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March 27, 2020 9 min read

Is it possible to have a quick, alternative workout to bypass some super busy days without skipping the training? You could use something that will also boost your motivation with a bit of a fun variety. The best match would be the tool that fits all the requirements while doing wonders for endurance and stability. It's called the battle ropes, and they look like nautical ropes. Their design may seem uninspiring to some, but working the ropes is a highly demanding exercise with many benefits.

Don't let the look of the battle ropes intimidate, or perhaps bore you. It is a highly effective yet very simple and fun tool, that is easy to use. Their popularity keeps growing due to the famous trainers and their celebrity clients who are proud to show the workout progress to the public.

Why Should I Exercise With Battle Ropes?

Battle rope exercises are similar to box jumps or burpees. The rope is a low impact conditioning tool that still demands a lot of your power and energy. The most common version of the exercise requires you to pound the ropes against the ground as fast as you can. Even the basics will give you quite the workout. It takes quick, dynamic moves to make it work the right way. The weight of the ropes provides plenty of resistance for your waves and swings. The force you need to put into control of that resistance is the key to the exercise's high effectiveness. 

With the right program, this training brings a mix of both aerobic conditioning and muscular endurance. Whether you wish to train power or strength, to shred some body mass, enhance your stamina and aerobic capacity, you can do it all with the rope. All it takes is to learn how to mix up your position and movements. Learn how to work the set of rope, and you'll be quite surprised by the results.

Battle Rope Circle for the Whole Body

The common groups of muscles you will work with the rope are in the upper body:

  • Shoulders
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Lats
  • Pecs 

However, the rope workout makes you keep the midsection engaged as you move your arms, to stabilize your body. When working the ropes, you don't stand still. Every movement makes your body rotate and twist.

Counter to popular belief, the rope workout affects almost all of the muscle groups in your body. Typically seen as an upper-body tool, the set of ropes also provides diverse options for lower and total body training. Many of the movement variations involve abs, quads, and glutes.

As an effective full-body workout, the ropes can help powerlifters, weightlifters, and functional fitness athletes reach their goals. You'll typically train the muscles in your back, arms, glutes, and abs, but if you bring jumps, lunges, and squats into the mix, you will also work your legs. With proper breathing control and low-intensity movements, the ropes become a decompression tool that will help your body relax.

Battle ropes exercises go way beyond common alternating waves. They enhance your rotational and multi-planar strength and stability as well as scapular health. The fast-paced movements increase your heart rate and improve your conditioning, while you're working on strength. 

A girl working out with a rope.

Rope Waves for Beginners

Beginners should start with a basic ropes workout. If you’ve never done the ropes before, begin with single-arm waves instead of using both your hands.

  • Stand with your feet just a bit past shoulder-width, holding the rope end in each hand. Bend the knees in a half-squat. Perform a wave motion for 20 seconds, alternating hands. 
  • As your endurance keeps growing, raise the interval to 25 or even 30 seconds. Put two or three such sets into a more extensive workout. The number of reps is of less importance here; it's more about the capability to endure working a round rope frame. Get used to the ropes and your body's reaction to them. 

As you get comfortable with battle ropes, there will be plenty of variations to try. Many versions involve lunges and twists, all of which add an extra challenge to the exercise.

There are three essentials to remember: keep the stable core, bent knees, and flexed elbows. If your arms are straight, you will overwork your shoulders, and that is not what you want!.

Are Battle Ropes Good or Bad for Your Shoulders?

If you are searching for information on the battle ropes topic, you have probably noticed articles that claim those moves are bad for your shoulders. In articles like these, the ropes are marked as the shortcut for a shoulder injury. But how true is that?

For any concerns about any activity, the answer is the same. Everything depends on doing things the smart way. If you neglect the apparent facts about yourself, the chance is high that you will end up with an issue. You must know your limits and learn the proper way to do the moves, including intensity, movements, and number of reps. 

Deadlifts can be bad for your back, squats can be bad for your knees, ropes can be bad for your shoulders, but only if you are not careful and you underestimate your form.

If you don't have full control in the range of motion, you'll probably end up injured. Still, that doesn't mean you need to stay away from the exercise. Quite the contrary, it's an exercise that will improve your ROI, and well as strength and flexibility. So the path to no injuries goes through working out. Bring this into your daily life, too! Regular exercise will make you more resistant to damages in common activities.

Some battle rope exercises, like the Outside Circle Wave, work your shoulder as a ball socket joint. That is better than training it as a hinge type joint, as it creates fewer vulnerabilities.

Good trainers know that during sport, the body ends up in some wobbly positions, and it takes excellent form to handle them. When you start training within your own limits, with proper guidance, the improvement moves along quickly. The body likes to adapt and break its thresholds.

Healthy shoulders are essential for athletes just like anybody else, even if you play recreational basketball or baseball. Battle Ropes are a great way to build strength and get in shape. Doing rope circles and alternating waves creates force and strengthens the shoulders as well as the whole arms.

How to Circle Ropes

There are numerous versions and variations for performing rope circles and waves. Everything can be adapted to your needs and form. The kind of rope, range of movement, duration, if itl works for you, just pick the right set. We will mention some of the exercises you might be curious to try.

The Full Circle Wave

The Full Circle is the next page in your core workout. While performing, your abs must stay tight and engaged during the entire work period. You move through multiple planes, up and down, left to right, front to back. Working your abs through different angles ensures the maximum engagement for the best results.

  • The starting position is standing tall. The rope ends are fixed sideways, and you stand inside the middle of the rope frame.
  • Hold the rope border in each hand. Put your hands together.
  • Move your hands clockwise in front of your body. Make the large circles, like waving a lasso.
  • Do 12 reps clockwise, and 12 reps counterclockwise. 
  • Make three sets with 30 seconds pause between each.

The Two-Point Wave

  • Start in the plank position, with your body straight. Engage your abs.
  • Keep the left hand on the floor, and take the rope border in your right hand.
  • Raise your left leg. 
  • Keeping the rest of your body stable, wave your hand in a round frame for 15 seconds.
  • Change the side and repeat the same rope pattern with the left hand, with your right leg in the air.
  • Make five sets with 30 seconds pause between each.

The Side Plank is a variation of this exercise performed sideways, with a similar rope pattern.

The Outside Circle Wave 

This is one of the best shoulder exercises you can perform with battle ropes. It will get rid of the lactic acid build up in your shoulders. Use it as a part of a warm-up, or as a recovery workout.

  • Your starting position is a half squat. Use an overhand grip on the rope. 
  • Be careful to find the best balance. It may seem like it's not very important, but poor balance puts more pressure on some areas. In time, you might experience problems with joints. 
  • Start with your right arm. Bring it up over the head and create a rope circle with a clockwise movement, like waving a lasso. Repeat the same round rope pattern with your left arm, but do it counterclockwise. 
  • Keep doing those alternated movements for as long as you can. Make sure to use the right rope shapes. For a warm-up or a recovery workout, use lighter, less thick ropes. Thick and heavy rope is the best for upper body strength, endurance, or conditioning workout. You can combine light and heavy ropes exercises one after another, or do the heavy ropes separately during the hard-packed workout.

Adapt the time interval and performance to your goals. Depending on your goals, you can keep the whole exercise under control according to your heart rate zone.

  • The General Fitness Zone requires 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. That is just a bit more demanding than a warm-up, and it burns some calories.
  • The Endurance Zone happens between 70 and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. Here you improve your cardiovascular system and burn the body fat.
  • The Performance Training Zone lies from 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. That is a high-intensity zone which brings much oxygen. Not many calories you burn here come from the fat.
  • The Maximum Zone is about 90 to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate. This zone is reserved for athletes in excellent physical shape.

It’s generally recommended that you spend most of your time in zones under 80 percent. The endurance zone brings most of the benefits with low risks. A small number of people can afford extremes without consequences. For serious athletes, there are different guidelines on how much time to spend in high zones.

A man working out with a rope in a field.

Many Benefits of the Rope Circle Workout

Rope Circles Are Brain Training: Apart from common, well-know reasons to include battle rope circles in your training plan, there is one special bonus. Rope circles are great for your brain health.

The alternate wave motion requires a good body-brain connection of your upper cognitive and lower limbic systems. It engages both the right and left hemispheres. Everything must work together to make the exercise happen. That means you are optimizing the central nervous system, musculoskeletal system, and circulation system with a single workout. 

A Fun Break From a Routine: Everyone needs a change from time to time. If you hit a plateau, suffer a motivation block, or just need to shake the things up a bit, the ropes can give you an exciting, fun, and challenging ways to overcome the issues. Also, they feel more like a game than a workout, so it can definitely improve your mood. Try including some rope circle sets into your training after a hard day at work, and you will leave the gym with a big smile.

Bye, Bye, Imbalance: The rope circle training works out your imbalances or unilateral dominance issues. When you hold a long rope end in each of your hands, you can feel the difference in every movement. If any side of your body handles the challenge better than the other, you will know it. One side might be more robust or better coordinated than the other. Those differences will balance out in time if you are consistent in your rope circle practice.

Total Body Workout: Whenever you engage many muscles at the same time, you're putting more stress on your body. Your heart rate goes high. In the endurance zone, you are strengthening cardiovascular and respiratory systems while burning a bunch of calories. 

You'll get a total body workout. The battle ropes are a balance exercise, a cardio exercise, a strength exercise, and an endurance exercise. Getting all of those at the same time, with a single tool, while working on different muscle groups: lats, pecs, biceps, triceps, shoulders, abs, quads, and glutes. Talk about a gold standard, huh?

Don't stick to the circle sets only; there are plenty of rope elements to choose from. You can incorporate lunges, squats, jumps, lateral movements, and much more to add intensity. When you get comfortable, mix in some very advanced, challenging combos like waving the ropes during a reverse lunge or a squat.

HIIT Compatibility

Ropes can fit into various plyometric exercise training plans. This type of training steadily grows in popularity, as it provides some health benefits that regular cardio/aerobic training can not. Also, its fat-burning capability will blow your mind. The HIIT workout with battle ropes will build your work capacity and aerobic conditioning. You will notice increased muscle endurance in both the upper and the lower body. You can use the rope HIIT as a finisher or a stand-alone workout if you are in a hurry.

Battle ropes are a retro, vintage-style exercise tool. They belong to the oldest training equipment around but are experiencing a huge comeback. Elite athletes and average gym-goers keep including this great exercise in their fitness programs. There are few workouts that can build strength and power, shred the body mass, and enhance endurance like battle ropes. In the meantime, they improve the whole chain of other aspects. Battle ropes save training time, as it takes seconds or minutes to reach the limit. 

It's an excellent option for a workout during rehab, and for people with disabilities. If your lower body is injured or immobilized, you can do rope elements on your knees or from the sitting position. That will still involve fast movements in many muscles. Your heart-rate will increase significantly, giving you the benefits of the cardio and upper-body workout. 

Part of their versatility is that you can take your rope set with you and exercise wherever you want, even anchor them to a tree or a rock. Have we already mentioned how fun it is to work with them? Explore all the possibilities, and find the best match for yourself.