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March 26, 2021 10 min read

Battle ropes have been cropping up in gyms all over the country. You’ve probably got a set in your gym that popped up out of the blue one day. If you don’t know what you’re doing with them it might seem like a weird fad that’s going to disappear as quickly as it started to rear its head.

You’ll be surprised to find that they’re incredibly versatile and will fit right into any workout. If you’re looking for something to challenge you that’s portable and targets a wide range of your muscle groups, then give battle ropes a chance before you turn your nose up at them.

Battle rope

What Am I Looking At Here?

Battle ropes aren’t just random ropes you find out on the street. There are a couple of things it takes to make a rope a battle rope. First off, they’re a single long rope meant to be pulled around a pillar, a hook, or a similar vertical and sturdy obstacle.

You end up holding equal lengths of your single rope in your hands after securing them the appropriate distance away from you. Battle ropes have to be long and thick. You’re going to be fighting against the weight and thickness when you’re working with battle ropes. They tend to be anywhere between 1.5 and 2 inches in diameter. Battle ropes are usually found in 30, 40, or 50-foot lengths, making it easy to figure out how much rope you can fit into your workout spaces.

Battle ropes have started appearing recently because their concept is pretty recent, to begin with. They were invented by a fitness trainer named John Brookfield in 2006. After he popularized them he went on to train the Special Forces, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the United States Olympic wrestling team with the battle rope system he developed. After he proved himself and his ropes to the world they started to take off. They became an appealing method for getting a full-body workout with a single piece of simple equipment.

You might be curious how your entire body gets in on the action if you’re mostly using your arms to direct the ropes during your workout. The movements you make with the battle ropes, the stance you’re holding your body in, and the actions you take with your lower body all contribute to your battle rope exercises.

Some battle ropes have you whipping the ropes away from your body, which will engage your upper back, your lats, and your core to stabilize yourself throughout the exercise. You’ll also be lying down or squatting while you use battle ropes. The limitations of your battle rope exercises are pretty minimal, and if you understand the mechanisms of your body, you can use battle ropes to target almost any muscle group in your body.

Which Ropes Do I Bring Into Battle?

Now that you know what these ropes are all about, it’s time to figure out which ones are best for you. When you’re picking out battle ropes, there are really two things you need to worry about: space and skill level.

You’ll be getting roughly the same amount of exercise out of ropes of varying lengths. Longer ropes allow for more fluid and less awkward movement, so that will help with your form and if you’re just starting out with battle ropes, then you’ll probably want to opt for the longest possible rope. Other than that, increasing the length of the ropes doesn’t affect the amount of weight you’re handling and the inertia you have to overcome as much as the thickness of the rope.

Start by figuring out where you’re going to be doing your battle rope exercises and selecting a rope length that will fit well into that space. Remember that the total length of the rope is going to be halved while you’re exercising because you’re securing the rope around a sturdy pivot point, so a 30-foot rope needs 15 feet of space and so on.

The thickness of the rope is where you’re going to have to consider what you want to achieve with your battle rope exercises. Thicker ropes are going to be much heavier than thinner ropes, and allow you to pull off different types of exercise.

A 1.5-inch rope is where you’re going to go if you’re just starting your exercise journey, unfamiliar with battle ropes, or just looking for a unique way to get your cardio in. These will be the lightest ropes. They’re also going to be the easiest to lug around if you’re needing to bring your battle ropes with you to different venues to get your exercise in.

A 2-inch rope is a great middle ground. If you feel like you’ve outgrown your 1.5-inch rope, or need more of a challenge for your grip strength, then bump yourself up to a 2 in rope. These are the “standard” battle rope size, and probably what you’re most likely to find if you’re just coming across these in your local gym. They’re great for endurance exercise as well, because they’re heavy enough to pose a challenge without immediately tapping your energy resources, and they’ll push you without draining you quickly.

2.5-inch ropes are where the heavy lifters and the pros go. The full inch jump in diameter is almost three times the overall area of rope. These are thick ropes, and they’re going to be much heavier. If you’re looking for a challenging exercise, or you’re just a battle rope master and only the mightiest foes will do, then you’re going to be reaching for these ropes. The thicker the rope the harder it’s going to be to maintain your grip, and you’re going to be facing much larger forces of resistance and heavier weights. So, if you’re coming at these and you’re already a pretty strong dude, then you’ll be right at home, but otherwise, approach with caution.

battle rope

Whipped Into a Frenzy

Battle ropes should be approached with imagination. If you’re open-minded and you’re familiar with the inner workings of your body, you can find creative ways to use them for all of your major muscle groups. Remember that battle ropes should be tackled with deliberate motion and careful attention to your form at all times, and you’ll find yourself succeeding in no time.

Here are ten exercises you can put under your belt to get started that will challenge your full body and familiarize you with what battle ropes can do for you. 

1. Lateral Whip

Lateral whips primarily target your delts, upper back, and your pecs. You’ll also be maintaining tension on your upper legs and core while you hold yourself in a steady quarter squat position. 

  • Lower yourself into a quarter squat position
  • Grab the ropes in each of your hands and bring them up to your sides with a slight bend in your elbows as if you were doing a lateral raise
  • Keep your thumbs pointing slightly forward
  • Whip your arms downward
  • Bring them back up in your lateral raise position and repeat with speed

You’re going to get the most out of this exercise by keeping your torso as straight as possible throughout the movement and making sure you’re keeping your quarter squat static. If you’re bouncing around and wiggling your torso you’re not going to be engaging all of the muscles you could be.

2. Rope Slams

Rope slams are like a halfway point between squats and crunches. You’re going to be whipping the ropes as hard as you can up into the air and down towards the ground while straightening out your body and whipping yourself back down. This should be a fluid motion that involves your knees as much as your upper body, arms, and hips.

  • Hold one rope in each hand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your core engaged, and your knees slightly bent
  • Whip both of your arms up over your head while extending your knees, and rising up to the balls of your feet
  • Bring the ropes toward the ground with your full force
  • Immediately reverse the motion by whipping your arms back upwards and standing straight up
  • Pay attention to your breathing and settle into a rhythm

3. Lying T

This is a deceptively simple exercise that will target your traps, your glutes, and your lower back. The position you find yourself in is going to isolate your upper back and force you to engage your glutes and lower back to keep yourself steady while you whip the ropes around. Keeping yourself on the floor is also going to keep you from accidentally cheating your back out of a thorough and vigorous exercise. Make sure you’re not arching your back.

  • Lie face down on the floor with your arms creating a T shape off to your sides
  • Grab a rope in each hand
  • Move your arms up and down as if you were flapping a pair of wings

4. Battle Rope Russian Twists

A lot of battle rope exercises have you engaging your lower body by squatting slightly, if you’re on the other side of a particularly rough leg day, or you just want to focus on strengthening your core, then these Russain Twists are a great option.

  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent and heels down 
  • Sit slightly to one side of the center point of your ropes 
  • Grab a rope in each hand keeping them both on one side of your body, you should be reaching across your torso with one hand 
  • Keeping your hands together, lean back slightly to engage your core and whip both arms up and over your body so the ropes clear your raised knees and end up on the opposite side of your body 
  • Immediately reverse the motion and continue for an interval of time

5. Alternating Waves

Alternating waves are probably the most common battle rope exercise. They’re the first thing to come to mind when anybody approaches a heavy pair of long ropes, and with the proper form, they’re excellent for engaging your full body and getting a good vigorous exercise in.

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with a rope in each hand 
  • Bend your knees slightly, pull your shoulders back and engage your core 
  • Whip one arm upwards to create a wave in the rope then whip your opposite up upwards while you lower the first 
  • Continue alternating arms as quickly as you can for a fixed amount of time 
  • Keep your core set, your back straight, and your legs fixed throughout the entire exercise

6. Sump Tremors

Sumo tremors are a lot like alternating waves, but you’re going to be holding a deep sumo squat this time. This is great for engaging your core and bringing your lower body into the exercise by forcing you to hold your balance up top and down low as well. This is a great exercise if you’re working on your squat or trying to find an innovative way to work on your lower body.

  • Start with your feet set wider than shoulder-width apart and angle your toes outwards at a 45-degree angle 
  • Press your hips away from the ropes and lower yourself into a moderately deep sumo squat 
  • Grab a rope in each and perform alternating waves by whipping your arms up over your head in an alternating pattern while holding the squat and keeping your upper body fully erect 

7. Jumping Slams

Jumping slams are the closest that battle ropes come to being like jump ropes. You’re going to be working on your vertical and pushing your upper body to keep up. This is a great source of cardio in between the heavier rope movement you’ll typically run into while working on your battle ropes.

This is a simple exercise, the trick here is going to be keeping up your energy, maintaining your posture, and making it all the way through your time limit without giving up.

  • Start standing up straight with a rope in each hand and your feet close together
  • Jump up and bring both ropes down together. 
  • Repeat with as much height and velocity as you can manage.

8. Single-Arm Push-up Oblique Slams

Single-arm pushup oblique slams are probably the hardest and truest full-body workout on this list. You’re going to be enlisting nearly all of the muscles in your body, and there are so many potential failure points that you’re going to be strengthening while performing this. It’s an engaging full-body exercise that will test your fitness in a unique fashion that really showcases the versatility of battle ropes.

  • Start in a high planking position with your palms under your shoulders 
  • You should be perpendicular to the ropes, your legs should be fully extended, and your back should create a straight line from your head to your heels 
  • Shift your weight onto the arm closest to the ropes, reach your opposite arm under your body to grab one of the ropes 
  • Whip your arm upward toward your torso then slam the rope down toward the floor with force
  • Immediately whip your arm back up again and repeat for an interval of time
  • Rotate your position and mirror on the opposite side

9. Full Circle Wave

Full circle waves will fully engage your core while you fight to keep your torso steady against the force of both ropes whipping around in front of you. This motion is great for your upper body and the muscles in your shoulders and upper back.

  • Stand up straight off to the side of the point your ropes are attached to while holding a rope in each hand with both of your hands together
  • Move your hands in a large clockwise circle in front of your body for about ten reps then reverse for the same number of reps
  • Turn around and repeat, this will make one full set

10. Outside Sprial

Outside spirals are an incredibly simple exercise to add to your wealth of battle rope knowledge. These are easy to modify, so you can keep them in your rotation for a long time, tweaking them slightly to fit your needs. Outside spirals can be done with varying degrees of a squat, the direction of your spiral can change, along with the degree of rotation. 

  • Start with your arms extended in front of you with a rope in each hand
  • Alternate making large outward spirals with your arms
  • The rope should be making a corkscrew motion while your full arm is rotating at the shoulder
  • Keep your back straight and your core engaged, it might help to do these near a mirror, as it’s easy to slip into a slouch while you’re focusing on the movement of your arms

Roped Into Battle

Battle ropes aren’t going to be a piece of fad exercise equipment. They’re great for any gym setting, be that at home or on the go. You’re really only limited by the amount of space you have, but they’re so versatile you can make virtually anything sturdy into your battle rope station. Taking them to the park or out into a yard is a simple as coiling them up and carrying them with you. Because they’re so heavy and you’re working as hard as you can to overcome inertia and master their unwieldy weight they’re going to be an excellent source of resistance that will draw a full and well-rounded exercise out of any battle rope session.