Rock Climbing Hold Types: Everything You Need To Know

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Rock climbing is a physically and mentally demanding sport where climbers tackle near vertical rock faces using a variety of rock climbing hold types. Your success comes down to your ability to understand the various rock climbing holds you find on the pitch.

And, I guess that’s why you’ve come to this article.

There are many different styles of rock climbing hold types and having a deeper understanding of the hold and how to utilize it will make your life a lot easier.

So, in this article, I will talk you through the different rock climbing hold types you can find, but more importantly, I will explain how to use them.

Let’s take a look:

Top 5 Climbing Hold Types

As you progress in climbing, you’ll notice many different types of climbing holds you need to get the hang of.

And in this section, we will be talking about 5 of the most commonly found holds at the climbing gym and outside on crags.

Whether you’re lead climbing or bouldering you’ll be regularly confronted with these and knowing how to recognize and use them best might just get you that little bit closer to the send.

So let’s take a look:

#1 Jugs

rock climbing jug hold

Jugs are a favourite hold among most climbers thanks to their large positive nature and the ability to grip with your entire hand.

The deep rounded shape of jugs usually makes it one of the favorites among climbers because it allows you to take a little break easily.

Most beginner climbers favor jugs over any other hold, and you’ll notice that the lower-grade climbs are full of jugs.

Here’s how to use the favourite rock climbing hold type:

  • Position yourself: Approach the jug with your body in a position that allows you to reach it comfortably. You may need to shift your body weight or move your feet to a stable position before going for the hold.
  • Reach for the jug: Extend your arm toward the jug while keeping your body balanced. Aim to grab the hold with your entire hand, wrapping your fingers around it.
  • Grip and pull: Once your hand is securely on the jug, ensure you have a firm grip. Engage your upper body muscles to pull yourself up. Depending on the route, you may need to use your legs and feet for stability or to reach the next hold.
  • Continue climbing: As you progress through the climbing route, use the jug holds strategically to rest, regain strength, or plan your next move. Jugs can provide a sense of security, allowing you to assess the route ahead.

#2 Crimps

crimp hold

From one of the easiest holds directly into some of the most challenging climbing holds to handle… crimps.

Crimps are extremely small holds that are found on most climbs. They are usually no bigger than your fingertip, but they can also get a lot smaller than that.

One thing you need to remember is there are three types of crimps you need to know:

  1. Open crimps – Your hands are loose and drop down.
  2. Full crimps – Your second knuckle is pointing up, which pushes more weight onto your fingertips.
  3. Closed crimps – it’s similar to a full crimps; the difference is that you wrap your thumb over your index finger. This provides a better grip, but it shouldn’t be used too often because it can cause damage to your tendons.

Here’s a rough step-by-step guide to holding crimps and the thought process you need to think about:

  • Approach the hold: Position yourself close to the wall and carefully plan your hand placement. Evaluate the best angle and orientation for your fingers to grip the crimp hold securely.
  • Crimp grip technique: Place your fingertips on the hold, engaging the first knuckle and maintaining a slight bend in your fingers. The goal is to create a strong grip by maximizing the contact between your fingers and the hold’s sharp edge. Be mindful not to overextend or hyperextend your fingers, which can lead to injury.
  • Shift weight and maintain body tension: As you grab the crimp hold, shift your body weight and adjust your body position accordingly. Maintain pressure in your core and engage your other hand, feet, and legs to support your weight and provide stability.
  • Control your movement: While using a crimp hold, controlling your movement is crucial, as avoiding sudden or jerky motions that can strain your fingers. Move deliberately and smoothly, utilizing your body’s positioning and weight distribution to make controlled upward or lateral movements.
  • Anticipate the next move: Assess the climbing route and plan your next move while holding onto the crimp. Look for the next hold and mentally prepare for your next hand or foot placement.

Top Tip: Make sure you keep an eye on your finger fatigue. Using crimps can put a lot of strain on your fingers and tendons. You should also try and avoid using crimps exclusively as a beginner because you haven’t developed your finger strength yet.

#3 Slopers

rock climbing sloper hold

We’ve seen the favourite rock climbing hold types and now onto the least favourite.

Sloper holds have no positive edge, which makes gripping the hold extremely challenging. Typically, you’ll find an extremely smooth, rounded surface where you need to use the friction of your hand to grip the hold.

And here’s the thing:

It’s not just the fact that you need to rely on the friction you can create that makes holding a sloper tricky. When holding on to a sloper, you need to engage your whole body along with strength.

Again, if you’re a beginner climber, it’s likely that you’re going to struggle. And this is because it takes time to develop the necessary strength and technique to master them.

When starting, try to find routes with slightly more positive slopers before working your way down.

Here’s a quick guide for tackling slopers:

  • Evaluate the surface and angle: When approaching a sloper hold, assess the texture and angle of the hold. Take note of the angle and direction of the hold to determine the best way to approach it.
  • Hand placement: Depending on the size and shape of the sloper hold, experiment with different hand placements to find the most secure position. Most people use an open-handed grip, where the fingers are spread wide apart, or utilize the whole palm to create maximum contact with the sloping surface.
  • Engage body tension: Engaging your entire body is crucial to maintain your grip on a sloper hold. Create tension through your core, arms, and legs, which will help transfer weight onto the hold and improve stability. Leaning into the hold and applying pressure with your body can increase friction and improve your ability to stay on the sloper.
  • Focus on friction: Slopers require friction to maintain a grip, so pay close attention to your hand’s contact with the hold. Apply even pressure and experiment with different hand positions to find the sweet spot with the most friction. Sometimes, slightly twisting or rotating your hand can improve the friction between your hand and the sloper.
  • Body positioning and movement: When using sloper hold, your body positioning becomes critical. Focus on maintaining balance, staying close to the wall, and shifting your weight strategically. Use your feet and legs to push yourself up or sideways while keeping tension on the sloper hold. Avoid sudden movements that could cause you to slip off the hold.
  • Adapt to different slopers: Slopers come in various shapes and sizes, so it’s essential to adapt your technique accordingly. Practice on other slopers to become more familiar with and better understand how to position your hands and body for each type.

#4 Pocket Holds

rock climbing pocket hold

Pocket climbing holds are often small holes or concave indentations in the rock’s surface. The pocket size, shape, and depth can vary significantly from being able to stick three fingers inside down to one finger.

Again, pocket holds can be challenging because they require a lot of finger strength to pull yourself up by a few or even one finger. As they vary so much they can be one of the more difficult rock climbing hold types to master well.

There are numerous outdoor locations where the style is dominated by pockets. The Frankenjura and Buoux are both infamous for their pocket pulling, so getting a grip on these can prepare you for any trips there.

Here’s your step-by-step guide on how to use pocket holds:

  • Evaluate the pocket: Assess the size and depth of the pocket hold. Determine how many fingers you can fit inside the pocket. Different pocket holds may require different finger combinations or techniques to grip effectively.
  • Hand placement: Position your hand and fingers to grip the pocket hold. Depending on the size and shape of the pocket, you may need to use a crimp grip, where your fingertips are placed at the edge of the pocket, or a full-crimp grip, where the pads of your fingers press against the bottom of the pocket. Experiment with different finger positions to find the most secure grip.
  • Finger strength and control: Pocket holds heavily rely on finger strength, so it’s essential to build finger strength through specific training exercises. Strengthening exercises, such as fingerboard or hang boarding, can help develop the finger muscles necessary for gripping pocket holds. Focus on controlled movements and avoid sudden or jerky motions that could strain your fingers.
  • Body positioning and weight distribution: Maintain a balanced and stable body position using pocket holds. Lean into the wall and utilize your legs and feet to support your weight and relieve strain from your fingers. Proper weight distribution will help you stick to the wall and control your movement.
  • Precise finger placement: Pay close attention to the exact placement for your fingers within the pocket hold. Ensure your fingers are securely positioned to maximize grip and minimize the risk of slipping. Adjust the angle and direction of your hand to find the most comfortable and secure position within the pocket.
  • Controlled movement: Move smoothly and deliberately while using pocket holds. Avoid rapid or erratic movements that could compromise your grip. Plan your next move, considering the location of the next hold and how you can transition from the pocket hold to the next part of the route.

#5 Pinch Grips

woman using pinch artificial hold

Pinch holds require the climber to grip the hold between their thumb and fingers, which creates the pinching movement.

The holds are typically very wide but at such an angle that you can’t grip the hold in the traditional sense.

So, here’s a quick guide to using pinch grip holds:

  • Assess the pinch hold: Evaluate the width and angle of the pinch hold. Determine how many fingers you can fit comfortably on the hold while still being able to create a secure pinch grip. Consider the direction of the hold and plan your body positioning accordingly.
  • Hand placement: Position your hand on the pinch hold, utilizing a pinch grip. Place your thumb on one side of the hold while your fingers are on the other, creating a pinching motion. Experiment with varying finger combinations and thumb positions to find the most secure grip.
  • Finger and thumb strength: Pinch holds require finger and thumb strength. Incorporate finger and thumb strength training, such as pinch blocks or hangboard workouts, into your training routine. Strengthening your fingers and thumbs will improve your ability to maintain a secure grip on pinch holds.
  • Body positioning: Maintain a balanced and stable body position while using pinch holds. Leaning into the wall and using your legs and feet to support your weight will help you maintain stability and control. Consider how your body positioning affects the pressure applied through the pinch hold and adjust accordingly to maximize your grip.
  • Core engagement: Engage your core muscles to provide additional stability and help distribute your weight effectively. A strong core will aid in maintaining body tension and control while using pinch holds.
  • Controlled movement: Move deliberately and with control while using pinch holds. Avoid sudden or jerky movements that could cause your hand to slip off the hold. Plan your next move, taking into account the position of the next hold and how you can transition smoothly from the pinch hold.

Takeaways on Rock Climbing Hold Types

lots of rock climbing hold. types

As you can see, there are many different climbing hold types that you need to get to grips with, and each one requires different techniques.

Hopefully, this article has helped you to better understand the holds. There are also plenty of videos you can check out, which will give a deeper insight. But as always, the best way to learn is to get out there and try them for yourself.

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