Bouldering is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK. It’s fun, a great way to keep fit, and super easy to get into. Here’s how…

Want to have fun with friends and get fit at the same time? Indoor bouldering is a relatively new sport and it’s taking off! You don’t need much to get started, so get down and find out what it’s all about.


Indoor bouldering is arguably the most accessible form of climbing and requires the least amount of equipment. Despite having its roots in the outdoors, the evolution and proliferation of indoor walls has transformed the experience into a fresh and fun sub-sport.

A female climber on an indoor climbng wall

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But what is it?

To begin with, bouldering was viewed as training, where climbers would practice technical moves on rocks that weren’t large enough to warrant a rope. But these days it’s a very popular style of climbing in its own right. Indoor gyms grew out of the need for people to have a place to train during the cold, wet winter months. But now some climbers exclusively boulder indoors!


In most indoor walls, you’ll climb on plastic holds that have been bolted into the walls above crash mats. The variety of different holds, angles of the walls, and placement of the holds, allows for the creation of tricky and inventive ‘problems’ that climbers have to solve with their bodies and mind.


Bouldering offers great freedom of movement, requires hardly any equipment, and is a great alternative to the gym. 

What should I wear?

Stretchy, comfy clothes that you don’t mind getting a bit dirty. Many women prefer to wear leggings and men often wear shorts or tracksuit bottoms. Jeans are a big mistake. T-shirts or other light tops are good if it’s not too cold.

A hangs on one arm from at an indoor bouldering wall

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If you haven’t got your own climbing shoes, don’t worry, most indoor walls will let you rent a pair. You can always call the wall up beforehand to check if necessary.

Where should I go?

There are so many new climbing walls popping up around the country that it’s hard to keep track. Understandably, most climbers will choose the wall closest to them, but it is worth travelling about a bit to get a feel for the vibe at different places. Find the climbing walls near you HERE

What should I do?

Bouldering can be as hard or as easy as you like, and it can be as sociable or not as you choose. Climb with others or find your own path, it’s up to you! The key thing is to have fun.

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What should I expect?

Nobody lasts long the first time. Your hands and forearms will probably give up first, even if the rest of your body feels relatively fresh. But with time, as your body responds and adapts to the demands you are putting on it, you should eventually be able to manage two to three-hour sessions.


Learn to listen to your body from the beginning. Try not to push it too much in the early days and make sure to get lots of rest. Recovery is key to making progress in any sport, so it's important to always think of things in the long-term.


If your hands and feet hurt, take a break or go home. The wall will still be there after you’ve recuperated! It’s far better to rest often and come back soon rather than having to spend a long time healing from injury.

How can I improve?

The beauty of indoor bouldering is that technique and movement skills can be practiced safely on a variety of wall angles and hold types. You can target your weaknesses or even work on things you enjoy, all at your own pace.


Make sure to warm up properly with dynamic stretches and easy climbing. Aim to climb your warm ups with good form, without having to try too hard or throw for holds, and practice difficult moves on easier routes. This will instil good habits for harder territory.

A climber hangs from her fingertips at an indoor bouldering wall

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An easy way to refine your skills is to watch other climbers, the ones who appear to move effortlessly up the wall. Analyse what they’re doing; the shapes they make with their body, their footwork. Yes, it helps to be strong for climbing, but without good technique you’ll soon burn out.


And if you’re stuck on a problem, ask for help! Climbers are a friendly bunch and sharing route knowledge - or ‘beta’ - is what passes for small talk at the wall. 

What next?

If you’ve caught the bug and can’t get enough of climbing… maybe it’s time to think about heading outdoors for some bouldering on real rock! Stay tuned for our next article on how to go bouldering outside.

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By Amii Wilkes, BMC competitions project co-ordinator


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