From the powerful benefits of battle ropes, to a collection of workouts you can do with them, here is your ultimate guide to battling ropes.
You gotta love the utter simplicity of battle ropes.
Pick up two, heavy, coiled pieces of shipyard-caliber rope, flap them around really quickly like an angry octopus, and then collapse to the floor with your heart about to explode out of your chest and your arms, your back, core and shoulders burning with lactic acid.
There is an almost endless variation of battle rope exercises that you can do to achieve your workout goals.
Here are the benefits to spending some time on the battle ropes:
1. Battle ropes are a one-stop shop for getting in shape.
What muscle do battle ropes work?
Um, a more realistic question would be, What muscles do they not work?
Your grip will get pummeled. Your core? Shredded. Your arms, delts, traps, upper back, lats, and even your legs will get in on the action.
All while giving you a ridiculously good-looking conditioning workout.
2. They can be as challenging as your goals.
Although battle ropes look like a brutal workout (and make no mistake, hammer on them the first time out and you will be sore for a couple of days), the learning curve on them is short, unlike other high-intensity forms of exercise like sprinting or Olympic lifting, and they can produce awesome results in a very short amount of time.
They are also totally scalable—from beginner to elite athlete, you can work them at your desired pace and intensity. There’s no ceiling with this exercise—you can use them as fast and as powerful as you are able.
Whatever your goals are, there is a battling ropes program that suits your fitness level and aspirations in the gym.
3. You can get a killer workout in a hurry.
One of the awesome things about battle ropes is that your heart rate gets moving quickly when working out with them. All it takes is blasting away on them for a few seconds to get things going.
One study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that ten minutes of battle rope work at just :15 seconds of work to every :45 seconds of rest resulted in peak heart rates of nearly 180 beats per minute, and blood lactate levels of 12mmol. (If that measurement doesn’t make sense to you, it’s the kind of lactate concentration that leaves your muscles awash in lactic acid.)
For athletes who are looking to develop anaerobic and peak power this is crucial—after all, there aren’t very many forms of conditioning that focus exclusively on the upper body that can hit those energy zones.
In terms of bang for your buck, battling ropes are about as good as it gets.
4. No gym required.
Although the bigger, thicker ropes are a little more challenging to carry around (my Onnit ropes, as much as I love the crap out of them, are a pain in the butt to get in and out the back seat of a car), most battle ropes are actually quite small and portable. Unlike a jump rope or other “pocket gym” equipment, battle ropes do require some space and they need to be hauled.
(Check out this guide to my favorite battle ropes for every kind of athlete and gymgoer for a more detailed breakdown on the best ropes.)
This means that you can lasso them up to a post, a tree, or your sister’s leg wherever you are at, whether it’s a park, the driveway, or the backyard. With about 15-20 feet of narrow space you have more than enough room to punish, err, work yourself out.
5. It’ll make ya mentally tougher than an old leather catcher’s mitt.
Battle ropes can be murderous—with your heart rate skyrocketing, lactic acid flooding your muscles and your lungs pleading for oxygen, you will find yourself wondering how in the name of everything holy you are going to go a full minute pumping your arms and making those perfect swells with the ropes.
Being mentally resilient is one of the foundational keys of successful athletes (and people, too), and hammering away on the ropes is an easy way to quickly build some of that good old intestinal fortitude.
6. Helps you level out muscle imbalances.
We all have our dominant sides, and this is especially apparent with athletes. Battle ropes can help to even out muscle imbalances by forcing each side to work unilaterally and on its own.
As a lifelong swimmer who always favored my strong side when breathing this meant that I ended up with over-developed lats and traps on the right side of my body. While this doesn’t sound like a big deal, it led to a metric butt-ton of time on the IR from over-use injuries. Which, as you can guess, sucked.
Battle ropes, when you alternate arms, is a unilateral exercise, forcing you to equally challenge each side of your body with each swing of the ropes.
As far as ways of getting shape, of getting stronger, and of maximizing time spent in the gym battle ropes my favorite way to get wrecked.
Make it part of your program and your workout routine and build a stronger core, a kung-fu grip, and increased conditioning.
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