August 31, 2021

How to Train for Bouldering: Start with Only 7 Exercises

by Bernice

Table of Contents

Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that makes use of explosive movements and agility. It is different from rock climbing because the height of the climb is not more than 15 feet, and it doesn’t need a rope and harness on the course.

It doesn’t need a rope and harness because it is reliant on pure and raw strength. Though the route may be shorter than rock climbing, the obstacles are much more challenging, and it exhausts the muscles to a whole lot different level.

Before we proceed with the techniques on how to train for bouldering, let’s take a look at the difference between bouldering and rock climbing.

A Quick View on Bouldering vs. Rock Climbing

The most evident difference between bouldering and rock climbing is the height of the climb. The route of rock climbing is longer, and it needs a lot of muscle endurance and stamina. It’s the marathon or climbing.

On the other hand, bouldering is like sprinting that it needs a lot of explosive strength, speed, and agility. It is the kind of climb that is sweet, short, and precise.

They both require proper stretching before climbing and a great deal of muscle strength; let’s examine the muscles groups used in both.

How to Train for Bouldering Climb

Essential Muscle Groups in Climbing

All of the techniques in rock climbing can be applied to bouldering; the only difference is training the specific muscle group to become more efficient in bouldering.

Bouldering takes a lot of skill and technique, but we can’t deny that training in any sport needs a great deal of muscle work to achieve a goal and become efficient.

The major muscle group used in rock climbing and bouldering is the upper body, including the back, biceps, chest, shoulders, biceps, and triceps. You use the whole of the muscle groups to hold and maneuver the body during the climb.

The second but the most essential part is core. It is the secondary but most important part of any climbing activity as it activates the whole body and stabilizes the movement during the climb.

Last but not least is the lower body which includes the glutes, the hamstrings, and the calves. It is the underrated part of the climb, but it helps your body stay up towards the course, and it deals a lot stronger because it’s the one that will push your body upwards. Also, there’s a lot of “footwork” used in any type of climb.

Though they may look the same and have the same muscle group involved, there are many ways that bouldering training is different from rock climbing.

How to Train for Bouldering?

Training for bouldering can be done at home and off the wall. Bouldering workouts should be done not just on the wall but on the floor and just about anywhere that will supply the needed load for your muscles to progress.

Here are the bouldering workouts/exercises that will help anyone progress in the sport.


Climbing utilizes most pulling muscles, and it involves the back and the biceps. Pull-ups are a compound movement/exercise that utilizes all pulling muscle groups in one, including the forearm and fingers, to hold the bar and grip the rocks.

Hold the bar, shoulder-width apart, and do 10-15 reps x 4 sets of pull-ups with 1-minute rest in between. Do negative pull-ups or inverted rows if there is not sufficient strength yet to do a pull-up.

Include Pull ups in Bouldering Workout

PUSH-UPS (proper and staggered) 

Push-ups are the major exercise for antagonist training as it works the chest and triceps as part of the pushing muscles, and it opposes the pulling muscles, which are the back and the biceps.

Training the antagonist’s muscle will help balance out the strength and the movement. Do 10-15 reps x 4 sets of push-ups or staggered push-ups as a variation for added agility. Do 1-minute rest in between.


Bodyweight or any weighted squats work all the major muscle groups in the lower body. Strong legs help a climber stay up on the course longer. Bouldering requires a climber to go up the course faster and more efficiently.

Bouldering workouts should have jump squats to achieve explosive leg power. Do ten reps only but with five sets as it can be a very tiring movement due to its explosiveness. Do 1-minute rest in between.

Include Jumping Squats in Bouldering Training


Lunges stimulate one-legged movements, especially that climbing naturally switches legs every time.

Do forward walking lunges with ten paired reps (1-left, 1-right, 2-left, 2-right, and so on) for three sets with 1-minute rest in between.


Burpees is the overall exercise for explosiveness and power, plus it improves your cardio and endurance. Burpees include push-ups, squats, and jump squats done simultaneously, and it targets the calves too.

Do ten reps x 5 sets with 2-minute rest in between as it is very challenging for the muscles because it also includes cardio.

Include Burpees in Bouldering Workout


What better way to train your abs for climbing is that you’ll train them while you’re hanging. Hanging leg raises challenges grip strength and activates the lower part of your abs which is essential for bouldering because the lower body needs to be carried up to the course.

Hanging leg raises are hard, so do ten reps x 4 sets with 1-minute rest in between. Increase the reps if it becomes easier.


Plank is an isometric training exercise for the abs since the core needs to stabilize during the climb. Bouldering requires explosive movements, but it also needs isometric strength, even for a shorter time.

Training to hold the muscles in the core helps with the explosiveness because the core is well prepared with its potential energy. Do 1-minute planks for 3-5 sets with 1-minute rest in between.

BICEPS CURL – isolation movements are always on the last part but not the least. Biceps is one of the major groups as it helps your back pull yourself up, including your forearms.

Grab a dumbbell and do ten reps x 3 sets of biceps curl (alternating curls or at the same time) with 1-minute rest in between followed by hammer curls. If a barbell is available, do ten reps x 3 sets of reverse curls followed by a barbell biceps curl.

Last Thoughts for an Efficient Bouldering Training

Bouldering is a raw sport that takes away the restrictions of harness and ropes. It requires skill and technique but a well-conditioned muscle and endurance also help a lot during the activity.

Training with rock climbing helps a lot, too, especially on cardio and stamina. A better way is to try out and do both to make the body benefit in many ways unimaginable!

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About the author 


Bernice often jokes that she is better at climbing than walking. With avid parents of climbing, her first encounter with the high vertical rock walls was at the age of one. Her favorite style of climbing is bouldering.

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