Are you looking to lose weight and are thinking about giving rock climbing a go? Well, here’s all the things to know about climbing as a weight loss workout!
Rock climbing is a fun form of exercise that can be beneficial for your body and mind, and yes, it might also help you shed some pounds.
But just to say it right at the start, you don’t have to be skinny to climb. You don’t have to lose weight or need a certain body weight to become a better rock climber, so please keep that in mind when you’re reading this article and make sure to be kind to your body and nourish it well.
How Good Is Climbing for Losing Weight?
Rock climbing is a very holistic sport that uses many different muscles in your body in a myriad of different ways, and almost no two movements are the same. This makes it a very fun form of exercise that many people get slightly addicted to quite fast.
Now, if we want to link climbing to weight loss, it’s really just another form of exercise. But a good one, of course, because it combines cardio and strength training in one while still feeling like a very fun activity to do!
Caloric Burn and Resting Metabolism
To lose weight, you need to either reduce your caloric intake or increase your caloric burn. A sustainable and healthy approach to losing weight is to do a bit of both at a time and go in small steps, until you see the benefits growing exponentially.
So, once you start rock climbing and working out more, you should also adjust your diet – but without starving yourself! It’s important to keep your body well-nourished while it’s doing all this extra exercise.
Climbing is a form of exercise that combines cardio and strength training, which makes it the ideal form of exercise for weight loss. While cardio exercise helps you burn calories during the activity, strength training builds muscle.
As it turns out, the more muscles you have, the higher your resting metabolism will become over time, which represents the amount of calories you burn at rest. This further contributes to reaching a caloric deficit and can help you reduce your body weight.
So, when you have more muscles, you will burn more calories even when you’re just resting!
Why Is Climbing Such a Good Workout?
Climbing is about as intense as high-intensity interval training but way more fun.
While it takes it out of you like a spin class would, you do it in a much more fun and relaxing atmosphere, with a social setting that makes the sport so appealing to so many different people.
It’s Easy for Beginners
Climbing is a very accessible sport that is also suitable for beginners who don’t have a lot of upper body strength yet, as you can start on really easy climbing routes and just gradually increase the difficulty of the climbs as your ability improves.
Climbing technique plays a big role, so you don’t need to rely on pure muscle if you know how to use your body in a clever way.
And while climbing is a good full-body workout, it also improves your balance, flexibility and body awareness, too!
Ego Boost and Mental Challenges
Rock climbing has more to do with your mind than you might think at first.
Especially when it comes to bouldering, you’ll learn how to analyze and solve a problem bit by bit and not just scramble up the wall with brute force. So, not only does it make rock climbing a physically demanding sport, it also has an interesting mental element of creative problem-solving.
Not to mention the confidence boost you’ll get when you top out on your first boulder problems or finally nail a project after working on it for a long time!
Benefits of Rock Climbing Training
Let’s look at some benefits of training with rock climbing!
Now, there are a lot of different styles of rock climbing, but what they all have in common is that they work your whole body and can be quite demanding when you’re climbing at your limit!
It Can Help Burn Fat
Climbing is a cardio sport, especially sport and trad climbing. Sport climbing, especially on demanding routes, is a very intense endurance sport, which makes it a great exercise to burn some excess body fat.
If you’re multi-pitching, you might spend hours on the wall, and while you might not spend the whole time climbing, you’re still on the move, with your body in an active state.
While trad climbing is a bit less dynamic than sport climbing, it usually takes longer to finish a route because you’ll be placing protective gear, adding to the effort of the climb.
Strengthens Your Core Muscles
It might not seem like it, but your core muscles are essential to rock climbing. A good body position, foot technique and balance are important elements of your rock climbing technique, many of which rely on your core muscles.
Once you advance and start climbing on overhanging routes, that’s where your core muscles really come into play to keep your feet from falling off the wall and maintaining them at the same level as your shoulders.
You’ll be sore for a while after your first core strengthening route on a big roof, that’s for sure!
We’ve covered a whole article about what muscles are used in climbing, but to sum it up: it’s a lot of them!
From your forearms, shoulders, to your core and legs, there is hardly a part of your body that won’t be put to work on a long session at the rock climbing gym or crag.
Climbing training is an excellent leg exercise, cardio workout, and muscle building activity that can lead to a defined upper body and lower body fat percentage.
Strengthen Overall Health/Wellbeing
Rock climbing is both strength training and cardio exercise in one. This makes it a great overall full body workout, but the benefits don’t stop there.
Climbing can actually be a very social and adventure-filled sport; it makes it easy to spend time outside with your friends, have a hang out at the crag, or even squeeze in a gym session after work.
The more you climb and the better you get at it, the more you’ll start to trust in your body. You’ll find that especially at the start, you grow more and more confidence as you go, and inevitably, you will improve your climbing skills.
Because climbing has a lot to do with technique rather than brute force, once you pick up some tips and tricks from your buddies, you might be able to see some progress pretty quickly, all the while building up your strength and muscles to take you to the next level.
How Do People Lose Weight From Just Climbing?
Losing weight from just exercise is a bit trickier, but climbing is one of the sports that actually work. Because it’s such a fun and social sport, many people get hooked on it pretty fast, and this makes it easy to have it as a regular part of your routine.
And this is the most important bit: routine.
Consistency Is Key
To lose a few pounds, you need to consistently work out, especially if you’re not making any other lifestyle or diet choices; exercise will need to take the spotlight.
But climbing is a fun activity to do, and you’ll soon get hooked, that’s for sure. If you reach a healthy weight that you have set your mind to in the process, even better!
But while climbing on a regular basis, it’s also very important to listen to your body and take rest days.
Especially in the early days, you might get carried away and hit the climbing gym almost every day. But the thing to remember is to take it easy and give your body the chance to heal and build up muscle. This way you can go back stronger and avoid injuries.
How Many Calories Does Rock Climbing Burn?
Burning calories is an important factor in your weight loss journey, as the ratio between calories consumed through food and calories burned through exercise determines if you have a positive or negative caloric balance.
The Caloric Deficit
A negative caloric balance means that you burn more calories than you consume, which helps with weight loss over time.
Now, increasing the amount of calories you burn helps you to reach this calorie deficit, but increased exercise also puts higher demands on your body, so make sure to rest and eat well. If you starve yourself, there is no way your body will be healthy in the long run.
Burn Calories While Climbing
Calories are a unit of measurement that indicates the amount of energy contained in food. But calculating the calories you burn while exercising is not that simple.
There are many different numbers out there, but on average, rock climbing or bouldering burns 500 to 900 calories per hour for an “average person”.
Bouldering and rock climbing burn a similar amount of calories, even though bouldering has more intensive movements in short problems, while climbing routes often are more demanding in terms of endurance.
Best Way To Lose Weight Rock Climbing
To lose weight in a healthy way, a lifestyle change should be accompanied by a change in your diet. Only a healthy and well-fed body will be able to train and work out, so make sure to eat well, rest, and drink plenty of water!
So, here are some easy pointers to keep in mind when you take up climbing with the goal to shed some extra pounds.
Watch What You Eat
Now, this doesn’t mean you should stop eating. But it is important to keep in mind how many calories you eat a day and maybe look at replacing some high-calorie foods with some healthier alternatives.
Combine It With Other Forms of Exercise
Jogging, running, or high-intensity interval training are good additions to training at the climbing gym as they help you to build up endurance and muscle!
The best way to get better at climbing, to make it more fun, and lose more weight in the process, is to just climb!
Climbing itself, especially for a beginner, is the best form of training, and only more advanced climbers need specific training, like on a hangboard, for example. Just getting in as many routes and as much time on the climbing wall or rock is perfect if you’re just starting out.
This also helps you find your favorite style of climbing and is a great way to try different things within the same sport.
Bouldering vs Rock Climbing for Weight Loss
Bouldering and climbing, be it top rope or lead, actually burn a similar amount of calories.
While bouldering burns more in a short amount of time due to its more explosive and intense nature, climbing focuses more on endurance and therefore burns fewer calories, but you’ll be doing it for a longer time!
Indoor and outdoor rock climbing are also said to burn similar amounts of calories, although climbing outdoors tends to burn a bit more on average.
This is because of:
- The increased adrenaline from climbing outside.
- The extra weight you carry if you are on a trad climb.
- The amount of time spent on the wall if you’re on a multi-pitch.
- The journey to the site, which might entail a long-ish hike until you can actually start climbing.
Is There a Weight Limit for Rock Climbing?
No, there isn’t. Anyone can climb, although there is a higher risk of injuries if you are heavier, in cases like a fall, for example. But, you can start to climb, and especially boulder, at almost any weight!
Where weight matters more is in rope climbing and in relation to your climbing partner. If there is a big weight difference between the climber and belayer, there are some points that need to be taken into account. Here’s a more detailed article that dives deeper into weight-limits in rock climbing.
When it comes to gear, most climbing harnesses and other equipment have a maximum weight that you should consider when buying gear, to make sure you’re on the safe side.
When it comes to automatic belay devices at climbing gyms, they also usually have a maximum weight of 120kg.
You don’t need to be superhuman and be able to do 10 pull ups before you start to climb.
Because a lot of your weight actually is carried by your legs while climbing! Your arms and torso help to balance, and the most important thing in climbing is not the size of your biceps, but your technique!
It took me over a year of (quite) consistent climbing outside and about 2 months of more intense gym training until I could do a single pull-up! And that never stopped it from being good fun.
Climbing and Eating Disorders
While you don’t have to be skinny to be a climber, most professional or very advanced climbers are on the smaller side. They aim to optimize their strength to weight ratio, which means they want to be as strong as possible while being as light as possible.
However, the idea of losing weight to improve your climbing is dangerous. You can be a strong climber without being thin, and this misconception of equating skinniness with better performance can be a slippery slope into disordered eating or other harmful habits for your body.
Climbing is a demanding sport, and you need to be strong and healthy to climb at your best, so nourish your body and don’t starve it!
It turns out, younger women who are entering the professional climbing scene seem to especially be suffering from this pressure, but this is not something that is often talked about in the climbing community.
The climbers we see in the media often look the same, but in reality, the climbing community is a lot more diverse, with people of all shapes and sizes climbing successfully, whatever that may mean to you!
Rock Climbing Weight Loss Success Stories
Using rock climbing to lose weight can be a good idea if you know how far to take it. It is a great form of exercise that is a lot of fun and will make a great addition to your lifestyle.
Being social and hanging out with friends while playing around on the rock or climbing wall is a great way to be active, but losing weight should not be at the front of your mind when you’re climbing.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that everyone who starts climbing, loves it, and keeps going is a climbing success story, no matter if they lost weight in the process or not.
However, if you are starting to climb with the specific goal of losing weight, good for you! Just keep in mind what a healthy weight is for you and how you want to feel in your body, rather than how it looks.
How Do Climbers Get So Skinny?
Not all climbing get skinny, as climbing also requires a lot of muscle! But climbing is a full-body workout, and if you continue to climb over a long time, you’re likely to see changes in your body and lose fat, build muscle, and improve your overall fitness.
But keep in mind that you don’t have to be skinny to be a good rock climber: good technique and having fun while climbing will carry you a long way.
Does Rock Climbing Burn Fat?
Yes, rock climbing burns fat because it is a physically demanding sport, and if done on a regular basis, it can increase your caloric burn, help you lose weight, and burn fat in the process.
Is Rock Climbing Good for Weight Loss?
Rock climbing is good for weight loss because it is a very comprehensive exercise that is strength training and cardio training combined. A good climbing training plan can be a way to burn calories and burn fat. However, to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way, other lifestyle and diet changes will be needed to help increase your caloric burn via exercise.
How Much Weight Can You Lose Rock Climbing?
How much weight you lose rock climbing depends greatly on the consistency and intensity of your climbing routine. When you start to climb on a more regular basis, you might start to see changes in muscle tone and loss of some body fat fast. But as you build muscle, you might also put some of the lost “fat-weight” back on, so don’t focus too much on the numbers!
Do You Need Good Upper Body Strength to Rock Climb?
It is definitely helpful to have a good upper body strength to rock climbing, but it is by no means a condition to start and continue climbing! Even if you are not super well-trained, you can start climbing, and over time, with more and more climbing, you will naturally get stronger.
Hi there, I am Mirjam and have recently discovered rock climbing for me while backpacking in Colombia. Originally from Switzerland I currently live in Venezuela and work as a freelance writer and translator. I have always loved being in nature and the mountains and am stoked to explore more of the world’s best climbing in the years to come!
You can find me at @mirigoesround or www.bosstranslations.com