Bouldering For Beginners: 5 Things To Expect On Your First Year Of Climbing

By James

Exercising is all about engaging your muscles to perform and work, but sometimes the standard day-in and day-out gym routine gets boring. If you want to stay active and stay alert and sure, maybe even do a little problem solving while working on building those muscles, why not try indoor bouldering?

Why Try Indoor Bouldering?

Bouldering is a great workout and exercises not just your body, but your mind as well. You’re not just hanging on a wall getting from point A to point B, but you are also working your brain to figure out the best possible ways to get there.

Any experienced climber can tell you a number of reasons why they love bouldering—the thrill of solving a problem, perfecting a move, bat hangs—but you’ll definitely have to try it yourself to really get what they mean.

If you’re looking to try something that’ll challenge you both physically and mentally, indoor bouldering might just be for you. Whether you’re more of an indoors person or a fitness fanatic, here’s what you can expect in your first year of bouldering.

If you are going to take away one thing from this article, you should remember this backstep since it is the most stable footwork to use. And usually, since easier climbs have many footholds, this technique will likely be available to use.

You’ll fall and slip A LOT. Don’t worry, it’s part of the process!

Don’t expect to get it right and perfect the first time… or the second, or the third, or even the 10th time. When you slip and fall, don’t get frustrated or angry with yourself. Instead, take a step back to think and figure out where you’re going wrong. Maybe your hands aren’t chalked up enough, or your shoes are too tight or too loose, maybe your arms are too bent and close to your body and it’s restricting your reach.

If you can, have one of the more experienced climbers in your gym observe you climb and give you some advice (or beta, as we’d like to call it!) Otherwise, you can also film yourself so you can look back and see exactly how you’re climbing and take notes.

You’ll find out that it’s not entirely all about upper body strength

Okay, yes, you’ll be doing a lot of lifting and pulling with your arms, but you’ll learn soon enough that your lower body is just as important. When it comes to scaling the walls your legs are just as inportant—if not more so—than your arms.

If you’re on the heavier side, it’s best to work towards a body you’ll be able to carry without much struggle. Do this hand-in-hand of course with working on making yourself stronger.

Even on days when you’re not at the bouldering gym, try to keep your muscles active. Take note of any physical problems or techniques you have trouble with when you’re bouldering and work on exercising those areas. For example, if you have a problem with reaching and cramping up, do some stretching exercises to prep those muscles.

You’ll also find out quickly that you’ll be sore in places you probably never thought you’d get sore (like your fingers and your toes). Will you hate it? Yes. Will it keep you from bouldering? Definitely not.

You’ll find your own way of movement when bouldering

There are basically two types of movements or styles in bouldering: Dynamic and Static. Dynamic climbing is a lot more fast-paced and is all about getting from point A to B in a short amount of time. Static climbing, on the other hand, is much more calculated and relaxed.

Beginner climbers tend to start out with dynamic moves, just grabbing and pushing on whatever hold they pass. While it does get the job done, it can burn you out much easier and quicker than a static climb would. Static climbing is slower and much more precise. Yeah, you’re grabbing onto holds much longer but you’re also moving with much more intention and purpose.

Many climbing experts say that static movements should be every climber’s default, and dynamic movements should only be done when necessary. As a beginner, you’ll have to figure out which style works best for you. A good mix of both is great, but if you’re more comfortable with a more dynamic and less static style or vice versa, then that’s also totally up to you.

Think of dynamic climbing as a high-intensity workout for your muscles, while static climbing as a low-intensity exercise that ups your endurance and keeps you on the wall longer.

Your progress will be slow, but it will be steady

Like any other sport or hobby, the keys to a great performance are consistency and commitment. Consistently do your best, commit to a level, commit to a move, commit to the whole experience of bouldering.

Experienced climbers will tell you this: don’t climb higher grades or harder routes before you’re ready. It does absolutely no good to come in and show off and think you’re better than you actually are and risk hurting yourself. Don’t go around acting like you’re the next Chris Sharma or Alex Honnold just cause you TR’d a 5.10a.

Remember that a little humility goes a long way, and there’s nothing more admirable at the bouldering gym than a climber who can admit when they need help. Don’t stop learning, and don’t be shy to ask for beta!

You’ll find yourself getting stuck on a wall until you find the best way to climb it

Now don’t worry, we’re not actually using ‘stuck’ here in the literal sense. Like an unsolvable math problem, expect to obsess over an unconquerable wall (or two, or even three).

Indoor bouldering and climbing routes are made by route setters. These are the people who love creating a problem and love seeing people find different ways to solve it. If you can, it doesn’t hurt to chat up the route setter for some tips on how they themselves would climb their problem.

It’s definitely normal for any climber to keep going back to a wall until they’ve precisely executed all the moves they’ve wanted to do. Routes and walls get changed often, so it’s best to get climbing on them while you can!

Ready, Set, Climb!

Starting anything new—especially an athletic activity—can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. With Bouldering there’s often quite a sharp learning curve, and that can be intimidating. But believe us when we say that it’s one of the most fulfilling and gratifying sports there is. Whether a beginner or an expert, remember to be safe when you’re bouldering, be aware of the other people around you, and most importantly—have fun.