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Rock Climbing

How rock climbing can be used as a unique way of building strength

How rock climbing can be used as a unique way of building strength

Suraj Iyer

Updated: 21 July 2021 12:10 PM GMT

Rock climbing is an activity where people climb rock formations or artificial rock walls in any direction. On some occasions, climbers use equipment like harness and special shoes to climb a rock formation. It is a pretty physically demanding sport that requires endurance, strength and agility.

Alex Honnold, an American rock climber further popularized the sport when he set the record by scaling the formation of El Capitan, a popular yet challenging destination for rock climbers which measures 914m from the base to the top. Alex completed the climb in 3 hours and 56 minutes which was documented and resulted in winning an Academy Award. Alex later gave a Ted Talk explaining the journey of the climb and the physical and mental constraints that he overcame.

Due to environmental differences, several types of rock climbing exist. Free climbing; the act of climbing rocks using only one's own physical strength and without any harnesses or aids is the most popular modern form of rock climbing.

Bouldering is one of the most common forms of climbing among people new to rock climbing. Aids like special shoes for climbing, chalk for improved grip can be used. Bouldering walls are no more than 20m tall and sometimes might require traverses i.e. climbing horizontally.

Lead climbing is a slightly advanced form where the climber has rope passed on to them as much as needed to scale the climb. The partner grasps the rope firmly or uses aids in order to break the leader's fall.

Gowri Varanashi, a popular Indian rock climber (Source: Gowri Varanashi/Facebook) Gowri Varanashi, a popular Indian rock climber (Source: Gowri Varanashi/Facebook)

Big wall climbing is like the marathon of rock climbing where teams climb huge structures that may take long hours or over a day. Gear is placed in bags as a counterweight and portable shelters to set up stop in the middle of a climb.

Rock climbing develops a form of strength that is often much neglected. Tendons are a vital part of our body that connect muscle to the bone and are made of a tissue named collagen. Unlike muscles which require 3-4 months of training to develop and form a memory, tendons require 6-8 months of practice for showing signs of development. Rock climbing utilizes static holds (slow controlled motions utilizing as much muscle control as possible) and dynamic movements (explosive movements with the help of momentum) to make the most out of the entire body.

Functional training, a method of utilizing your own body's physical prowess or free weights to train movements may keep you fit and well into your senior age. Research has shown that the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles in hands need to be engaged in order to perform tasks requiring fine motor skills. Rock climbing makes extensive use of pinch and grip strength to ensure proper climbing and stability.

Though not as popular, India has spots that are frequented by climbers like Sar Pass in Himachal Pradesh, Malshej Ghat in Maharashtra and Madhugiri in Karnataka to name a few. Rock climbing is part of many sports disciplines like mountaineering and parkour in the functional aspect. It provides an alternative to people from the conventional iron pump in the gym to going out with nature, providing a physical and mental challenge like no other.

Also read: Gowri Varanashi bringing a rock climbing revolution in India

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