By

JESSE GRUND

Ropes have been an integral part of the advancement of human history, as both a tool and a way to amplify human strength. Some historians trace the history of ropes to predating bronze, clay, steel, and iron. While it has existed as a tool implemented in a variety of ways in human history, its use as a tool to advance human performance is a recent application. In 2006, John Brookfield developed the system “Battle Ropes” in his backyard to increase work capacity and mental toughness.

In comparison to other modalities and their use for optimizing human performance, Battle Ropes are some of the newest tools. Just turn on social media to see why Battle Ropes are growing in popularity with demonstrative exercises and the freedom to be creative in their application.

Before we can advance with any modality, we have to have a starting point, master the basics and set the standards for how to implement Battle Ropes into our training.

BENEFITS OF BATTLE ROPE TRAINING OVER TRADITIONAL MODALITIES

The benefits of battle rope training are vast. But just to name a few:

1) Dual Force Dynamic Effect: Not just overcoming gravity as we do for all other exercises but creating force output in a “wave” across the rope.

2) High Reward/Low Risk: If the focus is strength adaptation and power output, there are a few greater tools for creating adaptations in a way that is safe and with limited risk. In other words, a client/athlete can either create the force necessary to move the rope or cannot.

3) Visual representation of force: The wave created in the rope represents the ability to create force and the level of force created. You can visually see the force created. This feedback mechanism can only be found in the battle rope.

4) Builds contralateral brain/body connection: Specifically, the movement of alternating waves trains similar sling systems and contralateral movements of the human movement system like running and throwing.

5) Grip Strength and Endurance: Whether it is 1.5” or 2” battle ropes, both will challenge your grip, a commonly weak aspect for clients/athletes. The undulation of the rope creates a greater demand on your grip than traditional modalities. Grip strength is an important factor in shoulder health and overall circulation (Horsley et al., 2016; Laukkanen, 2020).

6) Freedom to move: Battle Rope training allows for safe and effective ways to train force production in all three planes of motion, as an integral part of any well-rounded strength and conditioning program.

7) High Level of Core Activation: If you are looking for a tool that recruits multiple core musculature in movements, then the Battle Rope is that tool. High to moderate levels of activation have been found in obliques, erector spinae, and gluteus medius (Calatayud, 2015).

8) Aerobic capacity improvements with limited locomotion: Have someone with a lower-body injury or chronic pain limit movement? Battle Ropes have been shown to improve aerobic capacity and provide a way to improve health markers of the cardiovascular system (Wong et al., 2020).

WHERE TO START: CHOOSING THE ROPE

Any modality that is chosen for the implementation of a strength and conditioning program builds its value by having multiple ways to scale and use the modality. The battle rope is no different. As an athlete or client progresses in their battle rope training, the more rope they must work with, the greater the ability to scale both progressively and regressively.

Therefore, starting with a 1.5”, 50ft rope is the ideal rope size. 1.5” is not as taxing on the grip or heavy as the 2” rope, and the 50ft allows for greater ability to scale both double and single rope movements.

TYPES OF EXERCISES WITH THE BATTLE ROPE

Battle Ropes can be used in various ways with each implementation providing a different stimulus and thus a different adaptation. They are:

• Wave Exercises – Using waves to move the body through various, simple, or complex ranges of motion and planes of motion. Increasing or decreasing wave speed, wave size, wavelength, rope thickness, and rope length will increase or decrease the force generated and load through the movement pattern(s).

• Pulling Exercises – Using rope wrap(s) around an anchor to create varying loads of force through the body, in various movement patterns and body positions.

• Static Exercises – Using a static rope to engage the body isometrically or dynamically in a different line of the load than gravity (Guyett, 2022).

STARTING POSITION AND SCALING WITH THE BATTLE ROPE

The start position with the battle rope, whether working two handles or single rope variations, is how we build and scale the movements with the rope. One of the most common mistakes with the battle rope is to pull the rope to maximum tension at the start.

This limits a client/athlete’s ability to express force on the rope. Instead, start 1-3 feet into the anchor point in an athletic readiness stance, knees and hips flexed, feet shoulder-width apart. Movements get easier from that position; we can change the base position of our feet or move closer to the anchor point to increase the “load” in the waves. This set-up optimizes the ability to scale and program various desired adaptations for our clients/athletes.

SAMPLE BEGINNER BATTLE ROPE WORKOUT #1

Focus: Strength Endurance

Style: Interval Training

Time: 30-45 Minutes

RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion): 8-9

Rounds: 3-5. 3 for beginners. 5 up to an advanced mover

A. 5-Minute Multi-Joint, Dynamic Warm Up
B. Double Waves:30 Work/:30 Rest x 3-5 Rounds
C. Double Lateral Waves:30 Work/:30 Rest x 3-5 Rounds
D. Double Alternating Waves:30 Work/:30 Rest x 3-5 Rounds
E. Double Outside Circles:30 Work/:30 Rest x 3-5 Rounds
F. 5-Minute Cooldown

BREAKDOWNS:

A. Warmups should be dynamic and multi-joint with emphasis on rotation in the hips, shoulder, various base positions (ground, standing, offset) and core engagement to properly prepare the body for movement.

B. DOUBLE WAVES

Description: Double the rope with the middle section of the rope held fast by an
anchor, and grip the ends or handles with both hands. Walk forward to create some
slack in the rope, and then using your whole body in good form, create vertical
waves all the way to where the rope is anchored.

Coaching Cues: Move toward the anchor to feel more load/intensity. Maintain
long spine, wide shoulders, with a proud chest. Use your feet, legs and hips to
power the ropes in vertical waves, almost like you are jumping up and down.
Accelerate the waves by speeding up and down with your arms. Grip
enough to keep the rope from slipping, but not too much, because it will reduce
your performance over time.

C. DOUBLE LATERAL WAVES

Description: Double the rope with the middle section of the rope held fast by an
anchor, and grip the ends or handles with both hands. Walk forward to create
significant slack in the rope, and then using your whole body in good form, create
lateral waves all the way to where the rope is anchored.

Coaching Cues: Move toward the anchor to feel more load/intensity. Maintain
long spine, wide shoulders, with a proud chest. Use your feet, legs, hips, and torso
to power the rope’s lateral waves. This will be a rotational motion for your hips and
torso, and a lateral motion for your legs. Accelerate the waves by speeding up the
rotational movement while maintaining a proud chest and tall, long spine. Grip
enough to keep the rope from slipping, but not too much, because it will reduce
your performance over time.

D. DOUBLE ROPE ALTERNATING WAVES

Description: Double the rope with the middle section of the rope held fast by an
anchor, and grip the ends or handles with both hands. Walk forward to create some
slack in the rope, and then using your whole body in good form, create alternating
waves all the way to where the rope is anchored.

Coaching Cues: Move toward the anchor to feel more load/intensity. Maintain
long spine, wide shoulders, with a proud chest. Use your feet, legs, hips, and body
rotations to power the ropes alternating waves. Accelerate the waves by speeding
up the up and down motion with your arms, the rotational motion of your hips and
torso, and/or the up and down motion of your lower body. Grip enough to keep the
rope from slipping, but not too much, because it will reduce your performance over
time.

E. DOUBLE ROPE OUTSIDE CIRCLES

Description: Double the rope with the middle section of the rope held fast by an
anchor, and grip the ends or handles with both hands. Walk forward to create some
slack in the rope, and then using your whole body in good form, create outside
circles all the way to where the rope is anchored.

Coaching Cues: Move toward the anchor to feel more load/intensity. Maintain
long spine, wide shoulders, with a proud chest. Use your feet, legs and hips to
power the ropes outside circles, almost like you are jumping up and down.
Accelerate the circles by speeding up the outward circular motion of your arms,
shoulders, and scapula. Grip enough to keep the rope from slipping, but not too
much, because it will reduce your performance over time.

SAMPLE BEGINNER BATTLE ROPE WORKOUT #2

Focus: Power

Style: Interval Training

Time: 30-45 Minutes

RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion): 9-10

Rounds: 3-5. 3 for beginners. 5 up to an advanced mover

A. Warm Up 5 Minutes
B. Full Length Vertical Waves:10 Work/:50 Rest x 3-5 Rounds
C. Full Length Lateral Waves:10 Work/:50 Rest x 3-5 Rounds
D. Gunslingers (alternating right-hand and left-hand grip):10 Work/:50 Rest x 3-5 Rounds
E. Full Body Circles (alternating directions each round):10 Work Work/:50 Rest x 305 Rounds
F. Cooldown 5 Minutes

BREAKDOWNS:

A. Warmups should be dynamic and multi-joint with emphasis on rotation in the hips, shoulder, various base positions (ground, standing, offset) and core engagement to properly prepare the body for movement.

B. FULL-LENGTH VERTICAL WAVES

Description: Tie off one end of the rope with a good figure-eight knot, and grip
the other end with both hands. Walk forward to create some slack in the rope, and
then using your whole body in good form, create vertical waves all the way to
where the rope is anchored.

Coaching Cues: Move toward the anchor to feel more load/intensity. Maintain
long spine, wide shoulders, with a proud chest. Use your feet, legs, and hips to
power the ropes in vertical waves, almost like you are jumping up and down.
Accelerate the waves by speeding up and down with your arms. Grip
enough to keep the rope from slipping, but not too much, because it will reduce
your performance over time.

C. FULL-LENGTH LATERAL WAVES

Description: Tie off one end of the rope with a good figure-eight knot, and grip
the other end with both hands. Walk forward to create some slack in the rope, and
then using your whole body in good form, create lateral waves all the way to where
the rope is anchored (note: the picture shows the lateral wave while performing a
lateral lunge, which is an advanced exercise).

Coaching Cues: Move toward the anchor to feel more load/intensity. Maintain
long spine, wide shoulders, with a proud chest. Use your feet, legs, hips, and torso
to power the rope’s lateral waves. This will be a rotational motion for your hips and
torso, and a lateral motion for your legs. Accelerate the waves by speeding up the
rotational movement while maintaining a proud chest and tall, long spine. Grip
enough to keep the rope from slipping, but not too much, because it will reduce
your performance over time.

D. FULL-LENGTH GUNSLINGERS (ALTERNATING HANDS)

Description: Tie off one end of the rope with a good figure-eight knot, and grip
the other end with both hands. Walk forward to create some slack in the rope, and
then using your whole body in good form, create a singular and pulsating vertical
wave all the way to where the rope is anchored.

Coaching Cues: Move toward the anchor to feel more load/intensity. Maintain
long spine, wide shoulders, with a proud chest. Use your feet, legs and hips to
power the ropes in vertical waves, almost like you are jumping up and down. Grip
enough to keep the rope from slipping, but not too much, because it will reduce
your performance over time.

E. FULL BODY CIRCLES (ALTERNATING DIRECTION EVERY ROUND)

Description: Tie off one end of the rope with a good figure-eight knot, and grip
the other end with both hands. Walk forward to create some slack in the rope, and
then using your whole body in good form, create clockwise, or counterclockwise
circles all the way to where the rope is anchored.

Coaching Cues: Move toward the anchor to feel more load/intensity. Maintain
long spine, wide shoulders, with a proud chest. Your lower body will be performing
a squat-like and hip hinge-like movement pattern, while your torso rotates to
create the circular movement of the ropes.

Accelerate the waves by speeding up the circular pattern but try to maintain the largest range of motion possible for the circles. Grip enough to keep the rope from slipping, but not too much, because it will reduce your performance over time.

PLANNING TO SUCCEED WITH BATTLE ROPE TRAINING

With any Battle Rope training session, a coach will need to consider a few different variables when programming. To begin, the athlete being worked with the goals of that athlete during that phase of their training. Additionally, what is the athlete’s experience level with the battle rope?

Next, the environment in which you will be training, whether outside or inside. Outside battle rope workouts may necessitate more rest times needed due to heat exposure. Once those variables are considered then it is time to program. Programming battle rope movements together is not unlike putting any other patterns together.

Battle ropes provide the opportunity to seamlessly shift from one energetic pathway to another without the need for changing modalities. For a coach, that can provide a modality that is versatile for any type of client and any type of program.

JESSE GRUND

Jesse Grund is a 10-year professional in the fitness community holding 26 different certifications including NASM PES, FNS, and CES. He specializes in biomechanical analysis and returns to performance training with athletes. He is currently finishing his Master’s degree in Exercises Science at Concordia University Chicago and has been selected to the National Society of Leadership and Success. He owns Unconventional Strength, a strength training gym in Orlando, FL and currently educates for Living. Fit, Stick Mobility and TRX. You can find more about him and his gym at www.unconstrength.com and on social media https://www.instagram.com/unconventional_strength/.