Physical Fitness Needed For Climbing Outdoors or Indoors

Climbing is an excellent sport that can be exercised to any degree, depending on your fitness level and passion. In the last decade rock climbing, before seen as an extreme sport, has become more conventional with the number of participants growing annually. The sport is no longer attempted only by seasoned outdoor enthusiasts, but by ordinary people who may have started out at indoor centers and progressed to become seasoned outdoor enthusiasts.

Indoor Facilities

Indoor rock climbing has also increased in popularity with people who enjoy the physical and mental challenge of clambering up a wall, as well as children who mainly do it for fun.  Indoor facilities offer the same challenges that you will find outdoors. While the techniques may differ, the strength, power, flexibility, endurance, and skill required are similar and can aid outdoor climbers with physical training. It is also a great alternative when the weather does not permit going outdoors as the length and difficulty can be varied to offer a good workout.

Outdoor Rock Climbing

From a fitness perspective, this activity is a multi-dimensional sport that not only requires strength and flexibility, but also a high degree of skill and endurance. It also requires a balance between physical exertion and mental discipline and many participants experience a heightened sense of independence and self-confidence as a result of achieving new skill levels and successfully completing challenging goals.

The sport consists of a series of reaches with both the hands and the feet, and the bodies of novices will be forced into new positions they have never experienced before. In the beginning, the hands, fingers, forearms, legs, and calf muscles all take a lot of strain, especially if you have not trained properly beforehand. Newbies should get fit first and start with easier moves under the supervision of experienced guides. As well as physical fitness needed for climbing, there are a number of safety and equipment requirements that have to be mastered before attempting to scale a rock face without guidance.

While your limbs are stretched to the limit to find tiny holds for your fingers and toes, your body will need to provide you with the necessary coordination, balance, and mental focus to help you stay on the rock face.  Strong arm, legs, back, and fingers as well as core strength is needed to master the many reaches and holds that are required to complete a climb. More difficult ascents should only be taken on after working on physical fitness needed for climbing such as:

  • Strength and endurance
  • Flexibility, especially in the hips and hamstrings
  • Building muscle strength in the shoulders, calves, legs, and arms
  • Strengthening the core with appropriate exercises like Pilates
  • Improving agility
  • Improving the strength-to-weight ratio of the body.

There are several different types of rock climbing:

  • Traditional rock climbing where fixtures are placed in the rock face to help you hold onto it.
  • Sports climbing where rings and bolts are permanently fixed into the rock face.
  • Top roping where a rope is fastened at the top of the cliff.
  • Bouldering where a two or three-meter climb is achieved without the use of ropes.
  • Solo with no ropes, harness or anything else to aid the climber.

No matter what type of climb you undertake, it is bound to cause a surge of adrenaline into your system that lasts for some time after the climb.

Indoor artificial rock walls are ideal for practice or you can contact a climbing club that uses established routes and a cliff face near you.

Benefits of Rock Climbing

  • Muscular endurance as you will be on the face for quite some time.
  • Muscular strength, particularly in your arms, shoulders, fingers, back, and abdominals.
  • Power to take the occasional leap.
  • The flexibility that helps you achieve some unusual positions that require extra stretching.

Common Injuries

The muscles, joints, and tendons of your arms, hands, fingers, and legs are prone to injury and inflammation as they support much of the weight of your body while scrambling up the side of a mountain. Shoulder injuries are also common as well as bumps, bruises, and even broken bones from a fall.

How Important is Physical Fitness needed for Climbing?

It is important to put together a training program based on your current fitness level. This is achieved by doing the right exercises with activities that best mimics the attempted climb. A high level of fitness is critical to a successful climb and will add to the safety and enjoyment of the experience.

Your training goal should be to get physically and mentally fit to fully engage in the sport with experiencing fatigue or injury. Your climbing goal will be to remain strong and steady throughout the activity.

Strength and muscle building exercises at a gym will help improve the overall strength needed for rock scaling. Your body will be undergoing serious strain so it is critical to building your training correctly. Therefore, you will need the right type to give you the overall fitness needed as well as specific arm,  leg, back, core, and abdominal muscle strength.

Cardiovascular training is also important to adapt to the extra oxygen you will need when pushing your body to the limits. It is recommended to train at least 3 times a week to build up slowly to the fitness level you need. How long it takes will depend you how fit you are at the time you start your training. In the beginning, you may only progress at a snail’s pace but your muscles will need to be trained under pressure to prepare you for the work you will need it to do.

Rock Climbing Gym Workouts

Proper training is vital and following tried and true methods are crucial for success. Following a fitness program in combination with proper nutrition and hydration will ensure you have a successful and enjoyable ascent. You should focus on training both your muscles as well as the types of motions they will be required to make.

  • Always warm up before starting any form of training with stretching exercises. Perform every movement with the proper form and stretch all your muscles to avoid cramping, stiffness, and injury.
  • Make use of a variety of pulling moves at various angles as well as overhead reaching motions that specifically mimic the moves made when climbing.
  • An important component of strength training is the ability to use your muscles repeatedly without fatigue.
  • This routine will need repetitions of 10 to 12 of most of the movements made when mounting a wall or cliff face. Exercises that combine resistance and muscle power will expedite gaining the strength and endurance you are after.
  • Work out three days a week focusing on different sets of muscles, training each group only once a week.
  • Abdominal exercises should be added twice a week at the first and last workouts for the week.

The above exercise frequency is ideal to build strong muscles that are functional without being over-trained. During the workout use straight sets performing the same moves for a number of sets before starting the next exercise. One minute rest periods in between will be enough for recovery but not enough that the body will not feel challenged to perform the subsequent sets. The rest periods help to build lean muscle and also aid in significantly increasing muscular endurance.