Want to give your strength & conditioning a serious boost? Then you need to start training with battle ropes. There’s a reason why battle ropes have quickly become one of the most popular training tools for workout enthusiasts and athletes alike. They offer a wealth of benefits that will improve both your body composition and performance in sports, fitness, and daily life.
Below, you will learn everything you want to know about battle ropes, including 11 undeniable benefits and the best battle rope exercises.
Battle ropes, which are also known as battling ropes or heavy ropes, are a fitness training implement used to improve strength and conditioning. As the name suggests, it is a rope, but it is not just any rope. The rope is thick, heavy, and long, giving it significant resistance and movability.
Although the name "battle ropes" is plural, it is, in fact, one long rope that wraps around an object (such as a pole) to create two ropes of even length that you can grab onto with one end in each hand (your arms work independently of each other by grabbing one side of the rope). Generally speaking, battle ropes can be purchased in three lengths - 30, 40 or 50 feet, and 1.5” and 2” in thickness. For a 30 foot battle rope, you would have approximately 15 feet of rope in each hand as it would be anchored at the middle and pulled evenly to each side.
While battle ropes are extremely popular, they haven’t been around for nearly as long as other fitness equipment like dumbbells or even kettlebells. The battle rope concept was invented by a well known fitness trainer named John Brookfield back in 2006. Soon after he developed it, he trained the Special Forces, the Cincinnati Bengals and the US Olympic wrestling team with his newly conceived battle ropes system. Within years, it was mainstream. Nowadays, you will see battle ropes in pretty much every single commercial gym around the world. Why? Because it is a highly effective and efficient training tool for full body workouts.
Before we get into all of the benefits, let’s answer the most common questions people have about battle ropes, which will provide you some immediate insight into the benefits of battle ropes as well.
Like any workout, how much fat you burn (or calories you spend) depends on how hard you work. That said, battle rope workouts are considered one of the most efficient ways to burn fat. You should be able to burn around 10-15 calories per minute with battle ropes.
With battle ropes, there is considerable resistance, so your muscles will be worked as well. This only adds to the intensity, and thus, fat burning effect. If done right, you will be burning tons of calories long after your workout is finished. This is what is known as an after burn and battle ropes are fantastic for achieving this.
Battle ropes are one of the best tools for HIIT. You can burn fat and build muscle at the same time, unlike running where the concern is you are losing muscle while losing fat. As such, battle ropes are one of the best ways to get lean and shredded.
Battle ropes have a significant weight to them, so they absolutely can build muscle. They will provide resistance, which stimulates muscle growth.
If you want to continue to build muscle with battle ropes over time, you need to progressively overload your muscles. To do this, you can decrease rest time, increase work time, or make the battle rope exercises more difficult.
All in all, battle ropes will build muscle, but not in the same way as a barbell or a large range of dumbbells can. This is because you are limited on the resistance level and your progressive overload techniques. That said, battle ropes will help you build lean, solid muscle. So, if you want to look like a Mr. Olympia, you will need other implements like barbells/plates (but you should still use battle ropes to keep off fat). However, if you want to look more like a muscular athlete, battle ropes are perfect.
Battle rope workouts are total body, so your upper body, lower body and core muscles will be worked. Pretty much every single muscle in your body will be stimulated when doing battle rope exercises, with your core, arms, shoulders, back, glutes and quads bearing the brunt of the work.
What’s also great about battle ropes is because your arms are working independently of each other, battle ropes lend themselves to correcting imbalances. Both sides of your body will need to stay up to par. What’s more, this will force your core to stabilize your body. This is why battle ropes exercises are so great for the core. Your core is at the center of every movement, working hard to control your body so it doesn’t go off balance. Your legs and glutes are as well (many consider the glutes as part of the core, but that’s a topic for a different discussion).
All in all, the above is standard no matter what variation of the battle rope you do.
As for targeting or emphasizing specific areas of your body, you can do that as well…
For example, if you add in squats and lunges to your battle rope wave, which advanced trainees often do, you will double down on the stimulus your legs receive.
If you do side to side waves (circles), you will target your chest more.
There are so many battle rope exercise variations that if all you had was a battle rope, you’d still be able to achieve well-rounded fitness, muscular growth and muscular strength.
So, are battle ropes worth buying? The answer is a resounding yes for those who want to get into killer shape. If you still aren’t sure, it’s time to present to you all of the incredible benefits of battle rope workouts...
Battle ropes offer a wide variety of benefits for people of all fitness levels. Let’s go over some of our favorite benefits of battle ropes.
1. Explosive Full Body Workout
By nature of design, the exercises you perform with battle ropes work your entire body in a dynamic, explosive manner. Not every piece of fitness equipment can say that.
Battle ropes are revered for their strength and conditioning ability. It’s a total body workout for strength, hypertrophy, endurance, power, and cardiovascular health all in one long, thick rope.
2. Quick, Efficient Workouts
Battle rope exercises target multiple muscle groups at once. As such, you burn a lot of calories and work many muscles in a short period of time. Rather than spending a lot of time focusing on isolation exercises or single muscle groups, you can do intense total body exercises with battle ropes and get a more effective all-round workout in an a fraction of the time. This is how you get into fantastic shape.
Of course, if you want to grow specific muscles, do what you must with dumbbells and the like, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you want a quick and effective workout, then battle ropes are one of the best training tools that exist for that. After a 20-30 minute battle rope workout, you will be toast.
3. Get Shredded
While battle ropes can build muscle, there are better training tools for building muscle, but there may be no better implement for burning fat and getting shredded. A battle rope workout or finisher at the end of your workout will allow you to burn a ton of calories in a short period of time. And due to the intensity of the workout, you will achieve the phenomenon known as EPOC (Excessive Post Oxygen Consumption) aka “after burn”, which means your body will burn more calories long after your workout is finished.
4. Great for HIIT Workouts
For HIIT workouts, you really only need your bodyweight. That said, if we had to choose one fitness tool for HIIT, it would be battle ropes. This is because the movements can be super explosive and they simply incorporate so well into HIIT. You could do a HIIT workout with just battle ropes and it’ll be like HIIT on steroids as the battle ropes combine resistance with explosive movements. This is how you burn fat and build muscle at the same time. Moreover, this is how you keep your metabolism through the roof.
5. Cardiovascular Health
Battle rope workouts are cardio times resistance training. It’s like doing a run and a weightlifting session at the same time. As long as you keep your rest time as it should (we will get into how to structure a battle rope workout below), then your heart rate will stay elevated for the length of your battle rope workout. This will boost your cardiovascular health and your endurance, which will translate to better performance both with weightlifting and sports.
Note: people with knee, hip and low back issues love to use battle ropes for cardio as running puts stress on their joints, whereas battle ropes are low impact and they still give you the same cardiovascular benefits.
6. Balance, Coordination & Stability
Because your arms are working independently of each other, your core, glutes, legs and back will need to work to stabilize your movements. If not, the ropes will control you, not the other way around. With that, your balance and coordination will improve greatly, especially if you have muscle imbalances, as those will be corrected by the unilateral nature of the movements.
So, if you want to gain a solid stance and improve your balance and coordination, battle ropes are a magnificent implement to do so. The best part is, you can always continue improving in these areas with different dynamic variations of battle rope exercises and more explosiveness movements. The added benefit of all this is a rock solid, washboard core and firm glutes.
7. Improve Muscles Imbalance and Weak Areas
Battle ropes will make muscle imbalances and weak muscles apparent really quickly. What’s even better is, they will improve them quickly too, and you don’t really need to think too much about it. Just go about the workout and your weaker side will catch up and those smaller, often forgotten muscles like your grip, forearms, and hip flexors will be targeted no matter what you do. Just make sure you keep good form and work hard.
8. Durability via Increased Mobility & Stability
Durability, which is your injury resilience, comes down to strength, mobility and stability. With battle ropes, you are improving all three areas, and in turn, your durability as well.
You get a boost in mobility as battle rope exercises will move through full ranges of motion, so any restricted areas like hips or shoulders will gradually open up.
As for stability, we discussed that. Your core, along with your entire kinetic chain is working hard to stabilize your body during battle rope exercises. Dynamic movements like this offer so many more advantages than simple isolation exercises. Stability and mobility is a crucial one.
9. Work Your Muscles in New Ways & Break Plateaus
Battle ropes offer a new way to work your muscles. It is constant, dynamic and explosive movement that fights both gravity and force created by moving the ropes. This will shock your muscles, many of which you don’t even think of in your normal routine, and this exactly what the body needs to continue improving. Moreover, this is how you move on from monotonous routines and break plateaus. Battle ropes will improve your work capacity, endurance, and speed, allowing you to perform better in other areas of your fitness and in sports.
10. High Intensity, Low Impact
While battle rope workouts are high intensity, they are low impact. The workout will allow you to build muscle and strength without pressure on your joints like most free weights cause. This means you can get great results without the risk of injury. In fitness, high reward and low risk is the perfect recipe for the longevity of positive results.
11. Mental Fortitude
High intensity workouts are undoubtedly great for your body, but they are also great for your mind. It builds mental toughness that will translate to all areas of fitness and life. After a serious battle rope workout, you will never look at a medium intensity weight lifting session the same again. That’ll be fun and games compared to even just a 10 minute battle rope finisher. This kind of mental fortitude is what builds winners on all fronts. It enables you to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. You’ll soon find yourself pushing harder in all areas of your training.
Although battle ropes provide a lot of benefits, there are some disadvantages that should be addressed as well. Let’s quickly go over the pros and cons of battle ropes to help you decide if its a purchase that is right for you specifically.
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There are many different kinds of battle rope movements, but the two main ones you must master first are the wave and slam.
The wave is an undulating motion sending waves down the length of the rope.
The slam requires that you lift the rope high and slam them into the ground.
Both of these movements can be done with your arms working in an up and down opposite to each other fashion (alternating) or simultaneous motion (double). The higher you bring the ropes up for both, the different effect it will produce. Smaller, short waves will be great for endurance, whereas when you start making larger waves (or "tsunamis" one could say), you are working power, strength and endurance. With slams, the same is true. The harder and higher the slam, the more strength and power comes into play. But generally speaking, waves are great for endurance, whereas slams are for power and strength.
From there, you have many other types of battle rope exercises, such as crossovers, circles, whips, pulls, and so on, and variations that involve bodyweight movements (i.e. squat slams, lunge jump waves, side to side wave shuffles, etc.).
General Proper Form for Battle Ropes:
To best show you how to use battle ropes, check out Luka Hocevar’s 45 Epic Battle Rope Exercises…
As you can see, you can get super creative with battle ropes. You could specifically target every muscle in your body or you could do movements that are total body.
An example of targeting a specific muscle group would be kneeling shoulder presses, just like you would a dumbbell (this is not a normal way to use battle ropes, but it works as those ropes are heavy!).
As for total body movements, the video above gives you plenty of examples to follow.
1-to-1 Ratio Workout
Goal: Strength & Endurance
For beginners, a 1-to-1 ratio is going to be best. This means you will be resting for the same amount of time you are working. With this kind of workout, you can structure it however you like, just keep a 1-to-1 ratio.
You could do 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest; 15 seconds work, 15 seconds rest; 45 seconds work, 45 seconds rest; and so on…
The total workout time can range anywhere from 5-20 minutes with a 1:1 ratio workout.
The most common for this workout is 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for 10 minutes…or three rounds of 5 minutes (5 sets) with a 1-2 minute rest in-between rounds (total 15 minutes).
10 Minute Workout
30 seconds on/30 seconds off for a total of 10 sets.
Do any battle rope exercise you’d like. You could do 10 sets of waves, 5 sets of waves and 5 sets of slams, or even 10 different battle rope exercises (so, a new exercise each set).
This 1-to-1 ratio workout is very versatile, which means you can keep things fresh. The only thing you need to do is keep a 1-to-1 ratio.
2-to-1 Ratio Workout
Goal: HIIT - Fat Burning, Muscle Building, Conditioning
The 2-to-1 work-rest ratio is great for HIIT. It can be 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off or 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off. This kind of battle rope workout will scorch fat.
9-Minute Workout (30 second work - 15 seconds rest)
For this workout, you are doing 4 exercises for 30 seconds work, 15 seconds rest x 3 rounds.
You can choose any 4 battle rope exercises you like. For beginners, we recommend:
Double Waves (Forearm Grip)
Power Slams (Forearm Grip)
Alternating Waves (Hammer Grip)
Power Slams (Hammer Grip)
Other good exercises for beginners are crossovers and sidewinders.
4-Minute Workout (20 seconds work - 10 seconds rest = Tabata style)
- Repeat all 4 exercises 1 more time (8 total sets)
You can do battle rope workouts as a finisher after your regular workout. This is especially advantageous for those who are lacking power, endurance, and overall high intensity training in their current regimen.
You could also do a stand alone battle rope workout a few times a week if you don’t want to do finishers. These could be your cardio/endurance/explosive training days (general conditioning).
There are no rules for how often you should do a battle rope workout. It depends on your fitness goal. If you want to get shredded and improve your athletic ability, do a few intense battle rope workouts a week. You could even do a 10 minute battle rope workout every day. Just be sure to not overtrain.
Battle rope workouts are intense, so they are most effective in the 5-20 minute range. If you are doing a battle rope workout after your regular workout, go for 5-10 minutes. If you are doing it as a stand alone workout for the day, aim for 15-20 minutes. In both cases, give it your all. This is high intensity training!
This depends on how much room you have to work with and your fitness goals. If you are going to be training in your backyard, you should be able to buy any size you’d like, so choose one that works with your fitness goal. If you are limited to your garage, for example, you need to think about the space, and thus, the length of the battle rope.
As for fitness goals and fitness levels, the longer the rope, the better no matter what your goal is. The thickness of the rope should be more of a concern when buying (in terms of difficulty), as you should buy the longest battle rope possible for your space. Longer ropes make for a more fluid motion.
1.5” rope is great for beginners and it is the best for cardio all around.
2” rope for those who want a challenge (standard size - perfect for both power and endurance)
2.5” rope for more advanced athletes and bigger guys (great for power and strength)
The thicker the rope, the tougher it is on your grip and the more resistance/weight.
For commercial gyms, 50ft battle ropes are the best and most common.
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