Fitness Friday: How To Use Battling Ropes

I’ve mentioned on here before how much I love using the Battling Ropes at my gym. Up until they got them a year or two ago I had never used them because my previous gyms never had them available. And I have to admit, that when they first showed up at my current gym, I spent a couple months giving them the side eye before I was brave enough to give them a try. Now? I love them! I use them about once per week, usually at the tail end of my lighter upper body day.

I generally lift 4 days per week, with one heavy bench day and one lighter upper body day scheduled in. On the lighter day I’ll pick up the ropes at the end, usually going through 5ish sets of 30 seconds, often alternated with something else like KB swings. They’re a great component to any finisher, and it’s a quick way to get a little extra upper body and core work in; good bang for your buck so to speak.

I’ve found that a lot of people don’t know what the heck to do with the ropes though, so I thought today I’d show you a few of the very basic moves. There are many other things that you can do with the ropes, besides what I’m showing here, but if you’re a beginner to battling ropes this will be a good jumping off point.

To start, make sure that you are already thoroughly warmed up. Performing these first without any sort of proper warm up is a great way to strain a muscle in your shoulder or upper back, especially if you’re not used to using them. If you are doing them first in your workout, make sure you include some upper body work into your dynamic warm up. The ropes are quite heavy if you’ve never used them before, which is why a proper warm up is necessary. Don’t be intimidated by the weight though, momentum is your friend when it comes to these exercises!

The second thing to remember is to try to maintain an athletic stance while using the ropes. Knees soft and slightly bent, hips in about a quarter squat position generally. Pay specific attention to your back, keeping your lats and other muscles in your upper back engaged. Focusing on these muscles will allow you to properly stabilize your scapulae (shoulder blades), which will in turn protect the muscles surrounding your shoulder. If you don’t know what I mean by engaging these muscles, try envisioning that you are lightly squeezing your shoulder blades down and back towards each other, as though you are trying to put them in your back pockets.

Now that you’re in your athletic stance with your core and back musculature engaged, you’re ready to do some work! Here are just a few basic exercises that you can use Battling Ropes for:

1. Alternating Arm Swings:

These are probably the most common exercise that people use the ropes for. You should feel a good burn in your shoulders, but just remember to actually move from your shoulders, instead of trying to make your biceps do all the work by moving strictly from the elbows.

2. Double Arm Swings:

As with all of these exercises, try to keep your core engaged throughout the duration of the exercise, and to limit excessive core movement instead of letting the ropes throw you around.

3. Lateral Arm Swings:

These are probably my least favorite, and I hardly ever do them; I just find them awkward. Ah, such is life. They are great for hitting the lateral shoulder musculature however, and the core as well. 

4. Overhead Slams

These are much more of a core exercise than an arm/shoulder workout. Very similar to a medicine ball slam, they are a good way to get out some aggression and work those abs at the same time!

So for a quick recap: Why should you be using battling ropes?

In a nutshell, they are a quick and efficient way to get some extra upper body and core work in. Secondly, alternating these with something like burpees, KB swings, or jump roping is a great way to get in some interval training and is way more fun than any traditional cardio in my opinion. Got it? Good.

Have you ever used Battling Ropes? Does your gym have them available to members? And if so, do you ever see anyone using them?

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9 thoughts on “Fitness Friday: How To Use Battling Ropes

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  2. I used battling ropes for the first time in a class a while back and I really liked them! Well, I hated them while I was doing them, but they’re a great strength and cardio move. Definitely gets the heart pumping.

  3. Love the ropes! The first time I used them, I used the super, super heavy ones that my old gym had — and my back was in knots for a week afterwards. Now I train at a studio with a lighter set, so I use them a lot. My fave: 15 rope slams followed by 2 minutes on the rower. Repeat for a while — great cardio without getting bored!

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