Experts Explain How to Get a Body Like a Rock Climber

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From a strong upper body to excellent balance, a rock climber’s body has plenty of desirable features.

Not only does it look fantastic, but the coordination you’ll develop will help you more than you realize.

To covet this look you’ll need to put in a lot of work, especially with your hands and wrists.

You need a lot of grip strength, full-body coordination, a lean body, and minimal body fat. Strong shoulders and a sturdy upper back are also the most.

However, despite the work getting this body will take, fitness beginners and experts alike can start working on this body.

So — how can you get a body like a rock climber?

A rock climber’s body comes down to being extremely lean and having outstanding forearm and grip strength. You’ll want to strength train at the gym regularly with a heavy emphasis on pull-ups (and other pulling movements) and grip training. Then, you’ll need to cut excess body fat to complete the look.

Let’s check in with a few personal trainers and climbers to find out how you can get a physique like a pro climber.


What Are the Hallmarks of the “Rock Climber Physique”?

“As an avid rock climber, I strive to achieve an overall well-toned physique without over-bulking the muscles,” says Zhana Dmitryuk, a dance teacher, personal trainer, and rock climber.

Having too much muscle mass can overpower you while you’re climbing, so you’ll need to strengthen your muscles while avoiding any extra bulk that might weigh you down.

In other words, you’ll need to be strong and extremely lean.

Your upper body does much of the work while rock climbing, so naturally, it’s going to be more built-up than your lower body.

You’ll find that climbers have especially impressive forearms, which powers their unreal grip strength.

However, Zhana emphasis that you need lower body strength and coordination as well as a well-built upper body.

Jeff Parke of Top Fitness Magazine agrees, saying, “Rock climbers also require strong core muscles and hamstrings in order to complete certain climbs.”

But it’s not just the visual aspect that you need to work on, though.

If you want a true rock climber’s body, then you’ll need your physique to function the way a rock climber’s does.

You need to develop a keen sense of balance and coordination from head to toe, and the type of training you’ll do to covet this body will help with that.

Overall, to look like a rock climber you’ll need training that helps you develop:

  • Strong arms, wrists, hands, and shoulders
  • A sturdy core and legs
  • Full-body coordination

Now here’s how to do it:


6 Training Tips for a Rock Climber Body

Knowing what to work towards is one thing, but actually working towards achieving that goal is another. 

You’ll need to create a training program to get you there, and the tips below will have you well on your way to getting the body you desire.

1. Eat Well to Lose Fat and Get Lean

Eating well is a given on any fitness journey, but it’s particularly important if you want a body like a rock climber. 

You need to be both as strong as possible and as light as possible so your arms can easily hold your body’s weight while climbing (if you plan on actually rock climbing, of course!)

This strength to bodyweight ratio results in a breathtaking physique.

Iain Miller, a professional sea stack climber, advises on the basics of a healthy diet: “Your diet must be as healthy as possible with minimal fried and processed foods.”

Fried and processed foods usually have very few nutrients, and they’re calorie-dense. That’s exactly what you don’t want when slimming down and becoming lean.

If you’re actively trying to lose weight, then you need to be eating in a calorie deficit. 

Using an online TDEE/calorie calculator will help you figure out what your body burns in a day. Eating around 500 calories below that will make the weight come right off.

All your extra training will burn even more calories, so don’t forget to include your training regime when selecting how active you are in the calculator.

As you’re eating less, you need to ensure your food is packed with nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fats, good carbs) so it’s a good idea to consume lots of fruit and vegetables with things such as potatoes and whole grain rice.

Lastly, protein is a must. Zhana Dmitryuk swears by a high-protein diet, especially while actively training.

Not only does protein help you feel fuller for longer, but protein repairs your muscles after a workout. 

Workouts create microtears in the muscle fibers, but protein builds the muscles back up, thus growing them.

2. Get Ultra-Strong Hands and Wrists

“First and foremost, rock climbers need to have strong wrists and hands,” says Jeff Parke.

This is something that all of the trainers agree on.

You really, really need to focus on your grip, and training your grip will lead to developing excellent hand and wrist strength.

There are lots of ways to improve your grip strength. Something as simple as squeezing a stress ball is helpful, and the more resistance it offers the better.

You can also do exercises such as farmer’s walks, which are terrific for grip strength, core, and even your traps.

You can carry kettlebells, dumbbells, or even heavy sacks of flour or sand.

Hauling oddly shaped objects around is a great way to get your hands used to gripping things without a defined shape or size, like rocks.

Aim to hold the object you’re carrying as tightly as possible, and do the same when you’re training using a bar — pull-ups on thick bars are a fantastic way to work on your grip.

(They even make pull-up bars that use special rock climbing grips.)

If a thick pull-up bar is hard to come by, then visit your local soccer field. The goalposts have thick bars that can be used to complete your pull-up workout.

Another way to use pull-ups to your advantage is by using a towel to perform them.

Hook a towel over your pull-up bar and grab a handful of it on each side. Now perform your pull-ups as normal.

You’ll be holding a strangely shaped bunch of fabric while working your arm and hand muscles, and your grip will improve.

Daniel Richter, personal trainer and CEO of strengthlog.com stands by this towel trick.

He also suggests using gymnastic rings or ropes during pullups to improve your grip strength.

3. Develop a Keen Sense of Balance

Jeff Parke recommends training with a Bosu ball or Thera-band to improve your balance, and Zhana Dmitryuk finds hot yoga and Capoeira excellent for balance, too.

Hot yoga and Capoeira are also fantastic for your hand strength as they both include exercises such as hand-stands; you’re training balance and hand strength in one!

Yoga, Capoeira, pilates, barre, and similar workouts are all wonderful for helping you not only train your muscles, but get in touch with your body.

They’ll help you learn coordination and flexibility.

That’s vital for safety while rock climbing, and it’s perfect for getting an authentic rock climber’s body.

Consider checking out a few classes in your area or at your gym. A highly qualified instructor will know exactly what you need to get started on your path to balance and coordinattion.

You can work on your balance in your day-to-day life, too.

Try standing on your toes while you’re making coffee or walk around your house on tip-toe, as high as you can go.

It may sound ridiculous, but walking on your toes can really help your body learn to tackle situations that could put you off-balance.

4. Dance to Develop Endurance & Body Control

You can also work on your balance through dance.

According to Zhana Dmitryuk, “Any form of dance training introduces the utilization of the coordination of the upper and lower body simultaneously or exploring isometric movements.”

Ballet is particularly useful for balance, but all other forms of dance can help you coordinate your body and have your limbs move together in harmony.

Most forms of dance classes also help improve your strength, conditioning, and overall fitness level.

It’s a fantastic full-body cardio workout.

Consider trying out a few dance classes, or even grab a copy of Just Dance if you’re a gamer and want to make your training interesting.

Following along to dance workouts online can even work in your favor.

5. Do Real Climbing or Perform Lots of Pulling Exercises

A great way to build your grip strength and pulling muscles?

Do actual rock climbing!

Get a membership at a rock climbing gym and start by learning the basics. Your forearms will be screaming at you after your first class, and in no time, you’ll find yourself developing new levels of strength.

If you can’t make it to a climbing gym, make sure to do plenty of pulls at the regular gym.

Pull-ups and other exercises on the pull-up bar are a great way to work out your arms, back, and shoulders. 

You can mix this upper body training with your grip training—remember, using a thick pullup bar is great for grip!

Using a thin pullup bar, however, is also a great way to train your grip and your entire upper body.

Iain Miller suggests starting out on a standard bar and using thinner ones as you progress.

He also suggests using a finger board or hanging board to really lock in your fitness once the regular pull-up bar is no longer challenging.

If you struggle to start with pull-ups, then TJ Mentus, personal trainer, suggests doing inverted bodyweight rows.

If that’s not for you, then he says using resistance bands for assisted pull-ups would be a good idea.

It’s also a good idea to incorporate pulling motions at other angles like barbell rows, high rows, deadlifts, and more.

6. Don’t Neglect Your Core or Legs

Rock climbing isn’t all about upper body strength. 

While climbers have elite grip strength, much of their climbing power actually comes from their legs and core.

Many of the tips above—particularly doing yoga and dance—will help train up your legs and core, but you should still give them some attention on their own.

You’re not trying to build huge, heavily muscled legs or a chiseled 6-pack when coveting a rock climber’s body.

But you still need to gain functional strength and lean muscle in these areas.

Some great exercises for your legs are: 

  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Plank leg lifts
  • Step-ups

And to work out your core, consider challenging moves like:

  • Planks
  • Bridges
  • Russian twists

Incorporate these movements into your regular strength training workouts at the gym.

If you can gain strength on exercises like pull-ups, squats, and planks — while simultaneously learning climbing technique and developing body control through dance, pilates, or barre — you’ll be well on your way!


Wrapping Up

Coveting a rock climber’s body will involve a lot of training, particularly for your grip, but it’s fully achievable for everyone, beginners included.

It’s not going to be easy, but it’s definitely going to be worth it when you start seeing muscle definition and an improvement in your overall health and wellbeing.

Try going on a rock climbing adventure (indoor or out) every once in a while to see how well your training is going.

If you notice that you’re improving with every session, then you know it’s working.

Just stick with your plan long-term and you’re sure to smash right through your goals!

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Hope this helps!

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