My goal is weight loss (especially around the belly) and general fitness. I also really love bouldering/climbing so I've got both a membership at a climbing place and one in a "regular" gym.

I'm wondering how to do a balanced workout that takes my bouldering/climbing into account. Right now, I figure I should still do cardio, lower body, and ab exercises as per my usual workout routine, but not sure what to change for my upper body routine. Are there exercises I should avoid? Anything I should focus on? Is anything redundant?

I currently go bouldering once a week, but will soon be upping it to twice a week.

  • It would help if you posted your current routine
    – Dark Hippo
    Mar 15, 2021 at 17:57

3 Answers 3


The best thing you can do for weight loss is look at your diet. If your diet isn't good, then all the bouldering and climbing in the world won't help you to lose weight.

How you go about that is up to you, but as general guidelines:

  1. Concentrate on whole, nutritionally dense foods (meat, fish, vegetables, fruit and some rice) rather than anything that comes ready made that you just put in the microwave or oven.
  2. If you're gaining weight, eat a little less until you stop gaining weight. Then cut out a little more and stick with it for a while.

Don't go nuts and drop down to a 1200 calorie diet. You're not a child, you need to eat more than that. Don't do juice fasts, diet teas, Slim Fast shakes, anything like that. Just eat good food.

Exercise wise, find something you enjoy. You've already got bouldering, great, but it's difficult to do that 5 days a week (I know, I've tried it and I've got the injuries to prove it). If you enjoy doing cardio, then carry on doing it, if you don't, then stop.

If you want to do some gym work, I'd use Dan John's template of push, pull, hinge and squat (don't worry about the 5th group as your bouldering should take care of that).

For pushes, look at overhead work, preferably dumbbell or kettlebell for the extra shoulder stability work.

For pulls, concentrate on horizontal pulling, like TRX rows, to strengthen your rhomboids and shoulders (yes, I know you're thinking pull ups here, and you can do them, but they shouldn't be your focus).

For a hinge, a deadlift is a great choice for teaching you full body tension. I also really like kettlebell swings (they're also good for a metabolic hit to help with fat loss).

For a squat, I'd go with single leg work. If you can, do pistol squats, if not, Bulgarian split squats are a good choice.

Throw in some ab work as well, ab wheel roll outs are a great option, though you can also throw in planks if you like (I don't, though purely because I dislike them)

Climb / boulder 2 or 3 times a week, and learn to use your feet more than your arms. Watch how women climb and emulate them. Don't over grip the holds and concentrate on moving smoothly and quietly. Try and make every climb look good, as if you're performing in front of an audience.


In general you would want to focus on upper body strength exercises with an emphasis on precision since the movements involved in climbing require some level of precision. Also, mainly movements are unilateral so perhaps some form of unilateral training would be beneficial. After thinking about this a bit, I recalled a few things from another life that might help.

I would recommend:



  • Mobility and Stretching
  • Jump Rope Drills

Unilateral Movement

  • TRX Unilateral Pulls and Presses
  • Single Arm Kettlebell Press/Curl
  • KB Swings
  • @Hitutony thanks for the info. This look like a workout meant to help me become a better climber, what I'm looking for is really a way to have a balanced weight loss workout that takes my climbing into account. Maybe I'm not understanding? Mar 11, 2021 at 16:00

There are useful elements on climbing-related 'gym' workouts in Hituptony's answer, and useful elements on nutrition in Dark Hippo's answer. I'm going to try adding to their answers from a strict cross-training perspective:

  • Yes, it's a good idea to complement with some cardio, and there are lots of possible choices. If you want something full-body like climbing, swimming or jumping rope will work very well, especially jumping rope if you are short on time, since it is very efficient.

  • Jumping rope will probably cover your needs in terms of additional lower-body exercising, at least if what you are looking for is simply some form of balance, rather than additional strength. The higher-impact version is, of course, running. Another great option is cycling, and if you prefer balance-focused sports, skating (road and/or ice).

  • Core workouts will of course be useful, but depending on how much of the rest you do, you will be able to skip them almost entirely, or to keep them for rainy days. If you run, planks and chairs are great pre-fatigue exercises, though.

… so basically, I don't have the impression that you are forgetting much here. Neither can I think of anything specific to avoid, beyond those things that you should avoid in terms of nutrition and training (e.g. under-hydrating or over-training).

FWIW, I'm also a climber, and also do swimming, running, jumping rope and some basic workout stuff like pull-ups, push-ups, dips, dead-hangs and planks, hence my recommendations above. When informed of my training, my sports MD did not recommend anything else beyond adequate nutrition.

All of this will of course contribute only marginally to weight loss in comparison to careful calorie tracking in order to sustain a mild caloric deficit over extended periods.

Last, if I were you, I would drop the gym membership because I feel that it is redundant with what you can achieve through training at your bouldering gym and through outdoors activities (esp. if you take warm-up and post-climbing exercises seriously), but I guess that this is just a matter of personal preference.

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