How to Get a Body Like a Rock Climber (According to Trainers) (2023)

From a strong upper body to excellent balance, a rock climber’s body has plenty of desirable features.

Not only does it look fantastic, but the coordination you’ll develop will help you more than you realize.

To covet this look you’ll need to put in a lot of work, especially with your hands and wrists.

You need a lot of grip strength, full-body coordination, a lean body, and minimal body fat. Strong shoulders and a sturdy upper back are also the most.

However, despite the work getting this body will take, fitness beginners and experts alike can start working on this body.

So — how can you get a body like a rock climber?

How to Get a Body Like a Rock Climber (According to Trainers) (1)

A rock climber’s body comes down to being extremely lean and having outstanding forearm and grip strength. You’ll want to strength train at the gym regularly with a heavy emphasis on pull-ups (and other pulling movements) and grip training. Then, you’ll need to cut excess body fat to complete the look.

Let’s check in with a few personal trainers and climbers to find out how you can get a physique like a pro climber.

What Are the Hallmarks of the “Rock Climber Physique”?

“As an avid rock climber, I strive to achieve an overall well-toned physique without over-bulking the muscles,” says Sasha Ludavicius, a dance teacher, personal trainer, and rock climber.

Having too much muscle mass can overpower you while you’re climbing, so you’ll need to strengthen your muscles while avoiding any extra bulk that might weigh you down.

In other words, you’ll need to be strong and extremely lean.

Your upper body does much of the work while rock climbing, so naturally, it’s going to be more built-up than your lower body.

You’ll find that climbers have especially impressive forearms, which powers their unreal grip strength.

However, Sasha emphasis that you need lower body strength and coordination as well as a well-built upper body.

Jeff Parke of Top Fitness Magazine agrees, saying, “Rock climbers also require strong core muscles and hamstrings in order to complete certain climbs.”

But it’s not just the visual aspect that you need to work on, though.

If you want a true rock climber’s body, then you’ll need your physique to function the way a rock climber’s does.

You need to develop a keen sense of balance and coordination from head to toe, and the type of training you’ll do to covet this body will help with that.

(Video) Stop Training Like This If You Want to Get Better at Rock Climbing

Overall, to look like a rock climber you’ll need training that helps you develop:

  • Strong arms, wrists, hands, and shoulders
  • A sturdy core and legs
  • Full-body coordination

Now here’s how to do it:

6 Training Tips for a Rock Climber Body

Knowing what to work towards is one thing, but actually working towards achieving that goal is another.

You’ll need to create a training program to get you there, and the tips below will have you well on your way to getting the body you desire.

1. Eat Well to Lose Fat and Get Lean

Eating well is a given on any fitness journey, but it’s particularly important if you want a body like a rock climber.

You need to be both as strong as possible and as light as possible so your arms can easily hold your body’s weight while climbing (if you plan on actually rock climbing, of course!)

This strength to bodyweight ratio results in a breathtaking physique.

Iain Miller, a professional sea stack climber, advises on the basics of a healthy diet: “Your diet must be as healthy as possible with minimal fried and processed foods.”

Fried and processed foods usually have very few nutrients, and they’re calorie-dense. That’s exactly what you don’t want when slimming down and becoming lean.

If you’re actively trying to lose weight, then you need to be eating in a calorie deficit.

Using an online TDEE/calorie calculator will help you figure out what your body burns in a day. Eating around 500 calories below that will make the weight come right off.

All your extra training will burn even more calories, so don’t forget to include your training regime when selecting how active you are in the calculator.

As you’re eating less, you need to ensure your food is packed with nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fats, good carbs) so it’s a good idea to consume lots of fruit and vegetables with things such as potatoes and whole grain rice.

Lastly, protein is a must. SashaLudavicius swears by a high-protein diet, especially while actively training.

Not only does protein help you feel fuller for longer, but protein repairs your muscles after a workout.

Workouts create microtears in the muscle fibers, but protein builds the muscles back up, thus growing them.

2. Get Ultra-Strong Hands and Wrists

“First and foremost, rock climbers need to have strong wrists and hands,” says Jeff Parke.

This is something that all of the trainers agree on.

(Video) Fitness Advice : Weight Training for Rock Climbing

You really, really need to focus on your grip, and training your grip will lead to developing excellent hand and wrist strength.

There are lots of ways to improve your grip strength. Something as simple as squeezing a stress ball is helpful, and the more resistance it offers the better.

You can also do exercises such as farmer’s walks, which are terrific for grip strength, core, and even your traps.

You can carry kettlebells, dumbbells, or even heavy sacks of flour or sand.

Hauling oddly shaped objects around is a great way to get your hands used to gripping things without a defined shape or size, like rocks.

Aim to hold the object you’re carrying as tightly as possible, and do the same when you’re training using a bar — pull-ups on thick bars are a fantastic way to work on your grip.

(They even make pull-up bars that use special rock climbing grips.)

If a thick pull-up bar is hard to come by, then visit your local soccer field. The goalposts have thick bars that can be used to complete your pull-up workout.

Another way to use pull-ups to your advantage is by using a towel to perform them.

Hook a towel over your pull-up bar and grab a handful of it on each side. Now perform your pull-ups as normal.

You’ll be holding a strangely shaped bunch of fabric while working your arm and hand muscles, and your grip will improve.

Daniel Richter, personal trainer and CEO of stands by this towel trick.

He also suggests using gymnastic rings or ropes during pullups to improve your grip strength.

3. Develop a Keen Sense of Balance

Jeff Parke recommends training with a Bosu ball or Thera-band to improve your balance, and Sasha Ludavicius finds hot yoga and Capoeira excellent for balance, too.

Hot yoga and Capoeira are also fantastic for your hand strength as they both include exercises such as hand-stands; you’re training balance and hand strength in one!

Yoga, Capoeira, pilates, barre, and similar workouts are all wonderful for helping you not only train your muscles, but get in touch with your body.

They’ll help you learn coordination and flexibility.

That’s vital for safety while rock climbing, and it’s perfect for getting an authentic rock climber’s body.

(Video) How to Train for Climbing [Full Body Guide ft. Dan Beall] (2023)

Consider checking out a few classes in your area or at your gym. A highly qualified instructor will know exactly what you need to get started on your path to balance and coordinattion.

You can work on your balance in your day-to-day life, too.

Try standing on your toes while you’re making coffee or walk around your house on tip-toe, as high as you can go.

It may sound ridiculous, but walking on your toes can really help your body learn to tackle situations that could put you off-balance.

4. Dance to Develop Endurance & Body Control

You can also work on your balance through dance.

According to Sasha Ludavicius, “Any form of dance training introduces the utilization of the coordination of the upper and lower body simultaneously or exploring isometric movements.”

Ballet is particularly useful for balance, but all other forms of dance can help you coordinate your body and have your limbs move together in harmony.

Most forms of dance classes also help improve your strength, conditioning, and overall fitness level.

It’s a fantastic full-body cardio workout.

Consider trying out a few dance classes, or even grab a copy of Just Dance if you’re a gamer and want to make your training interesting.

Following along to dance workouts online can even work in your favor.

5. Do Real Climbing or Perform Lots of Pulling Exercises

A great way to build your grip strength and pulling muscles?

Do actual rock climbing!

Get a membership at a rock climbing gym and start by learning the basics. Your forearms will be screaming at you after your first class, and in no time, you’ll find yourself developing new levels of strength.

If you can’t make it to a climbing gym, make sure to do plenty of pulls at the regular gym.

Pull-ups and other exercises on the pull-up bar are a great way to work out your arms, back, and shoulders.

You can mix this upper body training with your grip training—remember, using a thick pullup bar is great for grip!

Using a thin pullup bar, however, is also a great way to train your grip and your entire upper body.

(Video) Getting Stronger Quickly as a Beginner!

Iain Miller suggests starting out on a standard bar and using thinner ones as you progress.

He also suggests using a finger board or hanging board to really lock in your fitness once the regular pull-up bar is no longer challenging.

If you struggle to start with pull-ups, then TJ Mentus, personal trainer, suggests doing inverted bodyweight rows.

If that’s not for you, then he says using resistance bands for assisted pull-ups would be a good idea.

It’s also a good idea to incorporate pulling motions at other angles like barbell rows, high rows, deadlifts, and more.

6. Don’t Neglect Your Core or Legs

Rock climbing isn’t all about upper body strength.

While climbers have elite grip strength, much of their climbing power actually comes from their legs and core.

Many of the tips above—particularly doing yoga and dance—will help train up your legs and core, but you should still give them some attention on their own.

You’re not trying to build huge, heavily muscled legs or a chiseled 6-pack when coveting a rock climber’s body.

But you still need to gain functional strength and lean muscle in these areas.

Some great exercises for your legs are:

  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Plank leg lifts
  • Step-ups

And to work out your core, consider challenging moves like:

  • Planks
  • Bridges
  • Russian twists

Incorporate these movements into your regular strength training workouts at the gym.

If you can gain strength on exercises like pull-ups, squats, and planks — while simultaneously learning climbing technique and developing body control through dance, pilates, or barre — you’ll be well on your way!

Wrapping Up

Coveting a rock climber’s body will involve a lot of training, particularly for your grip, but it’s fully achievable for everyone, beginners included.

It’s not going to be easy, but it’s definitely going to be worth it when you start seeing muscle definition and an improvement in your overall health and wellbeing.

Try going on a rock climbing adventure (indoor or out) every once in a while to see how well your training is going.

If you notice that you’re improving with every session, then you know it’s working.

(Video) How to maintain Climbing Fitness with very little effort - Training routine

Just stick with your plan long-term and you’re sure to smash right through your goals!

For more, check out:

  • How to get a boxer’s body
  • How to get a football player’s body
  • How to get a wrestler’s body
  • How to get a runner’s body

Hope this helps!


How do you get a rock climber's body? ›

7 Home Workout Exercises for Rock Climbers
  1. Door Frame Pull-ups (upper body) ...
  2. Textbook Hold (grip) ...
  3. Plank (core) ...
  4. Tricep Dips (upper body) ...
  5. Single-leg Toe Touches (lower body and balance) ...
  6. 30-second One-Legged Balance Stand (balance) ...
  7. Wrist Winds (forearm strength)
Apr 17, 2020

Can you get a good body from rock climbing? ›

Builds muscle strength

It's not surprising that hauling your body up a cliff wall builds muscle in your arms, but climbing is a full-body exercise. In addition to giving your biceps, triceps and deltoids a workout, it also calls on your abdominals, obliques, glutes, thighs, calves and more.

What is the ideal body type for rock climbing? ›

Most climbing styles: Lean, long limbs, flexible, better than average muscular endurance, much better than average grip strength. Bouldering: Shorter, often stockier builds focusing on power and explosive movements. In general I would compare the climber's physique to a swimmers, except leaner.

Why are climbers so skinny? ›

The weight can take a massive toll on your arms and even hinder effective gripping. That's why the weight of rock climbers is generally lower, and they look skinny. They can carry their lightweight body easily without exceedingly straining their arms.

Do rock climbers have to be skinny? ›

Wondering if you weigh too much to start climbing is a common fear for beginning climbers. The short answer is "No, you don't have to be stick-figure thin to be a good rock climber."

Do you need a lot of upper body strength to rock climb? ›

Crank up the power: Climbing and bouldering require upper body strength, but don't neglect your lower limbs. Build endurance: Build up your endurance so your muscles don't get fatigued too soon and so you can climb continuously on longer routes and over longer periods.

How strong do you have to be to be a rock climber? ›

There is a lifetime of climbing out there for you that requires no more than the ability to hold onto a bucket, keep your balance and push up with your legs! You don't need a strong upper body to rock climb, but you will find, in developing your technique, you will gain upper body strength if you continue to climb.

How long does it take to get fit from rock climbing? ›

You'll likely see the most gains building muscle as a climber in your first three months. Bear in mind that assumes you climb two to three times a week and for an hour each time. After about six months, you may find your muscle mass levels off, although you'll likely keep your toned physique for as long as you climb.

Is it better to be tall or short for rock climbing? ›

Essentially, taller climbers are good because of their height, while shorter climbers are good because they are stronger and, perhaps, technically better. For the shorter climber, strength counts more.

What is a climbers physique? ›

After the initial increase in muscle mass, climbers don't continue building larger muscles, which is why the climber's physique is usually thought of as lean, cut, and toned - not “big.” When climbing, it is important to carry as little weight up the wall as possible.

Do girls find climbing attractive? ›

That must be the concussion talking. Seriously, though, the numbers don't lie: according to a survey, rock climbing was the sport with the most sex appeal to women: 57 percent of the survey's female respondents found climbing sexy, the highest rate of all the sports included.

Why do climbers get hunchback? ›

Climber's Hunch has both primary and secondary causes. The primary cause is poor core activation and poor postural awareness leading to poor sustained postures. This leads to unideal anatomical adaptations, which become the secondary causes.

Is climbing once a week enough to improve? ›

Going once a week will see your climbing improve slowly over time whereas we feel going 3 times a week will see you climbing to the top in no time. Climbing multiple times a week will also help rapidly increase grip strength and kick-start weight loss.

Why do rock climbers shake their arms? ›

The pump sensation you feel in the forearms is largely the result of accumulated lactic acid and restricted blood flow. While the dangling-arm shakeout allows good blood flow into the forearm, it doesn't help the flow of “old blood” out of the forearm, due to the arm's position below your heart.

What cardio is best for climbers? ›

Running is the best choice, as cycling is more prone to building up leg muscles. Swimming can be excellent for rehabilitating climbing injuries, but it will drain your upper-body muscles unless you have extremely good technique and take it easy.

What makes a strong climber? ›

One of the things that makes great climbers successful is their ability to tackle the mental obstacles that come with climbing. Many riders are defeated before the climb begins due to negative self-talk and a poor attitude. Develop the mental strength and psychological tools needed to tackle any ascent.

At what age do climbers peak? ›

The model estimated that a person's hardest grade will gradually increase between the early 20's and the early 40's, on average. Climbing grade peaked in the model at age 42 before starting to decline thereafter.

What is a rock climbers diet? ›

A basic climbing diet should consistent of plenty of fresh vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats, and unprocessed foods, plus a limited amount of refined sugar and unhealthy fats. The most important part of a solid climbing diet is to be knowledgeable about what you're putting into your body.

How do rock climbers stay in shape? ›

10 exercises for climbers
  1. Push-ups. Push-ups are a great antagonist exercise, meaning they target the pushing muscles not commonly used during climbing. ...
  2. Pull-ups. ...
  3. Wide grip lat pulldowns. ...
  4. Lying triceps extension. ...
  5. Resistance band pull-apart. ...
  6. Front dumbbell raises. ...
  7. Single-arm dumbbell rows. ...
  8. Kettlebell swings.
Jun 27, 2022

Why do climbers have fat fingers? ›

The reason rock climbers do sometimes have thicker-looking fingers is tied to both how often and how hard they train. Supporting so much weight on the fingers causes the tendons to grow, sometimes doubling in size. The bones also can thicken to help protect the digit from stress damage like microfractures.

What is the most important muscle for rock climbing? ›

Leg muscles: the real strength in climbing comes from the legs, particularly the quadriceps muscle. Other important muscles are the hamstrings, gluteals and calf muscles. Shoulder muscles: deltoids and rotator cuff. Torso muscles: pectoralis major (smaller role), latissimus dorsi and rhomboids.

Do you use your legs or arms more rock climbing? ›

Use your legs. As noted above, your legs are stronger than your arms and you should use this to your advantage. Your legs carry your weight every day, but routinely your arms only carry a fraction of it. New climbers tend to focus on their arms and pull themselves up the wall.

How often should you climb a week? ›

Find a way to schedule at least two climbing sessions per week (3 or 4 is ideal)–any bouldering or roped climbing session, indoors or outdoors, counts towards this total.

What grade is the average climber? ›

Most casual boulderers climb between V4 and V7 routes. Intermediate routes are usually considered equivalent to climbs 6A/+ through 7A on the Font Scale. 3. V7 through V10: The routes with a V grade labeled 7 through 10 are advanced.

Does weight Matter rock climbing? ›

A high strength-to-weight ratio is needed in climbing. Most climbers try to optimize that by losing weight. Anecdotes are ubiquitous. The message is clear and persistent: Shed weight if you want to climb hard.

Do you need to be in shape to start rock climbing? ›

Rock climbing is a fun but challenging sport, and being fit will help you climb safely. Getting in good shape for rock climbing requires both strength training and cardio, as you'll need both for climbing.

Is rock climbing hard on the body? ›

Rock climbing is a full-body workout, and you'll need the power of your glutes, along with your leg muscles, to propel yourself upward. Back: Yes. Muscles like your rhomboids, trapezius, and lats work with your core to keep you stable on the wall.

Can you get ripped from just climbing? ›

Can you get ripped rock climbing? Rock climbing may not bulk you up as well as lifting weights in a gym, but it will definitely help tone your entire body. Some of the obvious changes will be in your upper back and biceps, but the smaller more targeted parts will include forearms and calves.

What muscles are not used in climbing? ›

Climbing provides a rigorous workout for the pull muscles, but demands much less of the opposing push muscles of the chest (specifically the pectoral muscles), shoulders, and upper arms.

Are longer arms better for climbing? ›

The ape index is measured because in sports like rock climbing, swimming, boxing, and basketball it's considered an advantage to have long arms for your height.

Are longer legs better for climbing? ›

It's also worth pointing out that longer limbs are going to be harder to keep on the wall on steep ground. That extra leverage is going to require greater core strength to stop the feet cutting free. So, reach is a definite advantage, but those extra-long limbs are not without their down sides.

Which is harder climbing up or down? ›

Climbing down steep rock is usually harder than going up, because of the difficulty in seeing holds from above and the normal reluctance of climbers to reach down and work their hands low enough as they descend.

How do you stay lean for rock climbing? ›

Don't eat too much, don't exercise too much (but exercise enough), eat whole foods that you prepare, don't eat too many carbs, figure out if you have food sensitivities, don't be a freak about how much you exercise, drink a lot of water, and get enough sleep. Simple, right?

What is the average age of climbers? ›

Climber Age Breakdown

Interestingly enough, the average age of climbers is 40+ years old, which represents 53% of the population.

What grade do most climbers climb? ›

Each grading system ranks these variables differently, which is why each system is subjective and unique. For our purposes, beginner climbers should look for climbs at 5.6, professionals and advanced climbers should try 5.11c or 5.14d climbs.

How can you tell if someone is climbing? ›

Social climbers use friendships to enhance their own status.
  1. She's Status Driven. ...
  2. She's a Name Dropper. ...
  3. She's Overly Concerned with Appearances. ...
  4. She's a Selective Friend Poacher. ...
  5. She's a User. ...
  6. She Lacks Empathy. ...
  7. She's Unreliable. ...
  8. She's a Queen Bee.
Jan 8, 2012

What muscle imbalance do climbers have? ›

Climbers commonly experience uneven shoulder strength, which can be noticeable when locking off. Also uneven forearm strength. And tight chest muscles due to overdeveloped lats. Imbalances can cause tendonitis, muscle strain, and rotator cuff injuries, and poor posture and subsequent back and neck pain.

Can I reverse my hunchback? ›

Can you reverse or cure a dowager's hump? Dr. Wilson says depending on your age and the severity, you often can improve or reverse this problem. You can accomplish this by strengthening the upper back muscles; increasing tone helps pull up the shoulders and the head.

Do climbers get arthritis? ›

A study in the US has found there is no greater risk of osteoarthritis in rock climbers compared to non climbers, contrary to previous theory. A study in the US has found there is no greater risk of osteoarthritis in rock climbers compared to non climbers, contrary to previous theory.

Does climbing change your body? ›

It's not surprising that hauling your body up a cliff wall builds muscle in your arms, but climbing is a full-body exercise. In addition to giving your biceps, triceps and deltoids a workout, it also calls on your abdominals, obliques, glutes, thighs, calves and more.

Does climbing get easier? ›

There are no-shortcuts; efficient movement and careful footwork can take years of practice to develop. However, climbing is just as much of a mental sport as a physical one. Building up your strength will only get you so far if you fail to develop the mental and logistical aspects.

Does climbing give you a good body? ›

Climbing offers a unique combination of physical and mental health benefits. Regular climbing can improve your overall stamina. It also works multiple muscle groups, both in the upper and lower body, including your: back.

Why do climbers tape their fingers? ›

Finger taping is used frequently among climbers. Tape is used for a variety of reasons including protecting skin, supporting finger joints and connective tissue, and to decrease finger pain while climbing.

Why is rock climbing addictive? ›

What Makes Rock Climbing So Addictive. Since rock climbing is a form of intense, full-body exercise, it can produce endorphins, adrenaline, dopamine, and other positive hormone releases.

What should I eat after climbing? ›

You want to aim to get roughly 45-60 grams of carbohydrates in your post-climb meal. Choose wholesome carbohydrate-rich foods like whole grains (rice, quinoa, barley, oats, whole grain bread and pasta), fruits, and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, peas and corn.

How do rock climbers get thicker skin? ›

Getting good climbing skin is easily achievable. All you have to do is climb. Climbing several times a week hardens the calluses to a nice, thick consistency. But when the skin starts to get too thick or to ”roll-up”, bring on the nail clippers and sandpaper.

How do rock climbers get so lean? ›

As you engage in the high-intensity exercise, you'll increase your metabolic rate, burn more calories, and shed weight. You can also build muscle and increase strength, a vital element in rock climbing.

How do rock climbers get so strong? ›

The best way to train for rock climbing is to spend time climbing—whether you do at the gym or the crag. Having a focused strength and endurance training plan will also translate to improvements when you're taking on the next problem.

What do rock climbers poop in? ›

You poop into a bag, just like you do on Mount Rainier, and then you put the sealed bag into a “poop tube,” or PVC pipe with caps on both ends, which you haul up the climb with you.

Does climbing make your arms bigger? ›

No matter what type of climbing you do, be it bouldering or route climbing, it will build muscle in certain areas of your body which will help you climb more efficiently later. The areas you'll see the biggest transformation are in your forearms, back, arms and core.

Why do climbers file their fingers? ›

The goal of sanding down your fingers is to encourage even & smooth callus growth. You don't want the thick layers that tend to build up around the finger joints. Too much callus can get caught on rough edges on some holds & is likely to cause skin tears or flappers.

How long does it take to build strength for rock climbing? ›

You'll likely see the most gains building muscle as a climber in your first three months. Bear in mind that assumes you climb two to three times a week and for an hour each time. After about six months, you may find your muscle mass levels off, although you'll likely keep your toned physique for as long as you climb.

Do you need to be fit to go rock climbing? ›

Good for beginners: Climbing requires a basic level of strength and fitness, so it's probably not for you if you're not active now. Outdoors: Yes. Most new climbers start out at indoor rock gyms, but there are many climbing sites outdoors.

How do female climbers pee? ›

Leave your climbing harness on to pee. With most harnesses, the stretchy leg loop connetors in the back don't even need to be unclipped. Leave the waist on, and pull the leg loops down with your pants, pee, and then pull it all back up. Practice this at home with a few layers on to ensure it goes smoothly.

How do free climbers sleep? ›

There's no need for an enclosed shelter when the weather's nice, so climbers sleep in the open air, instead of using the rain fly. They'll sleep with a lightweight sleeping pad and sleeping bag for comfort and warmth, the same gear that most campers opt for when sleeping in a tent.

Do rock climbers drink? ›

Climbing requires a properly hydrated body. Ideally, a climber will drink 16- 20 ounces before starting a long climb. The body can only absorb about 36 fluid ounces per hour. Drinking too much will leave you uncomfortable.


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