How Many Pull-Ups Can Rock Climbers Do
Rock climber doing pull-ups

When we talk about working with your own body weight, rock climbers are creme de la creme. Most climbers have a ripped look as they exercise a lot and lead a healthy lifestyle. When we see climbers, most of us wonder how many pull-ups they can do since they spend a lot of their time on the rock, climbing.

There are no rules on how many pull-ups or any other exercises climbers can do. Anybody who climbs even at an amateur level can probably do at least 5-10 pull-ups. On the other hand, climbers who take their sport very seriously and train hard are likely to manage 15 to 20 repetitions and beyond.

However, they can often do more of those that require lifting your body weight compared to the average gym-goer. Let’s see, then, what kinds of climbing there are and how climbing impacts our strength. What is the typical number of pull-ups that a climber can do? Also, how many should you do, and how can you get there? And on the way there, can you overdo with pulling up your own body weight?

Table of Contents

If You Climb, No Matter What – You’re a Climber

There are many forms of climbing. There are practical forms of climbing that climbers do for work, such as:

  • Tower climbing (climbing telecommunication towers or boat masts for maintenance and repair)
  • Lumberjack (climbing trees for tree trimming and cutting)
  • Rope access (industrial climbing up or abseiling down exposed structures for short works, an alternative to scaffolding)

Most professionals who do these jobs also do, or have previous experience, in sport climbing. Sport and recreational climbing include countless fields such as:

  • Rock climbing (Climbing indoors or outdoors on natural or artificial rocks of different sizes and with various equipment)
  • Tree climbing (Climbing trees recreationally with ropes and protection equipment)
  • Ice climbing (Ascending ice and hard snow formations with special equipment like snow axes and crampons)
  • Canyoneering (Climbing along canyons for recreation)
  • Buildering (Climbing up facades and exteriors of buildings, usually without protective gear)…

Here we’re talking about the most common type of sport climbing – rock climbing. However, all climbing forms require some of the same basic climbing skills, techniques and strengths. So, regardless of whether you’re just getting into climbing or you’re an experienced cliff-hanging adrenaline junkie, this applies to you.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing can be further divided into dozens of fields based on the kind of equipment used and the type of rock being climbed. For our topic, however, only the three major disciplines of competitive climbing are relevant:

  1. Difficulty
  2. Speed
  3. Bouldering

Difficulty climbing is a category in which the climber is supposed to climb to the top of a high wall, often exceeding 50-65 feet (15-20 meters). The climbing courses are challenging. The climber (depending on the rules) may have to periodically attach his safety rope to bolts or chains drilled into the rock face.

Speed climbing requires the climber to get to the top of a high (but not as challenging) climbing route as quickly as possible. The safety rope is attached to the top, so the climber can climb to the top without working the safety equipment. Speed climbers usually race next to one another, the winner qualifying for the next round.

Bouldering is a competition form in which the climber will climb a short but challenging section on the wall. The boulders often take only 4-5 moves to complete and typically don’t exceed 15-20 feet (5-6 meters). Because the height of the climb is not great, safety ropes are usually replaced by a crash pad and a human spotter on the ground.

A climber requires a certain balance of muscle strength and endurance depending on the type of wall he is climbing. So what kind of vigor do climbers possess? How does it impact their muscle build, and why is it easier for them to do body-lifting exercises like pull-ups?

A Climber’s Muscle Build – Everything Must Work

If you’re a climber, you know that climbing is much harder than it seems at first glance. Climbing is a full-body workout, and the first time you climb, you will work muscles you didn’t even know you had. When climbing, you will work your:

  • Core strength: Holding your body close to the wall is crucial to correctly distribute your weight and not put too much strain on your arms. Your core muscles will give you the strength and balance to keep your body close to the wall.
  • Arms: A climber’s forearms are rock-solid and have the endurance to hold the body’s entire weight for long periods. The upper arms and shoulders have the strength to pull the body upwards when the legs don’t have the required leverage to push.
  • Legs: A good climber will use technique rather than raw power to propel themselves upward. Good technique dictates that legs should be placed in a way that allows them to push the climber. This preserves the energy in the arms so you can hold on to the wall for an extended period.
  • Glutes: Your glutes will assist your legs in pushing the body up.
  • Back: Your trapezius, lats and rhomboids, together with your core, provide the balance to stay on and close to the wall.

And Everything Must be Flexible

On top of working all your muscles, climbing requires a certain amount of flexibility. Each difficult move will see you stretch, trying to reach that next hold. And if you think that those slow, challenging moves aren’t going to increase your heart rate and make you sweat, think again. It will make your heart rate beat between 120 and 180 beats per minute, so it’s definitely an aerobic workout as well.

That’s not all – climbing also requires a lot of mental strength and endurance. Before you make that difficult move, you will need to believe you can do it. Otherwise, you will just end up flinging yourself at your hold to no avail. Especially if you are hanging upside down, you might feel uneasy about falling off the wall without any control. And when all of the muscles in your body are pushed to their limit, you need a lot of willpower to make that final push to the top.

This kind of mental and physical prowess definitely comes into play just as much when climbers do their off-the-wall workouts, like pull-ups, push-ups and crunches. However, there’s more to it than that. In fact, climbers can do more bodyweight exercises than the average gym-goer because of the way their muscles are built.

Climbers Build Endurance and Real-Life Strength, Not Mass

When you do difficult exercises with few repetitions, like lifting heavy weights, you make small rips in your muscle tissue that heal by adding more muscle. In essence, you hurt yourself to come back stronger. But, rock-climbing isn’t like weightlifting.

In contrast, a climber’s build is all about endurance. Their exercises revolve more around being able to do something over and over again rather than exert the maximum possible power a few times. They only really need the strength to hold and pull their body weight upwards.

Hence, climbers don’t look as strong as they actually are. They don’t have the weight and large muscle build of a body-builder, but an excellent climber can probably outdo most body-builders in pull-ups.

How Many Pull-ups Can Climbers Do?

There are no rules as to how many pull-ups a climber can actually do. Some climbers are not as strong as others, but pull-ups are typically a climber’s specialty. Pull-ups, especially front-grip, wide grip pull-ups, work all of the most important muscles for climbing.

So, how many pull-ups should you do, and how to get there?

If you’re a climber, you’re probably already in good shape and able to do a fair number. Pull-ups are a great way to enhance your arm, shoulder and back muscles’ strength. These muscles are essential for climbing, so climbing will, in turn, boost your pull-up abilities. They go hand in hand and can always be done on the same day.

Other than climbing, staying consistent with your pull-up workout and gradually increasing the number of repetitions is the way to go. Pull-ups are difficult, and it usually takes weeks of practice to add just one repetition to your maximum. Don’t let it get to you, and keep trying because you will advance faster once the snowball gets rolling. Consistency is key here.

And Can Rock Climbers do Too Many Pull-Ups?

Lifting your own weight with exercises like pull-ups and push-ups is a great way to increase strength and endurance with minimal risk of injury.

But, while it’s difficult to lift your weight enough times to injure yourself, it’s not impossible. Particularly with some exercises specially designed for climbers, such as fingerboard training. Even regular pull-ups, if you excessively fatigue yourself, may start to break down your body and possibly lead to injury. Don’t feel bad if you skip a workout or do fewer repetitions when you’re tired. Just make sure to rest properly and get back into it next time.

Summing it up, a climber’s body and muscle build are typically ideal for bodyweight lifting exercises such as pull-ups. While there’s no set number for how many pull-ups they can do, they can likely do more than the average gym-goer. Most advanced climbers can do between 10-20 pull-ups per series.

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