How to Build a Campus Board

A campus board, or training board, will drastically improve your finger and forearm strength. Training on a campus board will give you the most benefit for "bouldering" and short power moves that often become the crux of a "difficulty route". If you need to improve your power and strength, isolate muscles in your forearms, fingers and upper body, a campus board may be just the thing.

Construction is relatively easy, and the typical ceiling height is usually sufficient. Here are a few decisions you need to make before you get started:

Use the same construction methods and standards as you would for building a climbing wall. You can read about climbing wall construction at the section on Make a Climbing Wall


The best approach is to let the anchor height (which is the height above the floor that the board begins) and the angle you have chosen, be the determining factors for the length of the campus board. In other worlds, calculate the length of the board, rather than let a fixed campus board length determine the anchor height. There are a number of advantages to this approach. If the campus board is anchored below about 4', that area won't be much use. For most people, the height from their shoulders is about 4'. Of course you can adjust the anchor height based on your body size, but generically 4' is good for most people. The point the board contacts the ceiling can be calculated by the formula below.

The campus board should be constructed with 2X4 framing with the studs 16" apart. Screw the frame together - do not use nails, they work loose. The plywood sheeting lays over the framework and is also screwed to the frame. You can also use wood glue when connecting the sheeting to the frame. This keeps the campus board from squeaking as you work out.

Cut the ceiling header at the same angle as the campus board. The support wood should be at least 2x4. Securely fasten the ceiling header to ceiling joists. The ceiling header will have both vertical force and a horizontal force. Since the anchor at bottom will handle most of the vertical force, make sure the ceiling header will withstand the horizontal force pulling out, away from the wall. Reinforce the ceiling header with 2X4s running perpendicular to the ceiling header, then attach plywood to reinforce the angle. The plywood should connect the perpendicular piece with the studs in the campus board.

The wall anchor is straightforward. Make sure it is very securely attached to wall studs. The anchor will have vertical force. This needs to hold the weight of the climber as he/she works out - which can be be a momentary force several times greater than the weight of the climber. So, use a fastening system that will support the weight. You can use anchor bolts or large screws depending on the situation.

20o angle cut in top header
2X4 supports run perpendicular to header
plywood secures each joint
Campus Board
Campus Board

The frame of the campus board must be constructed with the 20o angle built into the top to meet the ceiling and at the same 20o angle where the board meets the bottom anchor. This is absolutely necessary so the campus board seats tightly on the anchor and ceiling support.

Fall Zone. You've come this far - don't neglect the fall zone. Do not boulder over concrete, asphalt, wood, carpet or any other hard surfaces. Falls directly to an unprotected surface can result in serious head injury and death. Even grass and turf will lose its ability to absorb the shock of a fall through wear and weather. You can also build up a thick fall zone using carpet pad remnants from a carpet store. Ensure that your fall zone is free of equipment or obstacles. Your fall zone should extend at least 6' from farthest part of your overhand. For ceiling height falls you need a foot of padding. This applies to loose-fill materials as applied using the table below from the Consumer Product Safety Commission at

Type of material and fall zone depth.

Type of Material
Shredded Bark Mulch:
Wood Chips:
Fine Sand:
Fine Gravel:
6" Depth
6' fall potential
6' fall potential
5' fall potential
6' fall potential
9" Depth
10' fall potential
7' fall potential
5' fall potential
7' fall potential
12" Depth
11' fall potential
12' fall potential
9' fall potential
10' fall potential

Maintenance of your Campus Board. Check bolts, screws, joints every time before you work out. Look for signs of stress on support members. Shake the board and watch the joints and anchor points. It is important to control the humidity. Mechanical dehumidifiers and air-conditioning systems remove moisture and circulate dry air back into the room. This will extend the life of your training board.A campus board is inexpensive, relatively easy to construct, and fits in a small area. It's compact size makes it perfect for a garage, loft or even a wall in your bedroom. It is the perfect training tool if you want to gain power and strength.

Also see:

Routesetter's Wrench
Climbing Holds
How to Install T-Nuts
Bolts for Holds
Rise-Run Online Calculator
How to Make Climbing Holds

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