Is rock climbing a good sport to lose weight? How to burn calories, get stronger, and have fun losing a few pounds!

By Ismana Webster
Oct 21 2022

Is rock climbing a good sport to lose weight? How to burn calories, get stronger, and have fun losing a few pounds!

If the treadmill is feeling tedious and your motivation to lift weights is waning, you might be feeling like an adventure-filled sport to add some excitement. You have friends who rock climb, and start to wonder…is rock climbing a good sport to lose weight?

With a calorie burn of 500-900 per hour – depending on how hard/fast you climb, and how much of your time is spent chatting to your mates and getting chalk all over yourself – rock climbing is a full body workout and great for weight loss. Rock climbing really is a whole body workout, you’ll work your grip strength, back, shoulders, arms, leg muscles, and your core muscles will be lit up! 

Why is rock climbing good for losing weight? Does rock climbing burn fat?

Is rock climbing a good sport to lose weight?

Resistance training is an important part of weight loss as you want to build and preserve calorically expensive muscle tissue. Rock is great for burning calories, and is a great way to get a whole body resistance workout in and burn some fat without feeling like a slave to the gym. 

Not only is climbing good for weight loss, but rock climbing is also great for both cardio and strength training at the same time. Climbing also helps with stability, balance, and even mobility, and range of motion. 

Of course, the saying goes you can’t out-train a bad diet, and unfortunately, you can’t out-climb one either. While you can lose weight rock climbing, your rock climb workouts should be supplementary to an appropriate calorie deficit to achieve your weight loss.

Climbing – for both strength, and fitness

Rock climbing is a great upper body strength workout – you are pulling your entire body weight up a wall – your legs will also do some work, and your aerobic and endurance fitness will improve too. Rock climbing training is no joke! climb the wall a few times in a row and you’ll be sweating buckets, panting like a labrador on a hot summer’s day, wondering why you thought you needed the treadmill. The beauty of climbing is you get out what you put into it. If you want to take it easy and have a relaxed, fun time, you can. If you want to make it a tough workout, you can. 

Beginners can start on easier climbs with bigger holds and moves which require less upper body strength and endurance, and as you get better you progress to more technical ‘problems’ (that’s climbing lingo for routes/climbs) which require and build more strength and stamina. You can rest as much or as little as you like, and if you go with friends it doesn’t even feel like a workout!

Outdoor Climbing

There’s something very liberating and thrilling about climbing outdoors. Scaling a giant rock, surrounded by nature, with a chalk bag and some climbing shoes, maybe a rope and harness. 

Climbing outdoors is fun, but to start climbing outside does require more kit and company than indoors. Depending on the type of climbing, you will also need an experienced spotter or a trustworthy belayer (someone hanging on the end of a rope to save your butt if you fall). 

While you absolutely can go from zero to outdoors, it is harder to do (you also need to find appropriate climbing spots that you can access), and often requires more of an initial strength to weight ratio, as well as fitness, as there aren’t many giant juggy handholds out in the wilderness that are easy to hold on to. Many climbing spots also require a hike to get to. You should never climb alone outdoors if you are a beginner due to the injury risk from falling.

Indoor climbing

woman indoor climbing

Indoor climbing is more accessible for a beginner and provides a safer learning environment. The bouldering areas in gyms for climbing without ropes have big crash mats underneath the walls, so while there is still a risk in falling, you have a nice soft landing and are far less likely to hurt yourself. 

Roped climbing walls are only for the use of those who can prove they know how to belay and tie the correct knots, so you can be a little more certain your climbing/belaying partner is competent, unlike that girl you met at a bar with the broken leg, who went climbing once and dropped her climbing partner on top of herself, really wants to climb with you!

At a rock climbing gym, there will be lots of different colored holds. Each color will represent the difficulty, there will be a chart somewhere in the gym explaining which color is what grade. Start at the beginning! You’ll be able to spot ‘routes’ up the wall made of each color, these are ‘problems’. Somewhere near the bottom wall will be some sort of indicator next to a hold or 2, that will be your starting point. Get your hands on, find your first foothold, and off you go. You complete a ‘problem’ when both hands are touching the highest hold of your color.

Different types of climbing – bouldering

The easiest and most accessible place to start is bouldering. This type of climbing only requires chalk and climbing shoes. The walls indoors are only a few meters tall, and you don’t need rope.

Get your shoes on, fling some chalk around (the most efficient way to spread chalk far and wide is to get too much on your hands, then clap a few times), and off you go. If you fall, you should be able to land on your feet, and if you do topple over you have a lovely soft squishy landing so generally no harm done. 

Bouldering is a great option if you want to lose weight, as you don’t have to take turns belaying your climbing partner, so you can turn your climb into high intensity interval training by climbing up and down the wall as fast as you can, resting, then going again.

Different types of climbing – roped

Roped climbing varies in risk and accessibility. Top roping is the easiest, there is already an anchor for your rope at the top, you dangle off one end of the rope in your harness and climb, your belayer controls the other end, then you swap over. 

Sport climbing requires more climbing ability and involves clipping your rope into various anchors as you climb up the wall. 

Trad climbing involves bringing your own anchors up to secure into crevices and cracks in the wall. The latter two require more bravery, skill, and faith in your belayer, as if you fall before a clip you have a big drop until the rope catches you! 

What equipment do I need?

If you go to a climbing gym, you can hire everything you need including shoes and chalk before you commit to buying anything. If you are bouldering, this is all you need. If you want to get into rope climbing you will need a bigger kit list, including harness, a belay device, protective gear such as a helmet, and much more.

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