Does Rock Climbing Build Muscle? đź’Ş Is it a Good Workout?

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Most people in today’s times often struggle with achieving their ideal body. It can be difficult to build muscle, and some don’t really prefer to use traditional weights or bench presses. Outdoor activities like rock climbing can quickly replace that and are often much better alternatives to gaining muscle.

So – is rock climbing a good workout and does it build muscle?

It is definitely a great workout and will tone your whole body – you’ll feel every inch of your body the day after your first climbing session! And it will make your muscles much stronger if you climb regularly. Most climbers are very lean and have very strong muscles. But the answer to whether it builds muscle (as in growing bigger) is maybe. The reason why is because there are so many different factors and variables that come into play that make one situation totally different from another situation.

If you are very new to rock climbing and decide to try it out, you can try climbing at least 3 times a week for an hour at a time within the first 90 days of your climbing experience. If you do this, you will definitely gain muscle from rock climbing.

After most rock climbers get past this 90-day point, they come across a sort of plateau in their muscle-building experience. Read on to find out what you have to do if you want to build muscle past this point and how to integrate it into your routine in an indepth-guide!

This article is about muscle building. If you are also interested in technique and strength, you should take a look at this article as well: Complete Guide: How to Train for Rock Climbing & Bouldering?

Overcoming the 90-Day Plateau

Bouldering is perfect for strength training!

Even if you continually climb for more days with longer sessions, this still won’t guarantee that you will build bigger and bigger muscles as you continue to go on. However, you will stay very toned and defined which is often the standard climber’s look. Anyone doing this will look leaner and toned rather than very beefy and muscular.

To help with this, when you climb, it is best to try to carry small amounts of weight with you. The muscles in your body do not outweigh the fat that is on your body. However, the muscles are much denser. This means that it occupies much less space than the fat on your body does.

Along with that, it is important to keep your focus on getting stronger and improving the strength to bodyweight ratio. Most experienced climbers usually make fat elimination their top priority. They don’t really focus on getting super muscular. They’re biggest concern is staying toned.

Regardless, rock climbing is perfect for this and it combines cardio and strength training very well. This makes for a great full-body workout for any climber. Even though it is a great workout all climbers should remember to watch out for muscle imbalances too, as this can slow you down and cause injury if not looked after properly. This mostly happens when people decide to do rock climbing as their only exercise for the day every day. This is most common with new climbers as well. This can be easily avoided though if you do a bit more before you begin climbing.

While that is the basic answer to the question, there is a more in-depth guide that can help you get the answer and set you on your way to building a great body. Most people don’t really realize that there is a lot more that goes into rock climbing, and it requires much more than just climbing to achieve this goal. There are many factors and other things to take into consideration before and after you get started climbing. 

In-Depth Guide to Building Muscle with Rock Climbing

If you really want to build muscle, you can definitely do that using rock climbing as your main way to get ripped. The part that makes the answer more neutral is whether or not you’re wanting to build muscle in general or if you’re wanting to build muscle in certain areas. If you’re wanting to build muscle in certain areas like your fingers, legs, and feet, this is one of the most perfect things that you can do to achieve that.

If you want to focus more on building muscle in your arms with rock climbing, it is best to try to focus on routes that have lots of opportunities for overhanging. Then try to go places where certain areas call for the climber to use more arm work and work against the law of gravity in an effort to hold up lots of body weight. This ensures that after a while and a lot of practice, you will begin to notice that your arms are stronger and better and keeping you leveled when climbing. Bouldering is another great thing for this goal.

As mentioned before, if you want to be the best rock climber that you can be, you should keep in mind that bulk building is not necessarily going to be the main gain. Some of the most renowned experts may be a bit muscular in certain areas, but they are mostly very lean. If you want to build muscle to be your main goal and you want to get it from rock climbing the most, try incorporating some type of weight training or resistance training in your climbing routine.

Don’t assume that rock climbing won’t help you become bigger or stronger either, as that is not the case. You can still be very strong and powerful even if you’re only very lean.

Avoiding Muscle Imbalances

Earlier in the article, we discussed that people who depend on rock climbing as their one and only source of daily exercise are at risk of muscle imbalances. You want to try to avoid that, especially if you are a beginner in rock climbing.

Rock climbing is one of the most demanding sports of them all, and it can be pretty easy to overuse one part of your both and neglect the others. This is pretty much what begins the imbalance in the muscles. If not fixed or corrected right away, it can lead to long-lasting effects on the body, making it more difficult to climb in the future.

Here’s an example of what you can do to avoid this. Let’s say that you are climbing and you’re reaching upwards with your right hand and you’re also moving your right foot upwards to the next hold. Nothing on your left side is being moved yet. Now, you tightly grip the rock using your right hand and you quickly clip using your left hand. You lock off the right and then place the number 2 cam in the crack.

When doing this, it can be very easy to create a build that is lopsided by accident because you were not paying attention while you were climbing.

If you want to avoid that, take a look at these guidelines. Also, make sure that you are being attentive and noticing when you are giving in more to one side of the wall than the other.

Find Out What Your Weakness Is

Have you been injured in the past? Are these injuries from the past ones that didn’t really heal correctly and are now causing you to use one limb more than the other? Do you often lock off with your right arm more than your left arm and vice versa? Do you clip with the exact same hand every time, even if you are reaching your arm across your body?

One thing you can also do is ask someone you know to watch you during your entire rock climbing session. This will help because if someone is monitoring your body, they can better point out imbalances much faster than you would be able to notice them. If you can’t do that, try getting them to record you or record yourself the whole time.

You should also record yourself doing various exercises that will enhance your climbing abilities. Push-ups and pull-ups are great ones to try out. This will also help you be able to see which side of your body or what limbs you are using more and then you can use that to start correcting these mistakes. Once you’ve taken time out to observe your performance, you can start with finding out what you can do to build more muscle and/or strength with rock climbing.

Build Strength and Muscle

It will be very difficult to fix the imbalance in your muscles if you don’t start with building a proper foundation. Once you get this foundation set, you can use it to further improve day after day. Start with learning how to use proper and correct form when you’re performing these exercises. This will help you avoid worsening the muscle imbalances, along with preventing even more imbalance in the future.

Adopt the Right Mindset

There’s no doubting the fact that a lot of people are on the fence when it comes to whether or not anyone can really depend on just rock climbing for building muscle. Although, most beginners can increase their muscle and build it within their first 90 days of rock climbing. This depends on how high or fast they climb as well, along with how long each session is. If they climb at a high volume, they are much more likely to build muscle that way.

Every person is different. You may have some people that are very ripped and go climbing on a daily basis. They might even be getting bigger and stronger each and every time they go. Then again, you might also have a person that stays lean no matter how much they climb, even if it is every day for 2 hours. There’s not a lot of evidence that proves one or the either.

Unless you decide to introduce some type of weight training exercises into your routine, everything will remain stagnant. This is the biggest key to staying muscular as a rock climber. To put it all in one sentence, rock climbing can be a great part of your entire plan to build more muscle but it isn’t the main key to building the muscle. It’s just a great thing that you can add to the overall routine of building more muscle. Or even better, you can reverse it and use building muscle as a means to become a champion at rock climbing. Neither one is the only key to a fit body.

When you keep this in mind, it can be a great way to keep yourself motivated. Understanding the reasoning and what makes everything come together will prevent you from expecting unrealistic results. As mentioned above, some people will have different results than you might have. That doesn’t mean one is better at rock climbing than the other or one is more capable than the other.

With that being said, don’t focus so much on building physique when you’re rock climbing because you most likely won’t get those results if you’re having unrealistic expectations.

Related Questions

What Other Exercises to Help Build Muscle for Rock Climbing?

When you’re tying muscle building and rock climbing together, you want to focus on building the muscles that you’ll be using the most when you’re rock climbing. This would be core muscles, arms, and legs. You can also try out different exercises that will improve your hand strength and help you build a stronger grip.

How Often to Rock Climbing to Get Lean or Build Muscle?

You should aim to climb at least 3 times a week or more if this is your main source of exercise. Make sure it is not the only thing you are doing for exercise though, as that can lead to muscle imbalance.

What Muscles Are Most Important for Rock Climbing?

Core muscles will impact almost every move that you do when you are climbing. They are also the most important when you are climbing an overhanging rock.

Which Rock Climbing Techniques Will Build Those Muscles?

The main ones that you can put a focus on would be: finger gripping techniques, foot placement, and transition. You can try out different methods of gripping in order to build and strengthen the muscles in your hands. Foot placement helps with strengthening because it determines which form you are using while you are climbing.

For transitioning, this is another piece that will help you improve your form. Your form helps with building the muscle because you can move your body certain ways while climbing so that you are tightening or working important areas.

Attention: You have to take care of your safety when climbing! The information on only helps you to learn. Before you climb, you should make sure that you have been properly instructed by an expert and that you follow all safety precautions.

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