Is Rock Climbing Cardio or Strength Training?

Nothing says a good day of climbing, like reaching the top of the nearest rock and falling from the strain you placed on all your muscles. There is a lot of argument about what type of training rock climbing is as those who enjoy the sport never seem to become extremely bulky.  

Rock climbing is a good combination of both cardio training and strength training, and every level of the sport enjoys this combination. The speed at which you are climbing and the total body exertion make it a good cardio workout.

You will need to understand how calorie burning through cardio works, how your muscles are trained when you hang by one hand, and what effect each of these has on your body. Ensure that you know what training you may need to do to get ready for rock climbing properly.

How many calories are you burning while rock climbing?

On average, we know that you will be burning 8 to 10 calories; this is assuming that you are climbing as fast as you can and not simply hanging. This means that if you climb the same rock three times over an hour, you can expect to burn 540 calories.

If you are unfit or just not used to rock climbing, you will be burning many more calories, as your movements are inefficient, and your muscles are still learning what to do. This is often why rock climbing is recommended to those looking for a new way to exercise.

Oddly enough, expert rock climbers easily lift themselves with just one hand move away from pure strength exercise. Because experts can easily climb the rock walls in their local gym, they rarely need to retrain their muscles to work, becoming more likely to do a challenging cardio workout.

How exactly is rock climbing strength training?

This is the question that many people face, thinking that they can quickly get super strong with only climbing rocks. Rock climbing is the same type of strength training that you experience when doing gymnastics, as you are only using the weight of your own body to train yourself.

Rock climbers do train themselves with a focus on their grip strength above all else, as this ensures that they can hold onto the rocks. You will rarely find climbers training anything but cardio when not rock climbing because they need to stay at a consistent weight.

Rock climbing trains your muscles by lifting yourself using only your strength; you will usually be using just your arms when pulling yourself higher. It can be hard to imagine unless you have gone rock climbing, but every single muscle in your body will be used to partake in the sport.

Is rock climbing high intensity?

As tough and heart-pumping as rock climbing can be, it is not a high-intensity or high-impact sport in any way. Unlike jogging or other sports where you are constantly delivering impacts on your joints, you can quickly and comfortably enjoy the sport without impacting your joints.

If you are using the wrong techniques or trying to partake the tougher climbs before you are ready, you can damage your joints. This is because you may end up twisting a joint, losing your grip, falling, or just slipping, which will cause permanent damage even if treated.

Fortunately, if you are with a good and proper group of climbers, there should be no pressure to have you climb faster. This allows you to get on top of a mountain or rock at a completely comfortable speed, which will enable you to save your joints.

What type of body training does a rock climber need?

A rock climber needs to climb and lift themselves with ease, which means the body training they need is focused on simply lifting their weight. These are the training techniques where you only use your body weight, like push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and planking.

This is why you will see people that love to do rock climbing doing similar training to swimmers and gymnasts, as this allows them to partake in their sport with ease. Many expert rock climbers have learned that easily and comfortably lifting themselves will enable them to climb almost any rock.

It should be noted that if you have a hard time lifting yourself out of a chair, whether you are overweight or over-muscled, you will not be able to partake in rock climbing easily. Many rock climbers start as ordinary people that are average weight and then become a lot stronger.

How long can you do rock climbing without other training?

The only training outside of the sport that you may have to do is grip strength training, as your grip needs to be a lot stronger than an average person’s. Many people only ever partake in this training as they are sure that they do not need to strengthen their core.

If you are capable and constantly climbing rocks, you will become naturally fit enough to continue doing so. Rock climbing will naturally grow your grip strength to be strong enough; you only need outside training when you start rock climbing, and you have little grip strength.

However, if you are aware that you have been highly unfit and unmoving, you will need to do basic training to strengthen your arms, core, and grip. This is what most people experience until they reach the level at which they are comfortable climbing anything.

What Exercises Can Be Done To Improve Climbing?

Knowing how your muscles are being trained and stretched while climbing even the most minor rocks does not help you become better. Many rock climbers realize that with some daily training, they would conquer most of the mountains in their way comfortably.

It is because of this that there is a basic set of exercises that you should follow to allow your muscles to mature. Doing just a few of these each day will easily allow you to become an expert climber; doing all of them each day will easily allow you to become one of the best in your club.

  • Bodyweight Squats: Most people are just regular squats; they are called bodyweight squats because you are meant to do them without added weight. Doing 3 to 5 sets of 10 during your exercise each day will significantly increase all your muscles and balance.
  • Push-Ups: Push-ups are how you become able to do almost everything else you should be doing in your exercise routine. Doing proper push-ups trains nearly every muscle in your body, your core, and your arms; simply doing three sets of 10 each day will be great.
  • Pull-Ups: If you want to become a rock climber in any regard, you should be able to do almost any amount of pull-ups. Starting with the maximum amount you can and moving towards pushing yourself each day is the only way to train with pull-ups.
  • Plank: In theory, planking sounds simple, however in practice, it is one of the best ways to increase your core strength drastically. Doing a set of 3, each time planking for 30 seconds to a full minute, will quickly strengthen your core to impressive levels.
  • Tricep Dips: Not as challenging to do as push-ups or as intense as pull-ups; tricep dips are great ways to increase your upper body strength properly. Doing 2 to 5 sets of 10 to 20 tricep dips during your exercise will easily and comfortably improve your overall muscle development.
  • Side Plank: The side plank is for when you are more developed, and your muscles can comfortably handle regular planks. Standing and tensing all your muscles while balancing on one arm only will quickly grow your core; again, 30 seconds to 1-minute planks will be perfect.
  • Crunches: Focusing almost entirely on your core muscles, crunches are the more intense cousins of sit-ups. Doing 10 to 30 of these across three sets will easily and comfortably enable you to grow your muscles to do almost anything.
  • Wrist Curls: Once your body is strong, you will have to start working on your grip strength, the essential part of rock climbing. You may have your entire body hanging from one hand at points, finding the limit of how many curls you can do, and then moving from there is the best way to increase your strength.
  • Lunges: Lunges are another tremendous all-body exercise that will quickly and comfortably allow your muscles to grow together. Doing 3 to 6 sets of 15 to 40 lunges will adequately stress your leg muscles and allow fast growth in the lower parts of your body.
  • Calf Raises: This is easily the most painful part for early exercisers to start doing as their class will not be familiar with the motions required. Starting where you are comfortable, your calves will first stretch out and then begin growing much stronger as you exercise.
  • Reverse Wrist Curls: Reverse wrist curls do almost the same as regular wrist curls. However, the muscles being trained will be closer to the shoulder. Starting at the maximum amount you can do and slowly increasing will be the best way to exercise.
  • Cardio: We include this because we know many people like to forget about it and only train their muscles. Finding an entire cardio routine and sticking to it will ensure your weight never increases and that your body stays fit and active enough to face the stress of climbing.

Why are rock climbers muscular?

Rock climbers are muscular because their bodies have very little fat content, usually hiding their physique underneath loose clothing. As they are pretty fit and have lower body fat, their muscles are almost always visible even when not flexing, which is why they are perceived as muscular.

Quite a few have learned that climbers have hidden strength as their bodies are not as comprehensive as bodybuilders or as apparent as fit people. Instead, climbers have muscles ready to react and respond to stress when needed but are lightweight and ready.

It is usually a good sign that a climber can look like a completely average person when they have a shirt on but look amazing without one. Several climbers will note that they are fit to pursue their hobby instead of being fit for being fit.


Rock climbing is both cardio and strength training that will quickly have your body performing at top levels. If you are passionate about the sport and willing to learn more about it, you will quickly become fitter than most people could imagine.

Whatever you do, please make sure that you can hang without having to rely on such pesky things as legs!

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