A skilled rock climber places as much weight as possible on his skeleton, engaging his muscles only when necessary to remain safe or make progress. Despite this, climbing a face still uses every muscle in the body from time to time. A climber's weight-to-muscle ratio can have a profound effect on how well and easily he performs the moves and techniques of this particular sport.
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Rock Climbing Basics
On the surface, rock climbing seems simple. You grab onto holds in the rock face and ascend. However, careful attention to weight distribution, foot placement and how you grip the rock can mean the difference between success and failure. These techniques focus on engaging the muscles as little as possible. For example, rock climbers look for footholds that allow them to stand upright and take their weight on their hips and feet -- rather than clinging to the face with their much smaller hands and arms.
Weight-to-muscle ratio isn't a specific number derived from a formula. Instead, it's a descriptive term that describes how strong a person is as compared to her body weight. A person with a high weight-to-muscle ratio is light for her size, while a person with a low ratio is heavy for her strength. You'll also see this attribute called strength-to-weight ratio.
Climbers with a high weight-to-muscle ratio tend to be more successful. Because their muscles carry less weight as compared to their capacity, they can maintain firmer grips and climb for longer periods without becoming fatigued. However, climbers with this attribute sometimes become lazy. They are strong enough to climb without excellent technique -- which can mean never learning good climbing technique. Since strength will ultimately fade with age, this can make climbing harder for them as the years go on.
With a low weight-to-muscle ratio, climbing is harder -- much like asking a climber with a higher ratio to ascend a face while wearing a heavy backpack. To make climbing easier, an athlete with this body type needs to pay special attention to form. Techniques like skeletal hangs and posting on his feet will engage his bones and joints rather than his muscles -- making his low weight-to-muscle ratio less of a hindrance.
Improving Weight-to-Muscle Ratio
The good news about climbing with a low weight-to-muscle ratio is that the activity itself is likely to help improve that attribute. Rock climbing doesn't tend to bulk you up, but it can quickly improve tone, strength and endurance over your entire body. If you're overweight or obese, you can also contribute to a better ratio by losing weight through diet and cardiovascular exercise.