Open hand training advice


Original Post
Mathias · Mar 25, 2016 · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 120
It seems that when I boulder at my limit (which is only V3 or so) I end up crimping a lot. The effects this has on my finger joints is fairly significant pain, which seems to last 10 days or more, but does go away completely in time. This may or may not have to do with my current 220lbs of body weight, or less than perfect footwork and body tension. But as those things aren't likely to change much any time soon, I'm interested in trying to adopt open hand technique for the majority of my climbing. At one point I was open handing quite a lot but I seem to have lost that instinct in favor of crimping.

Does anyone have any tips on ways to adjust my mindset towards using a grip that now just feels less secure and inferior? Any training methods that can help psychologically, or with strength? Or is it really just going to come down to constantly reminding myself to do it?

Kiel Swanson · Mar 25, 2016 · Irvine, California · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 50
After I injured a finger( not a pulley tear), I couldn't full crimp with out immediate pain. I had to focus on each hand placement and make sure I didn't ingage the full crimp. I had to reduce the grades of routes problems I was trying but was back up to par in no time, but able to hold on with the open grip to holds I once had to crimp. Just practice is what I can recommend. Maybe hit the hangboard on the larger holds and just work open grip as an alternative.

DanielRich · Mar 25, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 0
so this may sound odd but honestly everytime my fingers get tweaky I tend to take a couple of weeks and hangboard instead of climbing.

Now to be clear though I do it differently than a normal set of hangboard workouts.

Since I am trying to recuperate I am looking for gentle stressing and increasing bloodflow, so when I am trying to get over tweaky fingers I switch to 1 minute hangs for every grip and make them sub-maximal. So maybe use the weight(I use a pulley system to fine tune) that I feel I could handle for 1:15.

This also has the benefit that it is easy to force yourself to only open hand since there isn't any split second in the moment decision.

Maybe it is bunk but it makes my fingers feel better.

Quinn Baker · Mar 25, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 0
How long have you been climbing and how frequently do you climb? Tendons take much longer to develop the same level of strength that your muscles can get to rather quickly. So, if you are climbing too frequently too soon, you can cause an overuse injury in your finger tendons.

Mathias · Mar 25, 2016 · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 120
Thanks forthe advice, guys.

Quinn, I've been climbing about a year and nine months, so not very long. Frequency has varied from 3-4 times a week when I first started, down to once a week at times. I had a wrist injury back in July which meant taking 6 weeks or so off. After that it was light and intermittent. I started climbing regularly again around December, once or twice a week.

However this particular pain from crimping is definitely a joint pain, in my second finger joints. I've experienced different tendon and ligament pains from time to time and can usually determine what's causing them. This particular one I only get when I do lots of hard crimping. It's been a recurring issue. Unfortunately, it seems I'm subconsciously gravitating towards crimps more and more, which I feel is really what I need to get away from.

JCM · Mar 25, 2016 · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 5
- Hangboard open handed to get used, and stronger at, that position.

- Take adequate rest days

- Read "9 out of 10 Climbers Make the Same Mistakes" and also "Make or Break", both by Dave Macleod. In both books, the author discusses exactly the problem you describe, and solutions to it (although it gets more attention in "9 out of 10"). Buy/read "9 out of 10" first, but both books are absolutely worth the money to purchase.

Ted Pinson · Mar 25, 2016 · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 40
Daniel, that actually makes perfect sense. Most finger injuries are caused by dynamic loading/shock loading, which happens when you either make a dynamic move to a shitty hold or if your foot slips and you unexpectedly fully load your fingers. Hangboarding is a controlled, static exercise in which you precisely tune the level and duration of the load. It also makes sense that (moderate) hanging would help with tweaked fingers by stimulating blood flow. I've tried going cold turkey and ceasing climbing altogether before and actually found it made tendon/joint pain worse. I've also heard of many people receiving similar PT recommendations as long as you didn't completely rupture the tendon.

Mathias · Mar 25, 2016 · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 120
Okay, I'll buy '9 out of 10', start hangboarding with open hand grips a little, and see if it will help relieve some of the soreness I currently have (which has been on going for about 8 days now).

Thanks for all the input. If anyone has anything more to add, I'll happily read it.

kenr · Mar 25, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 7,413
Mathias wrote:this particular pain from crimping is definitely a joint pain, in my second finger joints.
When you do your "crimp" grip, are you putting your thumb over your index / "pointing" finger?
or Not?

When you say "second" finger, do you mean your index / "pointing" finger (so counting your thumb as your first "finger") -- or do you mean your middle finger?
. (The index/pointing is often especially stressed by thumb-over crimping).

Or you mean the second _joint_ (counting inward from the tip of the finger, or outward from the palm?)

Second joint of every finger? or only some?

If counting joints inward from the tip, it's the _first_ joint (DIP) which the crimp grip is often believed to put very high stress on, not so much the second joint (PIP).

Ken

Mathias · Mar 25, 2016 · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 120
kenr wrote: When you do your "crimp" grip, are you putting your thumb over your index / "pointing" finger? or Not? When you say "second" finger, do you mean your index / "pointing" finger (so counting your thumb as your first "finger") -- or do you mean your middle finger? . (The index/pointing is often especially stressed by thumb-over crimping). Or you mean the second _joint_ (counting inward from the tip of the finger, or outward from the palm?) Second joint of every finger? or only some? If counting joints inward from the tip, it's the _first_ joint (DIP) which the crimp grip is often believed to put very high stress on, not so much the second joint (PIP). Ken
It is the second joint in all fingers that have pain, to varying degrees. There is some discomfort in the first joints of some of my fingers, but to a lesser degree. So all the PIPs, and some of the DIPs to a lesser extent. I never put my thumb over my index finger because it feels like I'm just asking to damage something. Oddly, my index fingers hurt the least.

kenr · Mar 27, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 7,413
Mathias wrote:It is the second joint in all fingers that have pain
If the second joints (PIP) in all cases have the bigger pain and problem than the first joints (DIP), then it's not obvious how crimping is causing the problem.

Still ... you making a decision to climb without crimp grip might help, because you won't be able to succeed on routes with smaller edge holds -- so maybe you fingers won't get injured because you won't be climbing as hard.

It's a popular trend to believe that crimping is bad for you, but top climbers use crimp grip lots, in the videos I watch.

I do think that people who do not carefully progressively _train_ crimp grip, but then use it suddenly on hard moves on small edges -- because it's what works -- are in special danger of injury.

Especially with your body weight, I suggest that the real safety technique is _measured_ progressive incremental training, not some simplistic magic formula of "always avoid this" or always do that.

Ken

will ar · Mar 27, 2016 · San Antonio, TX · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 215
Mathias wrote:This may or may not have to do with my current 220lbs of body weight, or less than perfect footwork and body tension. But as those things aren't likely to change much any time soon
Why not try to improve your footwork/technique? You could potentially make some rapid gains this way. I can't say for sure because I've never climbed with you, but if V3 is your current limit there's a good chance technique is your greatest unrealized potential right now.

Mathias · Mar 27, 2016 · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 120
kenr wrote: If the second joints (PIP) in all cases have the bigger pain and problem than the first joints (DIP), then it's not obvious how crimping is causing the problem. Still ... you making a decision to climb without crimp grip might help, because you won't be able to succeed on routes with smaller edge holds -- so maybe you fingers won't get injured because you won't be climbing as hard. It's a popular trend to believe that crimping is bad for you, but top climbers use crimp grip lots, in the videos I watch. I do think that people who do not carefully progressively _train_ crimp grip, but then use it suddenly on hard moves on small edges -- because it's what works -- are in special danger of injury. Especially with your body weight, I suggest that the real safety technique is _measured_ progressive incremental training, not some simplistic magic formula of "always avoid this" or always do that. Ken
I hear what you're saying, Ken. And it's not a case of swearing off crimps, just trying to get used to using open hands more. I used to use open hand grips quite a lot, but since my wrist injury I've noticed I barely do it at all. Part of that is likely because for a while slopers open hand grips hurt the wrist, but that's not nearly as much of an issue now. Unfortunately crimping seems to have stuck. Crimps used to be a fairly rare thing for me and actually felt quite uncomfortable.

will ar wrote: Why not try to improve your footwork/technique? You could potentially make some rapid gains this way. I can't say for sure because I've never climbed with you, but if V3 is your current limit there's a good chance technique is your greatest unrealized potential right now.
Will, believe me, I try to do this every time I climb. This became my focus when I started climbing again after I hurt my wrist and I believe it's better than it was. I'm using much less upper body strength as a result and seeking out smaller foothold on route and problems below my limit. But I know there's lots of room for improvement so I continue to try. I particularly value it when I can get feedback from someone watching me, but this isn't always a possibility.

Edited to add: I did go out today and Boulder with some friends, and I found I was open handing almost everything. So I guess just discussing it a little has helped me focus on it more.

reboot · Mar 27, 2016 · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 50
Hangboarding open handed helps, as would developing good core engagement/body control in genera (and somewhat counter intuitively, more dynamic movement). But half/full crimps are actually very useful, especially for the lower hand on lock offs & making long moves, although open hand is used more for the upper hand.

I guess what I'm trying to say is don't drink the open hand only kool aid (I did & now I have pretty weak closed grip that I need to train). There isn't one way you are supposed to grab the hold, open grip is more directional than closed grip & that doesn't always work when making a move. That said, people w/ poor core engagement/body control tend to over-utilize closed grips because they don't have enough directional stability.

Mathias · Mar 27, 2016 · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 120
reboot wrote:Hangboarding open handed helps, as would developing good core engagement/body control in genera (and somewhat counter intuitively, more dynamic movement). But half/full crimps are actually very useful, especially for the lower hand on lock offs & making long moves, although open hand is used more for the upper hand. I guess what I'm trying to say is don't drink the open hand only kool aid (I did & now I have pretty weak closed grip that I need to train). There isn't one way you are supposed to grab the hold, open grip is more directional than closed grip & that doesn't always work when making a move. That said, people w/ poor core engagement/body control tend to over-utilize closed grips because they don't have enough directional stability.
Funny you mention the lower hand grip with big reaches because I was struggling with doing that open hand today, so I see exactly what you mean. It's welcome advice to keep my crimp strength up because I'd be kicking it myself if I let it regress much even if I'd prefer to use them less. I also see what you mean about open hand being more directional than crimping.

To touch on technique again, I've never felt like my footwork is all that good, though I use flat soled comfy shoes for almost everything and refuse to wear pointy down turned shoes even for bouldering. It has definitely improved in recent months. I've never felt my core engagement has been bad but 6'-5" is a lot of body to try and control so I may be fooling myself there a little (not that there aren't tall climbers out there who are much better than me). I'll be getting someone to evaluate my body control soon so I can get a better idea. Maybe even some video.

Ted Pinson · Mar 27, 2016 · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 40
Although I've seen people climb some pretty hard stuff in Moccasyms and Mythos, there's going to be an upper threshold when it comes to bouldering, and I'd say V3 is pretty close. Have you considered that your insistence on wearing non-aggressive shoes is forcing you to rely too much on your upper body and prevented you from developing more advanced footwork? You might find that more aggressive/pointy shoes will help you use your feet more.

Mathias · Mar 28, 2016 · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 120
Ted Pinson wrote:Although I've seen people climb some pretty hard stuff in Moccasyms and Mythos, there's going to be an upper threshold when it comes to bouldering, and I'd say V3 is pretty close. Have you considered that your insistence on wearing non-aggressive shoes is forcing you to rely too much on your upper body and prevented you from developing more advanced footwork? You might find that more aggressive/pointy shoes will help you use your feet more.
I've absolutely considered that. And honestly I'm pretty okay with V3. I mentioned bouldering grades because that's what I've been doing a lot recently. I'm far more interested in trad. I just haven't been able to get out for much besides bouldering sessions and the gym recently.

Jon Nelson · Mar 28, 2016 · Bellingham, WA · Joined Sep 2011 · Points: 4,500
Ted Pinson wrote:Although I've seen people climb some pretty hard stuff in Moccasyms and Mythos, there's going to be an upper threshold when it comes to bouldering, and I'd say V3 is pretty close. Have you considered that your insistence on wearing non-aggressive shoes is forcing you to rely too much on your upper body and prevented you from developing more advanced footwork? You might find that more aggressive/pointy shoes will help you use your feet more.
This may be just me, but I find the opposite to be true: I use my feet more, and generally much better, when the shoes are comfortable. This is based on my experience with my 5.10 Coyotes, which I can easily wear all day long, and my Evolve Shamans, which I have a hard time walking in and get uncomfortable after 1-2 pitches.

I was at a bouldering competition recently, and many in the advanced category were failing on the routes that had smears on volumes. Someone next to me suggested it was partly because of their aggressive shoes. I was fine in my all-day-long Coyotes.

If you can find aggressive shoes that are really comfortable, meaning you can wear them for hours, then perhaps they will help you, but maybe not on the volume smears. Issues with thin edging with comfy shoes? Then just strengthen the toes...

Quinn Baker · Mar 28, 2016 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 0
Ted Pinson wrote:Although I've seen people climb some pretty hard stuff in Moccasyms and Mythos, there's going to be an upper threshold when it comes to bouldering, and I'd say V3 is pretty close. Have you considered that your insistence on wearing non-aggressive shoes is forcing you to rely too much on your upper body and prevented you from developing more advanced footwork? You might find that more aggressive/pointy shoes will help you use your feet more.
While aggressive shoes can help you climb better, a friend of mine boulders v6-7 in moccasyms. So, I don't think V3 is even close to an "upper threshold" for bouldering in non-aggressive shoes. Shoes probably aren't the limiting factor in the low grades anyway, footwork is.

Mathias, aside from your hand issues, perhaps you should try some footwork drills next time you are in the gym. Try climbing easy slabs with tennis balls or something in your hands. Then, try without using your hands at all. Doing stuff like that really seemed to help me get my footwork and body position up.

Joe Coover · Mar 28, 2016 · Baltimore, Maryland · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 15
Ted Pinson wrote:Although I've seen people climb some pretty hard stuff in Moccasyms and Mythos, there's going to be an upper threshold when it comes to bouldering, and I'd say V3 is pretty close. Have you considered that your insistence on wearing non-aggressive shoes is forcing you to rely too much on your upper body and prevented you from developing more advanced footwork? You might find that more aggressive/pointy shoes will help you use your feet more.
Sorry Ted, I disagree with the first sentence. Less aggressive shoes can get on much tougher problems than a V3.

As far as hangboarding: I would recommend offsetting some of your weight if you hang board by using a pulley system with weights; especially when first starting. You can get it cheaper at a hardware store, but I have pasted a reference from REI so you have an idea of what I am referring to.

https://www.rei.com/product/100242/trango-rock-prodigy-pulley-kit?cm_mmc=cse_PLA_GOOG-_-1002420001&CAWELAID=120217890002329458&lsft=cm_mmc:cse_PLA_GOOG

Mathias · Mar 28, 2016 · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 120
It's funny how this thread has become about footwork, but I'll go with it.

Usually I wear moccs or Anasazi guides. Part of the reason I don't wear down turned shoes is because I'm pretty casual about bouldering and use it as training, so it makes sense to wear shoes that I'll use for trad. However, because of this (and my height) I often fail with friends' beta and do things a little differently. The laugh when I throw up heel hooks or stem really wide, all in good humor though. But as Jon said about strengthening toes, that's why I'll sometimes wear a pair of worn down, resoled, floppy moccs when I boulder.

Quinn, the tennis ball thing is a good idea though I often get on slabby traverses to work on my footwork and try to put as little weight on my hands as possible. This has helped my footwork quite a lot, but it still needs more work. It's my weak point as far as technique goes.

Joe, I don't have a weight system for the hangboard... yet. I stopped using it when I hurt my wrist because that made things worse. Now I find I can only use the outer holds without aggravating my wrist, put there are some 3 finger slots I can and have been using on the outsides for open hand.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply