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.


  1. I have a staggered wall, but the wall is around a 45 degree overhang. Before I go out and buy a new tufa, What are your thoughts about setting this here? Also, what would you rate a move like this? V0, V1?

    I am new at setting and plan to only set in my own home, so it is hard for me to judge ratings at this moment.

  2. Hi Modano,

    Thanks for your comment! Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. Quite busy with my 'real' job at the time.

    I think on a 45 degree wall you'd have a hard time making this kind of move truly easy, grade wise. V0/1 tend to have lower/more spaced feet, and comfortable body positions with a bit less tension. This move requires a forced body position that most beginner climbers would find unintuitive. At a guess I'd say you could try setting this move on problems from around V2 and up.

    Just to clarify, there's no reason you can't do it at V0 - but a lot of V0 climbers won't think of that kind of movement. And you're going to have a really hard time doing it on a 45 degree wall.

  3. Thanks, vertical it is. Appretiate your advice and blog.

  4. How do I get in touch with you? or 508-317-4453.