First time going up! Beginner tips for bouldering (in a gym)

So you’ve decided on going up. Great! Bouldering is an awesome workout and a real competitor to going to the gym.

As with any new sport, it is good to know how to prepare.

What to wear while bouldering

Wearing regular sports clothing is your best bet when starting off.
Just make sure you can maneuver freely, especially with your legs. Try if you can put force to the stitching with your legs while wearing them. If that’s possible, they’re definately not for climbing. You need a lot of flexibility on the wall, and being limited to the flexibility of your clothing is not recommended.

Some also like to wear longer pants as they will protect your legs when you accidentally hit a boulder or slide down.

When you don’t have any fitting sports clothes, you might want to check out some clothing made specifically for climbing. They may be a bit more expensive than regular clothing, but because they are made for climbing they will last longer.

Climbing outfit

Shoes

Climbing shoes can most often be rented at the venue. As purchasing them can be a bit expensive, I’d recommend climbing for a while before investing in some good shoes of your own. When you do want to buy them yourself, make sure they feel uncomfortably tight. The shoes need to be as tight as possible for the best climbing results. When you’ve just bought them, it’s common to have them hurt a little bit for the first few times you go climbing.

Make sure you ask someone at the venue to advise you on the right fit for the rental shoes as well.

What to bring to the bouldering hall

As climbing is a very good workout, it may be good to take a towel and a water bottle with you. You’ll definately break some sweat out there!

Ropes & harnasses are not used for bouldering, because the routes are not very high. A fall mat is enough, which you don’t have to bring yourself. Most venues have big fall mats troughout the bouldering hall. When climbing outside, you should bring your own crash mat.

You might have seen chalk and a chalk bags as well, but this is often not required for the first time boulderers. The easier routes are generally less slippery and they’ll often have good, big grips on them.

Climbing chalk is often made from Magnesium Carbonate and helps to dry sweat and moisture on your hands which improves your grip on the wall.

If you feel like a route is feeling slippery, or your hands are getting sweaty, then some chalk may help out a lot.

For more information on chalk and chalk bags, please check out this dedicated article about chalk for climbers!

Girl with chalk bag before bouldering

Safety on and around the wall

Most boulder gyms have safety rules that you should adhere to. To prevent accidents from occuring, you should get familiar to them!

Give other climbers enough room. When you want to start climbing a route, make sure you check people climbing next to you. Some routes may cross your route, so be very careful!

It’s generally safe to climb if you keep at least 6 feet (2 meters) between you and the next climber.
Always be aware of your surroundings, even when you’re not climbing. Avoid walking closely next to someone climbing, they might jump down unexpectedly!

Your first route

The routes are often color coded, having different colors for each degree of difficulty.

Start with the lowest grade route you can find, even if you think you can handle a bit more. Look at the complete route, and give yourself some time to think of the best path to take.

Usually the first holds that you should start with are marked with tape, each tape representing one hand. Sometimes you start with both hands on one hold.

Then go up! Try to use your power efficiently, by moving most weight onto your legs. They are more powerful than your arms! Climbing is all about distributing weight and strength between your limbs and muscles, saving as much energy as possible.

The last grip is also marked with a piece of tape. When you are able to hold it using both hands simultaneously, you’ve completed the route. Then you jump down (carefully). Jumping down is often recommended, as climbing down puts more strain on your muscles than climbing up. That may be good for some extra training though, if you like a challenge!

While boulder routes are much shorter than top-rope climbing routes, they generally do not have any good resting spots and are more focussed on physically draining moves.

Training & progression

It’s better to start your workout by doing lower grade routes first to allow your body to warm up.
Doing lower grade routes is also great for your workout. If you start doing harder routes, you can probably do less of them and become tired very fast.

In order to train efficiently, you should focus on quantity, in stead of high grades when starting with bouldering.

When you have completed most of these routes, and feel comfortable with them you should look at trying out a few higher grades.

If you’d like to know all about bouldering grades, be sure to read this article!

If you get stuck at a route, don’t hessitate to ask around for some tips! People that have completed the route will surely help you out.