The Four Essential Gym Holds and How to use Them
How to best use the most common holds in climbing.
When it comes to climbing hard, a person might conjure up images of sliver-width holds and jacked-up fingers.
Though crushing a fresh pair of five-millimetres is difficult for anyone, most climbs feature holds significantly better than knife-blade tip-splitters. Even the hardest boulder problems and routes frequently feature jugs. As such, it can be useful to learn the best ways to use each of the four main grip types.
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Ain’t nothing sweeter than a saucy jug. A jug is a grip that is so in-cut that it “can hold water.” Without a doubt, the jug is the best climbing hold in the world. Even still, jugs inside tend to be spaced far apart from one another due to how good they are. As such, the best way to use a jug is as a pivot point. Keep a gentle flex in your elbows, place the feet on footholds or smears and generate with your hips from hold to hold. This may feel unnatural, but swinging from grip to grip is the easiest way to the top of the wall. This is because it does not require as much pulling, and instead relies on momentum.
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The sloper grip is a hold-type that is defined by the curved, or sloping, formation of the feature. It is generally held in an open-handed position and requires the climber to climb directly underneath the hold. Though sloper difficulties range from “juggy” to “absolute trash”, they are always best if the climber can centre themselves under the hold. By doing so, the hold offers its most positive features. Due to the fact that this hold so greatly depends on body position, shoulder and wrist stability are essential to getting the most out of a poor sloping hold. Increasing power-training can lend the climber support in this area.
This is one of the most classic grip types around. The term “crimp” refers more to the hand position than the hold itself, but is used here to mean “small edge”. A crimp is used in much the same way as the sloper. Though many new climbers frequently distinguish between crimps and slopers, they are actually very similar holds. It is for this reason that you might see a strong crimp-climber crimping a sloper or a strong sloper-climber, open-handing a crimp.
A climber should always try and get under a crimp when they are using it as this allows for the greatest amount of purchase on the slim edge. For such a low-profile hold, this will require opening the hips and bringing the climber’s waist as close to the wall as possible. Though finger strength is undoubtedly important on thin edges, body-position is just as important. By pushing hard with the feet, less weight is put on the hands, making it easier to hold the crimp.
When the climbing requires a full weighting of the crimps, strive to hang within three grip types. For most climbing, strive to maintain a three-finger open-handed grip position or a four-finger open-handed grip position. These positions are low stress and allow the climber to move with great efficiency as they are largely hanging of the tendons instead of the muscles. When the climbing becomes heavy, strive to utilize the half-crimp position. The half-crimp offers the climber greater leverage when they are pulling hard. The full-crimp hand position should be reserved for those difficult crimp sequences where maximum stability is required. For more on crimping and hand positions, click here.
A favourite among powerful climbers, learning how to best use the pinch is crucial to climbing. Though pinches are usually defined by their double-edged sides, a pinch is really any hold that a climber can get their thumb around to squeeze. This is to say that some holds may be designed as crimps or slopers but can be used as pinches by utilizing the right hand-position. Due to the fact that a pinch is held from opposing sides, it offers a great number of options and an increased level of mobility compared to other holds. Even if a hold is terrible, pinching it can allow the climber to set their hips far from the wall and make some larger moves.
There are two ways to hold a pinch. The first is defined by the fingers and is what is used in pinch-block training. Grip the pinch between the first pads of the fingers and the first pad of the thumb. Your fingers should assume a half-crimp position while your thumb presses hard into the underside of the hold. The second technique how you should hold the pinch when you are climbing. Keep the fingers open along-side your thumb creating a c-clamp shape. Press hard. This position will feel unnatural at first, but should ultimately yield great results while projecting.
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