21 October 2009
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.