You may have noticed an old fitness trend gathering some serious momentum lately, and that’s because when it comes to fun workouts, this one rocks (you’ll get that joke in another 3.5 seconds). Gentlemen, get excited about rock climbing and bouldering, because it’s coming back in a major way.
Now a go-to workout for Hollywood heavyweights like Zac Efron and Jason Momoa, rock climbing holds a host of physical and mental health benefits.
A notable full body workout, bouldering has a huge influence on your grip strength, crucial in wider health promotion. A 2011 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that grip strength was predictive of increased strength in push-ups, leg extensions and leg press.
What’s more, research in previous generations has linked lower grip strength to a variety of serious health problems including arthritis, heart disease, stroke and neurological conditions, says Dr Elizabeth Fain, an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Winston-Salem State University in the US.
And while there are the obvious physical advantages (the aforementioned grip strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility), problem solving, planning and decision-making are all par for the course when it comes to scaling a sheer rock face.
"I think the mental side of climbing is often overlooked," says Alex Johnson, team climber with The North Face when talking to The Huffington Post. "The movement in climbing up a route often demands body awareness and problem-solving. More often than not, the way to the top is not as direct as you might assume, and it takes laser focus to work through which holds to grab and where exactly to place your foot before shifting your body weight."
Even if you’re opting for the safe confines of an indoor rock climbing facility, planning your safest and quickest ascent becomes the stuff of Sudoku-based dreams. The mental benefits of rock climbing are reportedly so powerful that a study published in the journal Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly has identified that six weeks of indoor rock climbing significantly improved the self-efficacy of children with special needs
"From a physical standpoint it's incredible exercise," reaffirms Cedar Wright, another team climber with The North Face who also spoke to the Huff Post on the issue. "From a mental standpoint, climbing is an amazing teacher, instilling focus, balance, determination and a whole ... host of valuable life skills."
With that in mind, we dug through the MH archives to uncover a true climbers workout and found this gem from Rob Shaul, coach and founder of Mountain Athletics in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Jordan Smothermon, a climbing coach at the same gym. Head to your local indoor climbing wall and give this bad-boy a crack. Physical and mental gains aside, you’re sure to have fun workout.
HOW TO DO IT: Perform the exercises in the order shown, without resting. Complete all reps of an exercise before moving on to the next. That’s 1 round. Do 3 total.
- 25-Move Wall Traverse
Find an open space on a climbing wall. Grab holds that aren’t far from the floor, and traverse—or move sideways—using 25 moves. Every time you touch a hold, that's one move. Twenty-five moves should take about 30 to 40 seconds to complete.
Assume a plank position with your arms straight and your hands slightly beyond shoulder width. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles. Bend your elbows and lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Pause, push yourself back to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Do 5.
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Bend your knees 90 degrees. Raise your torso into a sitting position. Pause, then slowly lower back to the starting position. That’s one repetition. Do 10.
- Ultimate Elbow Stretch
Stand facing a wall. Your arms should be straight down by your sides, and your palms should be pressed against the wall. Without letting your palms release from the wall, walk your feet forward and try to get your chest and shoulders to touch the wall. Hold for 10 seconds. (Click here to watch how to perform the move.)
V-Sum Complex: Based on your level, climb 8 difficult bouldering routes. If possible, do not repeat routes. Add the v-numbers of each route to get your v-sum score*.
*V-Sum = Add up the v-numbers for the 8 most difficult bouldering problems you can complete. This is your v-sum. Every week, re-test yourself during Workout A to gauge your progress.