Grip Positions and the Two Forms of Full-Crimp
We describe seven of the most commonly used grip positions and the differences between them. We also discuss the types of full-crimp
Whether you are hangboarding, sport climbing, board climbing or bouldering, the way that you grip a hold says a lot about your climbing. With all of the possible finger positions, it can be difficult to discern which is best used when and why an athlete might choose one over another. Why are there so many grip positions? What are they?
The Three-Finger Drag
This is the grip position defined by the extension of the pointer, middle and ring fingers. The middle finger, due to its additional length, tends to be slightly more articulated than the pointer and the ring.
This position is the most efficient grip position in terms of the flexor muscles of the forearm. The Flexor muscles are those involved in closing the hand upon a grip. You can feel them move by pressing your thumb into the base of the anterior side of your forearm. In closing the fingers, the muscle will contract. When we speak of efficiency in the context of the fingers, we are talking in reference to the relative engagement of the flexor muscles.
The three-finger drag is efficient because it effectively relies on the tensile strength of your finger tendons. It is useful because holds are often caught in this hand position before being reeled into a four-finger position. This is due to the similar length of the front three fingers. It allows for imprecision and requires very little energy. With that said, this is most climbers’ weakest position and requires training to perfect.
The four-fingers open-hand position is an excellent compromise between efficiency and power. The position is defined extended pointer and pinky fingers while the middle two fingers rest in the half-crimped position. The extension of the pointer and the pinky allow for the relatively efficient use of the flexor muscles while half crimp position of the middle two fingers bring the palm a bit closer to the wall and allows for more controlled power generation.
To that effect, the addition of the pinky makes aiming between holds significantly easier. It also reduces the difficulty of reeling holds into a half or full-crimp position. It offers much of the same benefits as the three-finger drag, but with modestly more power. It is significantly more accurate. Three-finger drag is almost always best when the climber is directly underneath the hold, while the four-finger openhand can easily access gastons or side pulls.
The three-finger drag is a grip from which to hang while the four-finger open-hand is a grip from which to rest or even pull. One must have strong tendons and efficient balance to rest from a three-finger drag.
This is the most popular hand position. The biggest reason for this is that it is the hand position that many climbers believe to be the safest for training. When you see climbers on a hangboard, it is not uncommon for them to spend a majority of their time hanging in this grip position. Though it is unclear whether or not this actually the safest grip position, it is definitely a useful position for climbing.
The position itself is defined by the 90-degree articulation of the pointer, middle and ring fingers as well as the extension of the pinky finger.
It brings the base of the palm even closer to the wall than the four-finger open-hand and provides a stable platform from which to generate. As mentioned above, it is frequently used in tandem with the thumb, though not the degree extent of the thumb wrapping the top of the pointer. That would be a full crimp and will be discussed in the next section.
It is a grip position that many climbers become accustomed to for it is the grip position that they train most frequently, however, it could be argued that a four-finger open-had position could often be used in the place of this half crimp. With that said, it is good way to move between grips and most grips can be accessed in the half-crimped position.
Version 1: Pinky Extended
This hand position is defined by the thumb meeting the pointer finger at the thumb’s most extended point of articulation. It is also defined by the extension of the pinky finger and is one of the two ways by which a person might full crimp.
This position brings the palm much closer to the wall than any of the hand positions before it and offers near-maximal security on any hold it is engaged upon. The issue with this hand position is that the flexors are so engaged that it cannot be called efficient, however, it is often the best way to hold in-cuts. The articulation of the fingers allows the climber the ability to “get behind” the hold and pull out from the wall as opposed to having to pull in the direction of the angle of the hold.
By pulling out from the wall, the climber is able to turn the insecure experience of pulling on small holds into the more definite feeling of pulling on jugs. It is useful to think about it in this way: A jug allows the climber to use their legs, hips, core, and upper body as one system that generates about the single pivot point of the hand. This is because the hold is easy to get behind and thus the climber can move about on it as though it were a bar or something equally positive.
This same idea translates to an in-cut crimp, though only if you are able to get behind it. Due to the small nature of an in-cut 10-millimetre grip, the full crimp is required to over accentuate the angle of the fingers so that they can reach behind the grip. Naturally, this requires significant finger strength.
This ability to move consistently between in-cuts, however, is why people have been obsessed with fingerboarding for so long. At a glance, it appears that if you have strong fingers, you should be able to move up almost anything composed of edges. Though this is not strictly the case, finger-strength is an excellent indicator of the strong rock climber.
Version 2: Pinky Crimped
This is the exact same idea as the above, however this hand position asks the climber to fully articulate their pinky finger as well. This concept is talked about regarding Aiden Roberts in World Class. If you have ever seen a climber full crimp once, and then seemingly full crimp even further, there is a chance that this is what they are doing. Adjusting their full crimp from an extended pinky to a crimped pinky.
This brings the palm even closer to the wall and allows the climber to reach even further behind the grip. This provides additional security and the climber is able to move even more freely between holds. The drawback is that this grip position is the least efficient of all grip positions. Though it offers maximal security, it also requires maximal engagement of the flexor muscles.
Where slopers differ from crimps most significantly is in the articulation of the wrist. With that said, many slopers are easily overcome through various forms of finger strength, most primarily in the openhanded and three-finger drag positions. For example, the Beastmaker 2000 slopers are easily hanged by crimping the angle change in a modified four-finger open-handed position.
Pinches are similar in this way, however, they do necessarily require the strengthening of the wrist and thumb.
These grip positions are very specialized and defined by the use of either two fingers or even a single digit. A single finger in a grip makes for a hold called a mono. Though these grip types are exceedingly specific, and come in both open-handed and half-crimped forms, they are not necessary to train right off of the bat.
General finger-strength training of the four-fingered positions will aid in the strengthening of each of finger individually. When you come upon a project that requires pocket specific strength, at that point, it may be good to begin training pockets or monos with greater specificity.
In conventional edge climbing, strong individual fingers make their use known on thin matches where there I only space for a small number of digits next to the original hand placement.
Featured Image from Samuel Tiukuvaara and Flexor Climbing