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Rock Climbing vs Weight Lifting: Which Is Better For Fitness

You could be comparing the advantages and disadvantages of both weight lifting and rock climbing if you’re trying to add some strength training to your fitness regimen.

Let us try to guide you if you’re still unsure about which choice is best for you.

To assist you choose which strength training exercise is the best use of your time, we’ll look more closely at each of them below.

What To Expect From Climbing

Rock climbing is exactly what it sounds like – scaling or scrambling up the side of a rocky incline.

guy rock climbing

Most commonly this is something like the side of a mountain, but it can also be done indoors on a climbing wall (this is called bouldering).

You’re gonna need a variety of gear to go rock climbing.

You’ll need climbing shoes, a belay, a harness, rope, chalk, and probably a helmet. 

For most rock climbers, the purpose of the activity is to basically become a better climber. So, that means perfecting techniques and skills and things like getting better grip strength.

Rock climbers are usually pretty toned due to the demands of the activity, but they’re never really bulked up with muscle.

That’s because gaining muscle isn’t the objective for rock climbers.

But if you’re wondering – does rock climbing build muscle? The answer to that is YES, but just not as much muscle as you get from weight lifting.

But rock climbers still have have toned physique.

Weight lifting is actually a part of being a better rock climber because it builds strength. Other training includes cardio and flexibility training.

What To Expect From Weight Lifting

weights rack

Weight lifting typically takes place in a fitness center or gym, or sometimes even in a home gym, basement or garage.

It tends to be more of a solitary activity than rock climbing, though it’s not uncommon to have a weight lifting buddy who can spot you.

You don’t really need a lot of gear to take up weight training.

Basically, you just need some weights to get started, and eventually you may want to add things like a squat rack and weight bench.

For most weight lifters, the focus is to not only gain strength but to gain muscle.

It’s common to have weight lifters who want to bulk up and show off those muscle gains. 

Using weights is pretty much all there is when it comes to weight lifting training. There’s really nothing else to it.

How They Compare

As you can see above, you tend to get a better full body workout from taking up rock climbing compared to weight lifting.

With weight lifting, you’re doing a more targeted activity that doesn’t really offer whole body benefits.

With rock climbing, you also end up boosting your endurance, strength and power through the sport.

But you might be wondering – can you substitute climbing for weight lifting?

The answer is no, not really. And that’s primarily because they are so different.

Sure, when you do rock climbing you are gaining strength like with weight lifting, but most muscles are underutilized in climbing.

You see, your fingers and forearms get fatigued with climbing before the rest of your muscles do, so those other muscles never really get a solid workout.

Is rock climbing better than weight lifting? No, not for building muscle.

But YES, for a whole body workout.

Ideally, you’ll want to incorporate both into your fitness routine for the most benefit to your body.

And if you have to pick just one, then know that climbing is considered to be the ultimate full body workout but weight lifting is ideal if your focus is on gaining muscle and bulking up.


Check out the video below for the answer to this question.

top image credit, image 2

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