Does it seem like everyone you know is suddenly going to a rock climbing gym for their workout? The sport has blown up and that leaves many people wondering if rock climbing is a good workout. Rock climbing helps you build strength, endurance and it’ll make you sweat!
If you’re just starting out rock climbing, check out our list of the best climbing gear. We used our experience guiding and just hanging out at the gym to get beginners off on the right foot.
Is Rock Climbing a Good Workout?
Yes! Rock climbing is a great workout because you’re performing bodyweight strength training, improving your coordination, stretching your flexibility, and increasing your heart rate! Rock climbing is very close to a full body workout.
During one climb you’ll target your whole body strength as your climbing. You’ll need to twist, contort and stretch to manipulate your body so you can grab certain holds. And your heart will be racing after doing this for 60 feet!
Indoor and outdoor rock climbing both help you target these areas of training. The rock climbing gym is a fantastic place to perfect your climbing technique and build strength. Most indoor rock climbing gyms will have areas like a traditional gym. Squat racks, smith machines, and cardio equipment will be available for you to supplement your workout.
Indoor rock climbing gyms are excellent because they are a controlled environment. You can learn how to boulder, top-rope, and lead climb without worrying about the extra variables outdoor climbing introduces. And it’s totally common to socialize with other climbers at the gym! I give out fist bumps to everyone after watching them send their project. The mood of the gym is encouraging and contagious.
Climbing is not only a great physical workout, but also mentally! Bouldering routes, also called problems, are physical puzzles that you’ll need to solve. These problems require you to have the correct strength, technique, and sequencing in order to solve them.
How many other sports exert you physically and mentally? Rock climbing does!
How do I work out for indoor rock climbing?
When I climb at the gym, I love combining rock climbing and then supplementing it with traditional cardio. If I’m crunched for time and only have time for an hour session, my schedule will look something like this.
Warming up for rock climbing
Fifteen minutes of warm-up bouldering. I like to climb up and down V0’s and V1’s for the first five minutes. I stretch out my body and focus on twisting my hips in and out from the wall to ensure I’m properly warmed up. From here, I’ll slowly creep up towards my limit bouldering level. Warming up is essential. I want to make sure my muscles, legs, and climbing shoes get primed for stress!
Next up, is a five minute break. Drink some water and eat a snack if I’m hungry.
For the next twenty to twenty five minutes I’ll focus on any outstanding gym projects. I always keep a few routes in mind for bouldering or on the auto belay climbing wall. These routes will be near my limit and I only have a few tries for each one. But even if I make a small bit of progress I consider that a win!
For the remaining out of time in the hour, I throw on a podcast and use the elliptical. I used to absolutely dread cardio, but now… I kinda like it! Cardio gives me an excuse to listen to podcasts while improving my overall health.
Above is just a sample routine for a quick hour work out that I don’t always follow. Sometimes I’ll get wrapped up climbing and bouldering and skip the cardio at the end. If I’m with my regular climbing partners, I’ll focus on any lead or top-roping projects I have. These sessions take longer since only one person can climb at a time.
The best thing to do is to just start climbing! The more you climb the better you’ll understand your own weaknesses in the sport. Once you know what you’re weaknesses are you can begin addressing them! I used to loathe gastons (I sometimes still do!) but I realized that I just didn’t understand how to use the holds. I took some time to address these weaknesses
Will outdoor rock climbing get me in shape?
When you start rock climbing outdoors, you’re going to burn calories and build strength! It’s common for outdoor crags to require a fifteen or twenty minute hike just to get to the crag! One rock wall I climb at frequently has an approach that is 45 minutes and uphill! After the hike, I enjoy a beautiful vista of rolling mountains and blue skies. It’s so worth it and I definitely earned a treat on my drive home!
These approaches are hard at first, but like everything in life, they will get easier over time.
This is why I love supplementing my indoor rock climbing with an extra dose of cardio. Between all of my indoor and outdoor sessions, I’m going to see incredible gains in my upper body strength as well as my cardiovascular system.
Benefits of Rock Climbing
We’ve talked a lot about the physical benefits of rock climbing (strength training, cardio movement, looking good for swimsuit season!) but what are the other benefits of rock climbing?
Rock climbing actually might have more mental benefits than just physical benefits. In our world today, it seems like the latest fitness fad can take on a cult following. The followers of the latest gym or diet craze preach the good word and are always trying to recruit you to their gym. Rock climbing has a similar feeling. The sport can be incredibly social. Does your traditional gym have a strong social community?
I first picked up rock climbing mainly out of boredom. I wanted to try new things and get out of the house, but where would I go?
A walk around the park is nice, but sometimes I wanted to be doing something too. And I didn’t always feel motivated to go for a walk. Climbing was the perfect antidote. I loved failing at the beginning and having trouble with all the easy problems. I would show up for climbing and bouldering wearing my tennis shoes and have a blast! Slowly, I saw my technique and strength improve. I began to climb harder and it was incredibly satisfying to see how I progressed through the difficulties.
Climbing also taught me a great deal about failure. I think a lot of us are scared to fail. We hate the feeling of rejection and being told no. Breakups can still hurt years later because, in the end, someone didn’t like me. That hurts, but it’s not the end of the world!
It’s liberating to show up for my bouldering session and try hard on my project in front of many people. I don’t care if I can’t even start the problem in front of them. What I care about is my own personal growth.
When others watch me fail, in my mind I have succeeded. I can’t succeed without failing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Indoor rock climbing is a fantastic way to get healthy and get in shape! Because the sport is so fun and addictive, going to get your work out on doesn’t feel like a chore. The climbing community can be extremely social if you’re looking to meet new people. Especially while bouldering in climbing gyms, climbers come together to figure out the problem solving on the problems. But if you’re looking to get in a flow state and have a time of reflection, you can keep to yourself and focus on the movement of the sport.
We recommend climbing two to three times a week at the most. When I first started climbing, I wanted to go every single day, I was totally hooked! But I was sacrificing the long term for the short term. Surely enough, I eventually got elbow and finger pain from climbing too often. I had to take a lot of time off to heal up completely. If I hadn’t climbed every day and taken a few more breaks, I would have had more time climbing in the end. Listen to your body and enjoy the rest you earned!
Rock climbing is a whole body workout. We’re building strength in our back, core, and arms. Beginner climbs will feel like climbing a ladder, we keep most of the weight on our feet as we climb up the rungs. But the harder a climb gets, the more strength and technique we’ll need to get to the top. Climbing also targets our cardiovascular system. If a climb is 100 feet long, that is a long time to be moving! Our heart beats faster and we start to sweat. Rock climbing is one of the rare workouts that will build strength and cardiovascular AND still be fun!