Will rock climbing build muscles

A lot of beginners are curious, “will rock climbing build muscle?” Rock Climbing is a sport that is as much fun as it is effective. This workout demands a lot of physical and mental strength, as it tests your balance, agility, and endurance. Rock climbing is genius when it comes to working on tons of muscles at once –  even for muscles you never knew you had.

Considering that rock climbing is a sport that works you head to toe and activates a wide range of muscles in your body, it could give anyone a six-pack like The Rock or Captain America.

After doing some research and having some practical experience myself, I have concluded that rock climbing will most definitely build muscle. While intense, it won’t make you big and bulky like The Rock. But it will instead get you shredded and toned. And yes, all types of rock climbing will do this for you.

Read on and learn about all the great benefits you’ll give to your body while you have a blast rock climbing tomorrow, next week, or whenever you decide to go.

Will rock climbing build muscle

Will Rock Climbing Build Muscle in Your Upper Body?

The main muscles you work in your upper body when you go rock climbing include:

Forearm Flexors

This is the muscle you use when you open and close your arm around an object. It is the smallest muscle you are going to use while climbing. If you’re new to climbing and haven’t gone through training or warm-up sessions, you are most likely to experience a flash pump (a flash pump is basically when your hands get weak due to overworked muscles).


Most people are pretty familiar with what biceps are. This is the muscle found on the front part of your upper arm. You rely on your biceps to hang onto rock walls as you climb.


Your rhomboid muscle is located at your back, connecting your scapula (shoulder bone) to your vertebrae column (backbone). They are used to retract your shoulders. As you climb, you use this muscle to hold your torso close to the rock.

Latissimus dorsi

Called Lats for short, this is the largest muscle in the upper body. It is found at the sides of your back, and you use it as you pull yourself from one hold to another.

Anterior deltoid

This is the muscle found at the front of your shoulder. It allows you to rotate your hand. This enables you to make wide stretches in order to reach new holds as you climb.

Will Rock Climbing Build Muscle in Your Core?

The core is probably the most underestimated muscle group used while climbing. There’s so much it engages in as you climb. The core is the primary muscle that gives us all our six-packs (even if they’re oddly invisible for many of us); they are abdominal muscles that you use to stabilize yourself during your ascent.

When climbing steep roofs, which practically leaves you hanging upside down, the core is also what you use to keep your pelvis and chest in line.

Your core helps reduce the load on the biceps, forearms, and back, decreasing fatigue and enabling you to climb further. It would be difficult for you to keep your body secure without it.

Will Rock Climbing Build Muscle in Your Lower Body?

The main muscles you work in your lower body when you go rock climbing include:


Your Quads are a group of four muscles located at the front of the thigh. This muscle is crucial when it comes to walking, running, jumping, and squatting. As you step from one foothold to another, you use this muscle to straighten your lower leg from a bent position. It is a significant muscle both in and out of rock climbing.


The calf muscles are the two largest muscles within the posterior compartment of your leg. The two muscles are soleus and gastrocnemius, and they are located at the backside of your leg. As you stand on your toes to reach high, these muscles raise your heels. They prevent your heel from dropping when you balance on the tips of your toes during a climb.

building muscle while rock climbing

To New Climbers Who Want to Know – “Will Rock Climbing Build Muscle?”

When a new climber spends around 1 hour 30 minutes per session at least 2 days a week, that climber experiences noticeable muscle growth within the first 3 months. After this, muscle growth slowly decreases, but you are left with a more and more lean cut and toned physique—NO “BIG” MUSCLES.

Please don’t mistake being strong with being bulky. Rock climbing leaves regular participants with an insane amount of strength in the form of lean muscle. In addition to that, it will:

  • Increase your flexibility
  • Reduce stress
  • Boost mood
  • Burn calories
  • Prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol
  • Help you conquer fears
  • And challenge yourself

As much as rock climbing is a fun sport that has a lot of benefits, you must take care to avoid a common downfall found in new climbers that occurs due to improper technique and lack of experience – muscle imbalances.

Muscle Imbalances

Muscle imbalances occur when certain parts of the body’s muscles are strong than others. This is a result of using those specific muscles at a higher rate, causing them to become more developed while the others remain weaker in return.

Muscle imbalances can lead to pain, an unbalanced appearance, limited mobility, and more. It could further lead to severe injuries due to a lack of stability resulting in a fall.

To avoid muscle imbalances, you want to be a constant observer of your climbing style, pinpoint your weak areas, and focus on them. You might need to ask a professional trainer to watch you as you climb or get someone to take a video of you. You can then later study the footage to see what side or muscles you lean on the most during a climb.

Head position, hunched shoulders, pelvic tilt, and leg rotation are also points to observe. They are common reasons for muscle imbalances to occur. The body is a single unit, and you must train it as one. There are various exercise moves like the shoulder press and chest press that help prevent and correct muscle imbalances.

rock climbing muscles

Calculating your Calories

It’s no news that rock climbing helps burn calories, but how many calories are we talking about? And is it possible for you to be burning way more than you need to?

The number of calories burned during rock climbing is called your Climbing Energy Expenditure. It is calculated as follows:

Climbing Energy Expenditure = MET x Weight x Duration of activity


MET is metabolic equivalent (your body’s energy expenditure at any given time divided by your mass). Rock climbing has an average of 8.4 to 9.0 MET.

Weight is your weight in kilograms.

Duration of activity is hours spent while climbing.

Assuming a climber who weighs 75kg goes on a 4-hour rock climbing session, the climber loses:

9MET x 75kg x 4hrs = 2700 calories.

You should calculate the number of calories you burn per session so you don’t end up expending more energy than your body can likely handle. This is especially important if you’re hanging hundreds of feet in the air.

If you are looking to increase your muscle mass, eat more calories than you lose to improve your body’s tone. The more calories left, the more energy will be put towards toning muscles.  You will never build any form of muscle mass if you don’t consume the appropriate amount of food required to produce the energy levels rock climbing demands.


Rock climbing provides so many benefits to your body. By the time you finish each session, you won’t even realize how much work your body has put in. Keep in mind it burns a lot of calories, so make sure you don’t forget to eat right.

And no, you won’t get the muscles of a bodybuilder, but you will get a well-defined and absolutely shredded tone that you can be proud of.

If you are like me and just want a great looking, toned physique rather than looking like The Hulk, then rock climbing might be perfect for you. You get to see results within the first few months, which motivates you even further. Plus, you get to work on your mental strength which is just as important.

All in all, rock climbing is an amazing sport and is suitable for all age groups. If you have an injury or disease like diabetes, ask your doctor whether or not it’s safe for you to rock climb. Pregnant women should also seek medical advice from their doctors first before proceeding to climb any rock as well.

Have fun getting toned – and climb on!

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