Climbing and bouldering are sports like no other; combining physical strength, flexibility and problem solving to create a sport which requires patience, endurance and pig-headed determinedness to not give in!
Your typical climber will tell you that climbing is all in the legs - the less you use your arms, the better. This is one reason those who claim to have "no upper body strength" can pick up good basic climbing technique by learning to rely on their legs rather than their arms - but at what point should you start thinking about your upper body strength when tackling climbing and bouldering challenges?
Reasons to develop your upper body strength for climbing:
- Trusting your upper body to take your weight allows you to make small foot placement adjustments which will make the rest of your climb easier. The more confident you are with your upper body strength, the less energy you'll waste in these small movements.
- While brute force will not be an efficient way to tackle the majority of your climbing, well-rounded body strength will make your climbing easier.
- Strength doesn't mean bulk. Go to any climbing wall and look around - most climbers will be able to do full pull-ups, fingerboard pull-ups and the Frenchy (one of the toughest body-weight moves around, they make burpees look like a picnic!), but what's more, they won't be big and bulky.
- It's not always (in fact it's rarely) the big muscle groups which will be aching after a climbing session, strength training doesn't only work the big muscle groups, working with free weights will improve your grip strength too. Compound strength movements will also improce strength in the smaller muscles to keep you balance and stable.
- Sometimes, overhangs are really, REALLY hard! And having a bit of extra Oooomph in your guns can really make a difference.
Climbing is quite a self-sufficient sport - you will develop functional strength naturally the more you climb, but there's no harm in helping your progress along with a few well planned off-the-wall workouts! And remember: It's all in your legs, really...