Battle ropes look pretty intimidating in the gym but according to personal trainers, we should all give them a go.
If you have no idea what we’re on about, don’t worry, these ropes are only just starting to become popular in the gym. They’re essentially just thick ropes that you whip up and down to create a full body workout.
“Battle ropes are fun, functional, metabolically-demanding and very kind to our joints,” said personal trainer Alan Levi. “Using them might sound easy, but it’s not. Dependant on the weight of the ropes, the height of the whipping motion, your speed and your use of the whole body, the workout is ferociously demanding.”
Strength and conditioning coach and founder of Back2Fitness, Sam Yassin, said battle ropes are a piece of kit used right across the sporting spectrum, including in military training and contact sports. “They’ve now found their way into public gyms, and their popularity has grown exponentially due to the impressive aesthetic nature of the workouts they feature in on many social media fitness videos,” she said.
So what are they?
Battle ropes come in all different lengths and thicknesses. In a gym, there usually be two ropes are attached to two anchor points on the floor, allowing you to hold one in each hand.
PT Arron Collins-Thomas explained: “The thicker the rope, the harder it will work your forearms and grip. You can even throw one over your shoulders for some lunges or a jog. They are a versatile piece of kit and are definitely something you should look at adding to your workouts if you don’t already.”
How do I use them properly?
Levi explained: “Get into an ‘athletic position’, basically a semi squat with your lower back slightly arched, and have your feet planted on the floor with toes forward, shoulder blades drawn back and down and your core tight. Do not allow your lower back to round, and maintain good knee alignment with the knee over the second and third toe.”
Once you’re in the correct position, grab the ropes with each hand.
Collins-Thomas explained: “Take a tight grip and whip the rope up and down, either simultaneously or alternate between arms, creating large ‘waves’ with the rope. This is called a “slam” (the motion of the rope hitting the floor). This move focuses the workout on your arms and shoulders, but your core will be working all the time to stabilise you.
“Because you are working each arm independently, you are helping to eliminate imbalances while also improving strength. The movements are mostly high intensity, so you also get a great cardio workout.”
Battle rope slams are usually separated out into two main exercises:
Alternating slams: One end of the rope in each hand with arms stretched out. Feet hip width apart, tighten your core and alternately raise and lower each arm explosively to create a wave-like movement with the ropes.
Double slams: Same position as above but with both hands raising up together. Tighten the core and slam the ropes down to the ground.
What part of our bodies do battle ropes work out?
Although the works primarily work the shoulders and the arms, they use your whole body - as you’ll no doubt feel when using them.
“The demands they place on the body extend beyond just the arms and shoulders, as you are using your lower body to generate momentum the legs also take a lot of the toll,” added Levi. “The focal areas of the body are the arms, shoulders, back, core and legs, so you can quickly see how efficient and effective this form of exercise is for those who want to lose body fat as it is such a compound movement.”
Tips for working with battle ropes
Alternate movements are better for the body: Collins-Thomas said the basic “wave” movement is up and down, but it’s good to alternate by trying some side-to-side and circular motions as well. “Moving [the rope] in different directions will keep the core challenged and ensure you strengthen the body in multiple directions,” he said.
The slack on the rope will determine the load: Collins-Thomas said: “You can try starting close to the anchor point (more slack) and move further away as you fatigue (less slack).”
Tight gripping isn’t beneficial: “Don’t grip the rope too hard and try to have a smooth flowing motion in the arms as you whip up and down,” he said. “Gripping too hard and being ridged in the arms, shoulder and core will fatigue you quicker.”
Using your full body will improve the workout: Yassin said: “If you are performing a battle rope slam [the basic movement of lifting the rope up and slamming it on the floor], for example, use your full body for effective power and force development.”
Battle rope workout suggestions
The personal training experts shared some battle rope workout suggestions - have a go and let us know.
1. The full-body HIIT workout.
Collins-Thomas said alternate between the two moves (listed below) - 30 seconds on then 30 seconds rest for 10 rounds.
2. Intense cardio workout.
Levi’s beginner’s workout will have you dripping with sweat by the end.
“Do 20 double slams using both arms, followed by 10 slams with alternate arms; 18 double slams using both arms, followed by nine single arm waves with alternate arms. Continue down to 10 double slams.”
3. Tabata forward routine.
Yassin’s tabata workout is slightly more on the challenging side: “Pick two exercises, such as independent slams (fast tempo), and plank slams (explosive tempo). Perform the fast tempo exercise for 20 seconds, rest for 10, then perform the explosive tempo exercise for a further 20.
“Repeat this three to six times. Then select two different exercises and perform in the same way.”