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Think battle ropes are just the latest fitness fad? Think again. Throwing these thick, heavy ropes about in your gym does more than look impressive – it’s a ruthlessly effective workout.
Canadian research has found three 15-minute bouts a week for four weeks can boost your max push-ups by 24% and max sit-ups by 7% in four weeks, while a study from the University of Minnesota showed ten minutes of work significantly raises metabolic burn after exercise. Increased strength and fat loss – what’s not to love? Use our guide to the key exercises, as well as workouts and session finishers from the experts to reap the benefits for yourself.
“You can use ropes at the beginning of your session as part of a warm-up or activation phase,” says Charles Allan-Price from W10 Performance gym. “You can also use them in the middle of your workout to build intensity with waves, slams and whips, or you can use them at the end of a workout as a finisher for time or reps.”
“Ropes are great for time-based workouts,” says Allan-Price. “You work at a higher intensity than you do than with, say, dumbbells so you get your heart rate up as well to burn more calories.” Here are Allan-Price’s favourite battle rope exercises to add to your training repertoire.
Keeping the rest of your body still, wave the ropes as fast as possible, focusing on high reps and high amplitude. It’ll prime your muscles for what’s to come.
“Stay in a quarter squat position, with your back straight, and keep elbow movement to a minimum,” says Allan-Price. “Keeping your elbows in will stop your shoulders from burning out and keep the movement in the biceps.”
With a slight bend in your elbows, bring the ropes up as if you were doing a lateral raise, keeping your thumbs pointing slightly forwards. Then whip them downwards. Continue to do your raises at speed.
“This is a great way to target the rear delts and back muscles, which are muscles associated with creating better posture,” says Allan-Price. “Common errors include too much leg movement in and out of the squat, and letting the torso slouch. Keep your chest up and stay in a quarter squat position.”
With alternate arms, make outward circles so that the rope moves like a corkscrew, working your shoulders and rotator cuffs.
“This exercises has a few variations for all levels of ability, from half kneeling to clockwise and anti-clockwise rotations,” says Allan-Price. “It will work the rotator cuffs, which are the small stabilising muscles of the shoulder joints, and create core tension – that’s why it is important to keep your torso as strong as possible by not allowing yourself to slouch. It’s a fun and dynamic way to train the back muscles and rotator cuffs.”
Lie face down with your arms forming a T-shape, then move them up and down as if you’re preparing for lift-off. It’ll work your lower back and shoulders.
“Another great exercise to work the posture muscles, and a great activation drill when starting a battle rope workout,” says Allan-Price. “During this exercise you’re going to work the upper, middle and lower traps as well as the rear delts, and your shoulders will be burning after 30 seconds. It’s great to use either in warm-ups or as a main set exercise. Make sure you squeeze your glutes and don’t arch your lower back. You should mainly feel this through the upper back and the shoulders.”
The grand finale. Jump up and bring both ropes down together, aiming for high amplitude. Repeat with as much height and velocity as you can manage.
“Any exercise that has the word ‘slam’ in it will instantly become a favourite for me,” says Allan-Price. “Treat this exercise like a squat jump with a slam, so you keep your elbows relatively straight and your torso neutral – and slam the crap out of the rope into the ground to get your heart rate up and burn calories. Remember that this exercise will tire you out pretty quickly, so have a hawk’s eye on your form – with no slouching!”
”For any sport that demands upper-body conditioning, like @EasthamsFitness). “For maximum effect, focus on maintaining the intensity of the motion from start to finish, no matter how much it burns.”
In fact, if it’s upper-body conditioning you want, battle ropes are the best tool. “It’s hard to get it from anything else without serious fatigue,’ says Eastham. “Sure, you can max out on push-ups and suspension rows, but you won’t be working for very long. The ropes will fatigue your cardiovascular system before your muscles give in.”
Do this three-move rope workout to whip your upper body into shape. Do move 1 for 40 seconds on, rest for 20 seconds, then do the same for moves 2 and 3. Do 12 rounds.
Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart, holding a battle rope in each hand. Begin to move the ropes up and down one at a time creating a wave movement through both ropes. Move the ropes quickly and smoothly, one at a time.
Grab the ropes in a reverse grip so the ends are pointing toward the ceiling. Whip the ropes up and over, rotating your whole body to the left. Then whip up and over and rotate your whole body to the right. Do as many reps as you can, always imagining you’re throwing the rope to the floor.
Holding a rope in each hand, raise your arms and slam the ropes down into the ground as hard as you can while lunging to one side. Repeat the move on alternate sides.
Quickfire rope workouts for fast fat loss and upper-body conditioning.
What Eight rounds of 20 seconds’ work and ten seconds’ rest of double rope whips.
Why “We are not looking for power here, just total rep count over four minutes,” says Eastham. “Grab a friend and ask them to count, then challenge them to beat your score. It’s all about intensity over volume – something CrossFit does very well. This challenge should bring your intensity towards the max.”
What Alternate five double rope whips with one burpee. See how many burpees you can manage in 60 seconds.
Why “Any contact sport athlete needs the ability to get up from the floor quickly and often,” says Eastham. “With the rugby players I train, I test their max effort burpee score in 60 seconds. Add in some battle ropes and they are in a mess. A great test of your max power output.”
What The exercise is simple. Alternating singe arm rope whips. Work for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds.
Why The aim is to complete as many intervals as possible, keeping a steady pace and without dropping the rope. “This is as much a mental toughness test as it is a physical one,” says Eastham. “Be honest with yourself, and don’t drop the tempo of those whips.”
“Ropes are a staple part of my kit because they enable you to pull, drag, climb and generally manipulate your resistance training in ways you can’t with barbells and dumbbells,” says training expert Andrew Tracey, who demonstrates how to use them here. “And when used as ‘battle ropes’ they provide you with an extremely affordable, portable alternative to traditional cardio equipment, giving you the whole-body benefits you’d get from machines like the rower or the ski erg, at a fraction of the price and the convenience of using it anywhere and anytime.”
“Intensity is the key here,” says Tracey. “Unlike weight training, where you’re dealing with resistance and liable to get injured if you push too hard, with battle ropes density is the name of the game so aim to fit as many whips, slams and waves in as you can to jack your heart rate up and get your lungs screaming.”
Start a stopwatch, then do:
20sec press-up position slams (left arm) 20sec press-up position slams (right arm) 20sec seated alternate side slams 60sec standing rope waves 60sec rest
Do four or five rounds in total.
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