If you don’t really have any experience other than climbing trees and things as children climbing can feel very difficult and a struggle at first. This is totally natural!
Why is Climbing is hard for beginners? There are lots of techniques and movement skills that aren’t exactly intuitive, they actually take a while to learn; especially if you’re doing it through trial and error. It doesn’t have to be hard though, if you have a good understanding of the techniques and choose the correct climbs you can make it as easy or hard as you wish.
Climbers generally agree everyone’s struggle is the same irrelevant of their ability and current level. Were all trying something hard for us and mostly failing, so don’t feel insecure at the gym when you fail!
Why is climbing hard for beginners?
Climbing is a mix of technical, physical, and mental skills which are all very specific to climbing and there not all intuitive.
The fear of falling adds to the difficulty if you become overly focused on not falling.
Climbing at first can be very scary for most people and this makes our technique less efficient because we’re trying so desperately to not fall off the wall.
Leading to our arms tiring out much sooner than those in the climbing gym who have practise.
Physically climbing is very specific too,
The major limiting factor is our forearms tiring out from holding the small holds.
Many of us will have weak forearms to begin with because we don’t really use them with that intensity anywhere else in our lives.
If you have previous experience with weightlifting or any activity where you have to really hold onto something, you may have a bit more forearm strength than usual.
However the way we use our forearms for climbing is very specific and grip trainers for example will not prepare your muscles in the slightest for rock climbing.
Technically climbing is very counter intuitive most of the time,
The way you want to move your body is generally with your hips into the wall and the arms straight, ‘hanging onto your skeletal system’.
At first when your forearms are really weak, and your technique isn’t great it will feel really wrong to hang out on straight arms. beginners tend to bend their arms to keep their body into the wall because this will put
less weight on your forearms.
however this will tire your arms out much quicker than holding on with a straight arm once your forearms are conditioned a bit to holding on.
Your body has built in organs for understanding your balance and your relationship with gravity.
your body will always want you to be in a straight line with gravity.
The way we were meant to be, stood on our feet.
This explains some of the counterintuitive aspects of the climbing technique because on an overhang for example you will want your hips (centre of gravity) to be right in close to the overhang, to put weight on your feet.
But this will make your body into a horizontal line not a vertical one, and your body will not agree
with this initially.
It takes a while to learn to move on the wall, but you will pick it up pretty fast which is really fun and rewarding.
Most times you go climbing for the first couple of months you will get better each time which is really enjoyable, who doesnt love quick wins!
Fear will have a big impact on our climbing movements when it’s all new to us.
we will probably do things like standing on the foot holds with as much of our shoe as possible because it feels more secure before we learn good footwork.
This might feel more secure on the big holds you begin on but eventually this is counterproductive and puts more weight on your arms as you can’t rely on your feet the same.
It simply wont work on some holds at all because there sloped or too small.
On that image, you want to use only the heel and toe.
Im banning you from using the middle of your foot, ill come to your gym and tell you off!
using the middle of your shoe stops you being able to pivot on the holds and move your body efficiently.
Fear is also responsible for the action of ‘Over gripping’ where you unconsciously end up squeezing the holds with more force than necessary because you feel like you could slip at any moment.
This will obviously tire you out much faster than the experienced climbers who have learned how little to hold on with.
Its responsible for most of the fatigue you will feel in your forearms to begin with.
To counter this, Try closing your eyes and take a few breaths.
Have a quick second where you calm down and get back in touch withyour body, you will often feel excess tension in your arms if you’re not relaxed and overgripping, and simply let it go.
Beginner Exploration Exercise
To combat Overgripping,
Try stand with your feet touching the base of the wall and lean back onto some holds,
then slowly hold on less and less in a slow way and feel how little force you really need to hold onto the holds still.
This should give you some confidence!
Bouldering vs Ropes
For your first-time climbing I’d recommend going bouldering if you want to try climbing purely for the physical and mental benefits.
there’s lots less faff with bouldering you simply need your shoes and some chalk both of these you can borrow from the centre very inexpensively and get started immediately.
It’s also not as high so you can begin to get comfortable climbing before you feel like you’re in a scary situation.
Indoor bouldering is also really social and is where most people begin and create their climbing friendships, it’s not like a normal gym where it can be quite intimidating.
Indoor bouldering gyms are very friendly and relaxed, There is often good music and laughter in
At least at the Bouldering Gym i work at…
Roped climbing is inherently more complicated but there are also certain appeals that you won’t get bouldering.
The obvious one is you get to go much higher and you spend more time climbing. most of the adventurous climbing you see outdoors is generally roped climbing. the downside is you have to use much more equipment.
There are some technical skills you need to learn to go roped climbing safely.
For example, if you want to go top roping, the friendliest style of rope climbing you need to learn to belay or rely on somebody else to belay for you.
Climbing centres will be able to teach you these skills but it will often require you to book onto a course ahead of time.
You cant just rock up and go for a climb like you can Bouldering.
There’s also all the equipment, like we mentioned bouldering only needs shoes and chalk.
You can borrow all this from a bouldering centre for around £7.
In addition to this you will need a ;
- a rope and belay
if you wish to go top roping.
All this extra equipment can get expensive,
so its best to just borrow this from your climbing centre since they will likely offer it for a small fee to beginners.
One more hurdle to roped climbing is there will likely be an assessment the centre carries out before you can climb on the ropes unsupervised.
you will have to book this in advance usually unless an experienced climber is supervising you.
Just be aware you wont likely be able to turn up to a climbing centre and give roped climbing a go straight away!
How to make it less Hard
It’s going to take a while for you to get physically conditioned for climbing but Luckily there is an awesome list of fundamental climbing techniques I have listed below that you can begin implementing to get better INSTANTLY!
Keep a wide base of support.
You want your centre of gravity (your bellybutton) to be within both of your feet.
This is whereyou will feel the most stable and have the least amount of weight on your arms.
Hips into the Wall.
You want to ctively pull your hips close to the wall with your feet so most of the weight goes down into them. Save your arms the energy!
Toes on Holds.
You want to just use the very edge of your shoe, so you can get the most balance and be able to swivel on the foot holds.
Twist your body! Instead of pulling your upper body in the direction of the next hold until you can reach it, try turning the side of your body that’s reaching for the hold into the wall, to maximise your reach without tiring your arms!
Alright! there we go!
Thanks for reading this post, i hope it brought you some value.
See you in the next one.