To master that latest project or maybe stick to the wall longer than two moves, it’s essential to know how to use different types of rock climbing holds. In this article, we’ll touch on five categories of climbing holds, go over how to identify them, and offer some general guidelines for using proper technique on each.

bouldering hold types

Rock Climbing Holds: How to Use Them


Jugs are a climber’s best friend, especially after a long and tiring route. These holds are usually relatively large and have rough surfaces, allowing for extra grippiness. Named for their jug-handle-like design, they curve up and out from the wall in a way that makes it easy to secure your hold hand over its edge. ‘Jug’ especially references these handle-esque holds, but don’t be fooled by gym lingo– sometimes climbers will refer to any hold by this name to refer to how “easy” something feels.

When using jugs correctly, you’ll likely figure out how best to hold a jug by feeling the hold and determining what placement gives you the best grip. When you encounter a new jug, running your hand along the hold is helpful to feel the best angle to grip it from. You’re likely to find a good hold that fits the shape of your hand quickly. Once you’ve found your ideal position, try not to adjust your grip unnecessarily.


Slopers are considered some of the most difficult holds to maneuver, though they become much more manageable once you know how to approach them. Whatever shape they take, slopers will be rounded with no good place to grab onto. Instead, slopers require you to position your hands and body in a way that pulls against the hold continuously, using gravity and the friction between your hands and the hold to keep your grip. The key is usually to stay low!

Because of their round surface, you’ll only slip right off if you keep an opposing pull force between your positioned hands and the hold. The technique requires strength and practice, but your technique and comfortability will build with patience! Hone your sloper skills by practicing with a hold close to the ground; notice how shifting your weight and breaking that opposing pull causes you to slip. Experiment with your body’s angle of pull against the hold and focus on that center of gravity!


Pockets are smaller holds with a little scoop missing from the middle. There’s usually enough room for a couple of fingers, but more challenging pockets may only leave room for one. Because you rely on just a few fingers, these holds can be tricky until you build more strength. There are varying techniques for pockets, some offering more power with a higher risk of injury, and some give slightly less power but are kinder to your tendons. It’s essential to be familiar with these approaches before trying anything too intense.

Once you feel confident in your tendon risk aversion, try to find a pocket low to the ground to practice your hold in 5-15 second intervals, focusing on your technique. Pro-tip, if you’ve got enough room for two fingers, try using your middle and ring fingers rather than the middle and pointer. That gives you more balance and control!


Take a second to hold up your best crab claw hand, using four fingers for one pincher and your thumb for the other. Now picture a hold with two flat sides perfect for fitting your claw hand. These sorts of holds are pinches! The name says it all– the pads of your fingers should rest against the hold’s surface as you pinch between your forefingers and thumbs.

These holds can be notoriously tricky and enduring, so many climbers focus on grip training off the wall to help improve their pinch skills. The smaller the pinch, the more finger-concentrated strength will be required, but your fingers’ position is also critical. Ensure your thumb is placed to give yourself a more expansive, firmer grip. That will help engage your wrist and hand strength, giving you more power and helping prevent injury.


Edges, also called crimps or crimpers, look similar to pinches but with only one flat side. The flat side can be oriented in any direction and is the only place on the hold that offers a spot to place your fingers, requiring a crimping technique to keep grip along this edge. When crimping, your fingers are bent onto their pads, your fingertips placed along the hold’s edge. Depending on the shape of the hold and the specific crimping technique you are using, you may also have your thumb placed. If your thumb is not placed and you’re able, place your thumb over your placed fingers for an extra boost.

Getting more familiar with identifying and using each will better prepare you for each move you make on your next climb. Take time to try and work on each hold the next time you hit the gym!