A lot of fitness equipment becomes popular every now and then, but very few things are effective enough to stay around. This is why when the battle rope started to become a hype, my first thought was that it was probably just another fitness fad. Still, something about it’s simplicity and ruggedness appealed to me. It didn’t need a power supply, it had no screens and it looked pretty durable – all attributes I like my training equipment to have. So, I decided to give the battle rope a fair chance and got one to train and experiment with for a while. After working out with it for a year, the battle rope became my fourth favorite piece of training equipment (right after gymnastic rings, jump-ropes and slam balls). If you want to add something new to your workouts and spice things up, the battle rope is a great solution.
Battle-rope Pros & Cons
Like Slam balls, it is a great exercise to develop power. As explained in my previous video, power focuses on the ability to exert force to overcome resistance in the shortest period of time possible. Battle rope training combined with bodyweight exercises that focus more on strength is a great way to stimulate your muscles in depth (increased muscle fiber recruitment) and build a natural strong and lean physique. Although at first sight the battle rope looks like an arm exercise, once you try it you realize that it does a lot more than that.
- Whole Body Training: Your biceps and triceps might initiate and complete every battle rope wave but your lats and shoulders generate most of the power. Muscle activation doesn’t stop there though. Maintaining power output throughout the whole set also requires stability that begins from your core and extends all through your upper back and legs. You also develop killer grip strength since you need forearm strength in order to hold the rope ends. As the seconds go by you’ll notice how your forearm muscles have to work harder and harder to maintain a tight grip on the rope.
- Unilateral training/Balanced strength:One thing I especially like about the battle rope is that it works each arm independently. If you have a discrepancy in power, strength and/or coordination between your arms, it’s something you’ll notice. The weaker/less functional arm will produce smaller waves in a less rhythmic way. The more you train with the battle rope the more you’ll balance this out.
- Transferable Strength for Calisthenics: Battle rope training can develop upper body strength that is transferable to other exercises. For example, one study showed that training with the battle rope three times a week, doing thirty-second sets of maximal effort, increased push-up strength by 11% in men and a surprising 36% in women.
- Cardiovascular function: Battle ropes are also a great exercise for cardiovascular function. Due to the intensity and how taxing this exercise is for the whole body, increased heart rate is unavoidable. I like to place battle rope last as a station in my circuits so I can go all out. This leaves my cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems completely drained.
- Battle rope training for better posture: Even if you start upright, as you get tired at the end of your battle rope set, you’ll probably feel your body wanting to shrug your shoulders and slouch forward. Be aware of this and maintain proper form till the end. Doing battle ropes on the knees at shoulder width apart and feet flat on the floor is another variation I like giving to my trainees that tend to slouch a lot. This makes you work harder to maintain upright posture. Learning to maintain proper posture under stress and fatigue, transfers in your daily life, reminding to sit or stand upright when you’re tired.
- Joint friendly: What I love about battle rope training is that although it can be a very high-in-intensity exercise, it also remains quite low in impact. With a proper heavy battle rope, each person can only produce as much force as his/her own joints can handle. In other words, you can blow off steam and exhaust yourself as much as you want without any high risk for injury..
- Increase lactate threshold (aka lactic acid threshold): Learning to maintain intensity over time increases your lactate acid threshold. In more simple words, you teach your body to delay that burning feeling you feel in your muscles when doing an intense exercise for a short amount of time. This can be also quite helpful for athletes that need higher lactate thresholds in their upper body for their sport.
- Ideal for mixed martial artists: As we’ve mentioned so far, the battle rope improves strength, power and endurance. Working on force production from your upper body while maintaining a steady base with your lower body and at the same time challenging your grip strength are essential physical qualities for MMA fighter.
The battle rope is a training tool and when combined with bodyweight exercises it can build immense power, endurance and strength without stressing joints and connective tissues. In our next video we’ll share with you intermediate and advanced workouts that combine the best out of the battle rope training and calisthenics.
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