Cultivating a buffer upper body without lifting weights might seem like a fantasy, but rock climbing regularly can help make this your reality. Instead of counting out reps and sets with dumbbells, climbing helps you tone and strengthen your fingers and arms while also enjoying a mentally engaging, full-body workout. Body-weight exercises such as rock climbing count as strength training, as explained by MayoClinic.com. Take a lesson at your local indoor climbing gym to learn the skills needed to rock climb safely.
Every time you close your hand on a climbing handhold, you weight your fingers with a portion of your body weight. Whether you're climbing indoors or outside, each handhold encountered challenges your fingers differently. Climbing holds come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, from tiny dime-edge crimpers to giant full-hand buckets to two-finger pockets to pinches of all widths. This diversity of grips pushes your fingers to develop greater strength in a variety of positions.
Climbing movements consistently engage the muscles of your forearms. Wrist flexors, on the inside of your forearm, enable you to move your fingers toward your palm and your palm toward your inner forearm. You use your wrist flexors every time you close your hand on a hold. Wrist extensors, on the outside of your forearm, move the back of your hand toward the back of your forearm. Climbing works wrist flexors more than wrist extensors.
You routinely engage your biceps and your triceps as you navigate your way up a climbing route. When you bend your arm to pull up on a climbing hold, your biceps help you perform this motion. Pushing handholds down or away from your body employs your triceps, particularly in climbing moves such as mantles or gastons. Pulling or pushing your body weight up the wall provides resistance throughout each move you make, promoting strength gains in your upper arms.
Climbing strengthens muscles not only in your fingers and arms, but also in your shoulders, back, core and legs. Climbing can also improve your balance and flexibility. A total-body workout, rock climbing burns calories quickly -- a 150-pound woman uses nearly 400 calories in 30 minutes of climbing. Every climbing route provides a novel problem-solving challenge, helping you stay mentally engaged from workout to workout. And, since rock climbing safely requires a partner, you can enjoy regular climbing workout dates with a significant other, your child or a friend.
A professional writer since 1997, Harvard graduate and pro rock climber Alli Rainey's articles have appeared in "Climbing Magazine," "Rock & Ice" and "Men's Fitness," among many others. Rainey is also an ACTION certified personal trainer (CPT) and climbing coach.