Feet rock climbing holds

Types of Climbing holds

A climbers finger tips grasp a hold - Brent Winebrenner/Lonely Planet Images/Getty ImagesUpdated .

Every rock face that you climb offers a variety of handholds or grips. Handholds are usually used for pulling yourself up the rock, rather than pushing, which is what you do with your legs; although you push yourself upward if you use a palming move. The use of handholds is somewhat intuitive; your hands and arms usually know what to do when you grab a handhold to stay in balance and to pull.

Learn and Practice Using Different Handholds

While handholds are key to rock climbing movement, how you use those handholds ranks below your footwork and body position for successful climbing. Still, you need to learn how to grip various kinds of handholds that you will encounter in the vertical world. Most indoor climbing gyms set routes with a wide variety of manmade handholds, which allow you to learn and practice the different grips. Practice using every type of handhold to gain the best hand techniques and to build hand and forearm strength. Read Six Basic Finger Grips to learn how to grab handholds.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green3 Basic Ways to Use Handholds

When you encounter and then choose a handhold to use on a cliff, you have to decide how you are going to use that hold. There are three basic ways to grab handholds: pull down, pull sideways, and pull up. Most handholds that you use require pulling down. You grab an edge and pull down like you are climbing a ladder. For the other holds, you will learn how to use them through practice.

Here are the basic types of handholds and how to use each one with specific hand positions:

that you encounter on rock surfaces. An edge is usually a horizontal hold with a somewhat positive outside edge, although it can also be rounded. Edges are often flat but sometimes have a lip so that you can also pull out on it. Edges can be as thin as a quarter or as wide as your whole hand. A big edge is sometimes called a bucket or a jug. Most edges are between an 1/8-inch and 1½ inches in width.

Photograph © Stewart M. GreenThere are two basic ways to use your hands on an edge—crimp grip and open hand grip. Crimping is grabbing the edge with your fingertips flat on it and your fingers arched above the tips. This hand position is usually solid but there is the danger of possible damage to your finger tendons if you crimp too hard. The open hand grip, while not a power hand move like the crimp, works best on sloping edges where you get lots of skin-to-rock friction. The open grip is often used on sloping holds. Use chalk on your fingers to increase friction and practice open hand grips to get stronger.

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. Slopers are used with the open hand grip, requiring the friction of your skin against the rock surface. It takes practice to effectively use sloper handholds. Slopers are easiest to use if they are above you rather than to the side so that you can keep your arms straight for maximum leverage when gripping them. Slopers are easiest to use in cool dry conditions, rather than in hot sweaty weather when you can grease off them. Remember to chalk up good.

If you’re climbing and encounter a sloper, feel around with your fingers to find the best part of the hold. Sometimes you will find a slight ridge or bump that allows a better grip. Now warp your hand onto the hold with your fingers close together. Feel around with your thumb to see if there is a bump that you can press it against.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green Photograph © Stewart M. Green Susan Paul palms her way up The Nipple in Rabbit Valley in western Colorado. - Photograph © Stewart M. Green Zach Springer matches hands on a big handhold at Red Rock Canyon in Colorado. - Photograph © Stewart M. Green

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