If you dream of the thrill of rock climbing but aren't too excited about the prospect of falling from the heights of a sheer rock wall, bouldering might be just the type of climbing you're looking for. Bouldering takes place at a level of rock face or indoor climbing wall that's only as high as you can safely fall. You don't need any specialized climbing equipment, just appropriate climbing shoes and muscular strength and endurance.
A Good Place To Start
Bouldering is a good place for a beginner to start rock climbing. Because a bouldering climb covers such a low level, there's no rope or harnesses necessary -- you don't even need a belay partner. Don't worry, if you do lose your handhold or footing, as you very well might in the beginning, you won't have far to fall. And if you're climbing an indoor wall, there will be a crash pad for you to land on. Bouldering will help you build strength and skill to tackle higher climbs, if that is where your aspirations lie, and will improve your endurance, too.
Stretching out before a climb, whether it is a basic workout or an actual climb, is vital to prime your muscles, tendons and ligaments for the taxing, strenuous climb you're about to put them through. Jog, jump rope or hit the stationary bike for about five minutes to get your blood pumping, then take another five minutes to stretch the muscles you'll be using in the climb. A few useful stretches include door jamb stretches done from varying points on the door frame, frog stretches and lower back stretches. Spend about a minute and a half on each before starting your climb.
You're not climbing for height when you boulder. Think of it more as doing laps. You'll be zigzagging back and forth across the wall, gaining a bit of height with each crossing as you navigate your climb. In his book on rock climbing, "Gym Climb!," John Long advises that you channel Spider-Man, shuffling across the wall instead of reaching across your own limbs to grasp hand and footholds. Concentrate on fluid, smooth moves with focus on careful weight distribution and shifting and allow yourself a moment of rest after tough moves. Just 30 minutes of this beginner's bouldering climb will help improve your endurance, strength and skill.
Strength Training for Climbing
You'll get plenty of endurance training on the wall, but you should include a couple of days of strength training, either in the gym or at home, to improve your overall strength to help with your climbs and to reduce the risk of strains and injury as well. A basic strength-training routine for climbers can include pushups, plie squats, dumbbell wrist curls, reverse dumbbell wrist curls and pronators. Two or three sets of 12 to 15 reps of each twice a week interspersed with your bouldering workout and some cardio training will round out an effective overall climbing routine.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.