Rock Climbing Shape vs. Bodybuilding

Woman holding rope, looking upward at partner climbing rock wall

Rock climbing and bodybuilding are two professional sports that share few similarities. While a rock climber focuses on performance, a bodybuilder focuses on aesthetics. Although both sports share some of the same training methods -- both engage in cardiovascular exercise and weight training -- the purpose of the training differs.


Rock climbing is an individual sport where you attempt to climb rock walls, cliffs or mountains. You use numerous accessories while climbing, such as climbing shoes, ropes, belays and hand chalk. Rock walls of different sizes, angles and terrain provide an unlimited range of intensity and difficulty in the sport.

Bodybuilding is an individual sport where you attempt to build significant amounts of muscle mass but retain an overall symmetrical look. During competitions, judges rate bodybuilders on size, proportion, symmetry and definition.


The majority of training for rock climbing involves practicing the sport. Rock climbers train to improve their climbing skills and techniques so they can be a more efficient climber. They use other forms of training to increase their endurance, strength and power for the sport.

Bodybuilders train to build muscle and sculpt their bodies. Adding muscle mass is the primary goal, but they also focus on symmetry and proportion. If a bodybuilder's left arm is significantly larger than his right arm, he trains to fix this imbalance.

Body Shape

Rock climbers typically have a low body fat percentage and some lean muscle, but they are rarely bulky. Extra bulk and weight makes it more difficult to climb.

The average bodybuilder is larger and more muscular than a rock climber. During the off-season, a bodybuilder carries more body fat and is not as defined. However, during the competitive season, he will shed the extra body fat and have a very low body fat percentage, lower than the average rock climber. This low body fat is necessary to display muscle striations and detail.


Rock climbers mostly train by practicing their sport. They include weight training, flexibility and cardio training to improve functional strength and endurance for the sport. These are supplemental forms of training, not the focus of their program.

Bodybuilders train in the weight room to build muscle. This is their main mode of training and it requires a high volume of work using moderate to heavy weights. Bodybuilders also supplement their main training with cardiovascular workouts and flexibility training.