A lot has been written about the best way to build strength and muscle size and sometimes it can be difficult to know what exactly you should listen to. One key point to remember is that there is no one size fits all approach to exercise. Take the London 2012 Olympics for example, many different athletes all competing at different events, training in different ways still have a similar physique. Instead of trying to find the single greatest exercise tool we should instead be increasing the size of our exercise tool box. What I mean by this is that we need to expand our training horizon and try different methods of training. Climbing is a great example of this. It is short duration, can involve intense power and strength based moves, incorporates both upper and lower body, is great fun, can be done with friends or colleagues and is a great workout.
There are different types of climbing and generally they come under three different categories: climbing with a top rope, sport climbing and traditional climbing.
Climbing with a top rope involves climbing with a rope that is wrapped around a device at the top of the wall. This is virtually no risk and can be completed by anyone, sometimes by yourself but usually with the assistance of a friend or instructor. Sport climbing is where you climb a pre-set route where someone has attached bolts to the wall or rock face. This is considered to be quite low risk and is something that anyone can do provided that you have an instructor or go with someone who is an experienced climber. Traditional climbing is again where you follow a pre-set route but you personally place a variety of equipment including nuts, slings and CAMS as you climb up the wall. This is considered to be higher risk than sport climbing and will definitely need to be done with an experienced climber or climbing instructor.
That’s a basic intro into climbing. Now on to the more important stuff; how does this apply to training and can I achieve the same results climbing that I can from going to the gym. The answer is yes and no.
Climbing a challenging climb will generally involve roughly 6-12 movements of each limb, which is exactly the same as you would normally do in the gym. You might hear a lot of people asking how many REPS of each exercise should I do if I want to put on a bit of size and also lose some fat? Well, the answer is somewhere in the range of 6-12 REPS, aka exactly the same as you would do in a standard climb. Perfect, so you can achieve the same results doing something pretty exhilarating as you can in the gym (although for me lifting weights is pretty exhilarating as well, but you get the point).
However, when you climb you are mainly pulling with arms and back and pushing with your legs. This means that legs, latts (the wings on the side of your back), biceps and triceps will get a great workout but your mid to upper back and chest will be fairly inactive.
Therefore yes you can get a great strength and fat loss based workout but this needs to be combined with some work in the gym as well.
So why not give it a try, if you’re okay with heights and even if you’re not okay with heights I’m sure that you can get better I guarantee you that you will have a great time and will be achieving exactly the same results as you would in the gym.
I would suggest having a look for your local climbing centre and start with something fairly easy and simple and then take it from there.