Sports & Gaming

Climbing Holds

Alex Honnold & Tommy Caldwell

Lesson time 13:56 min

In climbing, your hands and arms keep you balanced over your feet. In this lesson, Alex defines and demonstrates hand grips and arm techniques.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Climbing Holds • Straight Arms • Jugs • Edge • Pockets • Sloper • Pinch • Undercling • Side Pull • Gaston • Mantling •


[MUSIC PLAYING] ALEX HONNOLD: The hand holds that you find in a climbing gym, though they sometimes look outrageous and sort of fantastical, they do mirror the actual shapes and textures that you encounter outdoors. And you will have to hold it in that way. Now I'm going to introduce hand and arm techniques, which basically means how you use your hands to balance your body on the rock. Your legs should always be what's driving you upward, but your hands and your arms are what keeps you balanced over your legs. And so the different types of grips and the different types of holds matter, and how you hold them matters. [MUSIC PLAYING] Coming with straight arms just means keeping your arm as straight as possible as much as possible. Naturally, you have to bend your arm sometimes to reach between holds. But you're never trying to pull with your arms, or at least you're trying to minimize the amount of pulling as much as you can. You're using your arms to keep you in the right position so that you can drive with your legs and push yourself upward. When you climb with straight arms, you allow your skeleton to do the work. And it saves a lot of effort from your muscles. [MUSIC PLAYING] The jug is the term for a very good positive hand hold, positive meaning that your fingers go behind a hold as opposed to just straight down on it or sloping away from you. So this could be an example of a jug. The name comes from a jug handle, if you imagine grabbing a ring or sort of grabbing like an old school telephone with your hand. When you get to a jug on a route, you want to get as much as your hand is possible on the jug. That includes draping your thumb over the top if you can. Hold onto it in a relatively comfortable and yet fairly relaxed way. And then, you want to extend your arm as straight as possible and hang straight off your skeleton. So you want to avoid using any muscles that you don't absolutely need and sort of slump your body back onto your skeleton as much as you can. Depending on the size of the hold, some jugs are big enough that instead of using your hand, you can actually drape your whole wrist over the hold. Actually, if it's a big enough hold, you could put your whole forearm over the top. And that way, you can rest your hand. You can relax your forearm muscles by using different muscles. You know, and that's kind of a standard theme throughout climbing, that to avoid fatigue in your forearms, you should distribute the wear across your whole body. And that includes your hands. You know, your fingers start to get tired. So put your whole wrist on something, or put your elbow on it. Like, hook your arm behind it. You should always take advantage of any creative rest that you can. As you get stronger, the size of your jug will slowly shrink over time, which is kind of the classic thing in climbing when you're like, oh, rest on the jug. And someone else is like, that's not a jug. You're like, well, you know, i...

About the Instructor

With more than 60 combined years of elite rock climbing experience, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell have scaled some of the largest—and most extreme—walls in the world. Now, the stars of Free Solo and The Dawn Wall are teaming up to share their tried-and-true techniques for tackling any wall. From the fundamentals of footwork and body and hand positioning to mental exercises and advanced holds and movements, you’ll learn how to take on new challenges and push yourself further on and off the wall.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Alex Honnold & Tommy Caldwell

Stars of “Free Solo” and “The Dawn Wall” Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell teach lessons from more than 60 years of combined rock climbing experience.

Explore the Class
Sign Up