climbing at Movement
Photo credit: Movement Climbing + Fitness

How to Make the Most of Your Climbing Gym

Wanting more from your climbing gym but don’t know where to start? These helpful tips and tricks are here to guide you.

This article isn’t about how to climb, or even how to get started in the sport. It’s about using resources: making the most of a climbing gym membership to reach your full potential.

So whether you’re thinking about joining a climbing gym or already go to one, here are some ways to take advantage of everything gyms have to offer.

We spoke with climbers and employees at climbing gyms and consulted our team of avid climbers to learn how you can get the most from your climbing gym membership.

Should I Get a Climbing Gym Membership?

Before you dive in, know that membership is where you should start. And if you’re considering the investment, trying out a month at a gym will allow you to assess if it’s right for you.

A single month will cost more than a yearly membership paid month-to-month, but you won’t be committed and can test the waters.

Memberships usually cost from about $50-90 per month when on a yearly plan and include perks like unlimited climbing gym access, fitness and training equipment, free yoga classes, discounts on private classes, gear, community events, and more. Many gyms also offer student and family discounts.

From a distance, climbing gyms may just seem like warehouses full of manufactured walls, but they are so much more. With the rise of climbing as a pro and Olympic sport, gyms are now full-fitness centers. Climbing gyms offer everything from weight rooms to designated areas for cardio, yoga, training, and more.

fitness cycling Movement

Familiarize Yourself

Climbing gyms share a lot of similarities with other gyms. When you visit your climbing gym the first few times, don’t just book it straight to the wall — explore. Get to know the shower and locker facilities (some gyms have saunas, free towel service for members, and other nice comforts).

Get to know the training-specific areas at your gym. For more serious climbers, those working through injuries, or those working to improve specific skills, many gyms have specific resources. A couple of cool training equipment systems are MoonBoards, treadwalls, and hang boards.

A MoonBoard is a wooden climbing board with plain holds that can project different routes through a series of lights. MoonBoards are programmable by phone or computer, and the difficulty of climbs can be adjusted. You can also create and share routes with other climbers around the world.

A treadwall is a rotational, hanging wall that can be adjusted to a wide range of angles, usually by chains or pulleys. Think of it as a treadmill, but for climbing instead of running. Treadwalls are great if you want to test your endurance climbing the same route progression.

Finally, hang boards: You hang on them with your fingers. They have different-sized pockets and edges to practice on.

Stop by your gym’s desk and ask if they offer any other services. Many — if not most — climbing gyms know that childcare is a necessity for many people who climb for exercise. Especially with gyms that offer youth programming and host youth climbing competitions, resources for parents are extensive.

Take a Class (or 5)

Fitness and yoga classes at climbing gyms are usually very affordable or even free for members. Other classes like climbing conditioning, cycling, introduction to bouldering, ab and core workouts, partner yoga, youth programming, and more are often available for little or no cost.

Fitness classes not only give you diverse options at the gym but help improve your overall strength. Gym instructors are also really knowledgeable as to which classes can help work different muscle groups.

Movement Climbing + Fitness class

We all have different reasons for climbing and joining a gym. If developing a better fitness routine is your goal, take advantage of these classes. You’ll also get a lot more familiar with the gym staff by interacting with them in a class.

Use Your Time Wisely

Figure out the peak times at your gym for crowds — and avoid them. For example, lots of gyms get crowded right after new problems are set, or after a popular fitness class ends. Gyms also host events (like climbing comps) that can change or impede access to the gym during that time.

Sometimes it’s strategic to go when it’s crowded, like if you need a belay partner, but I tend to get a lot more out of my climbing session if I go outside of the peak times.

Don’t be afraid to change it up. If roped climbs are really crowded, maybe boulder instead, or pop into a fitness class. Climbing offers a fun workout and a great community to be a part of. So give yourself time and flexibility to take advantage of that.

Network

Get to know your gym. If you’re new to gym climbing, it might be helpful to visit a couple of different gyms and shop around for the one you like. For example, do they have training equipment or do they have a beginners-only climbing area? Is it a bouldering gym or rope climbing facility?

Once you find the one that’s right for you, put yourself out there and get to know the community. The people who work there and the people who climb there are all great resources. And who knows? Your next climbing partner could be standing right next to you. Once you make friends at the gym, more social and climbing opportunities will arise.

Climbing Gym Networks

There are now over 400 climbing gyms in the U.S.  The commercial climbing gym industry saw the most successful year ever in 2018, growing at a rate of 11.87%, according to the Climbing Business Journal. With this in mind, here’s a short list of gym networks to check out:

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Mary Murphy
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Mary is based out of GearJunkie's Denver, CO office. Her outdoor interests span from climbing to landscape photography to pack-paddleboarding. If she's not writing, you can most likely find her at the top of a fourteener, or in a local bakery.

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