What is Rock Climbing?
Simply put, rock climbing is a group of sports that involves climbing rocks and rock-like structures. It might sound boring and simple, but can be one of the most physically gruelling activities out there. There are many forms of rock climbing, but for the purposes of this article, we will focus purely on indoor rock climbing.
Rock Climbing Benefits
If you have ever been to a rock climbing gym, you would immediately know how rock climbing can be an effective strength training method. Unlike some other sports, rock climbing has a very shallow learning curve, which makes it enjoyable by almost anyway, regardless of fitness, skill, or strength level. Indoor climbing gyms often have climbing routes that are graded by technical difficulty, which allow first timers to complete a climb, as well as challenge seasoned pros. Other than technical difficulty, climbs are also graded by strength/endurance levels, with less gruelling climbs being on a slight forward incline, while the most challenging ones require you to be Spiderman-ing horizontally across the ceiling. All this means that you can be a hardcore climber, or a casual once per month-er, and still have a lot of fun and a serious workout.
While rock climbing, you can expect to work out almost your entire upper body. Main muscles include forearms, traps, deltoids, biceps, lats, and core. The form of strength achieved through rock climbing is similar to functional strength training. It requires not only strength, but balance and is "functional". More advanced climbers will find that there is an increased reliance on leg muscles too. However, this is often overlooked by beginners, and they may not get much of a leg workout from climbing.
Despite many muscle groups being worked out one thing that will strike you after any climbing session is the heavy reliance on grip strength. The forearms are often the first part to fatigue, and by the end of the session, it may get difficult to hold a fork. This is hugely beneficial towards increasing grip strength, which is something often over looked by strength and bodybuilder athletes. Remember, you can only lift as much as you can grip. If you ever said you yourself "I could deadlift more if it wasn't for my weak grip", then it is a sign that this is an area for you to focus on. Wrist straps are one alternative to overcome this problem, but in this writers opinion, using wrist straps makes the lift a lot less satisfying. Long story short, go climbing, improve your grip!
The final upside to indoor rock climbing is that many rock climbing gyms also have a weights gym (free use for those with climbing access). These tend to be far less busy that the average weights gym because the main portion of the clientele is busy scaling walls. So if you feel like you have neglected your chest in the work out, then you can always finish the session off with some bench presses.
Rock Climbing Negatives
Most forms of indoor climbing require partners to belay (or spot) you from the ground. Their job is to hold a rope attached to your harness to keep you from plummeting to your death if you slip. It is therefore vital for you for arrange a suitable time to climb with a friend. Furthermore, it is very difficult to build a climbing gym at home, compared to the relative ease of buying a set of weights. This makes rock climbing a lot less time flexible than weight training.
Per session, rock climbing is also far more expensive than going to a weights gym. This is because you need to hire equipment (harness at the very least) if you do not own your own. Other helpful equipment includes shoes, chalk bag, and chalk. These things tend to be expensive, but are a worthwhile investment for the regular climber.
One final down side of rock climbing is that this sport places a strong emphasis on strength to weight ratio. Being a huge bodybuilder will mean you will not be able to be an elite level climber. However, this really doesn't make the sport any less effective being a part of your training and is certainly no less enjoyable.
Should I Take Up Rock Climbing?
In this writer's opinion, the benefits of rock climbing for bodybuilding far outweigh any negatives. The occasional climb will work out muscles groups you may often be neglecting, and it's a fun way to develop functional strength very quickly. Just be sure to bring a mate and a few bucks.
Supplements for Rock Climbing
Rock climbing places a huge demand on strength, especially for the more inexperienced climbers. This makes creatine supplements highly beneficial to helping you to haul yourself up that extra metre. Pre workout supplements are also beneficial to helping you get the most out of our climbing session. However, rock climbing sessions often last far longer than weight sessions. This is because you take turns climbing and belaying, which means longer breaks and longer sessions in general. Some climbing sessions may go up to two or three hours. This means that the effects of the typical pre workout supplement may have worn off towards the end of the session. Therefore, an intra workout supplement may be used to help maintain your climbing intensity. As always, a post workout protein powder with plenty of carbs (eg. a weight gainer) will help to increase strength, build muscle, speed up recovery, and replace muscle glycogen.