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Six Basic Finger Grips

Learn How to Use Climbing Handholds


Dennis Jump climbs

Learn all the basic finger grips so you can effectively grab various kinds of handholds when you're climbing.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

Using your hands and feet, making four points of contact with the rock surface, is the basis of all climbing movement. How you use your fingers, hands, and feet to attach yourself to the rock is fundamental to climbing effectively and efficiently.

Keep Your Weight Over Your Feet

One of the basics of climbing technique is to rely on your feet and legs to propel you up a vertical face. Your legs are stronger than your arms so if you keep most of your body weight over your feet, your arms are less likely to tire and you’re less likely to fall. Read Use Your Feet to Climb Better for more about good footwork and tips that help you climb better.

Learn Use Your Hands

But as you advance as a climber, you need to use your hands to progress. On steep rock you can’t always rely on your feet to support most of your weight. You have to use your hands and arms. You just can’t reach up and grab big holds every time. Many handholds just aren’t that good or big so you have to learn specialized hand positions to effectively use those holds.

Different Types of Handholds

If you don’t know how to grip various kinds of handholds with your fingers and hands, you’re not going to have a lot of success as a climber. Every rock face offers a variety of different handholds or grips. There are flat edges, rounded slopers, pockets that fit one finger or your whole hand, vertical flake edges, upside-down holds, and projecting blocks. How you use these holds is key to your climbing success.

Six Basic Hand and Finger Grips

Here are the six basic finger and hand grips used on handholds:

Learn Grips in a Gym

If you’re new to climbing, practice all these grips in an indoor gym. Many of the artificial handholds are ideal for each of the different grips. Learn and practice them inside then take those skills outside.

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