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What Is Crimp Climbing? Master The Crimps

LAST UPDATED: 30th March 2024

As climbers, we evolve in tandem with the holds we encounter. They diminish in size as we ascend in skill, until it feels like we’re grasping on a whole load of nothingness.

I like to think of crimps as a rite of passage. When you can hold a crimp, you feel unstoppable, as if your fingers have been forged in steel and you’re the master of the crag. There’s a moment of invincibility, a fleeting sense of being unbeatable.

But to get to that point, you need a lot of patience and to climb a hell of a lot. There’s a reason why newbies go straight to the jugs and not the 6mm crimps that only a few dare to passat on. 

Since you are reading this, you are probably new to climbing and are wondering what is crimp climbing. Well, my friend, let us explain this nonsensical jargon to you so you can become a master of crimps. 

What Is a Crimp In Climbing?

Crimps are simply small holds that have only enough space for your fingertips.

climber crimp climbing with his fingers

When crimp climbing, you can use all five fingers, down to just one single finger. Considering the forces applied to your fingers and tendons, crimp climbing is also seen as a technique that can easily lead to injury if not done properly

You’ll hear many climbers talk about their A2 Pulley. An A2 Pulley injury is one of the most common rock climbing injuries and usually happens when there is too much force on the finger.

So when you feel ready to unlock this skill, be patient with yourself, warm up, and always pay attention to how your hands and wrists feel.

How To Crimp Climb: Master The Crimps

There are three different types of grips that climbers use in crimping: 

Full Crimp

full crimp climbing with thumb over fingers

In a full crimp, your fingers form a steep arch, and your thumb locks over your fingertips for maximum grip strength. This position, often favored by novices for the support it provides, unfortunately, also places significant strain on the tendons and is a common precursor to injury.

Half Crimp

half crimp climbing in the gym

The half crimp is characterized by a similar finger position to the full crimp, but without the thumb lock. This grip offers greater freedom of movement and is less taxing on the tendons, making it a popular choice among climbers.

Open Hand Crimp

open hand crimp

The open hand or drag grip is considered the safest of the three. It involves a less aggressive finger position, reducing stress on the tendons and is particularly effective on slopers.

How To Get Better At Crimps

For beginner climbers, you might have noticed that crimpy routes are usually hard on your fingers and, at times, may seem impossible. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and the answer to getting better at crimps is training and technique.

#1 Hangboard Training

The hangboard is a fundamental tool for improving finger strength, particularly for crimp holds. Here’s how to use it effectively:

  • Start with Warm-Up: Always begin with a thorough warm-up to prevent injuries. This can include general cardiovascular exercises followed by specific finger and wrist warm-ups.
  • Grip Types: Focus on half-crimp and full-crimp grips. The half-crimp grip, where your fingers are bent at about 90 degrees at the first knuckle without thumb overwrap, is especially important for building strength safely.
  • Progressive Overload: Gradually increase the difficulty of your hangs. You can do this by reducing the size of the edges you hang from, increasing hang time, reducing rest time, or adding weight.
  • Rest and Recovery: Allow adequate rest between sessions to prevent overtraining and injuries. Two to three hangboard sessions per week is a good starting point for most climbers.

If you want a structured fingerboard routine, try Emil’s sub-max isometric hangs. Do that twice a day for 30 days and see how much your fingers improve. 

Check out his video below!

#2 Fingerboard Training

While often used interchangeably with hangboards, fingerboards can offer a variety of grips and positions to train on. Here’s how to incorporate them into your routine:

  • Diversity of Holds: Use different holds on the fingerboard to train various grip types, including pockets and slopers, in addition to crimps.
  • Static Hangs and Pull-ups: Alternate between static hangs and pull-ups on smaller holds to build strength and endurance.
  • Keep It Balanced: Ensure you’re also working on antagonist muscles to prevent imbalances and injuries. Exercises like push-ups and wrist extensor workouts can help.

#3 Training Boards (Moonboard, Kilter Board, etc.)

Training boards like the Moonboard and Kilter Board are excellent for simulating climbing movements and improving technique on crimps.

  • Specific Problems: These boards come with preset problems that can help you focus on crimp strength and technique. Use the app or manual to find problems that emphasize crimp holds.
  • Volume and Intensity: Incorporate sessions that focus on climbing volume (more problems at a lower difficulty) and sessions that focus on intensity (fewer problems at a higher difficulty).
  • Technique Focus: Pay attention to footwork and body positioning while working on these boards. Efficient movement can reduce the load on your fingers.
training board for crimp climbing

If you don’t have a Moonboard or Kilter Board, there are many alternatives to choose from (although a home training board is very expensive). You can also just pop into your local gym, they are bound to have a training board there!

#4 Just Climb!

While targeted training is crucial, there’s no substitute for actual climbing.

  • Project Crimp Routes: Spend time working on routes or boulder problems that are crimp-heavy. This will not only improve your strength but also your technique and mental game.
  • Vary Your Climbing: Make sure to climb a variety of routes and problems. This diversity will help you develop a well-rounded skill set and prevent overuse injuries.
  • Climb with Better Climbers: Climbing with those who are stronger or more experienced can provide valuable insights and motivation.

#5 Additional Tips

  • Listen to Your Body: Finger injuries are common in climbing, especially when focusing on crimps. If you feel pain (beyond normal muscle fatigue), take it seriously and consider resting or seeking medical advice.
  • Consistency Over Intensity: Regular, consistent training will yield better results than sporadic, intense sessions.
  • Nutrition and Recovery: Proper nutrition and adequate rest are as important as the training itself. Ensure you’re fueling your body correctly and getting enough sleep.

What’s Your Next Crimpy Project?

At first, crimpy routes might seem intimidating, but once you get stronger and start training your fingers more, I bet crimps will become your favorite holds! There must be a reason some pro climbers love them, right?



Born and raised in Jiu Valley, Romania, I am a true mountain enthusiast, absorbing knowledge from each sport the area offers. Snowboarder in the winter and a hiker and climber in the summer, I love spending my days up in the Carpathians. I have had a passion for writing ever since I laid my hands on my first keyboard, and I always have a curiosity for gear and great stories. I split my time between various jobs and hobbies, including being a full-time psychologist, repairing skis in the winter, and working with kids at my local gym whenever I have time.

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