man climbing rock in suesca colombia

Sooner or later, any athlete will start to think about calories and how much of it they’re burning while they work out. This so-called caloric burn is not only related to weight loss, but can be an important piece of information for your training and diet plan.

In this article, we’ll talk about the number of calories you can burn in different climbing disciplines, explain what calories even are and what they measure!

Does Rock Climbing Burn Calories?

rock climber

Like anything your body does, rock climbing burns calories. It’s a physical activity that can be very demanding and does not only strengthen muscles but also brings up your heart rate and is, therefore, a cardio exercise.

The Style of Climbing Doesn’t Matter Much

Climbing and bouldering are very holistic forms of exercise. This means that they use a wide range of muscles in your body.

Depending on which style of climbing you do, you might be training either your endurance more or your explosive movements, like in bouldering. In comparison to other endurance sports like cycling or running, however, climbing over long distances or for an extended period of time uses different movements all the time. 

So even if you’re just learning about the rock climbing basics, climbing can be a very fun and intense full body workout.

Almost no two movements are the same, and you won’t be doing the same repetitive muscle movements as you might while rowing, for example. This helps to train your muscles in a lot of different directions and angles and is also way less boring.

What Is a Calorie?

Calories are a unit of measurement to indicate how much energy foods and drinks contain. Calories are also essential for us as they provide our body with the energy it needs to function properly.

Now, there are different ways of expressing calories, such as kilojoules, joules, or kilocalories. What we usually see on food labels are actually kilocalories or Calories with a capital C. This is also the unit we’ll be using in this article. 

How Do You Burn Calories and Why Does It Matter?

You burn calories just by existing. By breathing. Everything your body does requires energy and therefore burns calories. 

However, the more strenuous the exercise or activity, the higher the caloric burn. What is important is to have a healthy caloric balance, which refers to the balance between calories burned and consumed.

Here’s the thing. When choosing your foods, you don’t just want to intake calories; you also want to fuel your body with all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs to thrive.

So, you ideally want to eat foods that are also high in nutrients, not just calories. The amount of calories you need per day depends on a lot of different factors like your age, sex, lifestyle, and a myriad of other factors.

How Many Calories Does It Burn?

It’s difficult to tell the exact amount of calories you burn while climbing because this depends on a lot of individual factors. Your metabolism, weight, body fat percentage, age, and the intensity of the exercise all determine how many calories you actually burn in the end.

What The Average Person Burns

While doing our research, we found that most articles and studies calculated the average calories burned by an average person within an hour. Of course, there is no “average person”, but most sources mention a 180 lb person doing whatever exercise they are calculating with, for 1 hour.

So, while you might burn 500 to 900 Calories in an hour of rock climbing, it’s a bit more difficult to calculate your individual caloric burn. Because even if you spend three hours at the gym or crag, have you really spent the whole time climbing?

Probably not. Unfortunately, belaying, chatting and swapping beta burns fewer calories than climbing. You will have to work out how much time you spend climbing quite precisely to get a good idea of just how many calories you burn in a session.   

How Many Calories Do You Burn Bouldering?

Bouldering burns a similar amount of calories as climbing with a rope, but in a different way. 

While rock climbing can be more of an endurance sport, bouldering is typically more high intensity with shorter problems but more demanding movements. So, you might have a higher caloric burn in a short time, but the overall time that you spend actively climbing is shorter than with rope climbing.

In fact, bouldering is similar to a high-intensity sprint or interval workout, but it does work your whole body! Especially when you’re tackling very steep and overhanging problems during your climbing sessions, you will also work your core and back in addition to your shoulders and arms.

Depending on the intensity of the route, you can therefore burn 500 to 900 Calories an hour while bouldering.

How Many Calories Do You Burn Rock Climbing In A Gym?

Climbing equipment

Whether you are top roping or lead climbing, climbing in the gym is estimated to burn the same amount of calories as an intense cardio workout like spinning.

Traditional rock climbing involves a range of different movements like pushing, pulling, and lifting that are similar to weight exercises, but they happen in combination with sustained effort, which makes it a good cardiovascular workout, too! A 2004 study shows that climbers tend to have increased oxygen consumption while climbing and also an increased heart rate.

Although, a climbing session in a gym is estimated to burn fewer calories than climbing outside or alpine climbing. 

Rock climbing outdoors and alpine or ice climbing are said to have a higher caloric burn because they happen in more extreme environments; the temperatures can vary and the climber might be experiencing more fear, which also increases the amount of calories burned.

Chart Comparing Calories of Rock Climbing, Bouldering, Ice Climbing, and Other Common Sports

Calories burned Rock Climbing, Bouldering, Ice Climbing, and Other Common Sports

Factors Which Affect How Many Calories You Burn

There are a lot of different factors that influence the amount of calories you burn for any given exercise. 

While some factors like genetics are hard to pin down, there are others like age or sex that are a bit simpler to understand. And while some of these factors are predetermined, there are some that you can change to achieve a better result.


The older you get, the fewer calories you burn a day. This can be due to the natural loss of muscle tissue.


Men burn a higher amount of calories than women when doing the same activity. This might be due to the fact that women on average have a higher percentage of body fat.

Amount of Daily Activity

This is where you have the biggest agency. The more you move, the higher the caloric burn. Even small exercises like taking the stairs instead of the lift can add up over time.

Body Composition

Muscles burn more calories, even when they are not “in action”. So, the more muscles you have, the more calories you will burn even while resting.

Body Size

Even at rest, larger people burn more calories than smaller people.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding burn a lot more calories than non-pregnant or non-breastfeeding women.

Climbing-Specific Factors

When it comes to the amount of calories you burn while climbing, your weight and the difficulty of the route have a big influence. The more weight you carry, either your own body weight or in terms of additional gear, the more effort it takes to climb and the more calories you will burn.

And the harder the grade of the problem or route, the more tiring the activity will be and the more calories you will burn.

Woman climbing

Rock Climbing Calories Burned Calculator

To calculate how many calories YOU burn during rock climbing, you need to factor in the intensity of the workout and your body weight. Of course, because a lot of factors influence how many calories you burn, as we mentioned above, this is just an approximation, but it is still useful so you can get a general idea!

The formula to use is the following

calories burned per minute = (MET x body weight in Kg x 3.5) / 200

If you then want to know how many calories you have burned per hour, just multiply this number by 60.

Now, the MET is another unit of measurement that expresses the energy cost of physical activity for a period of time. However, it does not account for individual factors like weight, etc, which is why the calories burned by different people doing an activity with the same MET can vary greatly. 

This is the base value you then multiply by your weight to find your individual amount of calories burned.

Here are a few METs that are relevant for climbing:

ChartOf course, moderate and difficult climbing mean completely different things to every person, but for your individual calculation, you can just decide how “hard” it felt at the time you were doing the exercise. 


Does Rock Climbing Get You In Shape?

Rock climbing can indeed get you in shape. All forms of exercise can help you to build muscle, and climbing is no exception. If you increase your physical exercise, you will burn more calories, which can lead to weight loss over time. Additionally, climbing strengthens a lot of different muscles in your body.

Is Rock Climbing A Good Workout?

Yes rock climbing is a good workout as it uses almost all of the muscles in your body. Bouldering focuses more on high intensity and explosive movements, while climbing is more of an endurance sport.

Why Is Rock Climbing Good For You?

Rock climbing is good for you because it is a full body workout which  not only challenges your body but also your mind. When bouldering, you need to read problems and find solutions that work best for you. Climbing can help you get in touch with your body and build mental and physical resilience over time.

What Are The Exercise Benefits of Rock Climbing?

The main exercise benefits of rock climbing are strengthening your muscles, improves your flexibility, and challenges your cardiovascular system. It can also be a very social sport with a lot of fun times hanging out with friends both at the gym or on the crag. So, what’s not to love?

Does Rock Climbing Build Muscle?

Rock climbing can definitely help you to build up muscle, especially in the beginning. For example, the muscles in your forearms that you usually don’t use get a lot of work while climbing, and you might see progress there first. 

Overall, increasing exercise is a good thing, but it does not necessarily lead to more muscle. For this, specific training and possible diet changes are also necessary. Climbing is awesome, but no miracle cure.

Further Reading

If you’re looking for a better understanding on the particular muscles you use in rock climbing, or rock climbing for weight loss. (rock climbing, calories burned)

Published by Mirjam Boss

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