Or maybe you’re having trouble getting a good grip on the holds because the holds feel too rough on your skin. Luckily, there are some methods and products you can use to improve your grip – though there are pros and cons to each one.
Chalk – Chalk is a popular option to improve grip in many sports. You may have seen gymnasts and weightlifters chalking up before they compete so they can get a better hold on the gymnastic rings or
barbells. You’ve likely already seen chalk in use at your rock climbing gym.
There are different types of chalk: powdered, solid, and liquid. Basically, if you get a solid block of chalk, you’ll need to break it into pieces before you apply it to your hands (the benefit of this is that you can control how big or small you prefer the pieces of chalk to be.)
Liquid chalk is powdered chalk mixed with alcohol to make a liquid form; the alcohol dries quickly, leaving the powdered chalk on your hands. Powdered chalk and block chalk are both stored in chalk bags (once the block is in the bag, most climbers will step on it to break it into pieces.)
You may also opt to use a small bucket for your chalk. You simply reach into the bucket or bag, pick up some chalk, spread it on your hands and fingers, then let any extra fall back into the bag or bucket. Then you’re ready to climb without any extra moisture on your hands!
The downside to chalk is the mess. The powder all over your hands can get on your clothes and all over gym equipment – some traditional gyms (not rock climbing gyms) don’t allow chalk on their weight training equipment due to the mess. Many climbing gyms rent chalk bags so you can always try it out before buying your own.
Gloves – Rock climbing gloves are available, but you might want to think twice before using them. The gloves have grips and can protect your skin from the rough rocks; many climbers will tell you that climbing can lead to tough, calloused hands.
Despite all of this, most climbers would advise you against gloves (just check any message board on the subject.) Gloves tend to feel more cumbersome than helpful and may bunch up when you try to put your hands into small holes and holds. Plus, according to a climbing message board, fellow climbers might laugh at anyone wearing gloves.
If you are concerned about your skin, try moisturizer. Applying lotion regularly (though not right before a climb) can help to keep your skin healthy and supple. Your hands will be less likely to get cut or feel pinched or strained with healthy, moisturized skin. If you overdid it with the lotion before a climb, consider trying chalk.
If you do get cuts, you can consider taping your hands and fingers to protect vulnerable spots rather than wearing all-over, bulky gloves.