If you're looking for a new hobby that will keep you in fantastic shape and be a lot of fun, then you really need look no further than rock climbing. This is an incredibly physical activity that requires the practitioner to use their upper and lower body strength in order to keep themselves attached to a wall and then scale up it and it's one of the best ways to build explosive, functional strength.
Because you are constantly fighting against gravity, rock climbing is a great test of endurance and a brilliant way to burn fat and increase fitness. At the same time though, the fact that you're taking all your weight on your limbs at such awkward angles means that it's an ideal way to tone and build muscle. Because it's fun it doesn't feel like a chore, but it's actually just as good for you as most gym workouts.
Unfortunately rock climbing isn't highly accessible: you need a rock climbing wall, membership to the gym where said wall is located, a harness and a rope and then a 'belayer' who will feed that rope to you while holding on tight.
That's where bouldering and traversing come in: these are fantastic ways to get into shape that anyone can try, so read on to see how you can start taking advantage of this fun and effective type of training.
What Is Bouldering?
Bouldering is a specific type of rock climbing in which the climber attempts to climb a 'boulder' rather than ascending up a vertical wall. This will essentially involve climbing a shorter distance while using a crash mat for safety, removing the need for a rope and safety harness.
While bouldering is essentially just climbing on a smaller scale, this change in objective actually results in some subtle but marked differences in the approach that must be taken. Climbers will refer to routes up bouldering walls as 'problems', which emphasises the different skill-set they require. These are generally very technical climbs that require a number of specific skills – some will require smart leg-work to support yourself while you reach awkward holds, while others will require a lot of explosive upper body strength as you launch yourself over overhangs and jugs. A typical bouldering wall at a gym will provide multiple 'problems' and suitable 'crags' can be found in most rural areas if you look hard enough.
What Is Traversing?
Traversing meanwhile is another even more accessible form of climbing that not only removes the need for the belayer and harness, but also doesn't require membership to a gym or climbing club either.
This time the general idea is not to climb 'up' at all, but rather to climb 'along' to the left or right while normally only remaining a few inches off of the ground. This means that you can actually practice traversing on any rocky wall or even some brick walls without even needing a crash mat. You can even traverse around a tree trunk, or from one tree to another.
This is also actually one of the very best types of climbing for building strength in your forearms and lats as you'll be constantly pulling yourself into the wall, usually with smaller holds to use for support.
If you want to try your hand at climbing then but don't want to spend a lot of money getting geared up, just find a wall with some bricks missing and get traversing! You'll have Popeye-like forearms in no time at all…