Climbing up tall rock climbing walls takes plenty of upper body strength, but your hands–specifically, how you use rock climbing grips–can make or break your experience. The problem? Sometimes it’s tough to know which climbing grips to use and how to use them properly. Check out this guide to master the basic six rock climbing grips and finger holds and dominate your next visit to the gym.
We are so sorry to inform you, but you don’t have to have superhuman upper body strength. We know, it’s a bummer. But the good news is that you’re not alone. For most people, the lower body (legs and feet) is much stronger than the upper body. While the climbing grips you are about to learn are effective, remember to always keep your body weight centered over your feet as you climb. This will take a lot of weight off of your hands and make these grips even more effective.
That said, all of the lower body strength in the world won’t help if you don’t know the main rock climbing grips and finger holds. The rock climbing holds set on walls (by incredibly talented route setters) are made to challenge you similarly to outdoor climbing. Plastic holds have different textures and features. They can also be placed on the wall in any orientation, so before we learn how to hold them, let’s take a look at what we are holding on to.
The main hold types you’ll find in climbing gyms include:
Slopers -Sloping holds that don’t usually have a “good” angle to hold.
Jugs -Positive(the rock meets the wall at an angle that is less than 90 degrees or, in other words, angles downward) holds that you can grab onto -everyone’s favorite holds.
Edges -A smaller hold that meets the wall flat (at 90 degrees), slightly positively, or slightly negatively (greater than 90 degrees).
Pockets -Holes that can usually only fit a couple of fingers.
Pinches -Holds that allow you to grasp them from both sides (with your thumb on one side).
The Six Basic Rock Climbing Grips and Finger Holds
To be a successful climber, you have to be able to tackle any hold using any grip. Take a look at these six different grips, how to do them, and to which holds you should generally apply them.
Perfect for smaller edges, a crimp grip (AKA crimping) is when you can only fit about a single finger pad on a hold. Your knuckles arch up, creating a downward force that pulls you to the wall. This grip puts a lot of pressure on fingers and can result in injury if not done correctly.
One of the most common mistakes while crimping is to perform a “full crimp” too often. A full crimp is when you wrap your thumb over the top of your other fingers while crimping. This places incredible pressure on your pulleys and can lead to injury.
As a beginner, stick to half crimps and open crimps, which means leaving your thumb off the hold and creating a 90-degree angle with your hand (half crimp) or fully opening it, hanging by your pads (open crimp).
Used for grabbing slopers, the open-hand grip involves creating as much friction as possible on the hold because there is no edge to grab onto. You can do this by using straight knuckles and spread fingers while pressing down or in towards the wall. This results in less stress on your hands and fingers but can feel like the weakest grip at first.
Pinching involves grabbing a hold with an open-hand grip or half-crimp, then using the thumb to pinch the other edge of the rock. Remember to always keep your pinky on no matter how badly it wants to come off!
A pocket grip uses one or more fingers inside the pocket hole and involved hanging directly beneath the hold as much as possible. You generally want to use your middle and ring fingers for pockets as they operate off of the same tendon structure and provide the most strength.
Pockets, like crimps, can place a lot of stress on your pulleys, so be careful and remember: it’s just climbing. It’s not worth a finger injury.
The best-named grip of all. Meat hooking is most often used on slopers and variations of jugs. To meat hook a hold, you will wrap your wrist around the hold, transferring a lot of the tension off of the fingers.
How to Master Rock Climbing Grips and Finger Holds
Mastering rock climbing grips and finger holds isn’t something you do in one session. It takes time and the best way to learn is through professional guidance and practice. Sportrock Climbing Centers offers climbing classes and private instruction for rock climbers of all levels, ranging from beginner to advanced. Contact us to start your rock climbing journey.