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10 Battle Rope Exercises and Workouts to Add to Your Training Regimen

By Laura Williams

muscleThe key to fast, effective workouts is to exert a maximum amount of energy in short, repeated bursts of effort. This type of high-intensity interval training blasts calories and increases metabolic burn for hours post-workout, turning your body into a fat-burning furnace.

It’s even better when the intervals incorporate a form a strength training to increase muscle mass and improve overall health. The battle rope, also known as a combat rope, is an incredibly simple piece of fitness equipment that can do just that.

Using a Battle Rope Safely

Battle ropes, also known as combat ropes, are 30- to 60-foot lengths of heavy-duty rope between 1.5 and 2.5 inches in diameter. Rope of this caliber actually weighs quite a bit – my 40-foot, 1.5-inch diameter rope weighs 27 pounds. They usually have covered grips at the ends, and – depending on length, size, and weight – cost between $50 and $200.

When using a battle rope, you anchor its center on a solid, fixed object, extend the rope fully so you can grip the ends in each hand, then use your core and upper body strength to produce a wave-like action along the length of the rope. This wave-like action is the genius behind the equipment. It takes an incredible amount of total-body effort – when moving the rope as fast as possible, you’re only going to be able to sustain each exercise for about 15 to 45 seconds.

While battle rope exercises are appropriate for people at most fitness levels, they are a bit unusual and require some know-how in order to perform them safely. It’s a good idea to work with a personal trainer or fitness instructor the first time you use battle ropes to make sure you’re performing all exercises with proper form.

There are four crucial things to keep in mind:

  1. Check Your Anchor Site. Make sure you anchor the rope to a fixed object, like a tree, a post, or the post of a squat rack. The wave-motion of the rope generates a fair amount of force, so you don’t want your anchor point to move or fall over.
  2. Bend Your Knees and Tighten Your Core. While your arms produce the wave motion of the rope, you can only sustain the motion if your whole body is “locked in” to an athletic stance. Bend your knees slightly, tilt your hips back a bit, shift your weight over your heels to keep your body steady, and above all else, engage your abs. If you fail to do this, you’re likely to lose your balance and be pulled forward by the force of the rope.
  3. Use Your Range of Motion. Everyone has a different level of upper body strength and a different range of motion at the shoulders. Move the rope in a way that feels comfortable. Don’t swing it way up over your head if your shoulders can’t handle the exertion. As you build strength, continue challenging yourself by increasing your range of motion, speed, and effort.
  4. Start With Short Intervals. When you’re swinging a battle rope, 15 seconds can feel like an hour. It really is that hard. When trying a new exercise, start with 10- or 15-second intervals, and as you become accustomed to it and gain strength, increase the interval length to 20, 25, or 30 seconds.

Above all else, listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, back off or try a different exercise.

Battle Rope Exercises

When working with battle ropes, your goal is to go all-out in short-burst intervals. Choose any four exercises and perform the workout as follows:

  • Exercise 1: 15 seconds all-out effort
  • Rest: 15 seconds
  • Exercise 1: 15 seconds all-out effort
  • Rest: 15 seconds
  • Exercise 2: 15 seconds all-out effort
  • Rest: 15 seconds
  • Exercise 2: 15 seconds all-out effort
  • Rest: 15 seconds
  • Exercise 3: 15 seconds all-out effort
  • Rest: 15 seconds
  • Exercise 3: 15 seconds all-out effort
  • Rest: 15 seconds
  • Exercise 4: 15 seconds all-out effort
  • Rest: 15 seconds

Rest for two minutes, then perform the entire series a second time. If 15-second intervals are too easy, increase them judiciously. Here are exercises to choose from when developing your battle rope workout.

1. Half Waves

half waves

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the ends of the rope in each hand. Bend your knees and hips slightly, and “lock in” your core.
  2. Start an alternating wave motion along the rope by bending your right elbow and bringing your right hand up toward your shoulder, then lowering your right arm as you bend your left elbow up, bringing your left hand toward your shoulder.
  3. Continue this alternating motion with your arms as fast as you can for the entire 15-second interval.

2. Slide and Wave

slide and wave

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, your knees and hips slightly bent, and your core engaged. Grip the ends of the rope in both hands, holding your hands together at waist-height.
  2. Start a wave-action in the rope by bending both elbows in unison, bringing your hands toward your shoulders, and then lowering them in unison. Continue this action as fast as you can to keep the wave motion going.
  3. After starting the wave, step out laterally with your left foot, then step your right foot the same direction to meet your left foot. Take several more steps to the left in this fashion, all while continuing to wave the rope, then reverse the direction and slide to the right several steps.
  4. Perform this lateral slide while continuing the rope’s single wave for the entire interval period.

3. Upper-Cuts

upper cuts

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the ends of the rope in each hand so that they point upward. Hold your hands at hip-height to start.
  2. Bend your knees and hips and “lock in” your core.
  3. For this exercise, the goal is to perform an upper-cut punching movement, alternating from side to side as the rope creates an internal diagonal wave.
  4. From the starting position, shift your weight slightly to the right as you punch your left arm up and across your body, bending your left elbow and bringing your left hand up to shoulder-height.
  5. Immediately bring your left arm back to start as you shift your weight to the left and punch up and across your body with your right arm.
  6. Continue punching back and forth across your body as fast as you can for the entire interval.

4. Lunge and Wave

lunge and wave
The lunge-and-wave exercise combines a half-wave with an alternating backward lunge.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the ends of the rope in each hand. Bend your knees and hips slightly, and engage your core.
  2. Start an alternating wave motion along the rope by bending your right elbow and bringing your right hand up toward your shoulder, then lowering your right arm as you bend your left elbow up, bringing your left hand toward your shoulder.
  3. Continue this alternating motion with your arms as fast as you can.
  4. After starting the alternating wave, step backward about two feet with your right foot, placing the ball of your foot on the ground. Bend both knees and lower your back knee toward the ground in a lunge, all while continuing the rope’s wave action.
  5. When your back knee is just shy of touching the ground, step your right foot back to start, and step backward with your left foot to perform a lunge on the opposite side.
  6. Continue this lunge-and-wave action for the full interval.

5. Perpendicular Wave

perpendicular wave

  1. Stand perpendicular to the post so that you have to turn your head toward your shoulder to see the anchor point. Point the ends of the rope up by holding them in both hands at your waist.
  2. Bend your hips and knees slightly, and “lock in” your core.
  3. In a single movement, bend both elbows and swing the ends of the rope up and slightly out, so that they end up just above your outside shoulder. Immediately bring your arms back down to the center of your body at your waist, and continue the action to create a wave in the rope.
  4. Continue for the full interval period.

6. Hip to Hip

hip to hip
This exercise should end up feeling like you’re “throwing” the rope from one hip to the other.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees and hips slightly bent, and your core engaged. Hold the ends of the rope in both hands.
  2. Shift your weight slightly to the right side and position your hands just outside your right hip. Turn your torso a bit to the right and lean it slightly forward to really focus the weight of your body over your right foot. This is the starting position.
  3. In a single movement, bend your elbows and bring both arms up and across your body in an arc as you shift your weight from your right side to your left. You should end up with your hands just to the outside of your left hip, your weight centered over your left foot.
  4. Immediately reverse the motion and swing the rope back up and across to the starting position.
  5. Continue the hip-to-hip wave for the full interval period.

7. Jumping Jacks

jumping jacks

  1. Start with your feet together, holding the ends of the rope in both hands at your waist so they point up. Bend your knees and hips slightly and engage your core.
  2. In a single movement, jump both feet out laterally as you swing your arms out and up laterally, as if you were doing a jumping jack.
  3. Immediately hop your feet back together as you swing your arms back to the starting position.
  4. Continue for the entire interval period.

8. Claps

claps

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, your knees and hips slightly bent, and your core “locked in.” Grip the ends of the ropes in both hands at waist-height, your elbows bent at 90-degree angles.
  2. In a single movement, swing both arms out and up laterally as far as you comfortably can, then swing them back in to center, “clapping” the rope together.
  3. Immediately swing the rope back out, continuing the clapping movement for the full interval period.

9. Lateral Waves

lateral waves

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees and hips slightly bent, your core engaged. Hold the ends of the rope in both hands at waist-height, your elbows bent at 90-degree angles.
  2. In a single motion, shift your weight to the right as you swing both hands out to the right while keeping your elbows at your sides. Immediately shift your weight to the left as you swing both hands out to the left while keeping your elbows at your sides. This should create a lateral wave movement along the rope.
  3. Continue the exercise for the full interval period.

10. Slams

slams
While this is one of the more taxing exercises, it can also be one of the most satisfying.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, your knees and hips slightly bent and your core “locked in.” Grip the ends of the rope in both hands, allowing your arms to hang straight down at the center of your torso. Tip your hips back farther, lowering yourself into a half-squat with your weight centered over your heels. Stop when your hands hang directly between your knees.
  2. In a single movement, explode your body upward, extending your knees and hips as you swing your arms up over your head. You can add a jump to this step if you’d like.
  3. When you reach the apex of your upward swing, forcefully slam your arms back down toward the ground as you shift your hips back and lean your torso forward.
  4. Immediately return to start and continue the movement for the full interval period.

Final Word

Battle rope exercises certainly aren’t easy, but they make for a fast, satisfying workout that doesnt’ require a gym membership. If you decide to give them a try, you might want to invest in a pair of workout gloves – a decent pair can be purchased for approximately $15. The grips on the gloves make it easier to hold the rope handles, preventing them from slipping. This is particularly helpful when your hands become sweaty, which makes it more difficult to maintain your grasp on the rope.

Have you tried battle ropes? What’s your favorite move?

Laura Williams
Laura Williams holds a master's degree in exercise and sport science and enjoys breaking up her day by running her dogs, hitting the gym, and watching TV. Having been in charge of her own finances since the early age of 12, she knows how to save and when to spend, and she loves sharing these tips with others. Laura ditched her career as a fitness center manager for the relative freedom of home-based writing and editing work. She stays busy by working on her own website, GirlsGoneSporty, a website designed to help the sporty woman live the sporty life.

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  • Michael Lewis

    Laura,

    Excellent piece and pictures for illustrations. Having lifted weights and run for more than 50 years, I regret not being able to work with ropes – just too hard on my back after 3 operations. Never-the-less, a very good piece.

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