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July 25, 2021 3 Comments
If you’ve got yourself some battle ropes (aka battling ropes) or you saw them at your gym but you don’t know how to use them or you are simply looking for some new exercise and workout inspiration, then we have you covered. In this article, we are going to teach you how to use battle ropes correctly for 20 different exercises, which range from classic battle rope exercises to more dynamic exercises that you may have never seen before. After that, we have sample battle rope HIIT workouts, stand-alone workouts, finishers, and even warm ups that you can implement into your training regimen.
With everything below, you are going to stay very busy and have plenty of fun with your battle ropes for many months to come.
Battle ropes are an extremely effective and versatile total body training tool. Battle rope exercises can be tailored to endurance training, strength training, explosive training, and hypertrophy training. Moreover, they are absolutely fantastic for fat loss as battle ropes raise the heart rate up high, and fast. Depending on the battle rope exercise and intensity, you can burn as many as 20 calories per minute (which is the equivalent to sprints).
Battle ropes are best used to lose fat (burn calories), build up core strength & stability, and increase explosive power and muscular endurance. In fact, when it comes to these aspects of fitness, the battle rope (aka battling rope) is arguably the best training equipment out there.
And while they are also adequate for building muscle (if you know what you are doing, which we are going to teach you), there are better tools for this, such as dumbbells and barbells.
That said, in terms of building up some boulder 3D shoulders and strong arms, battle ropes are up there with free weights.
All in all, when it comes to total body workouts and sculpting, building all around athleticism, and increasing grip endurance, battle ropes are top of the fitness “food” chain.
This is just a simply explanation of why battle ropes are worth using for workouts. If you want to learn more, check out our article on the 11 Inimitable Benefits of Battle Ropes.
You can hit every muscle with battle ropes, but they are particularly effective for the shoulders, arms, traps, legs, glutes, and core.
As you are going to see with the exercises in this article, there are so many different battle rope exercises and ways to use them to target or emphasize specific muscles.
Overall, though, battle ropes are a full body training tool.
There are many ways to use battle ropes, both in terms of exercises and workouts. In the general sense, it is a full body training tool that will help with fat loss, muscular endurance, explosive power, and core strength.
Common ways to use battle ropes include:
In regards to exercises, you can create waves, you can slam the ropes, whip the ropes, and pull the ropes, all from different stances and with or without combinations of bodyweight movements, as you are about to see. It’s a very versatile piece of training equipment that lends itself to creativity of movements.
Before you can do any of the exercises below, you need to know how to anchor the rope. If you are using battle ropes at the gym, then you likely don’t need to worry about this as it will already be anchored and ready for use, but if you have just bought battle ropes, here’s a few methods of anchoring them:
And, of course, you can just simply loop the battle rope around any smooth pole or a squat rack beam. A lot of squat racks actually have metal hoops at the base as well that are perfect for anchoring battle ropes. There’s nothing wrong with wrapping a battle rope around a secure object, you just want it to be smooth as if it has an abrasive surface you can damage the rope over time.
Before we begin (finally), let’s go over the four main grips that you can use when performing battle rope exercises. Not only do some exercises call for specific grips, but by changing your grip for any given exercise, you can emphasize different muscles and alter how your body is being stressed.
Some grips will feel better than others depending on the exercise. There really are no rules (but we will recommend certain grips for each exercise below). See what feels comfortable for your wrist and is the most optimal for the exercise at hand as well as how it hits your muscles.
Beginners should get comfortable with the basics before moving on to more dynamic exercises. The basics are the wave, the pull, the slam, and the whip. Once you learn these, you really have everything you need in a battle rope workout. Even many advanced athletes just stick to these battle rope exercises. So, as a beginner, you will be starting out with the best and most important movements!
Since the wave is the quintessential battle rope exercise, this is the first and most important one to learn. Because of that, we will provide more thorough instructions for this movement than we will the rest.
The wave is actually pretty simple as all you are doing is creating undulations with the rope in an alternating fashion (one hand goes up as the other goes down). Most people can just pick up a battle rope and do this exercise straight away. HOWEVER, being able to do it and doing it with great form is another thing. So, let’s go over some important cues for the battle rope wave exercise.
Keep these cues and tips in mind, as they apply to a lot of the exercises to come.
Note: Battle rope double waves involve moving your arms up and down at the same time. All the same cues apply to doubles waves.
Below are 20 awesome battle rope exercises to incorporate into your battle rope workouts.
We are starting out with the most essential and basic battle rope exercises before moving into the more dynamic ones.
For each exercise, we will cover the how to, emphasized muscles (if any, remember, many battle ropes are truly full body!), and overall what makes the movement special.
While all of the exercises are great for intermediate to advanced trainees, beginners should stick to certain exercises at first. We will mark the battling rope exercises that are good for beginners with an “*”
Without further ado, let’s begin...
The battle rope wave is the most classic battle rope exercise. It’s great for blasting fat, getting lean, and building muscle (particularly in the biceps, forearms, shoulders and core).
Be sure to keep your elbows in to keep the movement at the biceps. This will allow you to not burn out as quickly.
The high wave is just like the standard wave but you will be a little more upright with your torso and you will be creating large waves (so your hands will be moving through a greater range of motion). This brings the intensity of the movement up and places more emphasis on other upper body muscles like the chest, traps, lats, forearms, and shoulders.
You will have a little less bend in your elbow and bicep movement during a high wave than a standard wave and there will be more movement at the shoulder. The undulations will be larger and higher.
The battle rope low wave is essentially the opposite of what a high wave is. It involves less range of motion and your body will be closer to the ground. This brings most of the emphasis into your arms (as well as your low back to hold this position).
You will not have much shoulder movement like you will with the high wave. Moreover, the alternating motion should be very quick. As such, so will the waves, and the waves will be short and rapid.
In terms of your arms, this movement is just like a standard wave. However, you will be doing this from a tall kneeling position. Essentially, this is a good move for beginners who need to grease the contralateral groove of the arm motion. This can be a better place to start than the standard wave for some. For everyone else, this is a cool option for taking the legs out of the equation and focusing just on the upper body (although the glutes will still be activated for stability).
The half kneeling is the same thing as the tall kneeling wave but actually the half-kneeling position changes up the dynamics of the movement quite a bit due to its unilateral positioning. It sets you up so that you are producing power from one side of your glutes through your core for stability. And, like the tall kneeling wave, it also forces you to create more power through the upper body since you won't be driving much force through the ground from your feet. All in all, it may seem like a beginner exercise, but this is one is pretty difficult because it’s hard to keep stable. It’s great for anyone who wants to work on strength of both the upper body and at hip level.
Be sure switch the half kneeling position each set (so right leg in front then left leg in front).
Like the tall kneeling wave, the seated wave allows you to grease the groove of the arm motion. However, the seated waves completely removes the lower body as not even the glutes are going to be involved. This is all upper body.
Once you get the wave down, you can start playing around with other motions, such as circles. This variations is the Inside Circle, so you will be creating a circle with your arms counterclockwise (inward motion).
This exercise is great for your arms, shoulders, upper chest, lats, traps, and all the scapula stabilizer muscles. It promotes strengthening of your postural muscles, helping to combat society’s ever present tech neck and rounded shoulder issue.
Of course, it is also great for your legs, glutes and abs, as they need to work in an isometric fashion to keep your upper body stable.
The Outside Circle is just like the Inside Circle except your arms will be moving clockwise. Like the Inside Circle, the Outside Circle is a total body exercise that emphasizes the arms, shoulders, upper chest, lats, traps and scapula stabilizer muscles (which your traps are actually part of). It’s really a great way to build mobility, stability and endurance at the scapula level.
The whip is another popular movement for battle ropes. The whipping movement is sort of like an explosive rear delt fly to chest fly. As such, your arms, shoulders (rear delts and front delts in particular), chest, traps, and rhomboids will be emphasized the most.
With the Whip, you will essentially be creating horizontal waves.
As you are whipping the ropes away from each other and then back toward each other, they may cross paths. This will not effect the movement. Your arms, however, will not cross each other, so when they start to meet at the middle, whip the ropes outward by flicking your wrists.
It’s common for people to move toward the anchor or in an out of the quarter squat during this exercise. It’s also common for people to let their upper body slouch forward. Try to maintain a strong athletic stance throughout the set.
Here is one of our favorites, the Power Slam. Unlike the other battle rope exercises so far, this one is about power (hence the name), so the focus is on building explosive strength, not muscular endurance. As such, sets will be shorter and more taxing as you will be using all of your force to slam the ropes down each rep.
As for muscles worked, this is a total body movement, so literally every muscle is going to be firing off as you transfer force from your lower body to your upper body and back down slamming the ropes. That said, it is particularly beneficial for building strength (and muscle mass) in the shoulders, lats, and arms, and it significantly challenges all of your core stabilizer muscles, which includes your glutes.
With this version of the Power Slam (which is the most common), you will bring your arms up to about head level and then down between your legs as you slam the rope. Like waves, this will create large vertical undulations toward the anchor.
Note: This exercise is best performed with a thicker rope, but any battle rope will do.
With the Power Slam, it is common for people to move forward toward the anchor. Try to keep your feet planted firmly so you don’t do this. The closer you move to the anchor, the more slack you will have and the harder the exercise will be come. Stay firm in your stance from the start.
The Battle Rope Side To Side is an awesome exercise that is going to work you through the transverse plane (which is the most overlooked plane of motion for most weightlifters). This is how you build dynamic, real world core strength, as it prepares you for any twist and turn life throws at you.
But make note, this is an anti-rotation exercise, not a rotational exercise, so your hips will remain squared forward and your feet firmly planted into the floor. The goal is to move the ropes side to side while maintaining core stability. So, your arms will follow the path of the ropes but your core will resist movement. With that, you are going to build some serious core strength and injury resilience. This is an athletic exercise through and though.
The Battle Rope Side Raise Slam is rotational version of the power slam, so you will be slamming the rope on one side, then picking it up and slamming it on the other.
While you don’t need an object in the middle to slam the rope over (as seen in the pic), it does help ensure that you are performing the exercise with best form and enough intensity. Likely, if the rope hits the object (as long as it’s positioned correctly), the set is over as your energy force has decreased to the point of needing a rest. Like Power Slams, this exercise is about explosive power and strength, not so much endurance.
This exercise is going to work all the muscles in your body from the legs up, especially the shoulders and legs. And, since it is a transverse exercise, it is particularly effective for building explosive core strength, which will translate into improved ability to transfer force from your lower body to your upper body, which is essential for sports. This means better acceleration, deceleration, and rotational power, as well as injury resilience.
While your torso will be rotating, your hips will not, which means your feet will remain planted to the floor and your body in a quarter squat athletic stance. Only your torso should rotate as it follows the path of the ropes.
If you want to take the classic alternating waves exercise up a few notches, give this dynamic variation a try.
The alternating waves with kneeling get-up is exactly as it sounds. You will be performing kneeling get-ups as you do the alternating waves. So, you will start from a kneeling position, then move into a half-kneeling position, and then up on your feet, then back to half kneeling, then back to tall kneeling (which would be one complete rep). With that, practicing the tall-kneeling wave and half kneeling wave we showed you earlier before trying this exercise, which combines all three variations, would be a smart move.
Essentially, what this exercise brings to the table is more leg and glute work, requiring both isotonic and isometric contraction, and a lot more core stability. So, if you want to truly make the wave as much of a total body exercise as possible, this is it.
The goal is to use your arms to generate force and absorb the impact/feedback with your legs. Keep your core tight throughout the exercise to help transfer force through the floor and keep the spine somewhat neutral as your arms and legs are moving. Also, keep your knees soft to help lessen the stress on your joints and where it should be, on your musculature.
If you thought Russian Twists with dumbbells, kettlebells or medicine balls were hard, wait until you try Battle Rope Russian Twists. Not only is the weight distribution different, but the rope will be undulating as you pass it over your body each time, creating even more instability. This is going to require your core to work over time. And, of course, this exercise emphasizes the shoulders, traps, and arms as they are primary movers of the rope.
You don’t necessarily have to slam the rope down when it reaches the side, but the rope should be hitting the ground with some force. You can be explosive with this exercise. And remember, it is not a rotational exercise, it is an anti-rotational exercise, so your arms are moving, but your torso is remaining squared forward.
The Battle Ropes Alternate Arm Wave Jump Squat turns the quintessential explosive endurance exercise into an explosive, plyometric endurance and hypertrophy exercise thanks the jump squat and alternating wave combo.
Be warned, this exercise is not for the faint of hearts. This is going to absolutely take your breath away. It has so much packed into one. You get hypertrophy, strength and endurance benefits. It’s hard to say which muscles are being emphasized since so many muscles are going to be working overtime on this one, but it is particularly great for the legs, hamstrings, calves, glutes, arms, shoulders, chest, traps, lats, and of course, your core (we probably could of just left it at this is total body, because it truly is).
Since this is a hybrid plyometric, strength and endurance exercise, you probably won’t be able to go too long, but you should try to use max effort for a fair number of reps (i.e. 10-20).
This is an awesome battle rope exercise that focuses on upper body endurance and lower body strength and hypertrophy. However, this is only for those with good hip mobility. Before you can do this exercise, you need to be able to do a proper side lunge (if you can’t, work on that first before trying it with battle ropes).
The Battle Ropes Alternating Arm Waves Side Lunge works your entire lower body both for hypertrophy and strength. Moreover, with the arms controlling the ropes to make waves, the lower body also needs to stabilize the body, which makes the lower body muscles engage even more. Literally every single muscle in your lower body (which there are a lot) is going to be firing off with this one.
Then, of course, your upper body is working as it does with any waves variation. You are going to be shredding through high calorie burn and getting a mean pump in your arms, chest, and back. Your core, as always, will be working hard in tandem with your lower body to stabilize it all.
Here is an easier version of the Battle Rope Alternating Arm Waves Squat Jump. Rather than jumping into the air, you are going to be performing a regular squat. But make no mistakes, just because it is easier than the squat jump doesn’t mean it is easy. This exercise is going to work your legs like a bodyweight squat would but with added resistance due to the battle ropes. Then, your upper body is going to be working as usual with waves - endurance, endurance, endurance. But guess what, there is surely hypertrophy benefits in endurance training, don’t let anyone fool you. This is the type of exercise that will build lean, sculpted muscle mass.
Here’s another plyometric battle rope exercise for you. This time, you will be performing squat jumps with your alternating waves. This is arguably even harder than the squat jump version as the split squat jump is a unilateral movement. It requires force production mainly from one side and even more stability because of that. If you want to build some nice legs and a big round, powerfully athletic booty, this is it. The split jump alternating arm waves is as athletic as a movement as it gets.
This is an extremely exhausting exercise if done correctly, so you are not likely to do long sets. However, work as hard as you can and as long as you can and when speed and form starting to break down, stop.
You know when they say something looks simple but it’s not? Well, the Battle Rope Jumping Jack epitomizes this. Just because you know how to do a jumping jack, which we assume most people do, doesn’t mean you are going to be able to do this exercise with ease.
For this exercise, you will be creating force that generates an arc-style wave down the rope toward the anchor point. With that, you will get very high engagement through your shoulders (especially the lateral delts) and upper back. Moreover, this movement will also double down on core, hip and leg engagement. It’s like jumping jacks on steroids. It’s the perfect mix of cardio, strength, endurance and hypertrophy training.
We love using this exercise as a warm up before a weight lifting session or a burnout finisher at the end of a workout. It’s also a great exercise to throw into the main part of a shoulder workout.
The final exercise just demonstrates another way that you can make your alternating arm waves more dynamic and fill two needs with one deed (fat loss and resistance training at the same time).
The Battle Rope Rear Lunge Alternating Arm Waves is exactly as it sounds, it involves reverse lunges as you create your alternating arm waves. It may seem easy, but trust us, it’s not. This is going to seriously test your balance, coordinations, strength and cardio abilities. It’s also going to build up muscle in your legs, glutes, and upper body very well.
As you can see, there are so many ways that you can get creative with battle ropes. A lot of these leg movements we’ve added with waves can be done with slams or even whips. They can also be done with dual/double waves (rather than alternating, the arms/ropes are moving in sync with each other).
Two other exercise examples that we love to do with battle ropes are Battle Rope Burpee Power Slams and Battle Rope Skier Jack Waves.
The list really could go on and on, but we think this gives you an idea of how versatile and fun battle ropes are. You just have to get creative.
It really depends on what kind of workout you are doing. If you are doing a HIIT workout with battle ropes, a normal workout length is around 5-15 minutes, but can be as much as 20 minutes. If you are doing a finisher, then 2-10 minutes is a good length. If you are doing a stand-alone battle rope workout, it can vary, but usually no more than 30 minutes is ideal. Remember, your sets should intense. For a stand-alone workout, you should rest about twice as long as your sets. So if you do sets of 30 seconds, you’d rest for 1 minute. With that, 30 minutes should have you wiped out. As for warm ups, 5 minutes is plenty of time with battle ropes to get the blood pumping.
Generally, yes, battle rope workouts are meant to be full body, either for endurance and fat loss or explosive strength and fat loss, or both. However, they can be used in a non-traditional sense (non-traditional to battle ropes that is), by performing exercises in a way that you would free weights for hypertrophy, like doing presses, squats, pulls, and so on, all without any sort of undulation. Nevertheless, this is not very common. Battle ropes are funnest and most effective when used as they are designed - undulating waves, whips, slams, and circles, as well as pulls.
Here are some sample workouts that you can do using the exercises you learned above. We will start with a warm up then get into HIIT workouts, stand-alone workouts, and workout finishers.
Before you do the battle rope warm up, do 3 minutes of dynamic stretches.
Just one set each and rest 15 seconds between exercises.
HIIT Workout #1 - Tabata (8 minutes):
Battle Rope Waves: 20 seconds work followed by 10 seconds rest x 16 sets
Note: You can choose any exercise you’d like for a tabata, but ideally you want an exercise that you can use max intensity for 20 seconds, which is why endurance based exercises like alternating waves, whips, or inside circles are best.
HIIT Workout #2 - 30/15 (~15 minutes):
This workout is 30 seconds work followed by 15 seconds rest. You will do each exercise one after the other. After you’ve completed all 5, rest for 1 minute and then repeat for 2 more rounds (so 3 rounds total).
HIIT Workout #3 - AMRAP (10 minutes)
Only rest when needed (which may be quite a bit as a beginner to HIIT training, but really try to push yourself hard). Try to complete as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes.
NOTE FOR HIIT WORKOUTS: You should be using high intensity with every set you do in a HIIT workout, after all, it is High Intensity Interval Training.
Your stand-alone battle ropes will look similar to HIIT but they will involve more rest time.
Battle Rope Workout #1 (sets x reps/time):
Battle Rope Workout #2 (circuit):
Rest 15 seconds between exercises. Rest 1 minute between rounds. Perform 3 rounds total.
Rest 20 seconds between exercises and rounds. Perform 3 rounds total.
No rest between exercises and 60 seconds between rounds. Perform 3 total rounds.
Note: Rest 2 minutes between circuit
Finishers are great for people who have fat loss and body sculpting goals. However, they shouldn’t be done everyday if you workout more than 3 times a week. For example, if you are on a 4 day, 5 day or 6 day split, then 2-3 finishers a week on lighter or less taxing training days makes sense. It also depends on how intense and long your finishers are. A quick 2 minute finisher is different than a 5-8 minute finisher. So, use your best judgement.
FYI - For someone who does full body workouts 3 times a week, a battle rope finisher each session is perfectly fine and conducive to fat loss efforts.
Below are a few battling rope finisher examples, with exercises that are best for each.
Complete each exercise for 20 seconds then rest for 10 before moving to the next exercise. Rest 10 seconds between rounds and complete two total rounds. This makes the total time for this finisher 4 minutes.
For this finisher, you will be doing 30 seconds for the first exercise, followed by 10 seconds rest, then 20 seconds for the next exercise, followed by 10 seconds rest and finally 10 seconds for the last exercise. This is a very quick finisher to get that last push before you end your workout. It only takes 1 minute and 20 seconds, but it should be very intense.
Note: If you want to take this finisher up a notch, you can work your way back up to 30 seconds. So, you’ll go 30-20-10-20-30 (all with 10 seconds rest between).
Here are the exercises:
Core Blaster Finisher:
4 rounds in total, 20 seconds work each exercise, rest 1 minute between rounds (no rest between exercises).
It depends on what kind of workouts you plan to do with the battle ropes, your training goals, and what other workouts you are doing.
Are you working out with weights 3, 4, 5 or 6 days a week?
Are you trying to lose fat or build muscle and strength?
Are you doing any full body workouts or just body part splits?
Are your workouts already very intense and taxing?
Do you want to do HIIT battling rope workouts, stand-alone battling rope workouts, battling rope finishers, or just use them to warm up?
As you can see, it is very hard to answer this question. There really is no one size fits all answer.
Overall, you just need to listen to your body and be honest with how hard you are training. If you think you need a HIIT workout each week or a couple finishers to sculpt your body and lose belly fat, then do it. Conversely, if your weight training session was already super taxing, then skip the battle rope finisher. The same thing with HIIT workouts, if you have the energy, then do one, if not, then don’t. You want to avoid overtraining, but you also have to push yourself to make significant changes and reach your goals.
There are plenty of good battle rope sellers on the market. Amazon has plenty of high quality battle ropes to choose from too. Just read the reviews to see what others have to say.
The only thing we can suggest is that if you want the most durable battle rope, then go for a battle rope made of polydac. Also, avoid battle ropes with protective covers (sleeves) as they are an unnecessary way sellers differentiate themselves and charge more.
As for length and thickness, generally speaking, the best option is a 50 foot long (although 40 feet will do) 1.5 inch thick battle rope. This really applies to all fitness levels and men and women (with exception of massive men and tiny women, who may want a thicker or shorter rope, respectively).
You can learn everything about different battle rope lengths, thicknesses, and materials in our Battle Ropes Buyer’s Guide. All questions related to buying battle ropes are answered in that article.
If you just trust our 50 (or 40) foot 1.5 inch Polydac battle rope recommendation, then here are some Amazon sellers that we know have good battle ropes.
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