What’s the best and easiest way to develop crusher sloper strength, and what’s the best way to grip a sloper?—Duane Raleigh, Redstone, CO
We naturally gravitate toward the most positive holds, which is why slopers are a weakness for so many of us. Technique and the strength required for using slopers are interlinked.
Gripping slopers is about being confident and aggressive, and above all, practicing. The secrets are to get as much of your finger surface in contact with the hold as possible, and on larger holds, to use the pads on the upper part of your palm and your thumb as well. If pinching is possible, do so. In some cases you can almost smear your hand into place. Most slopers have a sweet spot that is rarely evident from below. Feel for it. If there is a small incut or crease at the back then it may be preferable to crimp this (if you are a strong crimper), and sacrifice contact with your fingers on the rest of hold. Your ability to use a sloper has more to do with how you move the rest of your body than specific muscle strength. Be stealthy and avoid sudden changes of position. Keep your center of gravity below the hold—too far in and you may swing out, and too far out and you’ll skid off the sloper. On steeper walls, press your feet hard into the footholds and contract both your abs and your lower back to prevent your center of gravity from sagging. Keep your eyes peeled for heel- and toe-hooks, which are crucial tricks for lightening the load.
Systems boards can be good for developing specific sloper strength and skill, although they only emphasize linear movement. Hang boards will do little for your technique, but they can help build strength, especially if you do pull-ups or hangs on the slopers with your feet held out in front of you to train body tension. If your hang board doesn’t have slopers, a half-crimp grip on the flat edges is a close alternative. Some additional dumbbell training can be worthwhile here, like holding static contraction wrist curls with heavy weights for three sets of four reps for eight seconds at three different wrist angles. The best method of all is to simply look for the slopiest problems you can find, and roll up your sleeves!