Rock Climbing How To – Overview
In this climbing training lesson, you’ll learn some extremely useful climbing techniques. This video training is part of the “Top 5 Mistakes Climbers Make“ video series which you can get by signing up to be a free member of the RockClimbTips.com community and get more tips, trick, and techniques (free sign-up and gift is available here).
How you grip climbing holds has a drastic impact on your chances of injury while rock climbing.
In this climbing video and post, we’re going to cover the right climbing technique to gripping holds so that you can avoid injury and build the right habits for maximum climbing performance over the medium and long term.
Rock Climbing Gripping Technique: When It Matters
When you get to the more difficult holds, you’ll find that a lot more strain is placed on you tendons and ligaments since the more difficult holds have much less surface area for your hands to hold onto, causing a lot more of your body weight being placed on a smaller section of your body. It is during this time that it’s tempting to employ certain ‘tricks’ that can at times give you a slight boost in your ability to grip the hold and thus marginally boost your climbing performance. However it is also these moves that focus too much of your weight on only a finger or two instead of spreading the weight out evenly among your fingers. This in turn is what can cause very painful tendon injuries that can prevent you from climbing for weeks.
The Wrong Climbing Gripping Method
There are two main ways that you can grip improperly to give you that occasional boost in performance at the expense of potentially injuring yourself:
1. Rolling the Hand Up on the Climbing Hold.
Essentially this happens when you don’t maintain a 90 degree angle between your fingers and your hand as shown in the picture below.
When the hand is rolled up and thus doesn’t maintain that 90 degree angle, the result is that you are no longer maximizing the hand surface contact area and are instead putting all the pressure on the tips of your fingers. The finger arc that you see in the first image above is causing this and is what increases your chance of injury. Still, this gripping trick isn’t nearly as dangerous as the following…
2. The 2nd and One of the Most Dangerous Rock Climbing Gripping Techniques
This dangerous climbing gripping technique involves rolling your thumb on top of one of your fingers and pushing down on your finger(s) using your thumb and body weight.
As you can imagine, pushing down with your thumb can give you that extra power and grip on the hold that you need to get to the next climbing hold.
The boost in climbing performance can be impressive. However, what this move does is that instead of spreading your body weight over your fingers evenly, it instead forces most of that weight on just one finger. Obviously none of your fingers are designed to support that kind of weight and hence doing this move drastically increases your chance of injury.
Proper Gripping Recommendation
While the improper climbing techniques might be tempting when you are stuck on a route, remember that the boost in performance can come at a high price where the injury not only prevents you from doing that route, but keeps you from climbing for an extended period of time as well.
If You’re a Beginner Climber:
The recommendation if you are a beginner climber is to be consciously aware of how you are gripping the holds. When climbing any routes, ensure that you are always maintaining that 90 degree angle. Eventually this will become a habit and you will do it naturally without even thinking about it. In the beginning though, it will take some conscious effort to do consistently like many other climbing techniques.
Doing this proper technique will make you a better climber in the mid-term and long-term, and the time you spend injury free will let you climb better and as often as you want.
If You’re an Intermediate or Advanced Climber:
Examine if you are doing any of these dangerous techniques as a bad habit and try to catch yourself doing them during your climb so that you can correct yourself. The habit might be hard to overcome at first and you may even notice a temporary slight drop in climbing performance. But, rest assured that this is the more sustainable climbing technique due to the injuries it helps prevent.
Final Thoughts: Proper Rock Climbing Technique – Gripping
In the end, it’s all about maximizing the contact area – the surface connecting your hands to the climbing holds. The more pressure you put on any one part (i.e. a finger), the easier it can be to lift your body using that hold (as you’re maximizing the grip-able area of that hold), but the uneven weight distribution across your fingers results in a much greater potential for injury.
Hence, the proper thing to do is spread as much of your weight as possible across all your fingers that can make contact with the climbing hold.
This helps ensure that all your fingers get stronger at the same pace, while minimizing your chance of prolonged climbing injury.