Learning a new hobby or workout can be intimidating — especially when it involves scaling a wall and hearing strange words like “belay” and “venga.” Yet men and women of varying ages and fitness levels are finding that rock climbing provides a workout that can’t be matched when using typical weights and machines.
The gym is great for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, mixing it up with rock climbing can improve your overall well-being. Whether outdoors or using an indoor wall, climbing toward an objective will not only strengthen your entire body, but it can also improve your self-esteem and sense of community.
It’s common for many beginners to assume that climbing is primarily building upper body strength. But fighting gravity as you move up, down and sideways means a whole body workout. Rock climbing experts say: “When you climb, you should focus twice the amount of energy on using your feet and legs than you do on your hands and arms.” Whether you are back-stepping, “smearing” or “flagging” your way up the surface of a rock, you will be working quadriceps, as well as the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles in the calf to raise the heel.
In addition, pulling muscles upward while fighting gravity can provide a great workout for the upper body. Rock climbing provides strength training for the forearms, biceps, back and abdominal muscles as you “crimp” and “undercling” yourself to the top. While fatigue is a common problem for beginners, improving grip and technique can help to reduce tiredness and bolster confidence.
Featured on Rockclimber.com, staff writer Myles Moser dissects the psychophysiology of a rock climber. He explains how creating your own “mental audience” contributes to increased self-esteem, mental competitiveness and life satisfaction. He goes on to say:
“Climbers must endure many feats. They must power through the unpredictable situations of weather. They must control their physical abilities as well as their mental battles. Rock climbing is a sport where one becomes an individual player, who must make all the right choices or accept failure.”
Rock climbing programs for children are now being offered to empower and build self-esteem in kids of all ages. These programs are available to help children face their fears in a safe environment. Not only are children physically engaged and building self-esteem, they are also learning valuable team building and strategizing skills.
Beginner rock climbers are often surprised by how climbing fosters not only physical activity, but community as well. While the sport is inherently individual-based, it’s not uncommon to notice a mentality of teamwork as more experienced climbers offer advise to those that need it. Furthermore, outdoor rock climbing competitors appreciate the support provided by other rock climbers, and indoor rock climbing gyms are equipped with spotters, experts and other climbers offering guidance and encouragement. It’s hard not to enjoy yourself as you climb your way to the top, and if you’re nervous, take the advise from Alex Lowe, who said, “The best climber is the one having the most fun.”