Is Rock Climbing a Good Workout? (8 things you must know!)

“I’m wondering what good workout I can try for myself and rock climbing popped in my mind.” I bet that like myself, you feel like you’ve been stuck in a busy and monotonous lifestyle. The bad thing is that it requires very little physical activity. Some of you don’t want to admit it but deep down you know that you need to seriously schedule your exercise to be healthy. And some of you are looking for a good workout that can make you stronger, hotter or even both. 😉

Is Rock Climbing a Good Workout? Yes, only few exercises can rival climbing as a full-body workout. You workout and train a diverse range of muscle groups. And as you progress, you’ll strengthen even the tip of your fingers and toes. You can say that rock climbing may be the ultimate functional full-body workout.

Rad Rookies | Rock Climbing | Is Rock Climbing a Good Workout?

A woman solving a boulder problem. She is only allowed to grab and step on orange rock holds.
A woman solving a boulder problem. She is only allowed to grab and step on orange rock holds.

There are 2 major schools of thought for working out these days. One focuses on working out “to look good” and the other “to be strong”. And let me tell you that rock climbing focuses more on the latter which is functional strength. But hey! This doesn’t mean that you won’t look good from doing it consistently. So don’t worry because we will be tackling both of these in this article. Keep on reading to find out more. 😉


Rock Climbing as a Workout

Rad Rookies | Rock Climbing | Is Rock Climbing a Good Workout?

Outdoor climbing. Check out the hand positioning of the climber. She is limited to small leverages she can only grab with her fingers.
Outdoor climbing. Check out the hand positioning of the climber. She is limited to small leverages she can only grab with her fingers.

There is a huge difference between working out “to look good” and “to be strong”!


1. Functional workout

If you want lean or toned muscles, then you can get that from rock climbing. Functional workouts have compound exercises that work many muscle groups in unison. And because of this, you often see climbers with a balanced musculature. Most climbing movements involve a series of body positioning techniques. These movements challenge your balance and precision.

An example of this is when you go up the wall. It is important that you push hard with your legs so that you won’t have to pull as much with your arms. Movements like this train your body to be more efficient and balance out your strength.

It also means that bodybuilding programs won’t help you much in rock climbing. This is because bodybuilding programs are compilations of isolation exercises. You don’t believe me? Invite a bodybuilder friend to try rock climbing with you. If possible, choose one who is super vain and has a high ego just for kicks, haha!

I bet that your bodybuilder friend won’t be able to finish a low intermediate level route. For comparison, regulars climb these routes as if they were nothing. His ego will be so bruised that he won’t be joining you next time, haha. And he’ll probably say something like “climbers have chicken legs and I don’t like to have those” which brings us to the next point…


2. High strength-to-weight ratio

The common belief in the fitness industry is that strength comes from your muscles. This is why you only need to pump that iron to be strong, right? Scientifically speaking, that is a very limited perspective on body strengthening. What happened to strengthening your tendons and ligaments that are also essential?

I said in the intro that if you become a regular climber, even your fingers and toes will be strong. Do you remember that? Well, that is the truth!

As you progress in climbing, the rock holds become more difficult and smaller. You’ll be strong enough to support your weight on the wall using only your fingers and toes as points of contact.

Climbing strengthens your tendons and ligaments. This functional activity helps you use your muscles, tendons and ligaments in unison. It is due to this reason that a high strength-to-weight ratio is possible from rock climbing.

Let me rephrase the info on this section by a bit. A high pound-for-pound capacity means that you can be strong without looking like a behemoth or a bear. 😛

So, on to the next topic which is…


Aesthetics

People say that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” and I agree that it is a subjective matter. But it is also true that symmetry plays a very important role in it. I find that the rock climbing community has plenty of people you can describe as HOT or SEXY.


3. Strong women climbers still look like chicks

Rad Rookies | Rock Climbing | Is Rock Climbing a Good Workout?

Athletic and still looks feminine. :)
Athletic and still looks feminine. 🙂

It is no mystery that when your workout is consistent, you lose fats and you build muscles. And with most physical activities, strong women look like dudes instead of hot chicks.

(Note: I love martial arts which is why I’m used to seeing strong women. Let me tell you that they look like they can beat the shit out of regular dudes.)

If you are a girl who wants to be strong AND have a hot figure at the same time, then the good news is that you can have it both! Wall climbing is the perfect regular activity for you!

Rad Rookies | Rock Climbing | Is Rock Climbing a Good Workout?

 I swear that that is a cross fitter woman and not a dude wearing sports bra!
I swear that that is a cross fitter woman and not a dude wearing sports bra!

You’ll gain a significant amount of strength without bulking up like a “she-hulk” cross fitter. This is thanks to the high pound-for-pound strength that you gain from climbing.

You will surprise yourself after 3 months of regular rock climbing. Your grip strength will far surpass your boyfriend, a date or any non-climber friends. And they’ll most likely say something like “Damn, girl! You are crazy strong for your size! What the heck do you do?”. 😛


4. Massive gains for men?

Sorry to say this but it is uncommon to see massive bodybuilder looking guys in a rock climbing gym. When you are on the wall, you don’t have “isolation exercises” that trigger muscle hypertrophy. Almost every movement in climbing are “compound exercises”.

The “extra bulk” you gain from bodybuilding isolation exercises aren’t necessary for climbing. They only make your climb more difficult because they aren’t functional muscles. Those muscles are comparable to a weight vest in “function”.

So if you want to look as massive as Brock Lesnar or any professional wrestler, then rock climbing isn’t for you. But if what you want is to look attractive, then you should read the next section.


5. Men with lean muscles look more attractive…

Rad Rookies | Rock Climbing | Is Rock Climbing a Good Workout?

Not too big and not too small. Just the right size.
Not too big and not too small. Just the right size.

As a young boy, I’ve always had the idea that girls find massive guys very hot. But only when I started dating did I learn that plenty of girls actually prefer the lean athletic build. Some girls would even say that bodybuilder bodies look scary (or disgusting).

(4-5 photos of male torsos ranging from fat to super muscular)

Don’t believe me? Ask some of your girl friends (and even gay friends) to rate the male torsos above. On average, they’d say that the most attractive is the lean athletic build.

Luckily, a regular rock climber has a lean athletic build. Yes, you won’t look as intimidating as your favorite WWE superstar. But it also means that you’d look attractive to the ladies. 😉


6. Weight Loss from rock climbing is incredible!

Rock climbing activates almost every muscle in your body. This means that you burn an incredible amount of calories from it! If your main concern is fat loss, then read this in-depth article about rock climbing and weight loss.


It is a Fun Out! (Fun Workout)

A person has to be consistent in doing a workout for it to be effective. This is more of a willpower thing rather than the “benefits” from the workout itself. And let’s be honest here, the average person has a low willpower when it comes to exercising

Which brings us to the next point…


7. The climbing gym is a playground

Rad Rookies | Rock Climbing | Is Rock Climbing a Good Workout?

Isn't it very colorful? Kinda reminds me of candy land.
Isn’t it very colorful? Kinda reminds me of candy land.

I used to lift weights as a supplementary exercise for my martial arts. I’ll be brutally honest and say that it is frigging boring! Don’t get me wrong! I have a lot of respect for weightlifters who lift weights almost everyday. Doing that involves a lot of willpower and developing that discipline is tough.

But what if there is a better alternative to strengthening? What if that alternative feels like you are playing rather than grinding? Won’t it be easier for your willpower if the workout is fun? 🙂

Enter climbing gyms which are literal playgrounds! Think of the children’s playground you used to play at when you were a kid but on a larger scale.

There are plenty of fun climbing options! You can do top rope or lead climbing with a partner if you love testing your endurance! You can choose to climb boulders if you are a minimalist who wants to develop power moves. There are also other strengthening stations like the campus board and hang boards!

And another thing that makes wall climbing fun is…


8. Each climbing route is a puzzle!

Rad Rookies | Rock Climbing | Is Rock Climbing a Good Workout?

This guy is only allowed to grab or step on purple rock holds.
This guy is only allowed to grab or step on purple rock holds.

I’m pretty sure that some of you have puzzle games installed on your smartphone. You try to finish the first level and found it fun so you keep on playing. Once you are finally done playing, you get surprised that an hour or so passed by without you even noticing it! And climbing is kinda like that, haha.

All climbing gyms have preset climbing routes with varying levels of difficulty. And each route is a puzzle that you need to solve with your climbing skills. Humans have different shapes, sizes, strengths and even flexibility. It is also because of that that the “solution” for each route varies from person to person.

This just shows how rock climbing can be a good mental exercise too! 🙂


Conclusion

Rock climbing is a good workout that strengthens your muscles, tendons and ligaments. And because it feels like “playing rather than grinding”, it is easy to be consistent with it as your workout. And workout consistency is the key to achieving the strength or aesthetics that you want! 😉

I hope this article was helpful to you! You can also read how I spent my 20 hours of active rock climbing time and use it as a guide. If you enjoyed reading this, then share it to your friends! And if you enjoy reading more content like this, then subscribe to my mailing list. Have fun rock climbing! Be good at anything fast and be a rad rookie! 🙂

What topics would you like to learn more about next time? Type in the comments section below and hit submit to let me know. 😉

resource 1, resource 2, resource 3, resource 4

14 thoughts on “Is Rock Climbing a Good Workout? (8 things you must know!)”

    1. Right?! You would get a feeling of fulfillment every time you get to the top, hehe. When and where did you try climbing? 🙂

    1. True! There are several climbing gyms to choose from here in the Philippines!

      It is now easy to start out because it is more accessible now. 😉

      1. Monz, I actually started out being afraid of heights. Just looking at the ground from a tall building makes me nervous.

        And slowly, doing rock climbing regularly helped conquer my acrophobia. These days, I’d say that my fear of heights was reduced dramatically! 🙂

  1. Rock climbing is an activity that i will consider doing this 2020. since i am not really into cardio for me to burn fats i thinkthis can be a good way to burn fats.

    1. Go! I suggest you try do it once a week at the beginning then move on to 2-3x a week. It’s a really great way to be fit! 😀

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