Discover Bouldering and Indoor Climbing

Bouldering is a great way to discover the fitness benefits of rock climbing without the need for equipment or a head for heights. Bouldering is cheap, safe and is growing rapidly in popularity as a sport.

What is Bouldering

Imagine rock climbing, but done at heights that are close to the ground. Rather than climbing vertically up a rock face, the boulderer crabs sideways and upwards, as on a boulder.

One big advantage of bouldering is that it requires little equipment, just some chalk, climbing shoes and a safety crash pad. No ropes or harnesses are required.

Bouldering can be practised inside or outdoors, and the explosion in bouldering gyms worldwide has made it convenient for newbies to test climbing as a sport (or exercise routine) with little effort or fear of heights.

The Differences Between Rock Climbing and Bouldering

Bouldering shares much with the sport of rock climbing, as you would expect. The movements, hold-types and lingo are essentially the same.

As bouldering does not require harnesses or ropes, the height of the climb is inevitably shorter (usually 3-5 metres). Compare this to indoor rock climbing walls, which can be disconcertingly high and vertigo-inducing (8-18 metres).

Bouldering is one of three forms of climbing recognised at the Olympics. The other two are Speed Climbing and Lead Climbing.

The Fitness Benefits of Bouldering

Climbing is a fantastic whole-of-body workout. You will develop the muscles in your core, your arms, shoulders, back, legs and abs. Many climbers are extremely ripped, with tremendous muscle definition.

Clearly, climbers and boulderers need to be able to lift and hold their own body weight. Keen climbers will generally aim for leanness, as every kilo saved is one less to lift, but visit any climbing gym and you will see various body types.

For fitness buffs, rock climbing and bouldering are both excellent activities to add to your exercise routine. Rock climbing tends to build up endurance, whilst bouldering probably requires more power and explosive movements.

A boulderer (or climber) will learn flexibility, balance, composure, muscle control, and focus. You will also learn how to problem solve.

The boulderer, unlike the climber, cannot rest tired muscles by hanging off her harness. If she falls she’s gone and needs to start again.

As bouldering routes are so much shorter than rock climbing, they can be extremely intense and packed with dynamic, forceful and explosive bursts.

Increasingly, even large, muscled gym-goers like Jason Momoa have incorporated climbing into their fitness regimes.

Indoor Bouldering Tips

Skill Progression

If you’re looking to see solid, steady improvement in your climbing then try to schedule in two sessions per week. You’ll quickly notice that you’re becoming faster and stronger, and the repetition of practice is important for muscle-memory.

The challenge of beating your own personal records is a great motivator, but it also important to have a rest-day between sessions to ensure that your muscles have time to recover.

Bouldering is a very personal experience and self goal-orientated.

Boulder ‘Problems’ and Routes

With bouldering, you are presented with what is called a ‘problem’, a ‘boulder’ or a ‘route’. Your challenge is to finish your route ascent (problem or boulder) with your limbs on the same designated colour of hold that you started with.

And in the intervening journey of your boulder, you should only have used holds of the same designated colour.

There are different terrains for beginner, immediate and advanced levels of skill and experience. Your climbing technique, skills and problem-solving will have markedly improved for you to move up to the next level.

Plateauing at a particular grade is very common, and both patience and commitment is required to overcome it.

V-Scale (Hueco V Grade)

The method of grading the dificulty of a boulder problem or route is known as the Hueco V grade.

V stands for ‘Vermin’, as tribute to the nickname of its legendary creator, John Sherman. The V grade rates boulder problems from V0 – V17.

You may occasionally see a rating of VB, which indicates a simple boulder novice problem designed for newbies (B for beginner).

Avoiding Injury

Always chalk-up before attempting a climb or boulder. Sweat will be absorbed by the chalk, making it easier to maintain grip and hold.

Taping your fingers is also helpful, providing support and reducing the load on injured joints.

Wear clothing that is neither too loose or too tight. You are looking for the freedom of a wide range of movement.

Boulderers should always learn proper falling techniques before taking up the sport. Participants must not rely on the crash safety mats alone.

Best Bouldering Gyms in Sydney

We’ve long been massive fans of the 9 Degrees Boulder Gyms.

Since opening their first gym facility in Alexandria in 2015, the 9 Degrees group has ridden the upsurge in popularity of bouldering to now run four gyms in Sydney, and one in Brisbane.

The group’s managing director has stated that 9 Degrees has very lofty ambitions:

To make Bouldering as popular as cricket in Australia.

Martijn Van Eijkleborg

9 Degrees Alexandria

Building 3/85 O’Riordan St, Alexandria, NSW, 2015

E: / M: 0408 870 473

9 Degrees Parramatta

Unit 11 Metro Centre, 38-46 South St Rydalmere, NSW, 2116

E: / Ph: 02 8872 1052

9 Degrees Lane Cove

1a/21 Mars Rd, Lane Cove West, NSW 2066

E: / M: 0437 131 189

9 Degrees Waterloo

21 Danks St, Waterloo, NSW 2017

E: / M: 0418 124 488

Opening Hours

Mon: 10am – 10pm
Tue: 6am – 10pm
Wed: 10am – 10pm
Thu: 4pm – 10pm
Fri: 6am – 10pm
Weekends 8am – 9pm

Also recommended:

Nomad Bouldering Annandale

Unit 7/12 Chester St, Annandale

E: / M: 0402 670 784

Opening Hours

Monday – Friday: 6am – 10pm
Saturday – Sunday: 8am – 9:30pm