Captain Marvel is doing a little moonlighting as Spiderman. Last week, Brie Larson, who plays Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel in the upcoming movie, shared a video of herself scaling a rock wall with no cape (or rope) in sight. Watching Larson climb up, down, upside down, and around a boulder wall with superhero strength made us want to give it a try—and got us thinking about what this type of rock climbing might be able to add to our fitness routine.

You can check out the video, via @brielarson, here:

We asked the pros what the physical benefits of bouldering are. Turns out, it’s a total-body exercise that’ll help you build strength in many muscles from your back to your hands.

The definition of bouldering is simple, says Emily Varisco, USA Climbing-certified coach at The Cliffs and certified personal trainer. It’s rope-free rock climbing, in which climbs max out between 12 and 20 feet. Since the climber is losing the extra protection of the rope, climbing gyms compensate with a padded gym floor or crash pads, which are sometimes moved by a spotter depending on how far the climber moves.

Since bouldering covers shorter distances, it requires less endurance than roped climbing, explains Varisco. Instead, “bouldering is a much more powerful sport.” Trevor Dean, a CWA-certified climbing coach and facility manager at Gravity Vault, likes to compare climbing to running. “If you’re climbing on ropes, it’s like a marathon. Each move isn’t strenuous, but it requires endurance,” he says. “When you’re bouldering, you typically see more powerful, strength-oriented movements with more energy output per foot of wall. It’s a shorter climb, so it’s like a sprint.”

Whereas roped climbing requires a belay buddy to control the rope, Varisco points out that bouldering is a one-person job. Still, she says, “what makes bouldering most appealing, in my opinion, is that it is much more social than roped climbing. You spend much more time on the ground figuring out information about the climb and there is a lot more collaboration. It is very common to see multiple climbers going over ideas together and helping each other out whereas with roped climbing, you oftentimes have to figure it out on your own or with just the help of your belayer.” Even if you’re not in the market for new gym buddies, there’s another silver lining to bouldering: You have to buy less equipment than roped climbing, so it’s a good way to try your hand at the sport.

This Video of Brie Larson Will Inspire You to Try Indoor Rock Climbing

Photo: Noam Galai / WireImage / Getty Images

Brie Larson might be the next Captain Marvel, but that hasn’t stopped her from embracing her inner Spider-(Wo)man. The Oscar winner recently took to Instagram to share a video of her indoor rock climbing-specifically, bouldering, a type of climbing that’s close to the ground and uses no harness or rope-like it’s NBD. (Inspired? Here are nine reasons you should try indoor rock climbing right now.)

From the get-go, it’s evident that this isn’t Larson’s first time monkeying up a wall. She dominates an upside-down bouldering route-climbing so that she makes several moves with her back parallel to the ground. While she makes it all look easy, rock climbing (and bouldering, especially) is no easy feat. It’s a total-body workout as well as a mental one. Climbing upside down requires a lot of practice and technique, and a heck of a lot of core, back, biceps, and grip strength. Not to mention, a tiny mistake can be quite unforgiving. Just one misstep, and you’ll fall off the wall. (Watch her fall down to the crash pad at the end.)

This isn’t the first time the Academy Award winner has flaunted her skills in the gym. Earlier this year, she inspired the masses by powering through an insanely heavy 400-pound hip thrust workout. And she’s workout buddies with Alison Brie, who is fierce AF when it comes to lifting heavy. Plus, this pic of her sprawled on the floor post-workout is proof she leaves nothing in the tank while breaking a sweat. (Related: Record-Breaking Mountaineer Bonita Norris Will Make You Want to Be a Badass Climber Too)

To see her master something as badass as bouldering, though, is a reminder to constantly push yourself outside your comfort zone and try something new. It can benefit you in more ways than one. Your body and brain will be better off because of it, and you’ll gain a sense of accomplishment, confidence, and all-around badassery.(Need more proof? Find out what happened when Shape editors swapped workouts for a month.)

Photo: Tempura/Getty Images

At some point in the last few months I put my head down, and when I lifted it, everyone I knew was “bouldering.” Zac Efron is doing it. Jared Leto is doing it. Jason Momoa does it. Brie Larson does it. And those are just my close friends. Last year, the Climbing Business Journal reported that 43 new commercial climbing gyms opened in the U.S. in 2017, a growth rate of 10 percent over 2016, compared to the 6 percent of the several years prior. That number brings the current U.S. climbing gym total to roughly 450. The numbers for 2018 have yet to be published, but climbing professionals, like Jennifer Tanaka, an instructor at Rockreation climbing center in Los Angeles, say the industry is “exploding on all ends.” But why?

“To be frank, I was bouldering with my friends in Central Park in 2003,” says Andrew Fanelli, the regional marketing manager for Brooklyn Boulders, New York City’s first dedicated climbing gym, which was established in 2009. “But I think because it’s a solo activity and easy to pick up, it’s having a moment.” While Fanelli says it’s company policy not to disclose membership numbers, he will say they’re “definitely increasing.” While membership costs vary (Brooklyn Boulders charges $135 a month), the sport has a relatively low barrier to entry in other respects. Unlike top-roping (the other main form of rock climbing) bouldering requires very little equipment, and no partner. Typically, you just need the shoes — and many gyms, including Brooklyn Boulders, rent them out, if you’re so inclined. (Heh.)

Though the Instagrams I’ve seen suggest otherwise, Fanelli, along with several other climbers I talked to, insist climbing doesn’t require immense, immediate physical strength, or a particular body frame. “Bouldering isn’t so dependent on strength or height,” says the novelist R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries, who started climbing a couple of years ago. “Some of the best climbers are women. There’s something very fun about not feeling constrained, in any way that can’t be overcome, by my size and height.”

Climbers I spoke to also emphasized how little bouldering “feels” like exercise, while providing a “pretty decent workout,” per Kwon. There is also something magnetic about how much focus it requires. “I found that it was one of the only physical activities I’ve come across that, while I’m doing it, I can’t think about my writing,” says Kwon. “I can’t think about anything else. That’s what I love about it.”

Diana Tsui, the senior market editor at the Cut, echoes these sentiments. Bouldering isn’t as “punishing or miserable” as other forms of exercise, she says, but it also provides a welcome source of total concentration. “It’s mentally challenging, but in a good way,” she says. “It’s like problem solving — literally, they’re called problems — and you have to figure out what works for your height/skills. I’m not the strongest climber but I do feel very accomplished when I send a problem.”

This specialized lingo — “problem” for a particular route, “send” for complete, etc. — is attractive in its own right, providing boulderers with a sense of belonging (and maybe a little superiority). A friend of mine, Jess Harrelson, has been bouldering for years, and they’ve seen first hand how the bouldering lexicon has drawn people in. “I think to some people the language is appealing,” they say, comparing bouldering culture to surfing culture, in that respect. “It makes it seem kind of magical.”

Harrelson adds that the prep involved with bouldering lends an aura of extreme athleticism to the sport. “I think people LOVE the gear aspect of climbing, like the cute little climbing shoes and the chalk bags and the harness,” they say. “It makes you really feel like you’re going on an expedition, even if it’s just a few feet up a sweaty wall.” People who participate in extreme sports often describe the experience as spiritual, and “life-enhancing,” and especially in places where outdoor climbing (or other, riskier sports) aren’t easily accessible, bouldering might provide the average, secular urbanite with the next best thing.

This, too, is where the 2018’s Free Solo comes in. The documentary, which depicts Alex Honnold’s attempt to complete the first free solo climb of El Capitan at Yosemite National Park, was wildly well-received, and earned the best screen average of the year, raking in $300,804 from just four theaters on its opening weekend. It’s difficult to measure the exact impact of the movie on the indoor bouldering world, but Tsui says she’s sure it played a role in propelling an interest in the sport. “Free Solo really captured people’s attention,” she says. “That movie put the sport into mass pop culture.” (Zac Efron, for instance, referenced the title directly in his Instagram post.)

Harrelson, on the other hand, worries the movie might have scared some bouldering hopefuls off. “Perhaps it inspired people to climb, but I feel it kind of made climbing seem too intimidating,” they say. (For the unfamiliar, El Capitan is a 3,000-foot-tall granite wall, a climb that has killed more than 30 people, with equipment.) Obviously, the average bouldering experience is, well, a much simpler problem than El Capitan — which is not to say it’s not scary, but that, too, is part of it. “I’m afraid of heights, but I think that’s part of the fun and part of what keeps it so entertaining, are those giant rushes of adrenaline that come with the fear,” says Kwon.

Fanelli agrees. “We do warn people that climbing is inherently dangerous. And people gravitate toward that,” he says. “Climbing has that risk factor that gives you that natural high, but it’s not an overt, intense competition.”

It doesn’t hurt, either, that bouldering is very Instagrammable — the 2.7 million Instagram posts currently tagged #bouldering depict walls covered in bright, rainbow-colored lumps, and bodies which look inherently athletic, even virtuous, for attempting to navigate them. Kwon points out, though, that the many people you’ll see taking photos at the gym aren’t doing it just for the gram. “A lot of people do take pictures and videos of themselves climbing, and I sometimes do too, but more than anything, it’s really helpful to watch yourself, especially if there’s a route you can’t get,” she says. “It’s helpful to watch and see what you’re doing, and what you could be doing differently.”

Whether it’s Free Solo– or Zac Efron–inspired, or something else altogether, climbers agree that bouldering gym attendance is up. “Climbing gyms have felt a little more crowded recently,” says Kwon. Harrelson agrees, diplomatically. “I think it’s cool seeing people get interested in the sport, even if it makes my current climbing gym too crowded, which is sad,” they add.

But the influx of new faces isn’t all bad — several sources tell me that bouldering gyms are where the hot people are. “It’s honestly the best place for a single woman,” says Tsui. “You can meet someone SO easily. It’s a solitary sport that’s really social — I’ve made new friends at the gym, and everyone talks to each other. You cheer each other on through problems.” !! I might cry. I have to go boulder immediately.


Houston isn’t exactly known for being a rock climbing mecca. The city’s sprawling, flat terrain and distance from prime rock climbing destinations might make some think twice about how much climbing there is to do in the area.

But what H-Town lacks in outdoor mountain climbing terrain, it makes up for in indoor climbing hot spots. With fun and friendly gyms featuring challenging routes and bouldering areas, there are plenty of places to get your climbing fix.

If you’re in the Northwest area of Houston, you’ll want to check out Stone Moves off Cypress Creek Pkwy. You’ll find all sorts of colorful walls suited for climbers of any level here. And don’t be dismayed if you think the roof looks a little short from the outside—this gym has ample space for bouldering fanatics. With a regular rotation of top roping routes and walls sitting at different inclinations, you may not be able to properly use your arms (or legs) after a few climbs, but you’re guaranteed to have fun.

Just outside Houston’s inner city limits, Momentum Katy has everything an indoor climber could ask for—it’s a triple threat in the indoor arena. From speed climbing to top roping and bouldering, this place has it all. Not to mention a Fitness Area for yoga, strength and conditioning training, and weight lifting. Towering walls over 50 feet (currently the highest in Houston) dominate most of the space for rope climbing, but don’t worry — they also have a bouldering section. On your way out, stop by the small REI store inside to check out the available climbing equipment and books for enthusiasts!

Situated in Spring, Texas, about 15 minutes outside the loop, is inSPIRE Rock Indoor Climbing. Also a triple threat when it comes to indoor climbing, this gym is a favorite for a number of reasons. This colorful space features all types of climbing options, a weight room, a yoga studio, and a child center. Interested in rope climbing but don’t know how? No problem! inSPIRE staff members are available to teach you how to top rope and how to use the auto-belay for free — something many gyms commonly charge for. They also lend lead ropes at no cost. In need of some satisfying noms after a hard climb? Hit up the gym’s small pizza cafe—5 Ate Cafe. If you’re not in Spring, you can check out their 24,000-square-foot space in Cypress.

Situated near Downtown Houston is Momentum Silver Street. This 43,000-square-foot beast now claims the title for being among the biggest bouldering gyms in the nation. You may not find mountains nearby, but Silver Street’s enormous, sprawling bouldering walls make up for it. The routes vary widely in difficulty, accommodating everyone from beginners to serious climbers flashing v12’s. And this world-class climbing facility also incorporates World Cup-style routes that are equal parts fun and challenging. Fitt Tip: cool down, and grab a beer after your climb at Holler Beer half a block down Edward’s St.

Just a few minutes north of I-10 along Campbell Rd., you’ll find Houston’s OG rock climbing and bouldering gym. A great spot for lead climbing and top roping, TRG has routes for all levels, from 5. fun to 5.12. And there are plenty of auto belays if you’re climbing solo. But with patrons and staff being so friendly at this spot, if you’re looking for a belay partner, you won’t have trouble finding one. Fitt Tip: weekdays are half off for students, so bring your student ID!

Southeast residents of Houston can get their hands on some good climb routes at Space City Rock Climbing in League City. With 25-foot-high routes and 23 belay stations, this climbing gym offers 5,000 square feet of prime bouldering and rope climbing real estate. The gym tends to be on the quieter side throughout the week, so weekdays are the perfect time to try and tackle that problem that you just can’t figure out! Routes are changed regularly to accommodate a little bit of something for everyone, but most aren’t designated with their difficulty level, so you’ll just have to figure that out for yourself. If you’re looking for some casual climbing fun and friendly staff, Space City is your go-to.

Inside this sport and fitness facility on Clarewood Dr. you’ll find Climb59, a boutique rock climbing gym featuring 3,400 square feet of climbing area and 35-foot-high walls. While there are no bouldering areas, the space has plenty of lead climbing and top rope options, including auto belays. And you won’t be tackling the same old problems week after week — they regularly update their routes, so there’s always a new challenge to conquer.

Inspire Rock is Inspiring! – inSPIRE Rock Indoor Climbing & Team Building Center

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