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Why Bouldering Is The Best Beginner-Friendly Sport

by Josef James 01 Mar 2023 0 Comments
Why Bouldering Is The Best Beginner-Friendly Sport

Why bouldering is the best beginner-friendly sport out there

Bouldering offers an easily-accessible, cheap and welcoming environment to any beginner. You could walk into your local gym and jump on beginner climbs and I guarantee any climber there would be open to helping you out. 

I’m going to guess that you’ve tried quite a few sports or activities in your time. Most of us have. At least of the basics, football, rugby, maybe a bit of tennis or netball. Maybe you’ve pushed the boat out and tried handball, a martial art or table tennis. All great I’m sure. But none of them are as beginner friendly as Bouldering. And I’ll prove it to you. 

What’s Bouldering?

First things first, bouldering is climbing but with no ropes over a soft crash-mat surface. The vast majority of boulder climbs are shorter than 20 feet. Short enough that you can fall and not soil yourself, but high enough to challenge you. Bouldering tends to be shorter, stronger or more technical moves than rope climbing, at least to begin with. 

Why so beginner friendly then?

Well, unless you’re super-scared of any height, or you really like smooth hands at all times of day always, then it could be for you. But there are things unique to bouldering that stand out:

It’s challenging in a really fun way

A lot of sports or activities have quite a steep learning curve when you go into them, and bouldering is no different. But if you’re reasonably flexible you’ll be able to start bouldering. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking you need to be able to do 100 pullups to climb well, but it’s not true. 

The initial challenge is realising how you need to climb with your feet and body and not just your arms. 

Even if you’ve never climbed a ladder before, you can get on a starter boulder problem and climb it. You’ll get the hype of hitting the top hold, and you’ll get stronger. You can then choose to tackle harder problems at your own pace. 

There is ALWAYS a lot of beginner climbs at gyms, so you don’t need to be a pro to have an hour (or more) session. 

Once you start tackling harder climbs, it’s not just about putting one hand above the other and moving your feet afterwards upwards. You’ll need to think about body-weight distribution, how to use your feet (they don’t always go on a hold) and much more. The challenge is quite unique, and there are multiple ways of getting up one climb. You can create your own route if you like!

You could say the same about other sports, that they’re “challenging in a unique way”, but there are few sports where it’s you vs an immovable and potentially unforgiving object. Climbing is totally unique in that way.  

It can be really social, or not

I’ve tried a bunch of stuff from Muay Thai to Korfball and I can say hand-on-heart, climbing people are the best people. They’re chilled and welcoming, and most importantly (at least in my experience) non-judgemental. They don’t care if you get on the easiest boulder in the gym and fall off it 20 times, they’ll likely try to help you. 

And that’s what makes them such an awesome bunch. If you’re working on the same problem, you automatically chat, help each other out and make a little connection. The issue is trying to remember everyone’s name. I find that “dude” works well for most people. 

If you’re struggling, just find the strongest climber in there, wait until they’re free and ask them for help working out your problem. I guarantee they’ll lend it. That’s just what climbing folk are like. Free-spirited, mostly. 

But, if you’re an insular soul that wants to get in the zone and solo-climb, it’s easy to do that too. Stick some headphones in, head to the gym and crack on. 

You can approach climbing how you like, you’ll find your people there. 

You’ll get fitter and build strength (in weird places)

It goes without saying that moving your body and putting it under strain for a considerable amount of time will result in a fitness increase. That doesn’t mean you’ll lose three stone in two weeks, in fact I know a few heavier climbers that are very strong! But you will see an improvement in your cardiovascular performance. That was a big sciencey word. 

You'll certainly build strength, quite quickly. Not huge biceps, or a bulging back but toned and defined forearms, biceps, back and abs. You’ll notice your forearms first. They will bulge and ache after your first few sessions - unless you’re used to gripping things for a long period of time, frequently. Stop it… take your mind out of the gutter.  

Climbing is a full-body thing (there are even push-moves involved in some climbs), but likely it won’t replace your chest and shoulders day if you’re an avid gym-goer. But take a look at the top climbers and I’m sure you’ll find their physiques appealing, if not as bulky as a bodybuilder’s. 

You’ll find opportunities to be in beautiful outside spaces 

Climbing is obviously meant for the outdoors. And it won’t take you long (if you’d like to) to find a group of people to go outdoor climbing with. Yes, the gear you’ll need to outdoor boulder will increase, but it will be worth it. 

There are tons of beautiful places in the UK (and abroad)where you can boulder, or rope climb if you want! Being around climbers is an easy way to discover these places.

It’s easy (and cheap) to get stuck into 

All you need to get on the wall are some climbing shoes and appropriate clothing. Stretchy trousers and any top will do the job really. Climbing shoes can be rented from any wall worth their salt and generally cost you about £7-£10 a pop. You can get yourself a decent pair of starter shoes for around £40-£50 though if you fancy it. Go Outdoors or Rock & Run are great places to shop around. 

Anyway, for the kit needed to get involved, it’s a bare minimum. 

Then you just need a local gym, entry fee normally sits between £8-14 per visit, and you’ve got unlimited climbing for the whole day if you want it!

In London and looking to do some bouldering? 

If you’re a vet of the sport or a smooth-handed beginner, worry not! All the bouldering walls in London are great places to try out. 

Each of the places listed below will require you to watch a safety video and create an account before you can easily clock in and pay for your climb. So I’ve left links to signing up for each below too!



Images courtesy of Andy Donohoe Photography

I’m biased because I love Yonder. Is it a little grubby… Yes. But so are all bouldering/climbing walls. This wall has so much going for it: a lot of ace problems, a competition wall, a kitted out gym/workout space with free weights and climbing frame, classes and a lurvly lil’ cafe.

Their classes include Yoga and similar stuff outside of climbing courses.  

The space also boasts a shared working space, if that’s your jam! 

Only downside: Fuck all parking. Unless you’re a cyclist. 

Josh, the community manager at Yonder had this to add: 

"For many people, gym workouts can be a bit bland. But, more and more people are discovering bouldering as an excellent and worthwhile alternative. Firstly, you need very little equipment or knowhow; Yonder, like many bouldering centres, can rent you climbing shoes and chalk until you have your own as well as offering induction classes to get you going. Unlike a gym workout there is a real social element where total beginners can climb alongside seasoned professionals, often sharing jokes, tips and advice freely.  There are many reasons to have a go at bouldering as it offers problem solving, trains strength and flexibility, and the chance to challenge yourself.

Get in touch to book an induction or check the Yonder website to find out more."

You can get more details about the gym and sign up here.

Castle Climbing

I was a tad underwhelmed by Castle (if I’m being brutally honest). But I’ve only been once! And it was super busy. It has a great range of climbs all over the place! Literally, there’s a lot to look around in the layout they have there. They also have a series of rope climbs and auto-belays if that’s more your thing. 

Plenty of climbing classes and courses too. 

There’s an adjacent cafe and shop too, which is ace.

You can get more details about the gym and sign up here

Mile End

One of the most central climbing gyms (situated near Bethnal Green), tis a great haunt and often used for competition setting for occasions such as Bloc Fest. Mile End has a great setup with a room dedicated to cave-style climbing, a series of problem walls and a “garden” area which is where the comp problems are set. There’s a great variety. There’s rope stuff too!

They too offer classes, and there’s a little parking. Again, better for cyclists. 

They also have an ace little shop in the parking area that has all the shoes and gear you’d need, all packed into a small space - don’t worry they have a cafe built-in too.

You can get more details about the gym and sign up here

City Bouldering 

City Bouldering

One of City Bouldering’s walls is very conveniently close to Aldgate underground station and is a brilliant little wall. Simply come out of the station, turn left, walk, and it will be on your left. 

The underground wall has a great range of problems, a gym with free weights and more. The reception is small, but still offers a small shop and of course, cafe stuff. 

There are classes but no parking - it’s central London. Cycle or get the underground. 

I’ve not been to the Westfield or Stratford wall! But I’m sure they’re just as good.

City Bouldering agrees (obviously) that bouldering is beginner friendly, they said: 

“Bouldering is a sport that has no barriers to entry, you do not need any prior experience to enjoy climbing and it is easy to pick up! It's also a very social and welcoming sport, where the community has people of all different backgrounds.“

BIG agree. And thanks to Fraser from City Bouldering for taking the time to comment! 

You can get more details about the gym and sign up here


Admittedly never been to either of VauxWall’s walls, but I’ve only heard good things. Yes, you heard me right, walls. You could visit VauxWall East or West, depending on where’s closest. 

From what I’ve seen there’s a great range of problems to dig your fingers into. 

You can get more details about the gym and sign up here.

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