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Climbing and Bouldering Technique: All in your legs?


Posted by Cags R under Climbing, Bouldering on 25 February 2014 at 12:00 AM

Climbing and bouldering are sports like no other; combining physical strength, flexibility and problem solving to create a sport which requires patience, endurance and pig-headed determinedness to not give in!

Your typical climber will tell you that climbing is all in the legs - the less you use your arms, the better. This is one reason those who claim to have "no upper body strength" can pick up good basic climbing technique by learning to rely on their legs rather than their arms - but at what point should you start thinking about your upper body strength when tackling climbing and bouldering challenges?

As this video from Towje P shows, sometimes, a bit of brute upper body strength is just what the bouldering problem needs:

Putting the Performance Tech Tee through its paces on the bouldering wall!

Reasons to develop your upper body strength for climbing:

  1. Trusting your upper body to take your weight allows you to make small foot placement adjustments which will make the rest of your climb easier. The more confident you are with your upper body strength, the less energy you'll waste in these small movements.

  2. While brute force will not be an efficient way to tackle the majority of your climbing, well-rounded body strength will make your climbing easier. Check out Ramon F's top 5 pulling exercises for climbing - and he's not talking about the dance floor!

  3. Strength doesn't mean bulk. Go to any climbing wall and look around - most climbers will be able to do full pull-ups, fingerboard pull-ups and the Frenchy (one of the toughest body-weight moves around, they make burpees look like a picnic!), but what's more, they won't be big and bulky. 

  4. It's not always (in fact it's rarely) the big muscle groups which will be aching after a climbing session, strength training doesn't only work the big muscle groups, working with free weights will improve your grip strength too. Compound strength movements will also improce strength in the smaller muscles to keep you balance and stable.

  5. Sometimes, overhangs are really, REALLY hard! And having a bit of extra Oooomph in your guns can really make a difference.

Climbing is quite a self-sufficient sport - you will develop functional strength naturally the more you climb, but there's no harm in helping your progress along with a few well planned off-the-wall workouts! And remember: It's all in your legs, really...

  • Encourage

    encouraged this.



    I frequently get told off for trying to pull-up my way up a wall - too much upper body use is definitely not good but having the strength there can help get you out of sticky spots!


    hehe yeah well, not my usual style of bouldering. but it is fun from time to time! :D and yes, totally agree with the others. it is definitely needed to build up some upper-body strength. especially if you're going for the more complex/harder boulders. but isn't it always the same? to much of just one thing is never good. a healthy mix of both in this case works best.


    I'll be honest as a novice I find my self using brute force over technique far too often. If I am on an overhang and a foot (or both) come off then it's very unlikely I will have the technique or core strength to get them back on, stabilise myself and continue. It's only my upper body strength that keeps me stuck to the wall! It's something I definitely need to work on as the problems get harder.

    Cags R encouraged this.

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