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Time to Get Crazy with the Shoulders: Rope Shoulder Exercises

Healthy shoulders are one of the best ways to keep your body in shape when you’re working out.

Whether you’re doing tons of lifting at the gym or you want to keep doing bodyweight workouts when you’re at home, strong shoulders are essential.

There are dozens of different ways to work your shoulders but one that always seems to steal the imagination is the ropes. These are a simple way to work your shoulders and leave them stronger after each session.

You can create a whole workout with the ropes and focus on your shoulders with just a few simple moves.

Benefits of Using Battle Ropes

Battle ropes are often the focus of workout montages in movies and TV shows but they can be a little intimidating when you encounter them at the gym!

Knowing what to do helps you focus on your workout and gives you plenty of options when you want to create a flexible and unique workout program.

When you stop to consider everything the battle ropes can do, it’s a no-brainer! Some unique benefits come from using the battle ropes so don’t shy away from them when you see them at the gym.

Explosive Body Workout

The moves you’ll be doing with the battle ropes work your whole body.

Each of the muscles is then honed to give you a more explosive response each time you go to work out. You’ll build your strength and condition your whole body.

You can work out and train in strength, hypertrophy, endurance, power, and cardio without ever leaving the ropes.

Efficient Workouts

When you use the battle ropes, you’re working for several muscle groups all at once.

Instead of traveling from machine to machine in your local gym, you can hit all the major muscle groups without leaving the rope.

Working specific muscles may send you over to the free weights but when you need to just work for general groups, the battle ropes save you time.


Using the battle ropes combines cardio and weightlifting!

When you start structuring your workout, you’ll need to keep your heart rate up when you’re using the ropes but by doing this, your heart is being worked as much as your muscles.

Your endurance will benefit from working the ropes as well when you structure your workout correctly.

Balance and Coordination

As your arms work the ropes, your core, glutes, and back work to keep you upright and stable.

As you continue to train, these muscle groups will continue to be engaged and even compensate with the smaller muscles surrounding them.

As these keep being worked, you’ll find your balance is improved along with your coordination.

Muscles that the Rope Exercise Works

Believe it or not, battle ropes work the whole body! There’s a focus on your upper body and core muscles but your whole body will feel the burn when you finally walk away from the ropes.

Your arms work independently from each other when you’re using the battle ropes so your body starts to compensate and correct any imbalances. Your core is engaged as your body is forced to stay stable and upright with each flick of the wrist.

No matter what battle rope workouts you design, your whole body is going to end up working from top to bottom. Your coordination, strength, and overall cardio will be improved when you start working the battle ropes on the regular.

The Best Rope Shoulder Exercises

Before you head out and just start whipping ropes around at the gym, there are a few specific exercises that help you work your shoulders more specifically.

By building up your shoulders with the ropes, you’ll help give your body a better center when you want to progress to other workouts.

Double Rope Pull-Up

This is a little bit different than other battle rope workouts and requires some serious concentration to accomplish. This is a variation on the standard chin-up that will have you sweating before you’ve even finished a whole set.

You can do this at home with just some thick rope and a rafter. You’ll toss the rope over the rafter and grab both ends in each hand.

You’ll then grasp the rope and pull yourself up, holding yourself for a second before lowering back down to the ground.

Rope Climb

There’s a good chance you’ve seen this move in gym class or even in the movies!

You might have to visit the gym or make a serious setup in your garage or backyard to get this one done but you’ll end up with a whole body workout in no time.

You’ll start by grabbing the rope with one hand over the other and let the rope trail between your legs. You’ll then pull yourself up by bending at the elbows and then start climbing up the rope. Use your legs to act as a brake when you’re climbing so you can give your upper body a break!

Down Wave

This is a simple move and will have your biceps burning in no time. Grab the end of the rope in each hand and keep the rest of your body still. You’ll then wave the ropes as fast as possible.

Focus on getting in higher reps and good amplitude with each wave of the rope. You’ll squat down and engage your quads and core as you work and wave the ropes up and down.

Lateral Step Alternating Wave

You’ll start by grabbing the end of the rope with each hand in a handshake grip. You’ll end up taking a wide stance with your feelings and you’ll make the rope do simultaneous waves.

As you’re moving through the waves you’ll press to the side and shift your feet into a lateral lunge. You’ll alternate to each side as you keep moving the rope up and down in a wave. Keep this up for the entire set and then come back to repeat the whole move.

Rope Jacks

Start by grabbing the rope in an overhand grip and step close to your rope’s anchor point so you have plenty of slack to work with. You’ll then start doing regular jumping jacks!

The weight will give you plenty of resistance as you’re going through the move. You’ll start to feel the burn and pull in your shoulders with each jumping jack you perform.

Side-to-Side Waves

This is a great rotational strength builder. You’ll start with the handles in front of you and then create horizontal waves with the rope.

You’ll rotate one direction before reversing and going the other way immediately. Go through the motion as many times as you want or can. You’ll build up a lot of strength with this and endurance as well.

Kneeling Alternative Waves

Start in a kneeling position for this move! You’ll then grip the rope in a handshake grip and start making waves with the rope.

Focus on making the ripples go all the way to the anchor point. You’ll want to focus on making small and fast waves instead of the big explosive ones that you’d normally see when working the battle ropes.

Alternating Two-Arm Lunging Waves

Begin the move in a solid athletic base position. Your knees should be slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart. You’ll grasp the rope with both hands and start making small waves with the rope.

You’ll slam the rope into the floor in a quick rhythmic fashion to create the waves. With each wave, you do you’ll step back into a reverse lunge and alternate on each side. You’ll keep this move up for the entire set of reps.

Cross-Arm Wave

You’ll start this with your feet slightly apart, knees bent, core engaged. Grab the ropes up at hip level then cross your left wrist and rope over your right wrist and rope.

Keep your elbows slightly bent and pull the ropes out and back pulling your shoulder blades together as you do. You’ll then return to the start and do your left wrist under your right into the outward wave. Go through two sets for a minute each.

Outside Circle Wave

Start by alternating your arms and make outward circles so the rope is moving like a corkscrew. You’ll end up working your shoulders and rotator cuffs with each rotation. This is specifically going to focus and push on your shoulders with each movement.

You can easily change this move up and make it more or less difficult with each progression. This move also really focuses on stabilizing muscles around your shoulder so you can move them more easily after you’re done.

What are Battle Ropes?

A rope is a rope but this isn’t your kindergarten jump rope! This is a heavy-duty rope that is thick, heavy, and long and gives you a whole different set of resistance.

There’s plenty of weight with this rope so you can keep things moving along when you’re working out.

Battle ropes give the impression that it’s two ropes at your local gym but in reality, it’s one long rope that you can grab onto with both hands.

You can buy your battle rope in three different lengths ranging from 30-50 feet. You’ll also need to decide between 1.5″ or 2″ in thickness.

This piece of workout equipment has become popular in recent years but it hasn’t been a staple of workout programs nearly as long as other equipment.

Kettlebells and dumbbells have been around for a lot longer and when you look at a standard workout program, you’ll most likely see a lot of them on there.

Battle ropes were originally designed by a fitness trainer named John Brookfield in 2006.

Brookfield went on to train Special Forces, professional football players, and Olympic wrestling team members all with his new battle ropes.

They’ve since proven to be very efficient and a super-effective way of working the entire body in a single workout program.

Battle Ropes and Burning Fat

Getting yourself on a good fitness and workout routine can be a chore and when you’re trying to burn fat and build muscle, you’ll be willing to try anything.

Battle ropes offer a great option when you’re trying to keep burning fat with each workout.

The amount of fat or calories you burn in any workout session all depends on how hard you work. You can burn plenty of calories with a low-impact workout like yoga and do almost nothing with the battle ropes.

Focus and determination help you burn calories and fat each time you get the ropes out.

Battle ropes offer a whole lot of resistance when you’re working so all of your muscles get a good workout. The high levels of intensity help you burn fat more effectively and efficiently no matter how long you work the ropes.

When you work the ropes correctly, you’ll end up burning tons of calories and fat in each workout session.

If you’re doing HIIT workouts, the ropes make for a great option. You’ll end up building muscle and burning fat at the same time. Running is a cardio exercise that is focused almost exclusively on burning fat but using the ropes builds muscle at the same time as boosting your cardio.

When you want to burn fat, you need a larger amount of muscle.

The more muscle you have, the more effectively your body will burn off the rest of the unwanted fat.

If you want to get lean and shredded, adding in some circuits with the battle ropes gives you a lot more resistance with each workout session.

Pros of Battle Ropes

There are some great benefits to battle ropes that make them an excellent choice for anyone wanting to burn fat and build muscle at the same time.

The biggest benefit that comes from battle ropes is that they’re portable. You can take them anywhere from the gym to your backyard with ease. While they aren’t small like resistance bands that will easily fit into your luggage.

Battle ropes are inexpensive. You can get them for just $50-$150 and use them for years. You can also change up the resistance simply by changing the way you use the ropes in general.

Whether you’re getting battle ropes as a beginner or you’ve been working the gym for years, you can use the battle ropes to create the ideal workout program. You can also mix things up so your workout is never boring from day today.

There are plenty of variations and progressions that will keep you from getting bored at the gym or even when you do the workout in your backyard.

Cons of Battle Ropes

There are some downsides to the battle ropes as well. The first consideration you’ll need to take into account is the amount of space you have available.

The ropes are long and even the shortest option available will need 15 feet of open space to accommodate your equipment.

The battle ropes put a lot of stress on your shoulders so if you’ve had problems with your shoulders or surgery, you won’t be able to do the battle ropes to completion.

The small muscles that go on to stabilize your shoulder can be further damaged if you try to use the ropes with an injured shoulder.


Your shoulders are a key part of your fitness and health routine and building them up through a whole workout routine is crucial.

One of the best ways to focus on your shoulders and give you a whole-body workout is with the battle ropes that are an option at many gyms.

The ropes offer tons of different options when you’re putting together your routine. With a million different variations that work different areas of your body, the battle ropes give you workouts upon workouts. You can choose different routines each day that work all of the muscle groups in your body.

Battle ropes are portable and help you build up both cardio and muscle.

Keeping your heart rate up and getting a battle rope that’s heavy enough to challenge you gives you a whole-body workout that will end up burning fat and building muscle.

Don’t skip the battle ropes at your local gym and consider investing in a set for your home! You’ll be able to do a whole workout at home without even braving the germs at the gym!

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Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Alexandria university and is a practicing plastic surgeon. He’s our expert on all things nutrition, medicine, rehabilitation, and flexibility. Dr.Ahmed has been a medical content writer for more than 11 years and his work reached top publications such as the HuffingtonPost

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