Learning how to boulder in 4 steps:
1. Google and find a suitable bouldering gym in your area.
(Many climbing gyms also have bouldering facilities, but a gym focused solely on bouldering is mostly the better choice).
2. Pack your sports bag
– For your first day of bouldering, any kind of sportswear is fine, as long as it offers enough room to move.
– Pack water, snacks, and some shoes to walk around inside the gym (FlipFlops or similar).
3. Entry and gear rental will cost around $15-25.
(Rent: climbing shoes and chalk)
4. Rules and grades
There are not many rules in bouldering – try to get to the top of the route and watch out to not fall on anybody. Once at the gym you will learn about the the gym-specific grading system.
Bouldering is not a complicated sport with many rules and regulations. You do not need any previous knowledge, nor are you required to bring your own equipment.
What is bouldering & why its just Awesome
Bouldering is a form of rock climbing – it is performed on small rock formations or artificial walls without ropes or harnesses.
This means you will only climb around 4 meters high, and you will be able to jump off the wall at any time. In most boulder gyms, the landing is protected and cushioned with thick foam pads.
How to – Indoor bouldering
- The holds you use to climb are made of plastic and come in all sorts of different shapes and colors.
- Routes are marked by color and given a certain grade (corresponding to their level of difficulty).
- The route’s difficulty depends on the number, size, and distance of the holds and the wall inclination. (Overhang vs. inclined wall).
- The movements are intense and require not only raw strength but also technique, agility, and coordination.
The goal is to find the correct sequence of movements (the so-called Beta) to reach the top hold with both hands.
Depending on the route and inclination of the wall, you will be using different muscle groups throughout. Bouldering will work your entire body, with the upper body being used the most.
Bouldering is easy to learn, and even as a beginner, you can start right away. Complex belay techniques involving ropes etc. (which are used in sport climbing) are not required to boulder.
9 Reasons for why you should go bouldering
- Fast, easy, and safe to learn.
- Everyone can boulder no matter strength, age, or body type.
- Inexpensive (no expensive gear necessary).
- It can be done almost anywhere (many indoor and outdoor areas worldwide).
- An intensive full-body workout.
- Social interaction with like-minded people.
- You can do it alone (not dependent on climbing partners, as is the case for sport climbing).
- Pure nature… Outdoor bouldering takes you to the most beautiful places.
- Bouldering is strenuous and clears the mind.
Where can I learn how to boulder?
You can learn how to boulder in every bouldering gym and in most climbing gyms.
All you need for the beginning are climbing shoes and some chalk. You can rent both in any gym.
What is chalk?
Chalk is magnesium carbonate in powder form which is filled in small bags (chalk bags). Chalk provides dry hands, good grip and is part of every boulderer’s standard climbing arsenal.
What to wear Climbing / Bouldering?
As long as your movements are not restricted – pretty much everything goes. Click for further information and a couple of real-life examples of what climbers like to wear.
Learning how to boulder – Outdoors
You might even come across a few bouldering opportunities near your own home. If this is the case, you can identify them very easily online.
Bouldering areas are described in detail in one of the many bouldering guidebooks. In there, you will find most routes by name, the grade (level of difficulty), as well as where to start your approach towards the rock.
Some of the best bouldering areas
Can anyone learn how to boulder?
Some people say: “I am too weak for bouldering” or “I have no strength in my arms,” and pretty much all of those people will learn – that they are way stronger than they thought.
Power is not everything.
Strength is not the most important part of being able to boulder. Technique, balance, and mobility are equally important factors when it comes to bouldering.
Bouldering if overweight?
Yes, of course, also overweight people can boulder.
There is no age limit for bouldering. Of course, older people can also boulder.
Usually, though, they do tend to prefer sport climbing. Sport climbing, when compared with bouldering, is characterized by longer, more enduring routes, which older climbers enjoy better.
If you can climb up a ladder… you are ready for bouldering!
How to boulder – 5 tips on technique
1. Push instead of pull
The true power lies in the legs.
Many beginners focus on the wrong part of their body – only wanting to pull themselves up using their arms. The strength of the legs exceeds the strength of the arms, and you should definitely make use of this.
The better your footwork, the more power you can transfer through your legs onto the wall, bringing us to the next point…
2. Use your toes to step on footholds
Climbing shoes work best when you use your toes to precisely step onto the footholds. And if you also manage to lower your heel a little, you will reap the benefits of the following:
- Better grip
- More freedom of movement
- More range
- The possibility to change the position of the feet (in many routes, it is necessary to swap feet)
3. Look exactly where you place your feet
Focus on where you place your foot and only after the foot is set to look further up.
If you climb hastily and focus solely on your arms, you might slip off the footholds.
- The 30 Best exercises
- 3 Training Plans
4. Hips close to the wall.
Bring your body’s centre of gravity as close to the wall as possible. That way you are able to put pressure the footholds and relieve your forearms.
5. Heelhook & Toehook
Heelhook and toehook are two techniques every boulderer will need to learn sooner or later. The heelhook can help solve otherwise impossible problems and experienced climbers use it quite often.
The toehook will be helpful, especially when climbing in overhangs -as it will help you to stay close to the wall. Both techniques should be kept in mind and used whenever it makes sense.
What equipment do I need to boulder?
- Climbing Shoes
- Chalkbag + Chalk
- Boulder brush (Optional)
- Climbing/bouldering pants (Optional)
Climbing shoes & bouldering shoes
Climbing shoes/bouldering shoes enable us to use even the smallest of footholds. The shape and fit of these shoes are generally tighter than you are used to in normal shoes.
Learn how to boulder in a beginner shoe
What is it that you need from a beginner’s shoe?
- Comfortable Fit
- Stability on the small footholds
“Comfortable”? That’s right.
Beginner’s climbing shoes need to be more comfortable compared with expert shoes – simply because expert shoes would be too painful to wear.
Beginner’s shoes have less downturn and are symmetrical, with the soles offering some additional support. Experienced climbing shoes offer less support, have a stronger downturn and are asymmetrical in their construction.
A beginner’s shoe therefore has several advantages for the beginner:
- Sole: The sole offers stability and supports beginners “weaker” foot muscles.
- Shape and downturn: Here we come back to the concept of “comfort”. Due to the lower downturn the shoe is more comfortable to wear.
We Tested Rock Climbing Shoes.
Take a look at the 9 Best climbing shoes.
How tight should the climbing shoe be?
Please do not make the mistake of choosing a shoe that is too tight. Finding the right size is exactly what makes buying climbing shoes so difficult. Here are a few tips for the purchase:
Tight but not too tight
Your first shoe should never be too small!!
Experienced climbers often buy their shoes a little smaller and “break them in” over a period of time – until they finally fit. In the meantime, they mainly climb with an older pair of climbing shoes.
If you only have one pair of climbing shoes, they should be “relatively” comfortable, so you do not experience pain whilst climbing.
If you have been climbing for a number of years already, then by all means buy yourself a pair of tighter shoes and break them in over time. As a beginner though, this will just impede your progress and make the experience less enjoyable.
You’re in pain…?
Then it is not the right shoe for you.
Try it on extensively
Try the shoe on and test how it feels when climbing up small edges and footholds. Put your full weight on the toes.
The heel must have a snug fit within the shoe, especially when bouldering (Heelhook).
Chalkbag + Chalk
You can’t really go wrong here – buy a chalk bag with a design you like
With Chalk itself, I go for good quality but not too expensive (my personal favorite on Amazon*). In some gyms, it is better to use liquid chalk. It is a bit more expensive, but it doesn’t produce as much dust.
The Best Chalk
- Yes, some of the best chalks are expensive.
- But there is one Chalkd which is affordable and good.
- Check out our Chalk TEST.
Bouldering – how much does it cost?
The entrance fee for a bouldering gym is around $15- 30, including rental equipment (prices vary depending on the region). Often there is a discounts for annual tickets, monthly tickets, season tickets etc.
- Entrance fee: $15-20
- Rental shoes: approx. $5
If you enjoy bouldering, you should get your own climbing shoes as soon as possible—a good beginner’s shoe costs around $80.
Bouldering is very addictive!
If you like it, you’ll most probably come back. So, save yourself the recurring rental fees and invest in a pair of good quality climbing shoes – you won’t regret it.
“After my first attempt over 15 years ago, I was immediately fascinated by bouldering and haven’t stopped since. Climbing/bouldering has taken me across the world to some of the most beautiful places nature has to offer. In that time, I have experienced hundreds of sunsets and met some wonderful people who have changed my life for the better.”
Improve Bouldering Technique (fast)
- Helpful tips on how to improve and train your bouldering technique.
- Learn which drills will result in fast improvements.
Learn to boulder – beware of injuries!
By far the most injuries affect the lower extremities (ankles, knee joints). The landing is the most dangerous part of bouldering.
Overloading of the finger, elbow, and shoulder joints is the second major source of danger.
More about injuries and dangers while bouldering you can find in my article: “How dangerous is bouldering? Injuries | Accidents | Safety“.
Please take care, warm up well and practice a save landing.
What is the difference between bouldering and climbing?
Bouldering is performed on small rock formations without ropes or harnesses -you can jump off.
Safety equipment when bouldering:
- No rope or safety equipment necessary.
- The only safety measures are crash pads and being “spotted.”
- When you are being spotted, you have another person watching you when you jump from the wall, ensuring you land safely onto the crash pads.
Type of climbing – bouldering
Bouldering is characterized by a low number of highly intense moves (maximum strength). That means a usual boulder problem is short and sweet (6-10 moves). It is about finding the perfect grip and movement sequence in a route with few but intensive moves.
- Climbing shoes
- Chalkbag & Chalk
- Crash pad (only for outdoor sessions)
Climbing is done on rock walls or climbing gyms with heights of 12-40 m. Using ropes and belay techniques.
Safety equipment when rope climbing:
- A rope and a belay device are used.
- If a climber falls, the belayer ensures they are caught.
- Learning this technique takes time and practice as well as professional instructions.
Type of climbing – rope climbing:
- In addition to maximum strength, power endurance plays a decisive role in rope climbing.
- The routes are longer and contain considerably more moves than is the case when bouldering.
- Due to the height and the associated risk of falling, the psychological challenge is greater when climbing.
Rope climbing equipment:
- Climbing shoes
- Chalkbag & Chalk
- Climbing harness
- Helmet (optional)
- Belay device
Bouldering vs. Rock Climbing
The difference between climbing and bouldering lies mainly (but not only) in the height of the object that’s being climbed. Check out all 8 Differences
How can I improve my bouldering skills as fast as possible?
The fastest way to get better in bouldering is to:
1. Boulder with someone who is better than you. There is no faster way to learn than from an experienced climbing partner.
2. Train hard and regularly (min 3x a week).
What is the maximum height for bouldering?
The maximum wall height for indoor bouldering is about 4.5 m. The potential height of a fall is about 2.5-3 metres. In most centres there are thick foam pads underneath the bouldering routes, which ensure a safe and cushioned landing.