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Rock climbing is a full-body activity. 

Your muscles fight gravity while your brain solves the puzzle to reach the top of the route.
Figure 41: Human body anatomy
Muscular system diagram showing where the forearm flexors, biceps brachii, latissimus Dorsi, Abdominal Region, and soleus and Gastrocnemius are located o the human body as described in text.

Key Muscles

  • Forearm Flexors
    The muscles that close your fingers allowing you to grip the rock. They are connected to the fingers via tendons running through the wrist. 
  • Biceps Brachii
    “Biceps” help to flex your arm, pulling you closer to the wall.
  • Latissimus Dorsi
    "Lats" help provide a rowing motion to pull into the wall.
  • Abdominal Region 
    “Abs” help to stabilize and maintain strenuous positions as well as to keep pressure on your feet.
  • Soleus and Gastrocnemius
    “Calves” are the set of muscles that are active when raised up on your toes, which is most of the time spent on the wall. 

Technique Tips

  • Use Your Legs
    Leg muscles are the biggest, strongest muscles in your body; they can exert much more force than your arms. If you find yourself stuck on a climb look down and try to figure out a way to move your feet up first.
  • Hang Off Your Bones
    It is difficult to hang for long periods of time with your arms bent because your muscles are engaged. To conserve energy, straighten your arms and rely on your skeleton to hold your weight.
  • Take a Break
    The tight, burning sensation (“muscle pump”) that you feel when your forearms are fatigued is a result of lactic acid buildup and restricted blood flow. Grip strength exercises and improving technique can reduce the onset of forearm pump.
  • Master the Art of Falling
    Falling is an inevitable part of climbing. When you fall: look down to spot your landing, breathe out to help relax your body, and keep your arms and legs slightly bent to absorb any impact. Practice can help you overcome fear and make you safer at falling. You’ll be able to climb more freely without worrying about falling.