Skinny vs. big climbers

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This topic contains 39 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  bridgesmark 5 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #9389 Reply


    I’m only new to climbing, but I’m pretty big. I hardly have any fat, but I’ve got natural muscles and strong shoulders. The thing is, I look at climbers like Adam Ondra and Dave Graham, and they’ve got no muscle on they’re shoulder, and hardly any pecs, they look like spider monkeys! But then you look at people like Chris Sharma and Dani Andrana, and they have bodies like me! Which do you reckon more advantages, less weight, or more strength?

    #9390 Reply


    And actually, what is considered a typical climbers’ ‘build’? I read somewhere that its broad shoulders and skinny legs, which works for me! But what have you experienced/think?

    #9391 Reply

    Does it matter

    Skiiny or “big” does it matter? not really.

    People who are skinny have a better strength to weight ratio generally and so tend to do better initially due to A) being lighter and B) not relying heavily on strength.

    Big muscles are not going to help, might look good on a beach but can you pull them up a climb? Technique will help greatly much like if you were skinny, it’ll just take more effort to overcome the weight of the muscle.

    Of course this is all speculation… Ondra and Sharma both climb at ridiculously hard levels despite their different shapes so go climbing and enjoy yourself.

    #9392 Reply


    If you are new to climbing you progress fastest by gathering experience and technique, not losing weight or gaining power.

    Later on in your climbing life, as far as weight goes, finding your personal optimal strength/weight ratio is very helpful. This is because your technique and strenght will eventually plateau out (unless yer a training junkie). Everybody has their optimim weight so it will then depend on what is yours. It could be Adam Ondra or John Dunne, whatever. Too little weight and you will lose too much strength strength with it. Too much and it is like climbing with a weight belt.

    As general rule of thumb, if you are above weight, you will gain 0.5 Aus climbing grade for every 1kg you loose. Lose 4 kg and gain 2 grades. I have heard this from a couple of people and my experience bears it out. This means that eventually you may have two choices on getting better (1) work arse off in gym and (2) lose weight.

    The average climber is skinny, has no use for leg muscles forget doing any leg exercises in gym other than streteches, if you can walk you can climb). May international competitors, esp women are positively anorexic (women need more body fat than men to function hormonally).

    You will want to experiment with your body a bit and see what weight works best for you. Of course at the end of the day you may not want to look like Skeletor on the beach either 🙂 so there is that angle….

    #9393 Reply


    Yeah i know. I was just wondering about advantages vs. disadvantages of weight vs. strength.

    #9394 Reply


    I was in a climbing gym one day when the Perth Wildcats basketball team came in: big strong guys, large muscles. They were useless, could not get off the ground. Too heavy, muscles in wrong places, no grip. The climbing muscles are very small and specific – forearms, front head of delts, core muscles…..not the showy muscles one sees in “Men’s Health”….outer abs, ha, ha…… When I go to weights gym I am careful not to use too much weight and train more for endurance (lots of reps)…I used to bodybuild 20yrs ago and to this day if I use heavy weights muscles start popping up in all the wrong places….pecs, triceps…. you get the idea…maybe this is a better answer?

    #9395 Reply


    You’ve got a body like Chris Sharma? Wow! How did you manage that! I understand that he is 185 cm and 64 kg!

    From what I have seen, the two best ways to be are tall and thin, but with reasonable muscle, or short and thin, also with muscle.

    The tall, thin and muscle gives you reach and strength, the short and thin and muscle gives you a good power-to-weigh ratio.

    Flexibility also helps heaps.

    Unfortunatly, for medium height, arthritic, old fat farts like me, we’ll never be great climbers…

    It’s fun anyway.

    #9396 Reply


    65? Really? Ok maybe not. I’m 188 and 85 kg. I’m fine with strength-wise stuff, and my weight isn’t really a problem, as I can lift myself easily. My main problem is stamina, I get pumped pretty quick at the moment, but I guess that comes with experience.

    #9397 Reply


    And Ross, yeah, I used to row and I found that I have a penchant for gaining muscle mass quickly, so I have to be careful about weights training.

    #9398 Reply


    wow a post that runs with more than 2 replies.personaly i think leg strength is everything in climbing.if you get your foot up high then try to push your weight through it whilst clinging on to next to nothing with yor fingers,im sure you really need strong legs….no what i mean!!!

    #9399 Reply

    Less time

    You need to spend less time worried about how much you weigh and more time in the gym and outdoors climbing, gaining strength and technique then worry about your weight

    #9400 Reply


    I dont think JK is worried he is just asking question.

    OK stamina can be developed outside of climbing: running, mtn bike, swimming….or inside gym. Instead of just climbing up, downclimb every route also (but have big breaks or easy to get pumped this way)….long traverserses. Long bouldering problems where you go in a circle for 5 minutes…..many ways to skn the stamina cat.

    Somebody said flexibility is important, I disagree. If your nickname is Rusty Hinge, you can still easily climb 24. No need to be able to touch your toes in forward bend as this move does not exist in climbing. But bridging flexibility IS is useful.

    #9401 Reply


    Yeah, all you have good points. I don’t see how technology could make an extreme difference in ability to climb, but when you look at videos of Patrick Berhault lead climbing or soloing, you see the pure aesthetic effect, and not only that, but the extent of moves you can accomplish if flexible. So, in saying that, whilst inflexibility will not hinder you in climbing hard grades, it will certainly affect the aesthetic factor and the ease in which you can accomplish those difficult moves.

    And if anyone discounts the value of aestheticity whilst climbing, then what have you turned climbing into? Climbing should be a way of finding beauty in the rock and utilising your body not only to conquer the route or problem, but to exentuate and celebrate the beauty of the rock and your body in harmony. I may only be relatively new to climbing, but if I have learnt anything, it is to climb as beautifully as possible, because who wants to scramble up a rockface any which way? It would be like being an aid climber.

    #9402 Reply


    Technology? Sorry, flexibility.

    #9403 Reply


    for steep climbing, or anywhere where you have to perform an heinous hand-foot match you will find flexibility quite beneficial.

    #9404 Reply


    Yeah, that’s kinda what I was trying to say up there haha, not sure if it came out that way though.

    #9405 Reply

    Hallux Rigidus

    Hi Ross,

    flexibility isn’t important? Just wait until Arthur Rightus kicks in. When bone grates against bone, you’ll change your mind.

    #9406 Reply

    Luke B

    Don’t be fooled by what the pro climbers look like in the videos, some are bigger than others, but they’re all small compared to ‘normal’ people. Sharma is one of the biggest at 70ish kg (probably hasn’t been 65 kg since he was a teenager?). The rest are all 55-65 kg broomsticks with big arms.

    At 85 kg you’re a big lad – you’ll probably never climb grade 30/V9 whatever, but with a few years of hard work and good technique there’s no reason why you can’t be taking down at least grade 25/V5…

    #9407 Reply

    Luke B

    And I agree flexibility is very important. If you can reach footholds other people can’t, you’ve got an immediate advantage. Just don’t spend all your time doing yoga and forget to train strength and technique.

    I have essentially no flexibility, despite my thoughts on its importance, because stretching is really, really boring.

    #9408 Reply


    Well thanks Luke, for the vote of confidence! Na just joking,but I beg to differ. I may be 85, but its mostly muscle and mostly in my chest, back and arms. I probably could lose about 5-8 kg of fat, but that could come later. I’m only new to the sport, and I only went to an indoor gym for the first time today, and I was pulling V3’s after about 1/2 an hour, and was mostly hindered by my finger strength. I know 85 may seem a lot in climbers terms, but i am 6’3″, so it doesn’t really matter. All in all, i realise that i may be heavy in relative terms, but i honestly believe that in a year or two i may be able to pull V10’s. That being said, im only just 17, so ive got plenty of time.

    #9409 Reply


    You say you have been pulling V3….I recon the numberings on Perth gym boulder problems are a bit soft…..I have been on real V3 boulder problems in the US (Bishop, CA), and recon that Rockface V3 = Hangout V4 = USA V2.

    #9410 Reply


    Yeah. I’m not too sure about some of the ratings either. I almost topped out a V5 at one point, but couldn’t get a couple of moves into a V2, its weird. Then again, gradings are all subjective, so you can’t know.

    #9411 Reply

    Hallux Rigidus

    While flexibility is important (and strength), you also need to know how to use it. I’ve been climbing with someone that is very proficient in yoga. After they have swung their right leg over their left arm and heel-hooked, and then their left leg under their right arm and under their left leg, and then reach their right arm between their legs and mantled a side-pull, then they shout out “OK, now what?”

    If you’re concerned about your weight, go to Arapiles for a month. I always find I lose heaps of weight there.

    I think the best thing is to do (once you’re done everything sensible and reasonable to improve your grades (like practice, exercise and diet)is to accept your limits and enjoy climbing. Once when I was at Araps, I was talking to Louise Shepherd (who was the best, or maybe equal best, Australian female climber in the late 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s). I asked her what she is doing now and she said that she is having heaps of fun leading grade 13s – climbs she never bothered doing when she as at her peak doing stuff in the high 20’s.

    I think the main thing is to have a great time climbing, and to do it safely so you can amaze your grandkids about your exploits.

    #9412 Reply

    Tyrone C.

    I Agree with Ross, the grading at Rockface is to easy. I guarantee that if you can climb those V3’s indoor with poor technique (no offence, but you have only just started), you’ll have a hard time on V2’s out doors. Rockface instills a false level of ability on new climbers. As for the topic, I believe technique and proper footwork are absolute necessities for climbers, no matter their frame. Aesthetics and climbing are hand in hand, the better your footwork and technique the more aesthetic the climb, the more enjoyable it is.

    #9413 Reply


    No offence taken. I am trying not to hack it up, but I guess proper technique is aquired through practise, so I’ll just keep going.

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