July 29, 2021 9 min read

Battle ropes: perhaps one of the most misunderstood and underrated fitness tools. You’ve likely seen them in the gym and have never tried them nor seen anyone else giving them a try.

That’s probably because they are just too easy and ineffective, right? Wrong! Battle ropes are an unseemingly difficult piece of equipment to use, but the rewards can be astronomical. 

Whether you prefer fat-burning HIIT training or strength-focused workouts, battle ropes are a great addition. But with the various types of battle ropes, how do you go about choosing the right ones? Stick around to find out!

What Are Battle Ropes, Exactly?

You can clearly tell battle ropes are, well, ropes! But what makes them so special?Invented by John Brookfield in just 2006, battle ropes are a fairly new piece of training equipment.

When the concept of training with battle ropes was first introduced, it really took off as it proved to be highly effective and sufficient at strengthening and conditioning the body. Battle ropes are often an essential tool in CrossFit, but almost anyone can benefit from using them. 

Silhouette of man working out with battle ropes at gym

The battle ropes you see in the gym are actually one long rope held in the middle by an anchor. This creates two shorter ropes that you can use in either hand. So, if you purchase a rope for a home gym, don’t expect two individual ropes.

What sets a battle rope apart from a regular, everyday rope is the type of material and comfort, which is optimized for holding and moving. Typically, battle ropes are made from a high-quality polypropylene or poly Dacron material.

This material is usually much better for the hands and for durability, whereas regular rope is often prone to fraying and can poke the skin with stiff material. Other potential materials of battle ropes include nylon or manila/hemp materials. Each material has its own pros and cons.

Battle ropes are also often equipped with hand grips, making them even more comfortable to hold and allowing you to focus more on the task at hand rather than constant discomfort.

Benefits of Using Battle Ropes

Battle rope workouts are an amazing way to build muscle and strengthen the body. Additionally, battle ropes are also:

  • Low Impact: Battle rope training is an effective way to get a killer workout without the risks of high-impact movements. Low impact workouts can be great for the joints, bones, and muscles, as high-impact training typically causes a lot of strain on the body. Because of this, battle ropes can be considered a safer option than other types of workouts as the low-impact nature lessens the risk of certain types of injuries.
  • High-Intensity: Battle ropes may be great for low-impact, but they are definitely high in intensity. You’re likely to work up a good sweat and get that heart pumping. For this reason, certain battle rope exercises can serve as an effective cardio workout. You can also utilize battle ropes for HIIT (high-intensity interval training) sessions. One study suggests that 10-minutes of battle rope exercise of 15-seconds on 45-seconds off is great for increasing cardiorespiratory fitness!
  • Versatile: You may think there’s not much you can do with a rope. However, you’d be surprised at the dozens of movements and variations you can do with a battle rope. And they don’t just provide you with an upper-body workout, you can easily incorporate movements into battle rope training that will give you a great lower body and core workout. Therefore, many battle rope exercises can truly be considered a full-body workout.
  • Improving Grip Strength: With battle ropes, you’ll constantly be using your hands to hold onto the end of the rope. Once you get the rope moving, your hands will have to work even harder to keep ahold of the ropes. This constant resistance is great for not only improving overall strength but is also great for focusing specifically on grip strength, as well.
  • Promoting Symmetry: It is not uncommon to be a bit lopsided. Don’t feel bad, it’s really quite a natural thing. However, sometimes these discrepancies between the left and right sides of our bodies are highly noticeable, especially when it comes to strength and abilities. Because battle ropes are typically held in both hands and the resistance is moved evenly in both arms, you can use battle ropes to work on balancing out your body.
  • Alternative to Free Weights: While dumbbells and kettlebells have their perks, for some people they simply aren’t an option. Not only is outfitting your home gym with a whole range of free weights incredibly expensive, but certain health limitations can make lifting weights out of the question. If you’re already a huge fan of free weights, though, battle ropes are a great addition to any current program.
  • Perfect for the Core: Having a strong core is incredibly important to boosting your overall athletic abilities and can even translate positively into your everyday life. Because you need good stability when using battle ropes, your body utilizes your core as stabilizers during battle rope training, resulting in strengthening of your core.

Types of Battle Ropes

Now that you’ve read about the vast benefits of training with battle ropes, you’d probably really like to try one out or buy one for yourself. Don’t add anything to your Amazon cart just yet, let’s first talk about the various choices you’re likely to be faced with.When looking to choose a battle rope, there are two main aspects of the rope to look consider: the thickness and length. 

Close up of black battle rope on a gray backgound.

Thickness

There are only a few thicknesses to choose from because, truthfully, any one of them will work up good a sweat. Though, the thickness of your rope is important as this determines the weight of your rope, along with the rope’s material. Additionally, it also determines how easy the rope will be to grip depending on the size of your hands.

The thickness of battle rope to choose from are:

  • 1 inch 
  • 1.5 inch
  • 2 inch
  • 2.5 inch

Length

The battle rope length does have some difference in the weight of your battle rope. However, gripping the rope closer to the anchor point of a rope can create less slack and less resistance. Therefore, the length of your rope is not of huge importance. Although, if you’re working with limited space you will need to be aware of your options.

If you’re really specific about the feel of your rope, it is noteworthy that the smaller the rope, the less available movement and fluidity of the rope. This is especially true if you choose a short rope with a thick diameter. The longer the rope, the more versatile in resistance the rope can be.

The various lengths of battle rope you can choose from are usually:

  • 30 feet (15 feet per side)
  • 40 feet (20 feet per side)
  • 50 feet (25 feet per side)

While you’re likely able to find battle ropes even shorter than 30 feet, this isn’t recommended for getting the most from your battle ropes. 50 feet is typically the length you would find in your local gym.

Which Size Do You Need?

Which size of battle rope you should get depends both on the type of workout you wish to do and your current fitness level as well as your fitness goals.

Beginners

If you’re new to battle ropes or training in general, you should stick to the less thick ropes. This is usually 1.5 inches, but if you want to be extra cautious, try a 1-inch rope. This will allow you to work on the form of your undulations, which can feel quite awkward at first.

Additionally, you’re less likely to sustain an injury if you overestimate your abilities. You will still get a killer workout with a smaller diameter rope!As for length, the best battle ropes are the longer varieties for versatility and overall comfort. A 50-foot rope is most recommended, but if you’re struggling to find the space, a 40 or 30-foot rope will be fine. 

Cardio, HIIT, Circuit Training and Endurance

If you want to use battle ropes for cardio, HIIT, or working on endurance, a smaller diameter rope is best. Why? Not only is the rope lighter, but you will also be able to grip much tighter. Therefore, you will be able to move the rope for much longer periods of time compared to a larger rope.

We recommend either a 1-inch or 1.5-inch rope for cardio, HIIT, and endurance.Length should, once again, be as long as is possible for your space. Change up the position of yourself relative to the anchor if you find you need more or less difficulty in your longer sets. 

Muscle Building and Strengthening

Using battle ropes is a great way to gain strength and get some muscular bulk. In order to encourage hypertrophy or strength, you’ll need an intense amount of weight, which translates to a thicker rope. Additionally, you’ll pair heavier ropes with shorter sets of undulations to really encourage max intensity.

If you already have some established strength, a 2-inch rope is great for muscle growth and strengthening. However, you can even achieve this with a 1.5-inch rope as this thickness is still quite difficult for the average person. Just be sure your hands are large enough to grip a 2-inch rope without too much strain. 


A longer rope, preferably the 50-foot length, is still advisable for this type of training.Pair this intense battle rope training with a protein-packed diet anda perfectly formulated muscle-building stack for major gain potential.  

For A Home Gym

If you’re building a home gym, a battle rope is a great fitness tool to add to your collection. They are also an affordable option compared to other types of training equipment.

To prepare your home for a battle rope, you’ll need to measure the amount of space you have and buy accordingly. Remember that since you will anchor the rope, you will divide the length of the rope in half in order to get the correct length. So for example, if you’d like a 50-foot rope, you’ll need a clear space of 25-feet in length plus room to move around.

Additionally, you’ll need to buy a battle rope anchor. You can also choose to use a sturdy pole or tree with anchor straps. You may also wish to purchase a protective sleeve for your rope, particularly for the anchored portion of the rope as it can fray over time.

For A Public Gym

If you’re shopping around for a battle rope to add to a public gym you own or want to suggest a type to your local gym owner, look no further. A gym should be equipped with a rope that is good for a wide range of abilities, heights, and sizes. Therefore, we recommend a 50-foot rope and a 1.50-inch diameter.

This will allow nearly everyone at your gym to get a great workout using the battle ropes.Furthermore, you should also have a very sturdy anchor and a durable material. Don’t skimp out since many people per day will likely be utilizing the rope, creating much more wear and tear than a private-use battle rope would have. Invest in a heavy-duty rope upfront to avoid additional costs later on. 

Best Battle Rope Exercises

We’ve gone through the benefits and the types of battle ropes, so now you’re probably wondering exactly what you can do with battle ropes. You may be surprised at the wide variety of movements you can do to compound certain muscle groups or get a full-body workout.

  1. Alternating Single Arm Waves: This is your classic battle rope movement. Commonly thought of as an arm workout, this movement is great for the biceps, forearms, triceps, back, and core. To make this a great lower body workout and to provide you with better stability, get into a slight squat.
  1. Double Arm Slams: The potential to build explosive power is just one reason to utilize the battle ropes. This is a total-body movement but is especially great for the upper body. For an even greater lower body engagement, simply make your squat deeper with each slam.
  1. Russian Twist Battle Rope Variation: Ropes can be a fun way to get in some seriously core-burning rotational work. With Russian twists, you can isolate the core. While most people use a medicine ball or dumbbell for their Russian twists, the ropes serve as a fun way to change things up.
  1. Double Rope Lateral Waves: While we’re on the subject of great rotational movements, lateral waves are another great way to engage the core. This movement is also great for the upper body can even involve some thigh work.
  1. Alternating Waves with Squat: We included this movement to showcase how easy it can be to add movements into a battle rope workout to make it even more dynamic. This movement utilizes the upper body, core, and lower body with continuing squats as you undulate the ropes.
  1. Outward Spirals: Moving the ropes up and down or side to side is not the only way to use the ropes. You can also use circular motions, like outward spirals, to work your upper body muscles from several different angles with one move!

The Last Word on Battle Rope Sizes

Battling the question of which type of battle rope to get can be difficult. The good news is that the heavy ropes are difficult for even the most athletic of people, so you’re probably going to be very content with a 1.5-inch diameter rope or less.

As for length, we’ve already established you should aim for a 50-foot rope for maximum comfort and versatility.Whether you’re looking fora good exercise to boost your training session’s calorie-burning potential, or are in need of a change to your fitness routine, battle ropes are a great addition to any program!


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