Full Crimp Grip: Essential Climbing Hand Grip

How to Use Climbing Handholds

How to use climbing handholds.
Use a full crimp on edges at Shelf Road. The thumb placed above the index fingers increases the strength of the grip. Photograph copyright Stewart M. Green

The full crimp grip is one of the best rock climbing grips and hand positions for holding onto small, narrow handholds when you're facing climbing. It's an aggressive and powerful hand position that usually feels secure on thin edges. The power, however, comes at a price since it places the highest force loads on your finger joints and tendons, giving the full crimp grip a high injury potential.

Full Crimps Stress Your Fingers

If you use the full crimp a lot you risk developing chronic finger injuries that may never completely heal.

It's best to limit the use of the full crimp to situations when no other hand position will work. Also use extreme care when training on artificial walls in indoor climbing gyms so you don't stress your fingers on crimp holds.

Use Full Crimps on Narrow Edges

The full crimp grip is best used on fingertip handholds that are squarely cut and have a slight recess or incut that allows you to dig your fingertips into the hold. You'll often find these holds on granite and limestone cliffs.

How to Do a Full Crimp Grip

To do the full crimp, place the pads of your fingertips on a handhold's edge and curl your fingers so that the second joint is sharply flexed. Secure the crimp by pressing your thumb on top of the index finger's fingernail and locking it in place. Using the thumb lock helps your pulling power and makes the crimp more powerful. If you don't use your thumb in this position and let it press against the side of your index finger, you are using the half crimp grip position.

Avoid Long-Term Finger Injuries

Avoid long-term nagging injuries to the joints, tendons, and muscles in your fingers by using the full crimp grip only when absolutely necessary. Sustained crimping can and will damage not only your fingers but also your climbing career. If you tweak a finger while crimping, rest for however many days it takes for the finger to feel better.

Also, avoid using full crimps at your local climbing gym. Many gym routes use small handholds to make a route more difficult rather than using creative route-setting. These routes set you up for debilitating finger injuries.

Don't Mask Finger Pain with Ibuprofen

If you do injure a finger while crimping, don't mask the pain the next day by popping a handful of ibuprofen or other pain relieving medications and then go climbing. The medication masks the pain that should be telling you "Stop!" If you don't stop, you risk permanently damaging your fingers and never climbing hard routes again.