Everything you need to know before you start bouldering - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Everything you need to know before you start bouldering

You’ve caught onto the trend of the moment, been swept up by the allure of the climb, and thought you might try it for yourself. But before you start bouldering, here’s everything you need to know.

Not too long ago, the term ‘bouldering’ would’ve stumped personal trainers and fitness gurus alike, while rock climbing was reserved for either extreme athletes or kid’s birthday parties. Times change though. What used to be an activity obscured in our peripheries has become one of the most popular social sports. The bouldering revolution is well under way, and like many other fitness enthusiasts, you might be considering swapping out the weights for the climb, due to its many benefits.

Bouldering is one of those rare sports that’s as fun as it is good for you. Seriously, bouldering isn’t just an opportunity to socialise with friends, it’s also a killer workout. Fair warning though, you will absolutely feel the burn the next day. Few activities can test your grip and core strength more effectively and efficiently than a bouldering session.

Bouldering demands endurance, strength, speed and problem-solving skills. Whereas meditation can align your mind body and soul, bouldering does much of the same, as your brain needs to be attuned with your muscles if you’re going to find success. We get it, if you’re reading this, you probably don’t need convincing and are already keen to give bouldering a try. But before you get stuck in, there’s a few things you should know. Let’s get into it.


Is there a difference between bouldering and rock climbing?


Don’t let the hardcore micro-mountaineering enthusiasts hear you ask that, but it is a good question. You’re likely to be familiar with at least the basics of rock climbing, perhaps you’ve already tried it. But be assured, there are some noticeable differences between bouldering and rock climbing.

Rock climbing involves scaling a mostly vertical wall with a rope and harness attached to your body. Bouldering involves climbing a wall with nothing but a crash pad beneath you (hence the added adrenaline hit). Due to the protection boost offered by a harness, climbing walls are usually much higher and place the emphasis on endurance. Bouldering courses are often much shorter (4.5m is about as high as a bouldering set will go) and the challenge lies in problem-solving, as exercising both the mind and the body is crucial if you are to figure out and navigate the best route up. It’s for that exact reason that bouldering courses are typically called ‘problems’.


How fit do you need to be for bouldering?


Bouldering can be a daunting prospect for beginners as the sport demands a fairly high level of fitness and athleticism. Bouldering problems (remember, that’s what they call courses), often involve powerful moves that require upper body and core strength, while strong coordination and balance are also essential for maintaining control on the wall. That being said, as long as you’re reasonably fit, you should be able to go bouldering. Most centres will have problems (again, that’s a course) that range from easy to difficult, meaning you can quite literally work your way up to the top.



How can you start bouldering?


The easiest way to get into bouldering is with friends. Bouldering is best enjoyed as a social activity, and going with friends is a great way to overcome much of the initial embarrassment that accompanies trying out a new sport. Similar to gyms, bouldering is also a great way to meet new people, so don’t be turned away if your friends aren’t immediately as keen as you are.

As for finding a location, there’s certain to be plenty of bouldering gyms in your area, so a quick Google search won’t hurt. We’ve also put together a few lists of the best bouldering gyms in major Australian cities, which you can find below.

Related: The best rock climbing and bouldering gyms in Sydney

Related: The best rock climbing and bouldering gyms in Melbourne

One more thing, it’s a good idea to take a class before you go all guns blazing with bouldering. Such classes will be available at most bouldering gyms.


What do you need for bouldering?


Whereas rock climbing requires extensive safety equipment, including a harness, belay, and specially designed equipment, in bouldering, all you really need is some grippy shoes—which you won’t want to shrimp on, considering the falling risk that’s involved. Although, like a bowling alley, most bouldering gyms will have shoes available to rent. Apart from that, some breathable clothes are a necessity considering the amount of strenuous exertion bouldering requires. Bouldering clothes should be loose enough to not hinder movement, but tight enough to not catch on equipment.


Is bouldering good exercise?


If you’ve ever seen bouldering in action, you’ll know how difficult it can be, and that it’s a gruelling test of core and upper body strength, as well as mental aptitude. Apart from the obvious muscle building benefits, which are provided by just about any core burning workout, research shows that bouldering can increase muscular endurance and flexibility. Outside of the physical benefits, bouldering can also improve mental health, problem-solving skills and communication skills.

Now that you’ve got all the information you need, what are you waiting for? Go on and give bouldering a try today.


By Cayle Reid

Cayle Reid is a fan of everything sports and fitness. He spends his free time at the gym, on his surfboard or staying up late watching sports in incompatible time zones.

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