21 October 2009

To crimp or not to crimp

Crimp to get strong on crimps, but crimp with care!

David points to a common discussion about the wisdom of crimping during training. Crimping is indeed the riskiest grip position for the fingers and the more systematic your training of it, the risk of picking up a pulley injury, or just inflamed and swollen PIP joints gets really high.

So it’s always a balance, but here are some thoughts on how to steer through the injury risks and get the best possible strength gains.

In my experience, crimping is needed to get strong at crimping. So the idea that some support that you can avoid it altogether and still get strong on crimps I feel is incorrect. 

Crimping on boulder problems can be much safer than crimping on a fingerboard or especially a campus board. I never crimp on the campus board - the forces peak so rapidly on the sudden dynamic movements that it gets really dangerous. Crimping on the fingerboard can be quite safe if your form is perfect. And crimping without the thumb helps to make the position more natural when using one hand or two hands quite close together.

I train crimps mostly on steep powerful boulder problems. It is safest, but only if your technique is good. Poor footwork, leading to sudden foot slips, or a violent climbing style will make it just as dangerous as campusing. It tends to be less hard on the body because the accelerations are slower than with campusing, the body is often turned underneath the hold to bring the wrist into a neutral position during the highest force part of the move and the hold is generally grabbed openhanded before closing into a crimp.

Having said all this, the vast majority of climbers crimp far too much and would seriously benefit (in both performance and injury risk) in developing their openhanded grip to a point where they use it more often than crimps and are at least as strong openhanded as crimped.

- Mini case study: I used to be one of those who crimped too much, and averaged about 3 serious pulley injuries per year for 5 years until I finally was forced to get strong openhanded, and to love this crimp position too. Since then I’ve had one very minor pulley tweak (needing only a slight drop in training intensity for a few weeks) in the past five years.


David said...

Thanks a lot for your answer!

It really helps to get the opinion of someone who has climbed for a long time and is at the elite level, and therefore has a lot of experience in walking the fine line between highest training gains vs. risk of injury!

Thanks for taking the time and being there for questions :-)

Anonymous said...

I am currently working on a boulder problem with a nasty, tendon-snapping 2 finger pocket. Any advice on training for finger pockets on steep limestone???



Anonymous said...

I know there has been a study demonstrating that different finger positions need to be trained specifically but Rich Simpson had this to say on UKB :


Apart from the fact that Myself, Ramon julian, Paxti usobiaga and many other world class climbers have never needed to train in a crimped positon, yet having all climbed severely crimpy routes.

We have all found purely training and climbing open handed has allowed sufficent benefits, allowing us to open hand all but the smallest holds, and still not hindered when needed to crimp like f**k.

Check out the list of crimpy routes we have all climbed, and tell us how our training does not allow the benefits of training open handed to transfer to a crimped position.

Simon Lee

Dave MacLeod said...

I think there is a definition problem here. All those videos I saw of Rich Simpson training on steep boards there is plenty of crimping going on. Pinching fingery, blocky small holds on steep boards where the PIP joint is flexed is basically crimping but not with the thumb over the top. Even on the campus board his grip looks more like a half crimp to me.

And also all these climbers are doing lots of crimpy routes that are hard and taking up a fair portion of the yearly climbing. They might count it as climbing and not training, but the body counts it all as training.

Chris said...

Hi Dave

I would say that I fall under the category of a climber who crimps too much, and am finding that my PIP joints are becoming tender swollen.

In your article you mentioned that you managed to get strong open-handed, and I just wondered how you would suggest going about this?


Dave MacLeod said...

Hi Chris, Doing everything you do now, but openhanded will do it. Might take a couple of years to equalise the strength but worth it.

Gonzalo said...

You said that crimping in boulders problems can be much safer than crimping in fingerboards.
The thing is that in fingerboards u have controled weight in both of your hands, and also its a static work(unless u do jumps or things like that) but in the boulders problems you can loose the feet and hang only with your hands so u cant really control the weight on your hands, some times you need to hang your entire body weight in one hand, so I find kind of weirds that statement.

Anonymous said...

Yes I think there is a definition issue. In your book when talking about crimps I noticed you didn't distinguish between a half-crimp and full crimp. They seem quite different to me. Boning down on a crimp with your thumb over feels a lot diffrent in terms of strain (and pain)and I think that is what Simpson would be categorising when talking about crimps.

Rgds, Simon Lee

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Ben said...

Hi Dave,

What are some drills/exercizes to improve crimp and contact strength? Should I use a campus board/ if so what are some movements on it that are especially beneficial?


HydroExpert said...

When you tear a pullet just climb hand and fist cracks for a while till you regain your strength.