Want a physically engaging, full-body workout that gets you in top shape and prime fitness condition? Then, rock climbing could be the sport for you. Whether your rock climbing indoors or out, the rock-climbing session provides a good workout. During this time, you build stamina, strengthen your muscles and increase your heart rate to work cardio. You need strength to pull yourself up on the rope with your arms.
Here we want to talk about beginning rock climbing to increase your fitness. Young climbers in their early teens and seasoned veterans moving into their fifties have different physical needs and will respond differently to the stresses of climbing and training.
Rock climbing fitness is a challenging sport that can test your physical and mental stamina. It reduces stress.
The climb tests your body and mind’s endurance, strength, agility, and balance. Rock climbing can be performed on an indoor rock-climbing wall or out in nature.
With the right mindset and the best climbing equipment, shoes and gear for safe rock climbing, plus the right climbing strategies, you can be on your way to a lean, toned body and a more focused brain.
It’s one of the best total body workouts you can do and offers mega benefits.
Muscle Groups Strengthened During Rock Climbing
As you build a rock climber body, you work a variety of muscles in your body:
In fact, as you strengthen your grip, you work your forearms. So, you’re literally increasing strength every major muscle group during you’re a rock-climbing session. Climbing can also lower your BMI and decrease body fat.
Rock Climbing Improves Flexibility
Rock climbing raises the range of motion. This occurs because the sport requires flexibility as you climb, and adaptability as you spring and reach the handholds and footholds during your climb.
To increase your circulation and flexibility, make sure you stretch a few times a week to prepare for your climb.
Rock Climbing Reduces Stress
When you raise norepinephrine levels, a neurotransmitter in your body, you release stress.
Being involved in the actions of climbing, reaching and leaping can often create a sense of exhilaration or feel like a natural “high.” This occurs as norepinephrine levels increase with each step you take.
To add, rock climbers who climb outdoors get an extra boost of energy from the sun’s rays that emit Vitamin D, which, as you may know, also reduces stress.
You Increase Mental Strength
Rock climbing is also useful for your brain. While you navigate routes, you test your problem-solving skills. Climbing also requires good hand-eye coordination so you can determine the right reach on the face of the rock.
These skills help you judge the proper reach, abilities, and strength needed to move on to the next step. It also tests your mental endurance and route calculation.
These skills are especially essential when you do rock climbing without safety harnesses and ropes, known as bouldering. Only recommended for advanced rock climbers.
Rock Climbing Helps Us Conquer Fear
Our fears offer the most significant challenges that stop us from achieving our dreams, experiencing success and living our life to the fullest.
Two of the biggest fears is a fear of heights and a fear of falling. While rock climbing helps our body, it’s a great way to challenge these fears. Challenging the fear of rock climbing provides a great way to strengthen our confidence and build self-esteem.
Climbing with a safety harness also provides an added security and comfort when we’re fighting our fears. If we lose our grip, the harness acts as a safety measure. And they can be used both for indoor climbs or outdoor climbs.
The feeling of winning over the challenge often makes climbers want to challenge other aspects of their lives because they’ve achieved a sense of victory.
Ways to start learning to rock climb
Start with Bouldering in a Gym
Bouldering is a type of climbing that doesn’t use ropes and keeps you lower to the ground. There are many gyms that are specifically designed just for bouldering. However, many rock-climbing gyms offer bouldering alongside sport climbing (which requires you to learn some extra rope skills). Since the walls are shorter, it doesn’t require quite as much endurance, especially for beginner-level routes.
Reasons to boulder:
First, it’s just less expensive, so there’s less of an upfront investment. All you need to go bouldering indoors is a pair of rock shoes (you can rent these for a few bucks at the gym) and maybe some chalk (usually available for purchase at the gym, chalk is used to help add friction to your hands).
Second, you don’t need a partner. You can go to a bouldering gym on your own for the first time. This may seem intimidating, but the community is really welcoming to newcomers overall. And the secret is: everyone is bad at climbing when they start. Some people are stronger than others, but that really (really) doesn’t make them better at climbing.
Yes, climbing might look like it takes a ton of upper body strength, but it is really a full-body sport. You can absolutely start climbing BEFORE you can EVER do a pullup.
If you’re climbing indoors but not bouldering, chances are you’re top roping. These climbs are protected by a rope anchored from above and belayed (the act of applying tension to the rope to minimize the distance in a fall) from the ground. Top roping is usually considered less physically demanding than other types of climbing due to the belayer’s ability to prevent the climber from taking large falls. As such, it’s probably the most popular type of indoor roped-climbing.
Top roping routes at the gym are usually marked with plastic cards at the start of the route that note their name and grade. These routes feature color-coded holds as well. In North America, routes are graded on the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) which ranges from 5.0 to 5.15c. The higher the number, the greater the difficulty.
Sport (Lead) Climbing
Sport lead climbing relies on fixed bolts for protection along a predefined route. The lead climber ascends the route with the rope tied to his or her harness and clips into each bolt or quickdraw to protect against a fall.
In indoor climbing gyms, quickdraws (two non-locking carabiners connected with webbing) are pre-placed on the bolts so that a lead climber only must clip the rope in as he or she ascends the route.
Lead climbing requires a much greater commitment than top roping, because there is a greater potential for the lead climber to take a more drastic fall (called a “whipper”). As the lead climber ascends, the potential fall distance will be twice the length of the rope between the last clipped bolt and the lead climber; this distance can be exaggerated by dynamic rope stretch.
Sport routes are also graded on the Yosemite Decimal System in North America.
For most, gym climbing is seen as the end of the road—but, it’s just the beginning. While indoor facilities provide a safe and convenient environment in which to practice, climbing can be most enjoyed in the great outdoors—where variables such as weather, rock, and scenery are constantly changing.
Indoor and outdoor climbing have many of the same gear requirements; both types of climbing utilize many of the same skills. As such, if you’re comfortable climbing indoors, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go try it outside. However, due to the ever-changing natural environment, climbing outdoors requires significantly more knowledge of systems—as well as ethics.
When bouldering outdoors, portable crash pads are often used for protection. These smaller crash pads typically fold in half and can be worn as a backpack for carrying on approaches.
Top roping outdoors is useful in areas where the rock quality does not allow for adequate leader protection, where bolting is not part of the local ethic, or where top-ropes can be set off trees. For sport top-rope routes, it’s possible to hike to the top of the bolted anchor, set the rope, then return to the bottom to climb. For trad top-rope routes the process is the same, except instead of setting the rope off a bolted anchor, the climber would build an anchor using removable protection instead.
Sport (Lead) Climbing
Most sport-climbs outdoors are lead climbs. The lead climber will clip into bolts along the route and then build an anchor at the top, while belayed from the ground.
Trad (short for traditional) climbing is a style of climbing outdoors where the lead climber places removable protection along the route in order to protect from falls. The protection is then removed from the route as the team’s final climber ascends.
Why climb trad instead of sport? Since climbers place their own gear (protection devices such as nuts and cams) and there’s no predetermined route, trad climbing emphasizes exploration. There are no boundaries. Anything is possible. Put simply, climbing trad is an adventure. Because of those same factors, however, trad climbing has a potentially greater risk factor than sport climbing.
Another advantage of trad climbing is that when compared to sport climbing (where routes are permanently bolted) trad climbers can better adhere to Leave No Trace principles, because modern trad protection is removable—leaving more pristine environments for future climbers to enjoy.
Aid climbing is a style of rock climbing where the climber attaches devices to pieces of protection and stands on those devices to make upward progress. It is typically reserved for climbs that are too steep, long, and difficult for free climbing. Aid climbing is the most popular way to ascend big walls like those found in Yosemite.
Free Climbing vs. Free Soloing
Unlike aid climbing, free climbing is characterized by making upward progress relying only on the natural features of the rock—using ropes and equipment only to protect a fall and provide a belay. Most rock climbing is considered free climbing.
Free soloing—the type of rock climbing that’s recently become publicly visible because of Alex Honnold—occurs when the climber performs alone without using any ropes, a harness, or other protective equipment. The climber instead relies on their ability to complete the ascent.
Free soloing differs from bouldering in the sense that free solo climbers usually climb to heights that would be unsafe in the event of a fall.
Due to similarities in nomenclature, free climbing and free soloing are often confused, especially by the media—however the two different types of climbing feature notable distinctions.
What Is Rappelling?
Rappelling is the controlled descent of a vertical face by the climber himself or herself—not to be confused with lowering, which is what a belayer might do for the climber at the end of a climb to get them back to the ground. It’s used at the end of a climbing route when it cannot be safely or easily walked-off from the top—or if climbers need to bail from a route when the climb becomes unsafe or impossible given the conditions or climber’s ability. Rappelling is most often done using a belay device; it requires an anchor to be left behind—either in the form of permanent bolts, or webbing around a rock feature or tree.
Rock Climbing is awesome, it’s a lot of fun while being challenging, good exercise, and rewarding. It can be a great hobby too! However, getting started can be tough if you don’t know what you’re expecting or know anyone that can teach you.
To start we highly recommend a climbing gym, not just a regular gym, though a climbing gym, this way you can get instructed and have guidance to getting started. Here is why:
1 Safety. For a sport like climbing you should have training by a professional in a controlled environment. That’s something you can’t get online from reading articles or watching videos, I can’t even do that through an instructable.
2 You won’t need to buy all the expensive gear right away that way if you don’t like climbing after one try you don’t already have a huge investment in it.
3 A gym lets you try out all kinds of climbing and will have other experienced climbers there that are willing to give you advice. Most climbers are friendly so don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice.