Bouldering for Beginners: Benefits + Tips

This article was written by Sarah Josephsen and first appeared on Climb Fit

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SO, YOU DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT BOULDERING, BUT YOU'RE KEEN TO GIVE IT A GO. AS IT HAPPENS, BOULDERING IS A FANTASTIC ALL BODY AEROBIC EXERCISE THAT DOUBLES UP AS AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO BOOST YOUR STRENGTH TRAINING. IT COMES WITH A RANGE OF BENEFITS, AND THERE'S A LOT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GET STARTED.

Don't worry; we're here to make everything easier for you. Below, you'll find our comprehensive guide:

The aim isn't to climb a massive wall; it's more to accomplish specific routes and progress in the grading

The aim isn't to climb a massive wall; it's more to accomplish specific routes and progress in the grading

Bouldering for beginners

At its core, bouldering is essentially rock climbing. You have a rock climbing wall in front of you, and you still have to scale it.

There are a couple of crucial differences between bouldering and rock climbing. Primarily, you don't have harnesses or safety support with bouldering. It's just you, your special bouldering shoes and a few safety mats below to soften the blow if you fall. The distances you climb are substantially shorter, but the moves are more powerful. The aim isn't to climb a massive wall; it's more to accomplish specific routes and progress in the grading.

What are the benefits of bouldering?

Bouldering has many fitness-related benefits that might shock you. Although the perception of bouldering as an activity is simple due to the short walls and rest opportunities, on the contrary, it's one of the best full body anaerobic plus aerobic workouts you can get and can be considered an alternative to traditional weight training.

So, if we were to look at the significant benefits, then these are the highlights:

Improves your strength training

The very nature of bouldering means you work your major muscle groups on a full body compound. Your core is activated, the upper body works under full ranges of movement, and you even are pushing the legs. The fact that you are working with your body weight makes it a great calisthenic option to improve your strength efficiently.

Boosts your concentration

An underrated feature of rock climbing is that you have to concentrate on the exercise at hand. It's all about planning your next move and ensuring you make the correct decision, along with moving your body into the correct positioning, which makes it a much more stimulating mode in comparison to traditional weight training.

Great for your forearms/grip strength

Due to constant typing on a computer, a lot of us have weakened forearms. As a result, our grip strength is awful too. One of the critical aspects of bouldering is that it works on your grip strength. This can help prevent issues like carpal tunnel syndrome and forearm cramping.

Helps improve stamina

The longer your session, the more a bouldering workout will help your endurance. Yes, it's primarily about power and strength training, but your fitness and cardio ability in hand improve as the anaerobic threshold is pushed. It takes a lot of energy to keep yourself held in positions and maneuvering your body from point to point. Do this for an hour, and you'll see the stamina benefits after a few sessions.

Develop problem-solving skills

Bouldering forces you to think about solutions all the time. What's the best route to take? What should my next move be? How can I position my body to reach that? You have to think quickly, and this develops your problem-solving ability.

Fun and social experience

Lastly, bouldering is so much fun. You usually take part in sessions with a group of other like-minded people, and watch or help each other out with tips or tricks, so it's also very much a social experience.

The proper bouldering attire: do you need bouldering shoes?

Before you get started, it's crucial to understand how you should dress when you go bouldering. The good news is that there isn't a strict dress code. Mostly, you can wear what you'd typically wear to the gym; shorts/leggings, and a shirt. It's recommended that you wear clothing that's easier for you to move in and stretches well. If it's too restrictive - particularly in the lower body region - then it can be hard to make some of the moves.

However, there is one main thing you should go out and invest in; climbing shoes.

What are climbing shoes?

Climbing shoes, sometimes called bouldering shoes, are specifically designed to make a beneficial impact on ability on the wall. The idea behind them is a tight fitting, solid rubber compound shoes with an edge in the toe area. As a result, you can place your feet on the small little rock surfaces, which you certainly wouldn't be able to hold in regular shoes.

We won't lie, they're a little bit weird if you compare them to the shoes you usually wear! What's more, they feel strange when you try them on for the first time, as they will be tighter, stiffer, and thinner than traditional running shoes.

When it comes to bouldering for beginners, the best course of action is to get an essential all-around climbing shoe that has a neutral profile. Go for something flat, and also is firm in fit, but not very tight. Think of them as your training wheels; they help you get used to the unique style of footwear, so it's easier to progress to more extreme/aggressive varieties in the future. You shouldn't have to dread putting on your climbing shoes every session.

Essentially, the job of a bouldering shoe is to create your "interface" experience which is how you feel when you connect to a surface. The main aim is to find a bouldering shoe that works for you now and in the future as your climbing develops and improves as your experiences grows

Climbing shoes, sometimes called bouldering shoes, are specifically designed to make a beneficial impact on ability on the wall

Climbing shoes, sometimes called bouldering shoes, are specifically designed to make a beneficial impact on ability on the wall

Suggestions for your first pair of climbing shoes

Dean from The Frontier has kindly contributed some expert advice on what to consider when investing a pair of shiny brand new climbing shoes

His suggestion for first-time climbers adhere to the three golden rules for your first pair of climbing shoes;

  1. Don’t over-invest in your first pair of shoes

  2. You are going to give your first pair of shoes a hard time from foot-dragging and the like

  3. You won’t really know what you are looking for in a climbing shoe until your third pair of shoes

With this advice in hand here are some great suggestions below for first timers

How can you start bouldering?

Bouldering can be pretty scary when you've not done it before. However, things are much easier if you're in a safe and comfortable environment. Bouldering can appear daunting from a first-time perspective, but with a safe and comfortable environment, those concerns quickly dissipate. If you want advice on the best way to get started, then here are a few tips to follow:

Get all your bouldering gear together

Make sure you have appropriate clothing and bouldering shoes. Also, buy some chalk to absorb sweat in the hands and give you more friction/grip - Shoes are the priority.

Book a bouldering workshop

The best way to experience bouldering for the first time is through a workshop.

If you are a Sydney-sider, at Climb Fit Kirrawee, we offer bouldering for beginners workshops  that you can book into. There are limited spaces, so make sure you book as early as you can. Here, you'll learn all the basics about bouldering and the different climbing techniques involved. It's the best way to get started.

PS. Did you know She Went Wild organise beginner bouldering workshops across Australia and the UK?

Keep at it

The more you do it, the stronger and more efficient in the technique you'll become. Even if you find it hard, consistency and trying harder moves is what will improve your abilities further, and you'll be ticking off routes in no time! The initial daunted emotion will fade away, and you start to enjoy it more and more!

Read more: How Climbing Altered My Perception of the World

The more you do it, the stronger and more efficient in the technique you'll become!

The more you do it, the stronger and more efficient in the technique you'll become!

Top bouldering tips for beginners

Yes, there are plenty of tips and tricks that beginners should take on board before they get going. We've already mentioned a few above; get all the right gear together, consistency in training, utilising a clinic/workshop, etc.

In conjunction with these tips, there are a few others that you'll find helpful as well:

ALWAYS STRETCH BEFORE EACH SESSION

Stretching is essential as you're going to experience lots of muscle fatigue when bouldering. You hold your body in the same position for seconds on end, which means the muscles are constantly contracting, and thus you'll experience "the pump". Stretching is also valuable in preventing injuries in tendons etc.

WORK ON YOUR GRIP STRENGTH

Bouldering is much easier when you have impressive grip strength. While yours will improve as the sessions progress, you should still work on it in your spare time. There are different modes of exercises you can do - like slower more accentuated movements while climbing.

UTILISE RESISTANCE TRAINING

If you want to get better at bouldering, then the best course is always to keep on bouldering. However, things like pull-ups and weight training will also give a higher edge in ability. Picking up weights routine will not only give you that strength/power improvement, but will also indirectly engage your core, improve the muscle networks that may be neglected and also prevent injury by engaging/strengthening supporting muscles in the shoulder assembly etc.

TAKE IT SLOW

Listen, you're not going to be an expert from day one. So, don't feel embarrassed if you're stuck on the simple beginner routes for a few weeks. Take it slow, and you will progress. Try to bite off too much too soon, as the risk of a strained muscle or hurting yourself will put you behind schedule on being on the walls improving!

On that note, we've come to the end of our guide to bouldering for beginners. If you still have any questions, or you'd like to book a bouldering session, then feel free to contact us today. We can help kickstart your bouldering journey, so you'll soon be hanging from the walls in our gym!

This article was written by Sarah Josephsen and first appeared on Climb Fit

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Sarah Josephsen

SARAH JOSEPHSEN

Sarah Josephsen is a Sydney-sider, the director of Climb Fit Sydney and Kirrawee and a Lululemon Legacy Ambassador. She is passionate about all things active + outdoors.

Come say hi in person at one of Climb Fit’s two locations, St Leonards and Kirrawee.