A-Z's of Bouldering

Bouldering — A sport that made its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics that is relatively new to Singapore but has steadily gained popularity. In this article, we dive into the world of bouldering with the help of two experts—Chin Yuen from boulder+ and Leong Heng from Fit · Bloc.

Photo: Fit • Bloc

Rock climbing is familiar to most of us, but what about bouldering? For the uninitiated, bouldering is a form of climbing, except the climber does away with the usual climbing equipment, save for a crash pad. The wall used for bouldering is usually shorter as well, though it’s no less challenging. The sport has been steadily gaining popularity and recognition in the world, having just made its debut in the Sport Climbing category in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics this year.

Singapore is aiming to send at least one sport climber to compete in the Paris Olympics in 2024, and with about forty climbing gyms in Singapore, the sport has gained traction locally, with bouldering facilities easily accessible around the island.

Fit · Bloc combines both climbing and a myriad of other fitness activities. | Photo: Fit · Bloc

Those living in the west can simply pop into Fit · Bloc, Singapore’s first hybrid indoor climbing and fitness gym, located at The Oasis in Singapore Science Park. With a myriad of activities such as bouldering and yoga classes, alongside gym equipment and a swimming pool, you’ll be in for a holistic experience. Another climbing gym is boulder+ at The Aperia, which is the only gym in Singapore to have topout boulders—boulders that you can stand on once you reach the top. There’s also Climb Central, which has three gyms across the island; their gym at Funan features more than 200 outdoor-inspired climbs and a boulder unit with a Kilter Board. Shoes and chalk bags can usually be rented at the gym, making it convenient if one wishes to enter the sport. 

With the help of Chin Yuen from boulder+ and Leong Heng from Fit · Bloc, here’s a glossary of bouldering terms and some advice to aid you in your journey. 

Advice — For new climbers, Chin Yuen shares some advice. “Warm up properly, do lots of easy climbs, be patient with your progress, focus on your footwork and body positioning, and observe how others climb. Have fun!”

Beta — As Leong Heng shares, a beta is “a solution or method that one figures out and utilises to climb a route, or solve a ‘problem’.” You might hear this term used by climbers as they sit on the crash pads in the gym, discussing betas with each other. “Everyone climbs together in a common space,” Chin Yuen says. “The sport is very observable and social where climbers interact, help, and encourage each other to improve.”

Crux — This refers to the most challenging move or series of moves on a route. However, don’t worry too much about getting stuck. Leong Heng assures us that bouldering is something that even complete beginners can attempt. “Although climbing can look daunting to first-timers, it actually involves a set of movements intuitive to most—a simple coordination of arm and leg movements, and shifting of bodyweight on a variation of moves.”

Dyno — This movement takes its name from “dynamic”, which explains how it looks: an explosive movement similar to a jump that makes use of momentum to get to the next hold. 

Climbers discussing betas at boulder+, the only gym in Singapore to have topout boulders | Photo: boulder+
Apart from climbing, you can also work out in a standard gym at Fit · Bloc. | Photo: Fit · Bloc


Holds — What climbers hold on to when bouldering. Holds can come in many shapes and forms. 

Inspire — What inspired Fit · Bloc’s hybrid environment? “We saw a gap in the climbing industry—at the time of our opening, there were many climbing gyms around Singapore that were purely focused on climbing, but not on other aspects of fitness. To us, as both seasoned climbers and fitness enthusiasts, we believe that climbing and fitness are intrinsically intertwined,” Leong Heng explains. “In establishing Fit · Bloc, we were committed to presenting an entirely new and holistic fitness experience to our clients. Climbers can benefit from other aspects of physical and cardiovascular training, while those looking to work out in a typical gym setting can also be introduced to climbing.”

Jug — A very large hold that is comfortable to wrap your fingers around.

Kilter Board — The Kilter Board is a modern take on the traditional training board, studded with holds that light up around the edges to mark out various routes you can try. 

Egyptian — The name for this movement was probably inspired by 2D hieroglyphics. It includes dropping your knee and twisting your foot and leg to pull your body towards the wall, a move that allows climbers to navigate efficiently on steep ground.

Flash — An impressive feat, a flash is when you're able to complete a route on your first attempt. That’s what the commentators were saying when Olympic gold medallist Janja Garnbret flashed all four bouldering problems during the competition.

Growth — What's the fastest way to grow on your bouldering journey? Leong Heng says that it helps to be part of a community. “(At Fit · Bloc) we place a strong emphasis on building a tight-knit community that uplifts each other, forming a support system that encourages each individual to surpass their own mental and physical limits.”

The Kilter Board at Climb Central Funan. | Photo: Climb Central

Pie — Not the edible kind: pies are used by Climb Central as their internal grading system, pinned alongside each route to inform climbers how difficult it is. The higher the pie number, the more challenging the climb.

Quality — Bouldering is a quality workout for both your body and mind—a high-intensity exercise that can strengthen all of your major muscles and stretch your endurance, while also challenging you to think of the best way to conquer a problem. “Not all boulder problems are about power and strength,” Chin Yuen says. “Some require delicate movement, balance, and body positioning.” Leong Heng adds that a hybrid gym like Fit · Bloc features different fitness elements in a single setting and brings together people with varying interests, allowing climbers to benefit from other aspects of fitness such as yoga.

Rest — Chin Yuen warns that rest is often taken for granted. More experienced climbers often make more dynamic movements, which can result in a higher likelihood of injury. “Bouldering is quite tiring on the joints, so you need to listen to your body and rest when you need it.”

Liquid Chalk — If you’ve watched bouldering competitions, you'll notice that each climber usually coats their hands with chalk. There’s normal chalk, then there’s liquid chalk—liquid magnesium which forms a more resilient layer that can be applied to your hands, creating more friction for your sweaty palms.

Matching — When a climber brings both hands or feet together on the same hold.

Novelty — Have you ever picked up a sport because of its novelty, only to drop out because the routine had become repetitive? You’re unlikely to face when this when bouldering. Most gyms refresh their problems and routes regularly so there's always something new to look forward to.

Overseas — “Singapore, unfortunately, faces a lack of outdoor boulders and cliffs suitable for climbing,” Leong Heng says. “As such, many climbers head overseas to climb on real rock, an experience that’s quite different from climbing in an indoor setting.” Before the pandemic hit, Leong Heng’s team headed to Thailand and participated in the annual outdoor Khon Kaen Bouldering Festival.

Climb Central’s pie grading system. | Photo: Climb Central Delhi
Most climbing gyms, including boulder+, offer courses for those who are looking to get started on their bouldering journey. | Photo: boulder+


Wired — When you have a route wired, it means that you've mastered it and can ascend easily.

X-tra — Okay, yes, we cheated a little on this one. But if you need some extra help before you start bouldering, you can attend climbing classes and courses at both Fit · Bloc and boulder+, which are led by an experienced team of coaches and instructors.

Yabo — Another term for ‘sit start’, where the climber starts climbing from a sitting position.

Zoom — Going virtual was one way that gyms like Fit · Bloc dealt with the challenges of the pandemic. “Adapting to the new norm has been essential, especially so for a gym like us with much of our core business involving the use of climbing walls which are only available on-site,” Leong Heng shares. “During the Circuit Breaker, we organised a series of online workouts and training sessions for our community, and are constantly introducing new ways to engage our clients even when we are unable to welcome them to our premises physically.”

Sandbag — Cursed by climbers! A sandbag route that is more difficult than it looks or is graded, and leaves climbers wondering if their skills were subpar.

Traversing — When a climber moves laterally across the wall. Think Spiderman.

Undercling — Undercling holds are holds that look like they are upside down—and no, they've not been placed wrongly, but require some strategic thinking and positioning.

Volume — "Volumes are usually, big 3D geometric shapes we add to the climbing surfaces to change the basic profile of the wall,” Chin Yuen explains. This can create overhangs for more challenging climbs.

Photo: boulder+

The world of bouldering is an exciting and dynamic one. Compared to rock climbing, bouldering is a sport that allows climbers to focus on developing free climbing techniques without being constrained by a rope. If you're curious about the sport, the best way to find out more is to give it a go!

The Aperia Mall
12 Kallang Ave #03-17, Singapore 339511

Climb Central Funan
Funan Mall
107 North Bridge Road, #B2-19/21, Singapore 179105

Fit · Bloc
The Oasis
87 Science Park Drive, #03-02, Singapore 118260

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