You may have seen it on Youtube or Instagram- an athlete or fitness influencer engaging in a battle rope workout for the first time.
With a name almost as intimidating as the exercise itself, battle ropes are becoming more and more popular with the rise of the Crossfit culture and the functional fitness addiction.
But the questions that many are asking are whether or not it works, what it is doing to the body, and where I start?
This article will cover those questions (and more) as we dissect the science behind battle ropes and how beginners and advanced athletes alike can use these formidable pieces of equipment to take their workout to the next level.
What are Battle Ropes?
Remember those big ropes you used to use in P.E class to play tug-o-war? Well, it looks like they are making a comeback, but the competition is now personal.
Battle ropes are big, heavy ropes that you attach to a firm anchor and move around. The weight and length of the ropes differ based on individual physique and fitness goals, and the brand and value determine the quality.
The standard battle rope design is credited to John Brookefield, who experimented with the training in his backyard in 2006. After the small fitness idea moved around various niche markets in the early years, it has since gained mainstream popularity and can now be found in many commercial and home gyms.
What are some of the Epic Benefits of Battle Ropes?
Let’s be honest, investing in a set of battle ropes is probably not on the immediate bucket list, and for a good reason. They are expensive, clunky, and the exercises themselves take a lot of space.
Due to this, many athletes use these ropes at a local Crossfit gym or HIIT facility rather than set them up at home.
That being said, for the urban workout lovers out there, setting up your battle ropes in your park or local basketball court could be ideal, as long as you are ready to intimate everyone around you.
Regardless of whether you purchase a set of ropes yourself or use a local facility, there are some profound health benefits to making battle rope exercises part of your exercise routine.
Better yet, these benefits are far from just opinions; they are hard facts.
Blasting the Calories
For anyone looking to burn calories fast and lose that annoying belly weight, battle rope exercises might be one of the most effective options out there.
Battle ropes have been consistently shown to burn a significant number of calories fast, classified in the same category as interval training.
For those tired of the long-duration cardio activities, picking up a set of battle ropes can be just as effective in a fraction of the time.
A study only a few years old (Fountaine et al. 2013) clearly showed that even short battle rope interval training of 15-second intervals for 10 minutes could have immediate and powerful effects on oxygen consumption.
In this study, oxygen consumption was seen to peak around 35 ml/kg/min, resulting in a ten-fold increase in energy consumption compared to being at rest.
In addition to this, heart rates were observed to be 91% higher than the generally predicted maximum during these 15-second intervals, officially classifying battle rope training as vigorous activity.
For a more familiar comparison, further studies have shown that a 10-minute battle rope workout can burn over 100 calories, making it a highly effective weight-loss weapon.
Becoming a Lean Machine
If your goal is to lean out and sculpt the full-body, high interval training such as battle rope exercises works to build muscle while shredding the excess fat.
Battle ropes do far more than just target the main muscle groups- they provide mobility and action to many smaller groups that often get overlooked.
Similar to a pull-up versus a chin-up, a small change in handgrip while using a battle rope can result in a dramatically different workout.
For anyone looking to have a versatile, functional fitness tool that can target a large number of muscles with very few variations, these battle ropes will work wonders.
With a good battle rope workout, you can work all of your major muscle groups – your abdominals, your glutes, shoulders, chest, and back – as well as activate your stability muscles and smaller muscles that comprise everything in between.
Functional Fitness at its Peak
Yes, we talk about functional fitness a lot. Why? Because it is how we can relate everything we are doing back to real life! Going to the gym is much more than a search for aesthetics; it’s a way to improve our everyday lives, prevent injuries, and slow down aging.
Functional fitness is how we improve our overall well being and make our daily existence more fulfilling.
Battle ropes are far from a static exercise. While completing these workouts, your body will experience angles you never thought possible and activate stability muscles you never knew you had. You will build strength endurance, increase flexibility and mobility, and improve joint health.
In essence, battle rope training is a one-stop-shop to improve overall health and fitness, rather than just focusing on one muscle group at a time.
Add to this the cardiovascular endurance mentioned earlier, and you have a potent concoction that is sure to boost your lifestyle.
If your goal is to become a stronger, healthier human being, battle ropes improve your overall functional fitness and help you to achieve daily goals that will favor you in the future.
Rock Hard Core, Increased Flexibility and Balance
Your first battle rope exercise will most likely bring with it a sense of body imbalance, as your core works hard to manage anti-lateral, anti-rotation, and circular movements.
Once these awkward movements start to create muscle memory, you will notice strength and balance in your core that you never thought possible.
Increasing core strength creates a favorable physique, improves functional fitness, and improves overall agility in other fitness avenues such as competitive sports and endurance training.
Focusing on the core during battle rope workouts will also promote an increase in balance and the stability muscles that keep your body engaged and healthy.
Having a strong, balanced core increases performance in all aspects of functional fitness, encourages healthier posture, and prevents injuries caused by weak and underdeveloped stability muscles.
Improves Grip Strength
Grip strength is underrated, and you will be hard-pressed to read too much about it when researching beginner fitness routines. But for many people, developing grip strength is essential to improving their gym routine and progressing through various exercises (deadlifts, farmer’s carries, rowing, and rock climbing).
In a well-researched study by ACE Fitness, battle rope movements were tested against various muscle groups to prove whether the exercise was overloading the muscles enough to promote muscular growth and improve strength.
Eight muscle groups were tested to see if their respective maximum voluntary isometric contractions (MVIC) were above 40%, the determined range needed to classify as overload.
All were reported over the 40% threshold of these eight muscle groups, with one group standing out more than the rest.
The palmaris longus, the muscle responsible for grip strength, was seen to contract more than 75% while conducting a battle rope workout.
Battle Rope Workouts Just For You
Now that we have adequately covered the benefits of using battle ropes let’s go through some of the best battle rope workouts for various fitness goals.
Below are three different types of battle rope workouts themed around varying fitness goals.
Battle Rope Workout for Beginners
Anyone brand new to battle ropes can find it intimidating to start. Here we have a list of beginner-friendly battle rope exercises that will build foundational strength, speed up that heart rate, and get you ready to add in some combinations later on.
This beginner exercise develops grip strength and focuses on core balance and coordination. With your battle ropes firmly attached, pick up one rope in each hand and start creating alternating waves.
For the standing version, try to keep the waves all the way down to the ground or feet level. Start with 15-second intervals, but work as hard as you can for the entire duration.
For those who want to start a bit easier, try the seated version using a sturdy chair or bench.
The exercise is the same, but you may find you have to lean forward and emphasize your upper body during the seated variation.
Once you have mastered the alternating wave, time to switch it up, and challenge your upper body coordination.
To take it to the next level, try and complete the previous exercise (making waves) but with both hands and arms moving in tandem.
Remember to keep your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent, and your feet firmly planted on the ground. Similar to all of these short interval exercises, give it everything you got for 15 seconds, going as quickly as you can.
Ready to add some extra challenge? Try the previous two moves again, but this time add in a full squat.
With your knees still shoulder-width apart, drop down into a deep squat, and start with the alternating wave.
Not only will you feel your forearms and shoulders burning, but your core and your quads will begin to feel it as your body keeps you balanced and engaged in the squat position.
After managing the alternating wave in the squat position, try to complete the double wave (both arms making the wave simultaneously). Hate us now, thank us later.
Maintaining the normal upright position, bring your elbows close to your side, and with one rope in each hand, move them in both outward and inward circles. Start with 15-seconds of each outward and inward circles, with a small rest in between.
Once mastered, these arm circles can be adjusted wider to increase back activation and further grip strength.
Battle Rope Workout for Cardio and Weight Loss
Now that we have some basic moves under our belt let’s get into some combinations that will take your weight loss and cardio goals to the next level of effectiveness.
This series of battle rope exercises combine different movements into a high-intensity workout that is sure to leave you drenched.
Let’s get to our first combination. Taking what we practiced earlier with the double wave, we will incorporate another childhood exercise that is just as fun as it is challenging.
Starting with feet hip-width apart, grip the ropes palm down. Jump your feet apart as wide as they can go while at the same time, bringing both ropes up as close to your shoulders as possible. Keep the elbows bent to ensure maximum height. Bring your feet back together as you let the ropes fall and hit the ground.
Start with 15-second intervals, but be sure to increase the time if you find the exercise too easy. Ensure your rest time is the same duration as your exercise time, and move on to the best movement!
You can’t run away from them! Burpees are just that good. In this awesome combination, we do 3-4 double wave slams and then drop down into a burpee. Track your progress by counting how many burpees you can do within the time interval.
Let’s combine the double wave with a bit of a jump. Starting with feet hip-width apart, alternate the double wave to each side of the body and jump to propel the movement.
Bringing the ropes from one hip to the other, be sure to plant your feet in between each jump firmly.
The wave jump requires an engaged core and helps to increase balance dramatically. Take it slow at first, increasing the speed as you become more comfortable.
Alternating Wave / Squat Combo
Ready to test your coordination and balance? Try adding the alternative wave movement with a slow, controlled squat. It might feel like you are rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time, but with a bit of practice, this full-body movement can do wonders for your mobility, flexibility, core strength, and hand-eye coordination.
As with all the combination exercises above, start with smaller time intervals, and work your way up to a maximum of 30-seconds.
Do Battle Ropes Work?
The verdict is out, and it is looking good. For those who invest the time into their new battle rope routine, the results will come quickly.
In as little as three weeks, studies have shown that proper battle rope use can result in “increased upper-body maximal oxygen consumption (V[Combining Dot Above]O2max), maximum voluntary contraction isometric shoulder flexion and extension strength, shoulder power output, and push-up and sit-up endurance”.
These results- combined with research outlining an increase in flexibility, mobility, functional fitness, and cardiovascular health- should make battle ropes a solid contender to be your full-body workout challenge.