Also known as heavy ropes, this workout is likened to “running with the upper body” and while not a new workout method, is trending in gyms across the US for good reason.
Long used as a training tool for football players, mixed martial artists (MMA), and other athletes, battle ropes can provide a high-intensity, whole-body workout that gets your muscles moving in new ways.
Unlike the relatively static movement of lifting and lowering a barbell, using battle ropes is a dynamic, ever-changing form of movement that has the added benefit of showing you whether you’re doing the movements correctly.
The ropes can be whipped, slammed, or dragged, but among the most popular are undulating movements that cause the ropes to move in waves. A typical battle rope workout class might have teams of people competing to keep the waves going, or the ropes might be used as part of high-intensity circuit training.
Benefits of Battle Rope Training
Battle ropes are often thought of as a tool for your upper body, which they are. However, their benefits don’t end there. Battle rope workouts work the muscles in your abs, back, and glutes, and you can incorporate movements, such as jumps, lunges, and squats, that work your legs, too.
Research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research even found that a 10-minute bout of rope training resulted in high heart rates and energy expenditure that would increase cardiorespiratory fitness.
Battle Ropes 101: What You Need to Know
Battle ropes are a simple workout tool that virtually anyone can use, so don’t be intimidated if you’re just starting out. The ropes come in various lengths and widths, which will impact the intensity of your workout.
The longer and thicker the rope, the more force you’ll need to use to make the waves. The slack allowed in the rope will also determine intensity. The closer you move to the anchor point, the more resistance you’ll be creating.
Three popular ways to use the ropes follow, but don’t stop at these. Part of the allure of battle ropes is that they allow you to move in many directions. The more movements you incorporate (such as side to side, up and down, or in circles), the more you’ll work different muscles and increase your shoulder mobility and range of motion.
- Waves: An alternating pattern with the primary direction of force toward the anchor.
- Slam: An aggressive movement with the primary direction of force down toward the ground.
- Whip: A symmetrical pattern with the primary direction of force toward the anchor.
There are two handgrips you can choose when working with battle ropes, either overhand (handshake) or underhand (microphone). The specific exercise and results desired will dictate which is best.
Battle Ropes Can Be a Form of High-Intensity Interval Training
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to be one of the best forms of exercise in terms of both effectiveness and efficiency. In fact, the evidence shows that by focusing on endurance-type exercises, such as jogging on a treadmill, you actually forgo many of the most profound benefits of exercise.
HIIT provides health benefits you simply cannot get from regular aerobics, such as a tremendous boost in human growth hormone (HGH), aka the “fitness hormone.” Perhaps best of all, HIIT requires only minutes, compared to hours, each week.
An HIIT workout using battle ropes might involve 30 seconds of the “double-whip” and “alternating whip” movements performed as intensely as you can followed by 60 seconds of recovery. The set would be repeated eight to 10 times and done two or three times a week.
When men and women engaged in this HIIT program for four weeks, they increased their VO2 max, which is the maximum amount of oxygen you can take in while exercising and is used as a measure of cardiovascular health. It was noted that battle ropes HIIT shows potential to improve both aerobic and anaerobic parameters in just four weeks time.
Both the double wave and the alternating wave are beginner movements, so this is a simple and effective HIIT workout to start with if you’re new to battle ropes. Greatist posted two clear descriptions of how to perform each:
- Double Wave: “To start, stand facing the anchor with feet shoulder-width apart. Grasp one end of the rope in each hand so that your palms face each other. Bend knees slightly, brace your core, and move both arms up and down rapidly, creating waves in the rope.”
- Alternating Wave: “Stand facing the anchor point with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Grab one end of the rope in each hand so that your palms face in. Raise one arm to shoulder level and then quickly lower back to start, raising the other arm to shoulder level as you do so. Continue alternating as rapidly as possible without losing form.”