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What Are Undercling Climbing Holds and Why Climbers Love/Hate Them

What Are Undercling Climbing Holds and Why Climbers Love/Hate Them

If you have been climbing for a while, you may be interested in learning some common lingo you can use while talking with fellow climbers. Types of holds, for example, are good to know if you are shouting beta (beta is a term used in climbing that explains each move in a climbing route). One of the more common holds found on indoor and outdoor climbing routes is called an undercling.

Undercling Climbing Holds are any hold that you grip from underneath with your palms facing up. Since it is easier to use this kind of grip when you are pulling up and your center of gravity is right next to it, we recommend matching your feet a couple of feet below it and standing up so the hold is at your waist. 

The Best Way to Use Undercling Climbing Holds

Undercling climbing holds if used properly, can be a great way to advance on a climbing route. The best way to use an undercling climbing hold is by pulling up on it like an upside-down jug handhold and placing your weight entirely in your legs. In order to pull up on the climbing hold, you will need to move your center of gravity at level with or above the climbing hold. The easiest way to do this is by placing your feet squarely below the undercling hold and place one or two hands (depending on the size of the hold and the angle of the wall) onto the hold and pull up in your arms while pushing down in your legs. If there aren’t footholds below the undercling hold, try smearing.

Once you are in position, keep your arms straight and press down on your feet. The more you press on your feet, the less weight you have to hold in your arms and fingers. This movement is similar to a deadlift. 

Additional Tip: Adjust the level of your center of gravity to the undercling climbing hold to change where your weight is being held. When your center of gravity is at level with the handhold, the majority of your weight will be below your waist. If your center of gravity is above the handhold, there will be more pressure/weight in your lower back. 

3 Reasons to Love Undercling Climbing Holds

Undercling climbing holds are pretty basic once you learn how to use them but they are especially challenging for beginner climbers. Depending on the size and location of the undercling climbing hold on the route, they can be challenging for all levels of climbers. This has created a love-hate relationship between climbers and undercling holds.

  1. Undercling climbing holds are easy to hold onto if you are above the hold. Most Undercling climbing holds are similar to upside-down jugs, so there is plenty of grip area and leverage to pull but this is only true if your center of gravity is level with or above the hold.
  2. They are easy to read on a route and give hint to what the next move should be. Since you know that you have to get your center of gravity level with or above the hold, you know that your feet have to be in a certain position before grabbing the hold, so the move to using the hold is easier to read (read is a term used to explain the process of reviewing the climbing route and identifying what beta to use). Once you understand how to get to the undercling hold and leverage it, you will also recognize that since your center of gravity is level with or above the hold, that your next handgrip is likely much higher than your usual next move because your waist and shoulder are so much higher.
  3. Undercling climbing holds can often be used as a resting/recovery hold. Since your center of gravity is so close to the climbing hold, it is often an easy place to rest and recover. Sometimes undercling climbing holds are big enough to fit your knees in and use it as a kneebar (a kneebar is a position that allows you to put your weight on your knee and often frees your hands to rest or move to the next position without weight on your hands or arms).

3 Reasons to Hate Undercling Climbing Holds

  1. Sometimes undercling climbing holds are in difficult positions to use properly so they can use additional energy. If there aren’t clear places for your feet, or if there aren’t any holds that help you get your center of gravity above the handhold, then the undercling climbing hold becomes more like a pinch hold and takes more energy to use.
  2. Undercling climbing holds can be distracting and make the climbing route more difficult. If a climb has an undercling hold, that doesn’t mean you should use it. Sometimes undercling holds actually make the route more difficult if they are in a location that brings you away from the intended route. In addition, they are sometimes right above a mantle so you wouldn’t be able to move your center of gravity above it, and thus it may be better to skip altogether.
  3. If you don’t have good footholds, underclings are extremely difficult to use. Since undercling handholds depend on pushing on your feet, your footholds are very important. if you are smearing or there aren’t any good places for your feet, then the undercling can take a lot of energy and can be super difficult to use.

Conclusion

There are many types of rock climbing holds and one of the most common climbing holds is an undercling. An undercling climbing hold is any hold that you have your palms face-up. Unlike all other types of climbing holds, you will be pulling up instead of pulling down. If you use your legs to lift up, similar to deadlifting, and you have a good grip on your feet, it can be a great place to rest and recover. I’d recommend that you try placing your center of gravity at level with the undercling handhold and then test if you prefer the center of gravity to be higher or lower. Once you figure out what you prefer, you can replicate that feeling on many different types of climbing.

woman using a crimp hold
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