When looking online for climbing grip types, you’re usually met with colorful pictures of climbing holds and articles explaining them.
But that doesn’t really answer the question at hand. For example, we wrote an article about rock climbing hold types, but what grip types do you need to use to advance up the wall?
Well, this is the question we’re going to be answering today. In this article, we will talk you through the different grip types, how to use them, and how to train them.
If this sounds interesting to you, don’t go anywhere.
The Different Grips Used in Rock Climbing
When we’re talking about the different types of climbing grips, you can probably rattle it down to five main types.
With that said, you have different types of jams and crimps, so we’re going to be talking about all kinds of climbing grip types you’ll need to know if you want to advance in climbing.
An open-hand grip is a fundamental climbing technique that all beginner climbers use, maybe without even knowing the name.
It involves holding onto climbing holds with your fingers and hand in a more relaxed and open position rather than using a full crimp or closed-crimp grip (more on these later).
The great thing about open-hand grips is that it reduces strain on your tendons and joints, making it a very valuable technique to learn,
Let’s explain a little bit more about the grip.
With an open-hand grip, your fingers bend slightly, almost making a C shape with your hands.
You’ll notice this is a lot more of a relaxed grip compared to some of the other techniques we will discuss later.
The goal of using this grip is to spread the weight across your fingers, which, in turn, will reduce the tension on your tendons and joints.
- Open-hand grips are less stressful on your finger joints and tendons than crimp grips, which can help prevent overuse injuries, such as pulley strains or tendonitis.
- They can be more energy-efficient for longer climbs because they require less finger strength and consume less energy.
Crimps, or crimping, is a finger-intensive technique that involves gripping the holds with the tips of your fingers in a closed position. This creates a firm and precise grip on small edges and holds.
This grip is characterized by bending your fingers at the first joint, using the tips of your fingers to maximize contact with the hold.
Crimping is a common technique used in climbing to tackle small, challenging holds and is a fundamental skill for climbers seeking to improve their finger strength and precision. Of all the climbing grip types it’s one that can allow you to crank down the hardest though at a cost.
Here’s some more information about the crimp grip.
With crimps, your hand position differs significantly from the open-hand grip we mentioned earlier.
Your fingers will remain relatively straight until it reaches the second knuckle on your fingers. Only the tips of your fingers will contact the hold, allowing you to engage small edges or features precisely.
By doing the above, you’ll be able to grip tiny holds, but it does put a lot of strain on your tendons, so it’s not to be overused.
Types Of Crimps
As I mentioned earlier, you need to understand a few different styles of crimps before you start using them.
Let’s take a look:
- Full Crimp: In this grip, the thumb opposes the fingers, creating a more secure and powerful hold. However, it puts more strain on the finger tendons and joints and is more injury-prone.
- Half Crimp: This grip is a compromise between an open-hand grip and a full crimp. The thumb is positioned against the fingers but not as tightly as in a full crimp, reducing the stress on your tendons.
- Open Crimp: Also known as the drag grip, this is a modified crimp where the thumb is relaxed, creating a less secure but more finger-friendly grip. It is often used on less demanding holds.
- Crimping can put a lot of stress on your finger tendons, which makes it essential to be mindful of your fingers’ health.
- Be cautious when climbing on crimps, and if you experience pain or discomfort, stop immediately to avoid injuring your fingers.
As the name suggests, a pinch grip involves holding onto climbing holds using a pinching motion, where you squeeze the hold between your thumb and one or more fingers.
This type of grip is commonly used when climbing on holds that that can also be called pinches, such as sloping or protruding volumes. It requires a combination of finger and thumb strength and technique.
Let’s take a closer look:
With pinch grips, you use your thumb and one or more fingers to grasp the hold in a similar fashion to picking up a household object.
Squeezing the hold between your thumb and finger creates opposing pressure on the hold to maintain control.
Types Of Pinches
Again, there’s not just one type of pinch you need to think about when climbing, so here are the three variations you might come across:
- Slope Pinches: These are rounded or sloping holds that require careful thumb and finger placement to maintain grip.
- Block Pinches: These holds are often more angular and provide a more positive grip.
- Volume Pinches: Volumes are large, three-dimensional climbing features that may have pinchable sections on their sides or tops.
- While pinch grips are generally safer for your finger tendons than crimping, it’s still important to be aware of your body and any signs of overuse or strain.
- Avoid excessive force on pinch holds that could lead to thumb or finger injuries.
Palming is a technique used in climbing where you press the palm of your hand or a large portion of your hand against the climbing surface, relying on friction and body positioning to maintain contact and stability. Of the different climbing grip types it is unique in the sense that it is one of the only ones that can be used to push yourself upwards when mantling.
The idea is to use the friction created by your cupped hand and the position of your body weight to stick your hand to the hold.
Here’s an explanation of palming climbing grips:
The idea of palming is to cup your hand around the hold to create friction. Your fingers will face up, and your palm will be flat against the hold.
Once your hand is in position, the idea is to dispute your weight in order to maximize the friction you create.
Fist jams are a climbing grip technique used when crack climbing, particularly on wide cracks where other types of holds, like finger cracks or hand cracks, are scarce.
The technique involves inserting your hand, or even your entire fist, into a crack and using it as a secure anchor point to progress upward.
Fist jams can be an effective way to gain stability and make progress on wide crack climbs.
Here’s an explanation of fist jams climbing grips:
First, you insert your hand into a crack, making a fist with your fingers curled tightly together. Depending on the width of the crack, you may insert your hand up to your wrist or even your entire forearm.
Types of Fist Jams
Depending on the width of the crack, there are different variations of fist jams you might have to use:
- Hand Fist Jam: This is the most common type, where you insert your hand and curl your fingers into a fist.
- Stacked Fist Jam: For wider cracks, you can insert both hands stacked on top of each other and make a double fist.
Hand jamming is a technique used primarily in crack climbing, where you insert your hand into a crack and use it as a secure anchor point to make upward progress.
They are essential skills for climbers tackling routes or problems with crack features; you’ll notice there are varying types depending on the size of the crack.
Here’s some more information:
In a hand jam, you insert your hand into a crack, forming a camming device within the crack’s width. The goal is to create a secure anchor point by making your hand fit snugly within the crack.
Types Of Hand Jams
Depending on the size of the crack, you might have to use a different variation of hand jam:
- Ring Lock or Knuckle Jam: Suitable for narrower cracks, this technique involves inserting your hand with your fingers straight and your thumb pressed against your index knuckles.
- Cupped Hand Jam: Used in moderate-width cracks, this technique involves cupping your hand slightly, bending your fingers, and pressing your thumb against your fingers.
- Hand Stack or Fist Jam: For wider cracks, you can insert your hand with your fingers curled into a fist, creating a stacked hand jam.
How To Prevent Finger Injuries When Climbing
Understanding how to prevent injury is one of the important things you can learn regarding climbing grip types. Keeping your hands safe is vital if you want to have a long-term future in climbing.
Here’s a thing:
Finger injuries, such as pulley strains or tendonitis, can be painful and slow to heal, potentially sidelining you from climbing. So, if you want to prevent further injury, make sure you follow this section.
Here are some tips to help you prevent finger injuries while climbing:
Begin with light stretching and mobility exercises to warm up your fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms. Gradually increase the intensity of your warm-up by doing finger-specific exercises, such as finger rolls or finger extensions using rubber bands or putty.
Avoid pushing yourself too hard too quickly. Gradually increase the difficulty of climbs to allow your fingers to adapt to the stress. Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you experience pain or discomfort, stop climbing immediately and rest.
Finger Strength Training
Incorporate finger-specific strength training exercises into your routine to gradually build finger and forearm strength. Hangboard workouts are a popular choice for climbers. Use proper form and technique when doing finger-specific exercises to avoid overexertion.
Rest and Recovery
Allow your fingers adequate time to recover between climbing sessions. Rest days are essential for preventing overuse injuries. Use active recovery techniques like light stretching, massage, or contrast baths (alternating between hot and cold water) to promote blood circulation and healing.
Use Proper Technique
Focus on using proper climbing techniques to minimize stress on your fingers. This includes using your legs and core for support and balance. Avoid “campusing” (using only your arms and fingers to ascend) unless you are well-conditioned for it.
Consider using finger tape or finger sleeves to provide additional support and protection for your fingers, especially if you have a history of finger injuries. Ensure that your climbing shoes fit well and do not put excessive pressure on your toes and the front of your foot.
Listen to Your Body
Pay attention to any discomfort, pain, or unusual sensations in your fingers. Ignoring early warning signs can lead to more severe injuries. If you suspect an injury, consult a healthcare professional or physiotherapist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Be Mindful of Crimping
Crimping (using small holds with your fingers in a crimp position) puts significant stress on your tendons and can lead to injuries. Use crimps sparingly and ensure proper technique when doing so.
Final Thoughts on Climbing Grip Types
Climbing grips and holds come hand in hand, but it’s important to recognize the difference. Yes, some holds will always require you to use the same type of grip.
But sometimes, using a different grip on a hold is the hidden key to conquering a climb you’ve been working on for weeks.
It’s also important to remember that some grips take a lot of training before you can use them correctly. To make it worse:
If you don’t train correctly, you can cause a climbing-ending injury. With that being said, be safe, take it step by step, and you should be fine.