A Climbing Expert Shares Her Top Indoor Rock Climbing Tips


Indoor rock climbing is no longer the fringe sport it once was. Nowadays, rock climbing walls can be seen in various gyms across America as the word spreads about the thrilling full-body workout (and fun) the sport provides.

What can look like a playground for adults, indoor rock climbing offers mental and physical training that will strengthen both your mind and body all while satisfying your inner adventurer.

“Climbing is a very mind-body sport. You are solving a jigsaw puzzle while actively scaling a vertical, steep wall. Mentally; you are reading the holds, or “grips” on the climbing wall, figuring out how to physically get to the top,” explains Sasha DiGiulian, known as the most decorated female rock climber in the world, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and author of Take The Lead: Hanging On, Letting Go, and Conquering Life’s Hardest Climbs

“Then, physically, you are leveraging your body weight into the tips of your fingers and the tips of your toes (in climbing shoes) as points of contact on the wall,” she says This is where mental training meets physical.

“Climbing requires strong shoulders and arms, but also a lot of core, as this is the connection between your upper body and lower body; to create balance and stability, as well as leg power to push upwards,” says DiGiulian. And with that, indoor rock climbing will help you develop a  strong, toned body.

DiGiulian, the first North American woman to climb the “grade 9a, 5.14d”, recognized as one of the hardest sport climbs achieved by a female, shares her top tips for an upward indoor rock climbing experience.

Female wearing all the necessary indoor rock climbing equipment while climbing

Must Have Indoor Rock Climbing Gear

Most gyms have rental equipment which allows you to see if rock climbing is something you want to invest in without having to purchase the gear beforehand.

  • Harness
  • Climbing shoes
  • Chalk bag
  • Belay device
  • Rope

If you’re solo climbing or ‘bouldering’ (which refers to not using ropes), all you’ll need are climbing shoes and a chalk bag.

Woman coming down from a indoor rock climbing facade while strapped to a harness

Step-by-Step Instructions For Your First Indoor Rock Climbing Experience

Beginner Climbing Tips:

  1. Start on a “slab” or less than a vertical wall to understand the basic movement of the sport before diving into a steeper wall angle.
  2. Focus on your hands and your feet.
  3. Try to relax your shoulders and keep your heels down.
  4. Hiring an instructor when getting started will help you learn rock climbing terminology such as ‘tie-in’, allowing you to understand how to properly use the gear correctly.

Step-by-Step Climbing Tips

  1. Put your harness on – This is your safety belt that will connect you to the rope and the wall. If you fall, the rope will catch you – through the center loop of your harness.
  2. Next, put a chalk bag on – This is a small bag that you wear around your waist for when your hands perspire, to help absorb sweat and assist with friction on the wall.
  3. Tie into the rope – and have your belayer secure you on the other end (assuming you are top roping) with a belay device called a Petzl GriGri.
  4. Next, put on your climbing shoes – (Pro tip: do this after tying in), DiGiulian likes to put her climbing shoes on after tying in to save time from being in her shoes since she wears them two sizes smaller than her street shoes for hypersensitivity and control in her toe box.
  5. Now that you and your belayer are secured in your respective harnesses and tied into the rope (using a figure eight knot), approach the start of the climb.

Good To Know:

  • When you’re climbing, you are going to focus on generating movement from your hips. Use the front box of your shoe, where essentially your big toe is, to lead with your placement into the climbing holds.
  • Try to not “starfish,” meaning, lead with your hands, but also move your feet up as you go.
  • Take one move at a time and when your hands get sweaty, chalk up.

Tips to Stay Safe While Rock Climbing:

Indoor climbing is very safe, however, DiGiulian reminds you to make sure that your rope is tied properly into your harness and your belayer is secured with a belay device that he or she knows how to use as well.

Remember to have fun and climb with a friend.  The professional rock climber explains that progress in your rock climbing ability happens with time and consistency. “It would be best if getting into climbing to develop a pattern of going to the gym — the more you go, the better you will get — but also don’t overdo it too quickly because your muscles, tendons, and ligaments may require a moment to adapt to the sport.” Expect soreness in your forearms after your first time climbing. But also expect the start of a new adventure addiction!

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