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May 30, 2021 9 min read

If you’re looking to gain some serious strength and change up your current gym routine, battle ropes may be your answer. Combining all the benefits of cardio and strength training, battle rope training is a great addition to any workout. 

Battle ropes have been particularly popular in CrossFit routines for some time. However, a battle rope workout is beneficial for anyone looking for an incredibly explosive muscle workout and a sweat-inducing cardio session in one.

Close up of black battle rope on a gray backgound.

What Exactly Are Battle Ropes?

If you’ve ever stepped foot in a gym, it is highly likely you’ve seen battle ropes before. Most gyms have at least one battle rope and you can’t miss them as they can be anywhere from 15 to 25 feet long. Battle ropes are typically heavy ropes and may feel shocking when you first pick them up, but this resistance is easily changed so don’t feel too intimidated.

This method of training with battle ropes is relatively new, emerging in just 2006 when John Brookfield came up with the idea. Brookfield’s credibility in the fitness industry is just as strong as he is (we’ll give you a hint: super strong), and he has completed various challenges and competitions.

Brookfield says he developed the idea of “battling ropes” in his backyard when he was searching for a way to train and “sustain strength, speed, power, and also mental endurance over time…”

In addition to several lengths of rope to choose from, you can also choose various thicknesses. If you’d like to use battle ropes at home, you’ll also need to buy a rope anchor, or use something like a tree or pole to wrap the rope around. This is because the battle ropes are actually one long rope wrapped around an anchor point of some sort, making it appear to be two shorter ropes.

How to Use Battle Ropes

If you’re used to dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells, picking up a rope for working out may feel foreign. However, using ropes is simple for seasoned lifters and new gymgoers alike. Still, like many exercises, form is incredibly important to avoid premature exhaustion and injury.

To use the battle ropes for a conventional battle rope workout, you should first find a comfortable grip. Most people don’t think much about grip and just grab the ropes and go. However, a poor grip is synonymous to bad form and can quickly lead to injury.

The ropes should have a designated grip area, so use that as a guideline. The palms of your hands should be facing each other with your thumbs on the inside of either rope.

The next thing to tackle is your stance. You should stand in a way that is grounding and balancing. This is typically a stance in which your feet are about shoulder-width apart with your legs slightly bent. You should also maintain good posture by keeping a neutral back and a forward gaze. Avoid rounded shoulders by remembering to keep your chest up and out.

Start the exercise by imagining a movement that creates evenly spaced waves in the rope. Typically, in a standard battle rope movement, you’ll lift one arm and lower the other to create a seamlessly alternating movement. The movement should be more of an up and down motion rather than a push or pull.

Keep a bit of a bend in the elbow while moving from your elbows and shoulders. The range of motion for the arms should be neither minimal nor maximal for a conventional battle rope movement. Stick to a lift that does not go above your shoulders and a slam that does not go beyond your thighs.

As for the speed of your movement, start slow if you are new to battle ropes. If the resistance is too much, simply create less slack in the rope by grabbing somewhere closer to the anchor point.

Eventually, work up to a faster, more rapid speed for increased cardiovascular engagement or a higher resistance level for more muscle engagement. Just remember: a workout that is too difficult may result in bad form, leading to potential injury.

10 Major Benefits of Battle Ropes

The benefits of incorporating battle ropes into your current workout or new program are plentiful. In fact, one study found that just eight weeks of utilizing the battle ropes resulted in significant improvement across many fitness aspects.

While battle ropes look intimidating, you’d be surprised at how easy they can be to use and how much they can boost anyone’s workout game. Here we listed just ten of the best benefits of battle ropes, but in addition to these, there are dozens more: 

1. Uses the Entire Body

Many people may think of the battle ropes as an upper body workout. However, when done right, the battle ropes can really be a full-body workout. In addition to engaging the entire upper body, battle ropes also work your core, glutes, and leg muscles for a total body workout.

Furthermore, in addition to being an effective strengthening workout, the battle ropes can also serve as a great cardio workout since the effort can get your heart rate elevated enough for fat loss and calorie burning.

Sure, muscle isolation movements can be beneficial to reaching your goals. Still, the efficiency of using one movement to work nearly your entire body, such as a battle rope exercise, will not only save time but is also likely to yield amazing results. 

2. Low-Impact

Both cardio sports like running and strengthening exercises like lifting can be very hard on the body. For some people, these types of high-impact exercises are impossible to do for health reasons or perhaps the risk of injury is too much of a gamble. While there is no guarantee that the battle ropes won’t result in injury, the lack of impact on the body can be much better for certain gymgoers.

Even those who are able to endure high-impact exercises can benefit from implementing low-impact exercises into their routine from time to time. Even the healthiest of bodies can break down over time when not treated well, so a balance of high-impact and low-impact may be the most ideal. 

Burning crumpled paper with the word fat written on it

3. Can Help Burn Fat and Build Muscle

Cardio exercises like biking or running have long been surefire methods for fat burning. However, battle ropes can be strenuous enough to increase your heart rate and shed some fat. Pair battle rope exercises with a high-quality fat loss supplement for some serious fat loss potential. 

Additionally, the ropes are amazing for building muscle since they are typically heavy enough to provide substantial resistance. Both an elevated heart rate and the building of muscle will aid in fat loss.

4. May Help Improve Balance 

Since the ropes are great at building your core and legs, you’re likely to see an improvement in balance in your everyday life. Furthermore, since this workout is a total-body movement, you might even see some refinement and correction in the symmetry of your body.

It is common for our bodies to favor muscle building on one side or in a particular group. However, battle ropes can help fix these balance-inhibiting occurrences, such as a larger right bicep.

5. Target Weak Areas 

Since battle rope training involves the entire body, there is a strong likelihood that you’ll discover weak areas of your body that may have gone unnoticed otherwise.

Battle rope training can also be helpful in targeting areas of your body that you know are weak but are unsure of the exercises needed to isolate the muscles. Since battle ropes are also easily varied, so you can find versions of the exercise that target your specific areas of concern more heavily.

6. May Increase Mental Toughness

We all go through it but hate to admit it: there are gym sessions in which we find ourselves out of focus and feeling mentally weak. Any workout that requires a strong body also requires a strong mind. Especially when used to build endurance, battle ropes may strengthen your mental toughness.

If you find yourself tiring out in your gym sessions even though you feel like you could go harder, this mental boost may be what you need. Furthermore, successfully using the battle ropes can be very empowering. This feeling of empowerment and strength can be incredibly helpful for giving each gym session your absolute all, resulting in huge gains.

7. Less Likely to Be Injured

While it is no guarantee that using battle ropes won’t result in injury, especially if used incorrectly, the likelihood of injury is significantly lower compared to a high-impact workout such as running.

Additionally, building and sustaining any muscle is essential to avoiding injury. Battle rope exercises involve the entire body, including vital muscle groups such as the posterior chain which are incredibly important to performing several other exercises. A weak core and back are recipe for injury and training with battle ropes is likely to combat this.

8. Inexpensive Equipment

Compared to the cost of dumbbells and weight plates, battle ropes are a significantly less expensive addition to your home gym. You can find battle ropes at just $50 to $170 making them an affordable way to get a full-body workout at home.

You can also find ropes not marketed specifically as “battle ropes” in most home improvement or hardware stores, which may be an even thriftier option when looking to try out ropes. While these won’t have designated grip handles, you can always fashion some out of a heavy-duty tape.

9. Easily Variable

When it comes to working out, implementing variation and changes are imperative to successful gains and combating boredom. Unlike other pieces of equipment, which require the addition or deduction of weights for more or less resistance, changing the resistance for battle ropes is done simply by changing where on the rope you grab.

The closer to the anchor you are, the less resistance. Changing the resistance of a battle rope is no hassle and neither is varying a rope workout. While you may think it’s a one-movement exercise, there are many ways you can change battle ropes to focus more on specific muscle groups.

In addition to this, you can also tailor your rope workout to target muscle endurance, muscle hypertrophy, or even muscular strength.

10. A Good “Shock” to the System

If you’re someone who frequents the squat rack or the treadmill, the change of pace that implementing battle ropes provide may just be that extra boost you’re looking for. Our bodies are great at adapting to all that we put them through, so over time that HIIT workout (high-intensity interval training) you do daily may not yield many results.

Try a few days of switching out part of your workout for battle ropes, or use them as an addition to your warm-up or cool-down. You may start to feel an increased range of motion as well as some soreness in areas that may need more attention.

Man with battle rope battle ropes exercises in the gym

Best Battle Rope Exercises

You may think there’s not much you can do with a rope. However, battle ropes are highly versatile and you can use them in many different ways. Here are just a few of the exercises and variations you can do with battle ropes in addition to the conventional version discussed previously:

  • Rainbow Twist/Slams: For this variation, simply rotate your upper body to alternating sides and slam both ropes down simultaneously. This is great for getting more core and leg engagement. Keep light on your toes and maybe even add a bit of a jump to get that heart pumping. 
  • Lateral Waves: While the conventional battle rope movement utilizes an up and down motion, the lateral wave variation requires a side-to-side movement. This can be great for getting some inner thigh burn and outer core burn.
  • Rope Slams: Rope slams are a popular variation. One particular study found that this specific variation is among the most beneficial for total muscle activation. This movement requires you to hold both rope ends and simultaneously lift them up and slam them down toward the ground. You can do this exercise with a less dynamic body or add a bit of a hop and squat for a harder workout. 
  • Outward Circles: Do this variation by a clockwise circle with the right rope and a counter-clockwise circle with the left rope. This version is amazing for engaging your upper body muscles from different angles. 
  • Side Shuffle: You can add any extra movements you want to the battle ropes for more of a challenge. A side shuffle variation uses the conventional movement in the upper body while adding a side shuffling movement in the lower body. This can help get your heart rate up while adding extra lower-body resistance.

In addition to all these variations, you can easily come up with your own by adding other movements. Much like a side shuffle, you can try adding movements such as jumps, lunges, or even burpees for a high-motion workout. Battle ropes are also incredible tools for HIIT workouts, which require max effort over short periods of time. 

The Ropes of Battle Ropes

Battle ropes can be a killer workout for anyone and is a very accessible piece of equipment. Whether you have goals of endurance or hypertrophy, you can easily tailor a battle rope routine to fit your specific needs and fitness level. No need to have a leg press and a chest fly, the battle ropes do it all.

If you find yourself holding onto a bit of extra unwanted fat, this can be the perfect running or biking substitute for people who don’t typically enjoy cardio exercises. With great potential for fat loss, battle rope training can aid you during your next diet cut or fat loss period.

For those who are already ripped and shredded, adding battle ropes into a gym routine can help maintain or even improve any current physique.