What is Bouldering and how can you mimic the moves on Total Gym?

With the critical acclaim of the movie Free Solo, which tells the story of Alex Honnold’s attempt to climb El Capitan without ropes, climbing sports have seen a huge resurgence! If you’re interested in learning to climb, and don’t want to invest in climbing gear, bouldering may be a great option for you!

What is bouldering?

Bouldering is the art of climbing obstacles shorter than 20-feet, without ropes. The sport came out of mountaineering in the 1800’s and was a way for climbers to train their technique and conditioning with low risk. One of the great aspects of bouldering is how accessible it is! Every rock climbing gym has an area of low walls and a crash-mat covered floor for you to practice your skills. Once you develop some skill, you can grab some portable crash-mats and your friends, and head outside to train.

Part of what makes bouldering a great endeavour is how much of a workout it is! This sport not only involves critical thinking, and problem solving, it will challenge every muscle from your finger tips to your toes. In particular, you will develop great mobility as well as arm, back, and core strength. This sport ties in your upper and lower body like few others. A strong core and back will go a long way towards helping you stay on the boulder longer. Your grip and finger strength will improve the more time you spend climbing.

Let’s look at some exercises you can do on your Total Gym to improve your bouldering. The goal in your home training will be to strengthen your back (to help you hang and pull yourself up the wall), to strengthen your legs (to support your weight when climbing), and to strengthen the core (to provide stability and tie your upper and lower body together).

    • This exercise is predominantly for the upper back and shoulders.
    • When performing, keep your elbows high, and pinch your shoulder blades together.
    • Do sets 12-reps with a 1-second hold at the top. Rest 60-seconds and repeat for 3-sets.


    • This exercise focuses on the lats, middle, and lower back.
    • Keep the elbows low, and pull the handles towards your belly-button
    • Do sets 12-reps with a 1-second hold at the top. Rest 60-seconds and repeat for 3-sets.

    • This exercise helps strengthen your back and prepares you for holding up your body weight.
    • Pull your elbows towards your sides and pinch your shoulder blades together.
    • Do sets of 8-reps with a 2-second lower from the top. Rest 60-seconds and repeat. For 3-sets.

    • This exercise will help with unilateral core stability.
    • On the side of your body facing down, try and bring your hip and elbow together without moving them. This will help your core stay tight.
    • Do sets of 15-30 seconds per side. Rest 60-seconds and repeat for 3 to 4-sets.

    • This exercise will strengthen your legs individually. This is necessary to support your body weight when balancing, and standing, on the hand-holds on the bouldering wall.
    • Focus on pressing through your heel as you stand up.
    • Do sets of 8-12 reps per side. Rest 60-seconds and repeat for 3-sets.

Josh Wood BHSc GCSC

Coach Josh Wood, BHSc GCSC is a Personal Trainer and Backpacking Coach who lives in Hobart, Tasmania. Josh works to help people find their passion for activity. He spent most of the last decade studying the body through manual therapies, health science, and strength and conditioning. With a background in teaching Massage Therapists and Personal Trainers he also writes for various online publications which keeps his communication skills sharp. His diverse background brings the many facets of health and fitness together. Head over to coachjoshwood.com to learn more!

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