Cowboys use them in attempts to capture cattle. Climbers rely on their strength as they scale rock faces. Even camp councilors know the worth of a rope, dispensing teams of children to tug and pull at each end. Who would ever have thought that a measly rope could do so much?
Battle ropes (sometimes referred to as “power ropes” or “combat ropes”) can be anywhere from about 20 to 100 feet in length, made of natural or artificial fiber, and weigh anywhere from 20 to 75 pounds, depending on the rope diameter and length. “The longer and thicker the rope, the more of a challenge it poses,” explains Antonio Reyes, an NASM-certified trainer at the UFC Gym in Torrace, California. Because of their size, these aren’t ropes that you can pick up at any hardware store, but many fitness centers are now stocking their own, and numerous equipment manufacturers offer more affordable versions for personal use.
Although, as a spectator, you might scoff at its potency, rope training is far from a walk in the park. “When using battle ropes, you’re training multiple muscle groups in all three planes of motion — sagittal, transverse and frontal,” says Reyes. “This not only gives you a great conditioning effect, it also improves strength, coordination and endurance.”
The proof is in the pudding: our featured fitness model, Nicole Chaplin, felt the awesome power of the ropes firsthand at our shoot. She recalls: “Two days later I had DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), a reminder of how effective and impactful the ropes are on the muscles.” She goes on to share that her abs (thanks to continuous core engagement), delts and pecs all took a beating — in a positive way, of course! As an added bonus, battle ropes jack up your heart rate in minimal time, making this an unparalleled fat-burning activity. “The ropes give you a great interval-training workout, which every ounce of research indicates is the best way to optimize calorie burn, fat burn and heart health,” says Jim Karas, celebrity trainer (to none other than Hugh Jackman, no less!) and author of The Petite Advantage Diet. Due to their weight and the instability caused by the swinging ropes (which forces you to engage your muscles in response), it is an activity that also increases lean muscle mass, which in turn contributes to an increase in metabolism and fat loss.
We’ve provided three level-appropriate workouts for you, or you can freestyle your session by choosing four to five different moves and arranging them in a DIY circuit. Battle the ropes up to three days per week, and you’ll be combat-ready — and fitter than ever — in no time!
Set Up Your Ropes
• Choose a space that offers plenty of room on all sides to perform the movements.
• Secure the center of the rope around a fixed point, such as the base of a Smith machine or through a heavy kettlebell.
• Make sure the rope is of equal length on both sides before starting the exercises.
• Face the ropes and hold one end in each hand, then walk backwards until they are straight.
• Stand with your feet hip-width apart or wider, with your weight distributed equally between your feet.
• Assume an athletic stance, lowering into a quarter squat and leaning slightly forward with your chest up.
• Keep your back flat, your head up and your abdominals tight. Don’t bounce or move from your hips as you perform the exercises.
• Use a full range of motion with each rep, making sure the wave travels all the way from your hand to the end of the rope.
Your Workout, Your Way
To make a move easier: Reduce your range of motion and slow your tempo.
To make a move harder: Increase your tempo and/or range of motion.
Wave the ropes from hip to shoulder height in an alternating pattern.
Tip: Synchronize your motions with your breathing, suggests Chaplin.
Stand Proud: Make sure your shoulders don’t round forward towards the anchor point; lifting your chest may help prevent this.
Newbie No-Nos: As they wave the ropes, beginners may extend and flex their knees to help out; keep the legs bent, allowing the effort to come from your upper body, not from below the belt.
Whip It Good: If your waves fizzle out before reaching the anchor point, your power output may be lacking. Try moving the ropes more forcefully and increasing your range of motion.
Using both hands, move the ropes up and down simultaneously from head to hip height. Keep your core tight and your back flat.
Feel The Burn: Up your workout intensity by performing deep squats as you wave the ropes.
Move the ropes in opposite directions (think double-dutch), looping them out for a few reps, then changing direction.
Change It Up: If you find this motion too difficult, quickly open and close your hands to make horizontal waves along the floor instead.
Put both hands together and swish the ropes from side to side on the floor. Use your abs, not your arms, to move.
Get it Right: Since the point of this exercise is to target your abs over your shoulders, biceps and triceps, keep your elbows glued to your sides if you just can’t help but move them around.
Anchors Away: Ensure that your workout area has non-slip flooring to reduce the risk of injury during advanced motions that require you to step forward, back or to each side.
Tip: Improve coordination and balance by shuffling to the left, then the right.
Take It Up A Notch
So you've become familiar with the standards of battle ropes and are craving some more variety. Look no further: start with the intermediate workout, and after a few weeks, try your hand at the advanced option.
Follow the order of the exercises, and repeat two or three times.
Do the following five moves and repeat three times.
Rope throws: Using both hands at the same time, lift the ropes high and slam them as hard as you can onto the floor, coming all the way up onto your toes, then using your whole body to whip the ropes downward.
Figure eights: Hold the rope ends together and make a figure eight in front of you. The larger the figure eight, the more challenging it is.
Alternating waves, walking forward and back: Take four to five large steps forward while doing an alternating rope wave (the ropes will feel heavier as you move forward, so use larger arm motions). Continue moving back and forth.
Rope jacks: Hold one rope end in each hand and do jumping jacks to challenge the shoulders and cardiovascular system.
Reverse lunge double waves: Alternate lunging to the rear as you perform double waves.