Saturday, March 19, 2011

Movement Analysis: The Frog Pinch

The frog pinch is a pretty specific move, so I thought it would make an excellent candidate for my next movement analysis. I set this move on accident a few times, but the first time I forced it was at the level 2 USAC clinic, with E-Grips' Myorcan Tufapinch. I was somewhat on the spot, since I was setting it specifically for Chris Danielson himself. However, I didn't struggle with it and actually found it fun and intriguing to set. Since then I've set the move a few times with increasing success. The first thing you need to know about this move is that unlike the last movement analysis, this move might be a bit unintuitive - it's more technique than power. Lots of climbers do not have the hip flexibility and lower body tension necessary to quickly grasp this move when they encounter it. That being said, it's most logical to set this move on a slightly harder route, where climbers are likely to see the move as a challenge instead of a frustration. Gym rats hate this move. Flexible strong females, techy people and Smith junkies will eat it alive.

Basic Summary

The gist of the frog-leg is a move where the climber has to create body tension by compressing their legs towards each other. This means a few things off the bat. First, the hand holds need to be poor enough that the climber will fall if their feet aren't secure. If the climber can dyno or campus past the move, it's a no go. Second, The number of feet available needs to be limited; actually, it needs to be one - the pinch. Third, that foot option needs to have zero upward foothold potential. If the climber can use the top of the foot even as a poor smear, they will drop their other leg and make the move without using the frog.

Black denotes the start holds and route trend.

Generally the move works best when the climber is traversing over the frog pinch footholds, because it's hard to generate upward momentum when your legs are both pinching. Since that upward motion would make the move a lot more upper-body dependent, it could ruin the equitability of the sequence. I have found the easiest way to set the Frog Pinch is by having the climber do a cross move from a wide open position. We're going to have them start on the big pinch and a small right hand crimp by hand foot matching their left heel on the pinch from the ground. This sets the climber up for the frog by having half of the body position implied by the time they get to the move.

Starting position.

After they pull on, they'll bump their left hand from the big pinch to the first left hand sloper (Hold 2.) At this point they are creating compression with the three holds.

The opening move, to the first sloper.

Moving their left hand to Hold 3 is not an option because of distance, so the climber knows they need to move their right hand. The logical option is to create compression to replace the right hand's tension by using their right leg - for some climbers this will mean automatically adopting the frog position.

Creating compression with the feet - the Frog Pinch.

Then the climber can cross through to hold 3. Optionally, an extra (very poor) hold can be added above hold 1 to help this body position transition.

Crossing over - not too much upward motion, mostly moving laterally.

The route can go lots of directions afterward, provided none of the holds used in later sequences are accessible from the opening moves.

Hold Considerations

Basically, we're talking about four holds. One big start pinch, one small start crimp, and two non-matchable directional slopers / sloper pinches.

The right hand starting hold, doesn't matter much, as long as it's poor enough to prevent moves from being skipped. Placing it facing straight up will make the opening move easiest; placing it horizontal to the right will make it quite hard. Straight down or left will make the move (almost) impossible.

Holds 2 and 3 should be semi directionals so they can be easily tweaked to make the move feel more natural. The fastest way to make the move harder is to make the holds face outwards more, making the climber more reliant on compression and less on being able to actually pull down against gravity. I've found the most natural way to set the move is to have Hold 2 be basically straight down or just a bit left (since the climber will be using it the most.) The optional bump hold should face gently right, so the climber will struggle to bump their left hand from the start hold to hold 3, making the intended sequence more obvious. Hold 3 can be oriented depending on your next sequence, but I try to have it face slightly rightward with a decent thumb catch and keep the route trending left. This also makes it harder to skip moves.

The frog-leg foothold is going to be the centerpiece of the route. I'll emphasize again that this pinch can't be smearable! The three holds I've set this move on are the E-Grips Bubble Wrap Pinch, the Tufapinch and the Atomik Granite Pinch. The granite pinch was the most smearable, but also the most comfortable heel hook for the start. The Tufapinch is quite hard on anything steeper than about 20 degrees. There are several other holds that could theoretically be used for this purpose.

Troubleshooting hold choices:
  • Thumb catches can generate a lot more compression than you might think. Consider using holds with no or poor thumb catches.
  • If the climber can't pull off the ground, try moving your centerpiece pinch hold down (or in) a bit, or making your right hand starting hold better by rotation or hold change.
  • If the climber can smear on top of the centerpiece hold, either it's too low or too good, hold 2 and 3 are too good, or your terrain isn't steep enough.
  • If the frog-leg is uncomfortable, watch someone climb it and try to rotate the frog pinch so it points directly at their ideal center of gravity during the move. Just rotate it for fun if nothing else - a five degree shift makes the move completely different. Experiment. Rotating the pinch hold has been the final step of tweaking the move every single time I've set it.
Terrain Considerations

This move works on just about any terrain, but it's easiest to keep the climber from smearing on top of the pinch hold on a wall at least 20 degrees overhanging. Slabs and vertical faces it's just too easy for the climber to forego compression in favor of balance. On a steep enough wall, the hold has to better than the ones I outlined - Lapis volumes are a fun alternative, if you have them; although the move at that point is less like a frog pinch and more like stock gymnastic roof climbing. In fact, I think doing the move on a gently overhanging wall where it feels new and foreign is what makes the move so interesting to set and climb.

Possibly the best place to set this move is on a staggered overhang, if you have one near the ground. In this scenario you can move the entire setup up and down until you find the appropriate average angle to make the move "go." I didn't figure this technique out until I had set the move several times - it's much easier on this type of terrain, so it's a good place to start.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hold Review - Atomik Font Pinches

I had the pleasure of reviewing the Atomik Font Pinches recently. Here's a primer on how I review holds.

Set Overview / Summary

Two small yellow bubble pinches (quite poor) - I mostly used these as bumps. They'd make for great technical holds on a vertical wall.

One red blob edge - A great directional slimper, great smear foot when used directionally. The most directional of the bunch, and probably my personal favorite.

Big green rail pinch - By far the most positive. A comfortable narrower pinch, with plenty of surface area for hand foot matching or crossed-pinch matching. Possible jug / rest hold horizontally.

Big green - the jug of the set

Big blue pinch, wider, shallower - could make a good, hard match; very comfortable wide pinch.

Big red sloper pinch - probably the trickiest hold. the thumb catches on this one were not as intuitive as most of the others, so it presented more of an actual pinch-strength challenge.

Big blue knobby pinch - vertically, makes for fantastic matching. one of the depressions is a perfect huge thumb catch, making it very easy to force moves that require strong oppositional thumb pressure to cancel barn doors or hold tension.


Pinches are always strange territory for directionality, as they naturally come with more than one plumb line. The setter has to be cautious with the use of feet, and the angle of the pinch. Comfortable pinch plumb line + solid foot in a perpendicular body position = fat rest point. One factor that can make this a bit easier on the routesetter is when pinches are angled slightly triangular, as many companies do these days. (Incidentally this tends to have two other advantages: 1) it makes the hold more ergonomic for the best-case grip; and 2) it offers a much harder, much less comfortable worst-case grip for ergonomically disinclined, crueler routesetters to employ.) All of the Atomik pinches fit this bill except the juggiest pinch. Simply being mindful of the feet around that hold and the travel time of moves to and from that hold made it easy to deal with.

For the hardest problem I set of the day, the red sloper pinch gets the honorable mention. Even with foreknowledge of the move I found my body wanting to contort to get the thumb catch just right. The climbers I had helping me out experienced the exact same puzzle. Once the thumb was dialed, the move followed naturally. Cool.

For pinches, I consider these to have better than average directionality: body positions are forceable, without creating uncomfortable hand positions or requiring excess consideration by the routesetter.


Any pinch worth its weight in urethane should make up for its lack of directionality in versatility and movement inspiration.

Going in to reviewing a pinch set, the big things on my mind were my bread and butter pinch moves - wide open compression, close-in hand-over-hand matches, big crossovers, barn doors. Moves that require using both directionalities of the hold simultaneously to create body tension. The set didn't disappoint, with the red slimper offering just enough forced directionality to diversify against the rest of the set. The green ledge could easily be used as a finish jug or rest hold horizontally, but placed vertically on a gently overhanging wall it required just enough "oomph" to stack up with the slimmer pinches for a hard route.

The yellow holds were great for "just enough" holds, offering easy fixes to bump moves, and each of them were tri-directional for easy tweaks to move difficulty. The difference between a move being possible off the first bump, and encouraging the climber to move to the second bump before committing their other hand was two 120 degree rotations away. Nice.

When trying to set routes with one set, a wide variety of difficulty can be somewhat of a curse. The red slimper-pinch (slincher?) was a good cure every time I found myself set into a corner. This broad difficulty offered a challenge, but one that would quickly turn into advantages when the set's combined with other similar sets, or doubled up.

Best of the bunch: directional, aesthetic, comfortable.

Difficulty: On a vertical wall, could offer V0 with sufficient feet. Severe overhangs would turn these pinches extremely nasty with the quickness. My preference was about V5-7 on a 25˚ยบ° wall.

Movement variety: Great. Nothing I tried to do seemed like it wouldn't go with some tweaking, with the set having a broad mixture of good and poor holds. The only move that seemed dire was to force a frog on a steep wall, as most of the pinches could be smeared on top. Geological discrepancy aside, the set could be combined with a larger pinch like the Granite XXL pinch to force a move like this. A foot-cut to the big pinch (or moving into it off dual tex sidepulls) to cancel out potential feet, followed by delicate slopey pinch moves above the big pinch would be a great sequence, and one I fully intend to get back to.


Shaping: Clearly some thought went into the shaping of the knobby pinch and slopey pinch, as their thumb catches were intuitive and puzzling respectively. Switching out similar holds with slightly different thumb catches is a great alternative for a setter to quickly bump or reduce the difficulty of a move to hit grade.

Structure: The holds were solidly built, with no errors or blemishes. Washers were all set parallel to the wall. I had no issues with spinning or stripping. Bolt depth was good, with all bolts being shallow enough to be ratchet or impact-accessible. (Extremely deep bolts, a la the very old EPS holds, are somewhat of a pet peeve for me - and I'm sure I'm not alone there.)


I had the choice between earth tones and bright colors. Being a route aesthetics junkie, I picked bright. Primary colors look great against the drab beige of climbing wall obscurity. The similar bumpy shape made the routes I quickly set and tore down intuitive and quick to read for my test audience, even though I never taped a problem or even pointed out the holds. This sort of snappy no-tape-required intuition is a huge asset of any hold set's aesthetic. The earth tones would be a good choice for a darker, artificial-tex wall.

As it was, the bright colors were distinctive without joining the ranks of the ubiquitous neon blobs. This also makes the chalk look better on the holds. Yes, I'm a design geek.

As far as shape looks go, this set would look great combined with almost any font set, but the standouts are definitely the Atomik XXL font sloper, which can easily be used as a pinch when placed vertically, creating some style parity. The even bigger font XXXL set at a 90 offers great compression potential, which could be traversed through using the rest of the pinch set as collateral.


Texture: a comfortable in-between point, perfect for pinches. Any slopier on the worst slopey pinch and the two small yellow fellas and I would have wanted a bit more grit. The texture ensured pinch strength was a primary emphasis of any route the set went in to, which is its main job.

Ergonomics: other than the difficulty of the slopey red pinch, all the thumb catches felt great. Edges were well spaced, with pressure falling naturally in between finger joints. None of the holds seemed tweaky or strange to grasp.

Movement: As I said before, I went for an emphasis on moves requiring the use of thumb opposition. My favorite of the quick problems I set was on a gentle overhang: open with a big move from the red slope pinch and red slimper (as an undercling) to the blue knob pinch, requiring immediate barn-door-cancel tension. The red slimper undercling became a smear for a big cross to the green jug pinch. The cross position ensured the green pinch (the best of all) would not be easily used as a rest point on the route. From there a big rockover on a decent foot gave way to the wide shallow blue pinch. Bumping into the first yellow hold allowed a "float" move to set a heel hook on the big green. Another bump to the next yellow hold and then the lip finished the route up.

All in all a pretty solid set. I'd be eager to set with them again.

These holds were provided to me by Atomik for the purposes of this review. Thanks guys!