Climbing is only just becoming an activity that households around the world are familiar with. However, with the addition of climbing to the Olympics, I’ve been seeing more questions about whether or not climbing is considered a sport. So I did some research into what is a sport and also considered hundreds of opinions found on forums and websites online and this is what I learned.
Is climbing considered a sport? According to the guidelines of a sport provided by the dictionary, climbing is a sport. To be a sport, the activity needs to involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. Climbing meets all of these requirements.
Many opinions online suggest climbing isn’t a sport, however, these opinions indicated the person who shared their opinion wasn’t familiar with climbing and thus didn’t understand how climbing meets these requirements or understood the nature of climbing.
How Is Climbing A Sport
A spot, according to the dictionary is any activity that involves physical exertion, skill and an individual or team competition against another or others for entertainment. Below is an outline of how climbing meets all of these requirements.
Climbing Requires Physical Exertion
The nature of climbing requires the climber to move their body up a vertical wall using nothing but their own strength. The wall has handholds and footholds that create additional challenges the climber must overcome to reach the top. These challenges require a lot of physical exertion.
The type of physical exertion is dependent on the type of climbing performed. Below is a brief overview of the two most common climbing disciplines:
- Sport Climbing: Sport climbing is climbing a wall at least 30 meters or higher (in competitions, it is usually higher) with a rope that you carry up the route with you. This type of climbing requires a lot of endurance in the lower body, upper body and especially the forearms.
- Bouldering: Bouldering is climbing without a rope on routes that get as high as 4 meters. On these routes, a lot of physical strength and explosive movements in the lower body, upper body and especially the forearms.
In addition, climbing meets the requirements for all four types of workouts, Aerobic (Endurance) Exercise, Strength, Flexibility and Balance.
- The heart rate of a climber is usually between 70-85% Heart-Rate Zone making it an incredible aerobic exercise.
- Climbing requires pulling your body and pushing your body through the route wich is a great way to build strength using body-weight.
- Climbing (especially in competitions) requires climbers to be able to stretch their hips, hamstrings and shoulders in multiple directions to be able to complete the climb.
- Climbing requires you to use balance to keep your weight as close to the wall as possible so that you can complete the climb without falling.
This support that climbing meets the requirements of all four workout types workouts further supports that climbing requires physical exertion.
Climbing Requires Skill
The second guideline for being a sport is that the activity needs to require skill. Climbing requires a lot of skills through technique and experience to help the climber reach or be able to get to the next handhold or foothold so they can reach the top of the climb. Meaning this requirement is fulfilled.
To help demonstrate how climbing requires skills, I have included a few techniques that are used to help climbers get to each hold.
- Smearing is a technique climbers use when there isn’t a foothold in the position they need their feet.
- Dynos is a climbing technique that requires you to leap from one handhold to the next. It is one of the most difficult climbing moves and is an incredibly difficult skill to build.
- Drop-Knee is a technique used to leverage your feet and leg balance and strength to position your body in a way that assists you with reaching the next climbing hold
- Flagging is one of the most common techniques in climbing. It is a technique that helps balance the climber or move the center of gravity and body position to reach holds in a controlled manner.
In addition, there are many climbing books, blogs, videos and training/clinics that are specific for helping climbers develop skills required to climb at higher levels. This further supports that climbing requires skills to complete the process.
Climbing Has Competitions
The last requirement in what makes a sport guideline is that the activity must have competitions where individuals or teams compete against another or other for entertainment. Climbing has had it’s the first competition in 1985 and has grown to have local, regional, country and world competitions and championships throughout the year.
There are four main types of competitions, bouldering, sport climbing, speed climbing and combined competition, which is a combination of the three other competitions.
These competitions include climbers or climbing teams that compete against other climbers or climbing teams. These competitions each have a scoring system and goal.
- For bouldering and sport climbing, the goal is for the competitors or the teams to get as many points as possible by reaching different handholds on the routes.
- In speed climbing, the goal is for the competitors to reach the top of the route faster than the other competitors.
- In combined format competitions, the goal is to get an average ranking from each of the disciplines as close to first place as possible.
These competitions have thousands of viewers and many of them are broadcasted on TV. For example, ESPN broadcasted Search Results the USA Climbing: Bouldering Open National Championship and the USA Combine Invitational in 2019.
In addition to competitions, sport climbing, bouldering, and speed climbing have all been added to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (now moved to 2021), where it will debut. This further supports that climbing has competitions that are for entertainment.
Common Misconceptions About Climbing
While doing research into this topic, I learned that there are a lot of misconceptions about climbing.
According to a survey on Debate.Org, 67% of respondents agreed that climbing was a sport. However, the responses supporting the argument that climbing is not a sport, are based on uneducated assumptions about climbing.
Hopefully, the above clears up most of those misconceptions, but here are a few others that you may not be aware of.
All Climbing Disciplines Are Sports
Climbing is broader than sport climbing and includes speed climbing, bouldering, trad climbing, free-solo climbing, etc. However, not all of the climbing disciplines are sports. For example, trad climbing, though an amazing activity that is physically exerting, requires a lot of skill and is very entertaining to watch (almost every climbing documentary is of trad climbing), there aren’t established competitions so it doesn’t meet the requirement of
The climbing disciplines currently that have established competitions and meet all of the requirements for the definition of a sport is sport climbing, bouldering and speed climbing.
Climbing Isn’t Entertaining
This is a difficult misconception because one could argue that “entertaining” is a subjective matter. However, in the context of the definition of a sport, the requirement is that it must be for “entertainment,” meaning that winning or losing is “just for fun” and there aren’t serious consequences for losing or failing.
Climbing also uses safety gear and has specific requirements that make it safe for competitions so there aren’t any serious consequences for losing or in this case, falling. No one is forced into the competitions and it is, for all intents and purposes, for entertainment.
If Climbing Is A Sport Then All Other Outdoor Activities Would Be Categorized As Sports
The main argument here is that many people compare climbing to hiking or camping. However, these activities can’t be compared because they require different strengths and skills, not to mention gear and general knowledge.