Keen to get climbing, but not sure how to tell your undercling from your slopers, or what techniques you’ll need?
To help develop your climbing skills, we’ve put together this guide so you know how to use each type of hold and grip, as well as some top tips to prevent injuries and fatigue, so you can get out there with confidence and have fun!
Jugs are a firm favourite amongst climbers – they are large holds that are easy to grab and are a regular feature on beginner walls. You can wrap your entire hand around them, or even hold them with both hands if needed. On more advanced routes you’ll find them on overhangs and roofs.
Top tip: Keep your arms straight to help prevent fatigue.
As the name would suggest, these holds are the same as jugs, only smaller. All mini jugs have a lip to get your fingers behind, but are generally only deep enough to fit up to your second knuckle, making them trickier to grip than jugs that you can fit your whole finger behind.
Top tip: The most efficient way to use mini jugs is to keep a straight arm and straight wrist.
Slopers can be tricky for beginners, as they have no lip or edge to get a direct grip on. They are often large, round holds, meaning your hands remain open and you can’t close your fingers around them.
Top tip: Get as much surface area of your hand on the hold as possible. Slopers are best hung on from below with straight arms.
Pockets are round holes that generally don’t have a lip. Depending on the size, sometimes you can fit your whole hand inside, or for smaller ones, only hook one to three fingers on.
Top tip: If it’s not possible to use your whole hand, it’s best to use your strongest finger(s), usually your middle or index finger. Or for two finger pockets it’s best to use similarly sized fingers and keep your wrist in a straight line.
Pinches are similar to slopers but are narrow enough to fit the entire hand around. To use them, you need to squeeze your thumb to grip on the opposite side of the hold.
Top tip: Of all the climbing holds, pinches usually require the greatest amount of strength. To get the most from your climb, be sure to check out ways you can strengthen your grip gradually (at the end of this guide).
Crimping is the perfect grip for holding onto small edges and holds. To crimp, place four fingers on a small hold, push the first knuckle down and the middle knuckle up, this is known as the ‘half crimp’. To get a stronger grip, you can try the ‘full crimp’, it’s the same grip position but the thumb wraps over the top of the first and second finger.
Top tip: Practice! Crimping requires practice to build strength and solid technique, to avoid putting strain on your joints and tendons. It’s best to practice the crimp grip from standing, before traversing the wall using the smaller holds. If you experience any pain or aching, take a break!
No surprises here, but edges are characterised by their prominent edge and flat top surface. They are larger than crimps, with no lip and are usually wide enough to fit four fingers.
Top tip: Edges can be used in two ways, with a closed grip on top of the edge (which helps you feel more connected, but is more strenuous on the joints) or hanging off the edge (which will feel less secure, but easier when below the hold).
Sidepulls are orientated sideways away from the climber, rather than upwards, meaning you have to pull sideways on this hold rather than downwards.
Top tip: You need to position your body so it is falling away from the hold. Instead of gravity, the horizontal direction of force keeps you connected to the hold.
Gastons are also rotated sideways, but this time they are oriented towards the climber. This time you need to push outwards on the hold with your elbow pointing away from your body.
Top tip (well, actually, it’s a warning): This is an advanced climbing hold and requires a lot of shoulder power, so approach them with caution.
These holds are oriented upside down and require a specific technique in climbing. You need to turn your palm upwards and use the hold like you would normally. Underclings can be tricky to master, as you need strong biceps and it can be difficult to get a good grip when you are below them.
Top tip: Use underclings to pull yourself to standing, so you can use the force on your feet for stability.
Just before you head to the wall, here’s some final tips to help you get the most out of any hold and avoid injury and fatigue:
- Stretch before you use the wall, to avoid pulling muscles.
- Strengthen your finger grip gradually – use hangboards and start with a proportion of your body weight before progressing onto your full body weight.
- It’s easier to save your energy by transferring your weight from your arms onto your legs, and using their strength to push you up the wall to reach the next hold.
- Only squeeze as hard as you need to, to stay on a hold, as tensing will exhaust your arms.
- Once you’ve finished, do some cool down stretches, to avoid joint and muscle ache.
- Practice! One of the best workouts to build strength, endurance and technique is to traverse horizontally across the wall. Practice using new holds and ones you struggle with to improve your climbing skills.
Keep an eye on our future blogs, for more ways to keep safe and limit injuries from climbing. We look forward to seeing you putting it all into practice, next time you’re at the wall!