Why I’m Using Rock Climbing to Become Strong and Fit

rock climbing

Rock climbing is a great way to increasing your strength, flexibility and get in shape. I love rock climbing and want to share with you my thoughts after 6 months of rock climbing.

4 months ago, I started rock climbing consistently. Starting off, I was going to a local indoor rock climbing gym two times a week, and now have gotten a year long membership and go three times a week.

Now, I can confidently say I have never felt as strong as I am now, even though back in college I was lifting 4-5 times a week.

Starting off, rock climbing became something I did to supplement my other body weight exercises.

However, because it is so much fun, it seems I’ve started to use my body weight exercises to supplement my rock climbing!

Rock climbing has become a big part of my life and I’m excited to share with you some of my thoughts on my new hobby.

In this post, I’m going to share with you:

  • why I’m loving rock climbing
  • my fitness level after rock climbing for 4 months, and
  • some thoughts on why I probably won’t ever get a membership at a regular gym again

Let’s get into the post!

rock climbing on bouldering wallWhat is Rock Climbing and How Do I Rock Climb?

First, let’s talk about what I mean when I’m rock climbing.

I go to a indoor climbing gym called Vertical Endeavors in the Twin Cities, and at this gym, there are areas for top rope and bouldering.

Top rope climbing is where you tie into a rope, and then climb up a wall. At the gym I go to, these walls are between 30 and 60 feet high.

Bouldering is where you don’t have any gear, and you climb different routes up to 15 feet.

On the walls, there are different colored routes, and each route is a different difficulty. While you can “rainbow” and climb on whatever color you want, over time, you want to stick to one color per route.

As climbing has become more popular, there are a bunch of gyms in every major suburban area.

Also, you can go outdoor rock climbing. There are thousands of routes all around the world which have been mapped out on the side of mountains, at different boulders, and hills.

I have yet to do this, but plan on going to a bouldering area in a nearby state park soon.

Now that you know what I mean when I say rock climbing, now I’m going to share with you my experience and why I love rock climbing.

indoor rock climbing

Why I Love Rock Climbing

First, I’ve always loved being active, fit and strong. I love sports and am very competitive.

Once I got to college, since I wasn’t playing sports anymore, I started hitting the gym fairly consistently.

The thing about weights though is it is very much the same thing over and over and over again.

Lift this barbell in a certain way, and if you can do it for 10 reps, then maybe consider adding weight.

With lifting weights, it’s very much a straightforward process without much room for creativity and exploration.

While yes, you can get creative with your workout program, it’s still just a matter of up-down with different movements.

However, with rock climbing, there is a huge problem solving aspect to getting up a wall. This is why I love rock climbing, and think it’s so much fun.

I love rock climbing because:

  • there’s a lot of problem solving that goes into being successfully
  • it’s an awesome feeling to be able to get to the top of a wall successfully
  • getting into and out of different body positions makes me feel very strong

Body positioning is such a huge part of becoming better at rock climbing.

When approaching a wall, you have to look and plan out your route. You can’t just try and climb everything like a ladder, and with this, there is a lot of thinking that must happen to put yourself in the best position to succeed.

Also, it’s so awesome to be able to get to the top of a wall and be way up in the air. Even though I’m slightly scared of heights, I still think it’s an incredible feeling.

Becoming Strong, Fit and Feeling Better than When Doing Weights

As I’m typing this right now, I can confidently say I feel better and feel stronger now than I did when I was throwing around a ton of iron and weight at the gym.

I might not be stronger, in terms of the weight I can throw around, but I feel stronger.

First, I believe it’s very important to be self-aware and listen to your body when you are getting in shape.

For this reason, as I’ve gotten back into shape this year and am at a great level of fitness now, I’m confident in my comments about how I feel better than I did before rock climbing.

I think there are a few reasons for why I’m feeling so strong:

  • My grip strength is stupid.
    • From rock climbing, I can now hang on a bar from 1 arm for 5-10 seconds.
    • Also,when doing pull-ups, I rarely will stop because of grip, but instead because I can’t pull-up anymore.
  • I don’t feel many aches and pains from my joints.
    • Since rock climbing is all body weight, I don’t have any joint pain (at least right now), that I used to experience with my knees and shoulders from squatting and bench pressing.
  • Being able to hold my body in different positions requires a strong core
    • When I’m doing an overhanging boulder problem or need to make a slow move, I need to keep my core very tight or I will fall off the wall.

Overall though, it just feels awesome to be able to move my body in different ways with my own strength.

While these points have been made on how I’m feeling, I actually found out I am as strong I once was back in college.

Why I Don’t Think I’ll Get a Regular Gym Membership Again

This past summer, I was the manager of an intern at work. This intern was a total gym rat and power lifter.

About half way into the internship, he was completing a lifting program, and after each lifting program, he re-tests his maximum lifts.

He asked if I wanted to come lift with him and max with him.

At this point, I had been doing my body weight exercises (push-ups, planks, body weight squats, and pull-ups) and rock climbing for a handful of months, but hadn’t been in a regular gym in 15 months.

What the heck I thought, I’ll max with him.

Back in college, my maximum lifts were a 265 pound bench press, 340 pound back squat and 300 pound dead lift.

These max lifts were all hit when I was lifting 4-5 times a week.

Again, I hadn’t done a bench press, back squat or dead lift in 15 months, and I had no expectations when I went to the gym with my intern.

I was blown away by my results.

From doing intense push-up exercises only, I had built enough strength to perform a 225 pound bench press. From rock climbing, my grip and back was strong enough for a 295 pound dead lift.

What was crazy on the dead lift was it wasn’t my grip which was the problem, it was my legs and back which couldn’t push hard enough when I tried 315 pounds.

With these results, I realized I can be strong without lifting weights!

flexing very hard
Flexing as hard as I can

I can be strong by doing intense body weight exercises consistently, eating a healthy diet, and supplementing my diet with different workout supplements.

This is certainly a challenge to the mainstream thought of “you need to go to the gym to be strong”.

I’m definitely happy I’ve been able to figure out what makes sense for me and my body.

Over the next year, I want to keep improving and progressing as a rock climber, and hope to climb a 5.11+ route by next summer!

How Much Does Rock Climbing Cost?

On this blog, I like to talk a lot about money and finances.

The rock climbing membership I got is $55 a month. This is definitely more than the $35 a month I was paying at LA Fitness when I went there, but $55 a month is similar to a middle tier regular gym.

One cool thing about the rock climbing gyms that I go to is there are regular workout equipment for you to use if you want to do this.

With this regular workout equipment, I can use these weights if I want to (I don’t because I like body weight exercises so much).

With these options, I think it justifies the slightly higher price.

Also, I’m not afraid to spend money on my health and wellness, and so if it’s an extra $20 a month for better results and more fun, I definitely am happy to spend the money.

Does Rock Climbing Interest You?

I’ve loved getting into rock climbing and definitely recommend you try it out if you haven’t before.

If you have tried it out, maybe it makes sense to start supplementing you current exercises with it to get a better variety of exercises.

Becoming a well rounded individual and the master of your life should involve trying new things and seeing what makes sense for you.

What I love about rock climbing is it really does help you become a well rounded athlete – I’m strong, flexible and conditioned.

Last year, I tried yoga for a few months, and while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t quite my favorite thing to do.

Now that I’m rock climbing, I’m loving it, and I’m seeing how it’s benefiting my other activities, such as hiking, golfing, and basketball.

What do you think? Would you give rock climbing a try?

Readers: does rock climbing interest you? What are you doing to become strong and fit? Do you go to a regular gym, do yoga, or do other exercises?

Thanks for reading!