Does Rock Climbing Build Muscles?

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Does rock climbing build muscles? Climbing in general and rock climbing, route climbing, or bouldering, in particular, are definitely good and fun sports for your whole body. You can go to climbing gyms or indoor rock gyms to practice this type of exercise.

Besides being a full-body workout, rock climbing also requires the will and patience of beginner climbers.

But is rock climbing the proper technique to build muscle mass or help you get ripped? We’ll help you figure it out in the next sections.

Which Muscles are Used in Rock Climbing?

Before getting into the main topic, you need to be aware of whether you work your muscles while rock climbing. If yes, what exactly are those muscles? And how does climbing affect them?

In fact, rock climbing, bouldering, or indoor climbing gym are all effective for building your muscles. These activities require the participation of both major and minor groups.

Upper Body

The effect of rock climbing is almost similar to other extreme sports. The upper part is the most observable place where adding muscle. This is because of the grip and pull-up action, which helps moving upward.

The first to mention is your forearm strength. The stronger your forearms are, the more solid your grip will become. Your tendons will also benefit from enhanced rock climbing performance. Strong muscles make it easier to take rests during a climb.

Besides, forearm flexors and biceps are both related to grip strength. The flexors, the main arm muscles working (flexor pollicis longus, flexor carpi radialis, etc.), let you open and close your hands around objects to hold the rock. The biceps also contribute to this movement since they ensure you’re hanging onto the wall of rock.

Moreover, the flexors and biceps are also the smallest muscles involved in the climb. As a result, they can get exhausted quickly, which climbers call a “flash pump”.

You will see a pump feel in your forearms after a short time of climbing. Experienced climbers won’t feel this pain so you should spend more time practicing.

Your back is the second area markedly affected by the pull-ups. Latissimus dorsi is the big wing-shaped muscle on the side of your back. You will use them to push the body upward from one handhold to another.

What’s more, your shoulders also work at their full capacity. They have a muscle called anterior deltoid used to push your forearms back so you can reach higher and make bigger moves.

Then the rhomboids retract your shoulder blades to hold your torso in place. This means your chest will be kept close to the rock’s surface and ready for the next reach.

muscles used in rock climbing

Many expert climbers rely mainly on their lower body muscles to pull themselves up. But on some super-tough routes, the leg muscles can’t provide enough pushing force. You need to distribute the force evenly between the lower body and your shoulders to pull yourself up towards your hands.

In summary, the muscles that worked the most on your upper body are as below:

  • Finger, forearm flexors
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Deltoids
  • Latissimus dorsi

Core Strength

The middle body offers a balance between muscle and strength training to stabilize the whole body and keep it close to the rock.

Strong core muscles are important in climb overhangs since they share the burden of the upper muscles and take off muscle strain, increasing your endurance for a longer climb.

Sasha DiGiulian Pro Climber
Sasha DiGiulian Pro Climber

The abs (short for abdominal muscles) make sure your pelvis aligns with your chest, keeping the center of gravity of the entire body in balance while suspended upside down. It’s the key solution when facing steep or overhanging routes.

Lower Body

In fact, proper climbing techniques use legs and glutes as the main source of power. They help you push upwards.

  • 4 Quadriceps (located inside your thighs): straighten your lower legs from an apex position, allowing you to step on each foothold.
  • 2 Calf muscles, including soleus and gastrocnemius: lift your heels and keep them in place while you’re standing on the tips of your toes to lean over to reach a handhold high above your head.


Strength and flexibility aren’t the only 2 key factors of an avid rock climber. Brain health and focus are also necessary to control the combination of the above muscle groups smoothly.

Rock climbing does train your mind to concentrate better. When you’re hanging on a cliff, you have to focus on the rocks protruding in front of you to keep your current position firmly and then get the next movement done safely.

There will be distracting external elements like background noise, strong wind, or even your own fear of heights. You must learn to remove all those distractions, forcing yourself to only pay attention to your body and the next move.

No doubt, this sport is seen as a method of mental strength building and willpower. You will master the art of steel spirit, increase your attention span, and become less easily distracted.

So if you have children, we recommend encouraging them to practice regular rock climbing as a hobby. The earlier you start, the easier it will be to practice. This activity will also help your children to be more mature in daily life.

Is Rock Climbing Good For Building Muscle?

Rock climbing is the right way to build muscles when you aim to have a great body shape, or in other words, a typical rock climber body. It makes you look healthy with low body fat and sufficient body weight to optimize the climbing.

On the other hand, it’s a big no if your training goal is to build muscle mass like a bodybuilder, not to achieve the best rock climber physique.

During the initial period of about 3-6 months, a novice climber will quickly see an increase in muscle. You will experience similar results with the beginning period of weight lifting. However, the process will slow down, and your body composition will remain the same or just improve slightly during the next stages.

Therefore, think twice when choosing the correct form at the beginning. If you enjoy this extreme sport and prefer a good-looking rock climber body, you should definitely pursue practicing it.

On the contrary, you’d better hit the gym to have muscle mass, a sexy body, and to avoid risky or outdoor activities. It works well for a dense muscle structure.

Can You Get Ripped from Rock Climbing?

Definitely, it’s one of the biggest benefits of rock climbing. Like weight lifting and other heavy exercises, this activity requires more muscle engagement at a higher intensity level of strength than daily activities, burning more calories than normal.

You will notice your body toning up clearly. The most obvious parts are the biceps and the upper back muscles. If you pay attention, you will see changes in your forearms and calves.

At the same time, try to follow a healthy diet and maintain a correct calorie deficit, your body will gradually lose fat and then get ripped appropriately.

Get Ripped from Rock Climbing

There’s one thing you need to keep in mind: focus on weight loss only when you’re overweight, leading to a decrease in your rock climbing performance.

Don’t proceed with calorie deficit when you’ve already had a Healthy Body Fat Percentage. In this situation, all you need to do is eat with correct nutrition for building strength and performance training. Then you will see the positive change in your body composition.


All sports, including rock climbing, bouldering, climbing gym, are exciting pursuits to practice. Among them, rock climbing is an effective form of exercise to challenge yourself since new difficulties and risks always show up in each climb.

As we mentioned above, this activity requires muscle involvement from all body parts. Your toes, arms, backs, and legs must work simultaneously to keep you not falling off the wall.

That’s why it’s a proper technique to bulk up, especially in major muscle groups such as leg, core, back, and chest. It also helps you getting in shape, maintaining good health and concentration.

However, rock climbing is not only strength training but also cardio workouts. Your muscles will not bulk up too much. To achieve a muscular, sexy gym biz-style body, you should try out bodybuilding instead.

So there you have it, our explanation and opinion about the question “Is Rock Climbing Good for Building Muscles?“. The final answer is yes, but to a certain extent.

If you still want to give rock climbing a try, we suggest preparing both mentally and physically to start with new challenges. And remember to have fun with your exercise routine!

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