8 Amazing Ways How Rock Climbing Changes Your Body

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Rock Climbing Body Transformation – Introduction

Can you achieve a dramatic body transformation rock climbing?

Physical exercise is arguably the best thing you can do for your health and fitness.

Whether you:

working out will improve your strength, cardiovascular fitness, mobility, flexibility, and balance.

At the same time,  your risk of various chronic diseases, including heart disease, type II diabetes, and some cancers.

Combined with a healthy diet, exercise is the REAL fountain of youth.

Working out could mean living longer and aging more slowly, so you can make the most of those extra years.

A lot of people associate exercise with hitting the gym, either at a commercial facility or working out at home.

But, you don’t have to restrict your workouts to gyms.

There are plenty of less traditional physical activities that also provide a great workout.

This article takes a look at the numerous health benefits of rock climbing so you can see if it deserves a place on your workout schedule.

What is Rock Climbing, Anyway? 

Rock climbing is an age-old activity.

Humans have been climbing cliffs and mountains for thousands of years.

There are several different types of rock climbing, each with unique demands.

Starting with bouldering, the following types of climbing are listed in their approximate order of severity:


Low-level climbing with an emphasis on short, technical routes are known as problems.

Ropes are not used, but most boulderers place mats beneath the problem they’re climbing in case they fall off.

Indoor rock climbing

An indoor climbing wall is made from resin-coated boards and molded bolt-on hand and footholds rather than natural rock.

Indoor climbing gyms have become increasingly popular and are great places to learn how to climb in relative safety.

Top roping

A climb where you are belayed (roped) from above on a fixed safety line.

Using a top rope means that if you fall off, you won’t fall very far.

Sport climbing

Longer routes with pre-placed safety clips bolted into the rockface.

Climbers clip their rope into fixed points as they ascend to limit how far they’ll fall.

Traditional climbing

Long, often multi-pitch routes where safety gear is placed as the lead climber ascends and then removed by a second climber.

Some traditional route climbing can take hours or even days to complete.

Aid climbing

Long routes where things like wire ladders, fixed ropes, pitons, and other equipment are used to overcome otherwise impassable sections of the climb.

This type of climbing is usually reserved for mountains, e.g., the Alps.


Climbing without ropes or any safety gear of any kind.

Soloists risk everything when they climb without ropes, and a single mistake can be fatal.

However, this is considered the purest form of climbing.

8 Great Ways How Rock Climbing Changes Your Body

Regardless of what type of climbing you do, the physical demands are pretty similar.

These are the main effects and benefits of rock climbing:

#1. Get out and enjoy working out in nature

While you can climb in a rock-climbing gym, climbing is arguably more enjoyable when you head out and climb in nature.

Climbing venues are often unspoiled, isolated, and in areas of natural beauty, such as national parks.

Exercising outside in the fresh air and sunshine will always be preferable to being locked away in an air-conditioned, artificially lit traditional gym!

#2. Build muscle and strength

Rock climbing involves pulling yourself up steep, sheer, and even overhanging rockfaces.

As such, it’s like doing rep after rep of pull-ups or lat pulldowns.

Regular climbers usually have very well-developed arm, upper back, and shoulder muscles.

However, you don’t just use your arms and back for climbing; your legs play an important part, too.

In fact, you need to use your legs as much as possible to save your arms and avoid tiring them out too soon.

Balancing on your tiptoes will also build and strengthen your calves.

#3. Strengthen your grip

Rock climbing handholds range from huge ledges and pockets to tiny edges called flakes and crimps.

Pulling yourself up on these holds will challenge and develop your grip strength.

Climbing is a great way to build bigger, more muscular forearms.

#4. Improved mobility flexibility

Hand and footholds are often far apart, and you’ll need to stretch to reach them.

Climbing develops mobility and flexibility in all directions, and that’s good for your joint health and posture.

#5. Better balance

Balance is your ability to keep your center of mass over your base of support.

The better your balance, the less you’ll have to use your arms to climb.

If you don’t have good balance now, a few climbing outings will make you realize just how important balance is and will start to improve it.

#6. Strengthen your core

Core strength is an integral part of climbing.

You’ll need to use your core to stabilize your spine as you haul yourself up the rockface.

The more demanding the climb, the more you’ll need to use your core.

Overhanging routes are especially core-centric.

#7. Improve your concentration

Climbing really helps you focus your mind.

You’ll need to concentrate 100-percent on your hands, feet, and the route you are following.

As you make your way up the climb, you’ll need to work out how to overcome problems while conserving energy levels and staying calm.

Improvements in concentration can have a significant impact on other aspects of your life, for example, at work.

#8. Weight loss and fat burning

Climbing can be pretty intense, and some routes take several hours to complete.

As such, you should burn a lot of calories when you go climbing.

Many climbing areas are inaccessible by vehicle, so you’ll need to hike to them from the nearest parking place, which will add to your energy expenditure.

So, combined with a healthy diet, climbing could help you lose weight and get lean.

Also, the lighter and leaner you are, the less tiring climbing becomes.

That’s why most professional and competitive climbers are so slim.

Carrying extra weight in the form of fat could be the difference between a successful ascent and being too tired to complete a route.

Losing weight for climbing could be the perfect incentive for sticking to your weight loss diet!

Training Exercises for Climbing 

Unless you are lucky enough to live close to a local climbing gym or rock-climbing area, which is called a crag, you probably won’t be able to climb more than a couple of times a week.

It can also be a seasonal sport, as climbers prefer to avoid climbing in the rain as the rockface will be very slippery.

The good news is that you can train for climbing in a regular gym.

That way, when you finally do make it to the crag, you’ll be fit and strong enough to climb all day without getting tired.

Good exercises for climbing include:

Pull-ups and chin-ups

These basic upper body pulling exercises work your major muscles for climbing (biceps, latissimus dorsi, forearms).

Try using a thumbless grip to work your forearms more, or put up a fingerboard at home and do your pull-ups from that.


You don’t need massive pecs and triceps for climbing.

In fact, the extra muscle weight could be detrimental to your performance.

But, you still need to strengthen these pushing muscles to ensure that your upper body muscles are developed equally.

Do 2-3 push-ups for every rep of pull-ups/chin-ups in your workouts to maintain joint integrity, prevent muscle imbalances, and avoid injuries.

Bulgarian split squats

in climbing, you need strong legs to support your weight and save your arms from doing too much work.

However, in many situations, you’ll only be able to use one leg at a time.

So, while things like air squats or leg presses are great exercises, they’re not very climbing-specific.

Bulgarian split squats don’t just emphasize one leg at a time, but they’re also good for balance, mobility, and coordination.

Single-leg raises

Balancing on your tiptoes is tough on your calves, so you need to include calf raises in your climbing workouts.

Single-leg calf raises are probably your best choice as they closely mirror the demands of climbing.

Grip training

You need strong hands and a powerful grip for climbing.

Long routes can leave your forearms tired and pumped, while it takes immense finger strength to support your weight on small holds.

As such, you need to train your grip for all climbing eventualities – including muscular endurance and pure brute strength.

Good trip exercises include:

  • Dead hangs
  • Deadlifts
  • Farmer’s walks
  • Wrist curls
  • Reverse wrist curls
  • Plate pinches
  • Thick bar reverse curls
  • Tennis ball squeeze
  • Hand gripper

Make sure you include a couple of grip exercises in every workout you do.

RKC planks

Planks are arguably one of the best core exercises you can do.

However, if you can hold a plank for 60 seconds or more, they probably aren’t challenging enough to build more core strength.

Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC) planks are much more intense and make much better use of your time.

To do an RKC plank, adopt the usual plank position but then brace your abs as hard as possible for just 15-20 seconds.

If you feel you can plank for longer, you aren’t bracing hard enough.

LISS cardio and HIIT

Some climbing routes are very short and sharp, while others can take hours and even days to complete.

As such, climbers need a good level of aerobic and anaerobic fitness and should do low-intensity steady-state cardio and high intensity interval training.

Develop these two types of fitness by alternating between 20 to 30-minutes of easy cardio and short, intense bouts of interval training, for example:

  1. Rower/treadmill – 5-10k at a comfortable pace
  2. Air bike sprints – 20 seconds work/40 seconds rest repeated 10-15 times

How Rock Climbing Changes Your Body – Wrapping Up 

Rock climbing can have a transformative effect on your body.

Hitting the crags or a climbing gym will build muscle, improve your fitness and mobility, and help you burn fat and lose weight.

Climbing is also good for your mental health and fitness.

That said, very few people have the time or opportunity to climb regularly, so the benefits of climbing may be hard to realize fully.

But, the good news is that you can adapt your workouts to make them more climbing-specific.

That way, when the opportunity to go climbing presents itself, you’ll be fit, strong, and ready to make the most of your time on to the crag.

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