When I was a kid, I don’t think I ever saw a rock formation I didn’t want to climb. I remember going on hiking trips with my family and mainly just wanting to stop at the viewpoint with all the rocks, there are probably enough pictures of me on those rocks to pretty well document most of my childhood years. I have a feeling that I’m not the only person with a childhood love for conquering the rocks, and it naturally became part of my fitness routine.
I try to encourage anyone I can to tap in to their inner child, put on a harness and some shoes and get on a wall! One of the best parts about climbing from a fitness point of view is that it really provides you with a full body workout. When you really think about some of the moves you have to ask of your body, it’s almost like trying to do a step up on a bosu ball while doing body weight rows. Here are the key muscle groups you hit with almost every move…
- You should be getting most of your power from your legs and glutes while climbing. The nice thing is that you can hit all part of your lower body from hip felxors to calves to quads in one route because you may be forced to stand up in a number of ways. A serious step up from static squats and lunges!
- Even though your power comes from the legs, your forearms and shoulders will get a workout like they’ve never seen. You get your grip strength from your forearms and the first day you get on a wall, you will discover muscles in your forearm you never knew you had. The thing all elite-level climbers have in common is a back that could bend steel. You do row-like motions to reach the next handhold and like any good row, you need to be squeezing those shoulder blades to activate the larger muscle groups and do more work with less energy.
- Finally, like any body weight workout worth it’s salt, you will get a great core workout. Climbing creates some natural instability even on the easiest routes and you have to engage that core to keep yourself upright. Once you progress and start going over pitches like super girl in the above picture, your core both front and back will be one of your greatest assets.
The less physical, but equally important, reasons to rock climb are what keep me coming back. As a bigger girl, rock climbing has not come naturally to me. At 230 lbs I have no business being on a rock wall, but I go 2-3 times a week and I know that I have a community behind me that cheered me on when I finally reached the top of my first route after months of practice. It’s similar to CrossFit where you get to go to a gym where everyone knows your name and celebrates your victories. I love the staff at Vertical Rock and never worry about asking a noobie question.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for those at all fitness levels is that rock climbing teaches you to trust your body. My new rock climbing mantra is “I trust my legs to stand up”, because despite the fact that you know you’re tied into a rope and can’t fall, it can still take some convincing to get your body to stretch its limits. More advanced climbers, like my husband, have to learn how to balance their weight on increasingly smaller holds and climb smart not hard. It’s a constant learning experience and gyms are always updating routes to provide new challenges to all of their climbers.
So I challenge you to do a quick google search for “Rock Climbing [your area]” and you might be surprised to find a gym where you can learn the ropes isn’t that far from you. They’re becoming more and more popular, and rock climbing is even a contender to become the next olympic sport!