Battle ropes are quickly becoming more and more common in gyms, from specialist gyms to commercial gyms. But why are they becoming more popular, and what are their benefits?
The 11 benefits of battle ropes are that they:
- Work your entire body
- Provide a novel form of cardio
- Can be used to build muscle
- Develop muscular endurance
- Can provide a great warm-up
- Can be used anywhere
- Can improve your grip strength
- Are affordable
- Provide a quick workout
- Are low impact
- Are great for coordination
In this article, I will cover each of these benefits in more detail and include my recommendation on who should incorporate battle ropes into their training. You'll also learn how to set them up properly (to get the maximum benefit), as well as the two best exercises you can do with battle ropes.
What Are Battle Ropes?
Battle ropes are thick, weighted ropes that can be used for various exercises to improve full-body endurance and conditioning.
They were designed by John Brookfield in 2006, who developed a system for their use within the special forces and elite sports.
Since then, we have seen battle ropes appearing in gyms all over the world and are now a mainstream piece of equipment used by beginner lifters all the way up to advanced lifters.
Battle ropes come in a range of weights and lengths, so they can be tailored to suit your experience, strength, and fitness levels.
11 Battle Rope Benefits
1. Work Your Entire Body
The biggest benefit of battle ropes is that they work your entire body.
While you may think of them as a predominantly upper body workout, they can also work your lower body and core if you use them effectively.
This makes them great for adding on to the end of a workout or as a quick and effective workout for those with time limitations.
Battle ropes can be great for powerlifters looking to develop their full-body work capacity. Read our article GPP Workout For Powerlifters: What Is It? How To, Benefits to find out more about general physical preparedness for powerlifters.
2. Provide a Novel Form of Cardio
If you are fed up with spending endless amounts of time on the treadmill or static bike, battle ropes may be a great option for you.
Battle ropes provide a higher intensity form of cardio, and the workouts you do with them can be novel and more engaging, which can help keep your motivation high.
A combination of lower-intensity cardio options such as using an elliptical or cycling alongside quicker, high-intensity workouts with battle ropes could also provide the variety you need to keep working towards your goals.
3. Can Be Used To Build Muscle
Compared to lower-intensity cardio methods, battle ropes can be more effective for those with muscle-building goals.
As with any resistance training, you will want to progressively overload the work you are doing.
This may be by increasing the load or length of the rope you are using, increasing the time you spend on each interval or set, or reducing rest periods.
4. Develop Muscular Endurance
Love training in the lower rep ranges and hate training in the higher rep ranges? Battle ropes are a great option for developing muscular endurance without having to push those higher 15-20+ rep sets.
You can aim to progressively overload the time per set and increase the work done session to session.
Think of replicating how long a set of 15-20 reps would take you – 30-60 seconds depending on the exercise – and look to work through this range. Then aim to increase the time of each set by 5-10 seconds each week or each month.
5. Can Provide a Great Warm-Up
While battle ropes are typically used as a high-intensity form of cardio or muscular endurance training, they can also be used as a great warm-up.
Rather than using 100% exertion, using a lighter rope at 70-80% exertion can be a great way to warm up for the rest of your workout.
You use your full body and increase your heart rate, which in turn increases blood flow to the working muscles and raises your core temperature. These are all signs of a great warm-up protocol.
To learn how to effectively warm up before a workout, check out How To Warm Up For Powerlifting (Step By Step Guide).
6. Can Be Used Anywhere
Unlike other pieces of equipment like barbells, battle ropes are easily transportable and can be set up just about anywhere.
This makes them a great option for those that train in home gyms. You can also leave them in your car and set them up outside for an on-the-go workout when the weather is great!
7. Can Improve Your Grip Strength
Having a strong grip is necessary not just for lifting weights but for doing everyday activities like opening a jar or carrying heavy packages. Holding onto battle ropes can help improve your grip strength by building the muscles in your hands and forearms.
Learn more about the importance of grip strength for the bench press in Does Forearm & Grip Strength Help Bench Press? (Yes, Here’s How).
8. Are Affordable
Compared to other training equipment, battle ropes are inexpensive.
This makes them a great option for those looking to start training at home but who do not want to invest in a full home gym setup.
The cost-effectiveness of battle ropes also makes them a great option for anyone who is just starting a personal training business or opening a new gym and has a limited budget.
9. Provide A Quick Workout
Time is invaluable, and battle ropes can save you so much time.
Whether you are a busy student coming up on exams or a business owner wrapping up the end of the financial year, it can be hard to find time to make it to the gym for an hour-long workout.
Battle ropes provide the option of a quick and effective alternative for a full-body workout that could even be done from home, saving you commuting time to and from the gym.
Battle ropes are also great for people who just want to reduce their time in the gym. You can burn more calories in less time with battle ropes compared to jogging on the treadmill.
10. Are Low Impact
While battle ropes still require you to work hard, there is no ground impact as with running.
This is great for heavier individuals where repeated ground contact over the course of a run may affect ankle and knee health. It’s also good for those who wish to add more cardiovascular work without further impact.
This also applies to those with muscular endurance goals, too. Taking sets of 15-20+ directs a lot of loading through your joints, whereas battle ropes keep your work rate high while eliminating the need for heavy loading.
11. Great For Coordination
Battle ropes are great for coordination. This is especially prominent if you are using waves (constantly alternating which arm is raised and lowered) or crossovers (lifting the ropes in an arc over your head and alternating which side you slam them down on).
Having to coordinate changes in direction with both arms while also stabilizing your torso and lower body will reinforce full-body and unilateral (single-sided) coordination.
Who Should Use Battle Ropes?
Due to their versatility, battle ropes can be used by a huge range of individuals.
However, I specifically recommend them for:
- Lifters looking for novelty
- Individuals looking to save time
- Those looking for home equipment on a budget
- Lifters with muscular endurance goals
- Those with general fitness goals
Lifters Looking For Novelty
If you are getting bored of your current cardio or lifting program, battle ropes can be a great way to add novelty and excitement to your training.
There is no other exercise that offers the same feeling or physical demands as battle ropes. They are incredibly engaging, force you to work hard, and are motivating as there are multiple ways to progress them and push yourself.
Individuals Looking To Save Time
As I mentioned earlier, one of the benefits of battle ropes is how they can save you time.
If you are on a busy schedule and have limited time to train, battle ropes are a fantastic way to get in quick and effective full-body workouts.
Whether it’s fitting in 10 minutes of high-intensity exercise before work or 30 minutes of circuits, battle ropes will help you keep working towards your goals without costing you hours in the gym.
Those Looking for Home Equipment on a Budget
Want to start training at home but don’t want to spend hundreds or even thousands on a vast range of equipment? tThen battle ropes are for you.
These are much more affordable compared to most other equipment and also offer a wider range of exercises you can perform to reach your goals.
These are even a great addition for those just looking to expand their current home gym setups due to their versatility and benefit.
For more ideas on equipment you can add to your home gym, check out 20 Home Fitness Equipment Brands (That We Trust).
Lifters With Muscular Endurance Goals
Battle ropes offer a great alternative for training for muscular endurance-related goals because they can help you improve your overall work capacity.
Battle ropes also have a lower impact on your joints than many compound movements (those that work multiple muscle groups at a time) when we look at pushing them to the 15+ rep ranges.
I highly recommend adding battle ropes to your program if you are looking to improve your muscular endurance.
Those With General Fitness Goals
For general gym-goers with broader fitness goals, battle ropes are one of the most effective ways to improve your overall fitness and work capacity.
They are quick and simple to use while also being effective and challenging.
How To Set Up and Use Battle Ropes
Battle ropes are really easy to set up and use.
Simply attach the hook to a rig or rack in the gym or around any stable structure you can at home. If your ropes do not have a hook, simply wrap the center of the rope around the structure, leaving an equal length free at each end.
While you can perform various exercises with battle ropes, there are two main variations I recommend and use in my programs.
Alternating waves are the most commonly performed way of using battle ropes and are where I recommend you start.
These are great for developing upper body muscular endurance and improving side-to-side coordination.
How to Perform Alternating Waves:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart facing the rope, with one rope in each hand.
- Bend slightly at the knee and lean forward 20-30 degrees.
- ‘Whip’ the first rope by raising one arm and then throwing the rope down in a whipping motion. This should create a wave-like ripple through the rest of the rope.
- As the first arm comes down, begin raising the other arm and repeat the same motion. This will create a wave in the other rope that follows the first one.
- Continue ‘whipping’ the ropes in an alternating fashion while maintaining your lower body and torso positions.
Power slams are my personal favorite as they work the lower body as well as the upper body.
These can be incredibly challenging and are a great way to add some intensity to your cardio routines.
These are harder to coordinate though, so I recommend practicing alternating waves first or just performing power slams with the upper body movement.
How To Perform Power Slams:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart facing the rope with one rope in each hand.
- Bend slightly at the knee and lean forward 20-30 degrees.
- Raise both arms overhead and simultaneously extend at the hip, knee, and ankle. As your arms reach overhead, you should be stood upright on your forefoot.
- Slam the ropes down to the floor, while simultaneously bending at the hip and knee. You should finish in a half squat position.
- Repeat the movement for the prescribed time and/or reps, continuously slamming with maximal effort.
If you do not have access to battle ropes, wall balls and slam balls are a great alternative. Read our article Wall Balls vs Slam Balls: Pros, Cons, And Which Are Better? to find out how to use each in your program.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Do Battle Ropes Do?
Battle ropes provide an effective full-body workout within a short time frame. These are predominantly used to develop muscular endurance or cardiovascular fitness, but they can also be used to build size and strength.
Are Battle Ropes Worth It?
Battle ropes are worth it for a wide range of individuals. They are one of the most versatile yet affordable pieces of equipment available. Battle rope exercises can be modified to target a range of goals, from improving cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance to increasing muscular size and strength.
Do Battle Ropes Build Muscle?
Battle ropes do build muscle. You will need to train with a higher intensity and use a heavier rope. However, lifters looking to maximize hypertrophy should include direct weight training alongside using battle ropes.
About The Author
Jacob Wymer is a powerlifting coach and PhD Candidate in Biomechanics and Strength and Conditioning, researching the application of barbell velocity measurements to powerlifting. He is involved in powerlifting across the board, from athlete to meet director. Jacob runs his coaching services at EST Barbell. You can also connect with him on Instagram.