebok CrossFit Games 2015, even the fittest humans on the planet struggled very obviously with the vertical climb. Ok, they were tired from a crucial weekend competition beforehand, and it was f***ing hot in Carlson. But still: Normally, these beasts fly through everything Castro throws at them. So how damn difficult must the pegboard be for us mortals? The answer: Outstanding difficult! Here is why you should do it anyway – and how to make it possible.

Which muscles does the pegboard train?

The Pegboard was originally designed for climbers of various disciplines such as bouldering, rock climbing etc. It addresses exactly the muscle groups needed for their needs:

  • Latissimus
  • Outer shoulder
  • Biceps
  • Forearm

The pegboard can be used to train smaller muscles that are hard to attack with most barbell and bodyweight exercises. For example, Musculus teres major, which is located at the lower end of the scapula. Its function is the internal rotation of the arm and the return to the body after the lateral stretches. The muscle is underdeveloped for many athletes, since often neither the rotation nor the return are trained against a resistance. The among weightlifters widespreaded shoulder problems are in many cases caused by this. Regular begboard training contributes to injury prevention.


Another example: The Brachiales, which sits directly above the elbow and is essential for the flexion of the forearm, just like the biceps. In contrast to the well-known biceps, the Brachiales can cause a flexion also with the palm facing down. A typical hand position for pull ups or bar muscle ups, as well as the Olympic weightlifting. So if the Pegboard trains the Brachiales, we can directly improve our performance in these pull exercises!


Overall, the pegboard training is an extreme intense effort for the entire upper body. In a study comparing muscle activation in various pull-up variants, rope climbing, muscle ups and the pegboard, the climbing board showed the highest recruitment of the latissimus, biceps and chest muscles. According to projections, one pegboar ascent corresponds to about 26 pull-ups in terms of intensity (muscle activation and heart rate).

 

Become a better athlete by training with the pegboard

The Pegboard not only helps with the development of specific muscles. Climbers appreciate it because of its stamina component. You learn to hold onto the stick with one hand for several seconds. The entire climbing process can take 30 to 60 seconds, depending on your skills. Best stability training ever!

The Pegboard is an excellent stabilization exercise. Many large and small muscle groups need to be perfectly coordinated and body tension maintained. This provides a perfect basis for more dynamic exercises (butterfly pull ups, muscle ups, etc.) and contributes to joint health.

In addition, the athlete trains hand-eye coordination and mental strength. Isn´t that all we need as CrossFitters?

 

Some tips how to get up (and, perhaps, down)

The pegboard is rewarding but yes, it is quite hard! For beginners, even a half ascent would be an achievement. And by beginners I am talking about someone already having a few strict pull ups in a row.

Here are some small yet helpful tips how to make life easier:

  • Always keep the entire body as close as possible to the board

  • There is always one support side and one replace side. For example, if you want to replace the stick in your left hand, shift your bodyweight to the right arm/hand

  • Your chest should be at the same height as the supporting hand. Never be with your chest in between the sticks (vertical and horizontal) or even underneath the lower stick!

  • When pulling out the stick, always pull it back and not down so you don´t get stuck in the hole (you might laugh, but this happens and makes people loosing time and strength)

By the way: The pegbard is by no means "only" for the ascent and descent! You can also do different pull up variations on the board. Put the sticks in different positions and train so narrow, wide or staggered pull-ups.

 

Pegboard variations

Looking for a new core exercise? Try the Pegboard Tic Tac Toe:

Regular pegboard ascent to easy? Try it with your back to the wall:

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