If you are looking to spice up your usual fitness routine with adrenaline and adventure, consider rock climbing!
It’s a full-body workout that combines strength training and cardio along with brain-building fun.
Rock climbing is not for everyone. Most climbing gyms have a weight capacity of 30-300 lbs. If you are not at all active now, I would recommend gaining a foundational level of basic strength and fitness before trying it out. You’ll need a feel for holding your body, using your core and maintaining a center of gravity.
There’s also a bit of a learning curve with rock climbing. The technique is simple enough for anyone to get started, but it takes years to master — plus there’s the terminology and call and response you’ll need to learn.
Still, there’s so much to love about this sport, but the question remains — does rock climbing get results?
Whether you choose to climb at an indoor rock climbing gym or out in nature, here are some of the benefits and results you might experience after a month (and beyond) of workouts:
- Muscle toning/sculpting
- Cardio and endurance improvements
- Improved mood and confidence
- Motivational boost
- Fewer injuries, aches & pains
Let’s take a closer look at each and how rock climbing exercise changes your body.
When I say rock climbing works your muscles…I mean, like every muscle in your body – muscles you didn’t even know you had!
Arms, shoulders, back, quads, hamstrings and calves will all feel the burn, and you’ll get stronger and stronger with every climb.
In fact, dynamic movements that require multiple muscle groups working together (as required in rock climbing) build strength faster and more effectively than more simple or repetitive movements (like lifting weights).
You will get a full-body, strength-building, muscle-sculpting workout every time.
With a lot of beginners, however, there is a tendency to overuse the upper body.
Be sure to focus on using your large leg muscles and glutes to push you up instead of trying to pull yourself up the wall or boulder.
Your arms, shoulders and back will still be working plenty, but you’ll be able to climb longer and more efficiently by doing the bulk of the climb with your larger muscle groups.
While you’re using the lower body to push up and the upper body to help out, you’ll be using your core muscles to stabilize yourself, stay close to the wall and keep your center of gravity steady.
All that adds up to a fantastic core challenge that will work those tummy muscles better than sit ups.
When you first start out, you will be seriously sore, likely in places and in ways you never have before.
Start out slow, especially if your usual workouts don’t involve a lot of strength training.
With just 2-3 sessions a week, you will be able to see noticeable improvements in tone and muscle endurance in the first month.
(One big place you’ll see improvements? Your forearms and grip strength! It’s a big hallmark of the rock climber physique.)
Cardio & Endurance Improvements
This is one of the best benefits of rock climbing — that it combines endurance and strength training in one workout!
In my years as a fitness professional, most of my clients fell into one group or the other.
Everyone has a preference as to whether they prefer cardio or strength training, so when any workout combines the two and is fun and challenging, I am all in!
Even though you’re not running, jumping, or bouncing about, you will be surprised how quickly you break a sweat.
Rock climbing can get your heart rate up to between 120 – 180 beats per minute, making it a full cardio workout akin to running or spinning.
You also have an element of control over the amount, intensity and duration of the cardio you get out of rock climbing.
Once you get more proficient and comfortable with the process, you can increase your speed and/or decrease your rest time between climbs.
When you want more cardio, choose a climb you are comfortable with and work on speed and endurance.
You’ll notice your endurance improving with each and every climb or workout, especially as a total beginner in your first month.
Improved Mood and Confidence
Workouts that increase your heart rate and respiration produce those wonderful feel-good chemicals we all know and love.
You cannot sustain a depressive or anxious state with a hefty dose of adrenaline and endorphins pumping through your veins.
Additionally, rock climbing requires a lot more mental focus than other workouts.
This type of mental planning and decision-making reinforces neural pathways in your brain, resulting in improvement in mental agility and overall mood and confidence.
You will feel more in control of outcomes as you work out new paths and ways to use your mind and body to achieve your climbing goals.
As you learn a new skill, you succeed in new ways.
Even when you fail or fall, you learn and grow.
Learning any new skill builds confidence, but combining physical and mental workouts with learning boosts that confidence exponentially.
Your new-found and increasing faith and belief in yourself will shine like a beacon. You’ll be more poised and likely to carry that improved mood longer and farther.
Rock climbing is a unique workout in that it is a very social sport.
If you’ve looked everywhere and haven’t found your tribe, they may be at the local climbing gym. Literally thousands of people have found their social network in fellow climbers.
Climbers tend to be a very tight-knit and supportive group of folks.
They will help you out of a jam as you are climbing alongside them, encourage you when you fall and cheer you on to your goal. There is no shortage of camaraderie in this group.
Why does it matter than rock climbing is a great way to make friends? Because working out with a buddy (or a group) is hands down one of the best ways to stay motivated in the long term.
(And it sure beats going to the gym alone.)
The powerful companionship aspect of this adventurous group has caused many gym owners to include coffee and smoothie bars, sitting areas and other group activities as part of their gym amenities.
While there is often some good-natured competition, it’s all in fun.
Long-lasting, healthy friendships are built on shared experiences and common goals.
Climbers push each other to new heights and challenges and provide support along the way.
Stepping a little outside of your comfort zone could result in finding a diverse group of friends you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
Fewer injuries, aches & pains
We all know low impact workouts are better for our joints.
As much as we might love the sweet euphoria of a good runner’s high, we could do without the aching knees, hips and ankles.
Unfortunately, most cardio queens and kings are profoundly bored with low-impact workouts.
What’s a fitness junkie to do?
You guessed it…Rock climbing! It’s the ultimate low impact workout that still offers an incredibly intense challenge.
When you’re 40 feet above the ground, panting and searching for your next foothold, you are not bored.
Your whole body and mind is engaged in the moment, the thrill, the goal ahead, the risk, the adventure, and there is always a new challenge to face and a new goal to strive for!
Rock climbing might not be the easiest new workout to pick up, and you need to have a base fitness level to start, but it does offer a host of truly unique challenges and benefits that make it well worth a try.
You don’t need to invest in any equipment or training – your local climbing gym will have you covered. You can even go in and ask questions and observe other climbers.
Most gyms issue day passes or climb-by-the-hour options, too, so there’s no commitment to try it out.
Once you get started, you’ll notice your body growing stronger by the day (even if you’re incredibly sore to start!) with improvements in your forearms, arms, core, and even legs.
Your endurance will improve rapidly and you’ll find you’re having more fun than you’ve ever had exercising.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab a harness, some chalk and a pair of climbing shoes and go scale a wall!
For more, check out:
Hope this helps!
As a personal trainer, Melissa has helped many people realize their goals. Now, she pairs her decades of experience and love of writing to share her passions with a wider audience. Visit MDealWrites.com to learn more.