Fitness

Why You Should Try Bouldering Like Brie Larson

Captain Marvel is doing a little moonlighting as Spiderman. Last week, Brie Larson, who plays Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel in the upcoming movie, shared a video of herself scaling a rock wall with no cape (or rope) in sight. Watching Larson climb up, down, upside down, and around a boulder wall with superhero strength made us want to give it a try—and got us thinking about what this type of rock climbing might be able to add to our fitness routine.

You can check out the video, via @brielarson, here:

We asked the pros what the physical benefits of bouldering are. Turns out, it's a total-body exercise that'll help you build strength in many muscles from your back to your hands.

The definition of bouldering is simple, says Emily Varisco, USA Climbing-certified coach at The Cliffs and certified personal trainer. It's rope-free rock climbing, in which climbs max out between 12 and 20 feet. Since the climber is losing the extra protection of the rope, climbing gyms compensate with a padded gym floor or crash pads, which are sometimes moved by a spotter depending on how far the climber moves.

Since bouldering covers shorter distances, it requires less endurance than roped climbing, explains Varisco. Instead, "bouldering is a much more powerful sport." Trevor Dean, a CWA-certified climbing coach and facility manager at Gravity Vault, likes to compare climbing to running. "If you're climbing on ropes, it's like a marathon. Each move isn't strenuous, but it requires endurance," he says. "When you're bouldering, you typically see more powerful, strength-oriented movements with more energy output per foot of wall. It's a shorter climb, so it's like a sprint."

Whereas roped climbing requires a belay buddy to control the rope, Varisco points out that bouldering is a one-person job. Still, she says, "what makes bouldering most appealing, in my opinion, is that it is much more social than roped climbing. You spend much more time on the ground figuring out information about the climb and there is a lot more collaboration. It is very common to see multiple climbers going over ideas together and helping each other out whereas with roped climbing, you oftentimes have to figure it out on your own or with just the help of your belayer." Even if you're not in the market for new gym buddies, there's another silver lining to bouldering: You have to buy less equipment than roped climbing, so it's a good way to try your hand at the sport.

As for fitness benefits? There aren't many body parts that bouldering leaves untouched. "In this sport, we use just about every muscle in our bodies," says Varisco, who describes climbing as "exercise in disguise." Consistent climbers can expect a quick gain in upper body, back, and core strength. Fun fact: New climbers will also develop "a lot of finger strength" over the first year of climbing. That's probably not something you've ever thought of training before—but is essential for mastering this sport. Overall, you can expect to feel the work in your lats, traps, delts, biceps, triceps, forearms, abdomen, and erector spinae, says Varisco.

Also, it can be really fun. And there's always a much better chance you'll stick with a form of exercise that you actually enjoy. If you haven't found your "thing" yet when it comes to fitness, it's worth giving climbing a try.

Keep in mind that, as Dean points out, any climbing gym should put new climbers through an orientation to learn basic safety measures. It may take time before you can scale a wall like Larson, but there's more than enough time to climb like a superhero before the end of 2019.

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