“Battle ropes can provide an excellent workout because they allow you to do some challenging moves without having to put your joints through the stress of carrying weights,” says trainer Tyler Spraul, CSCS. Apart from using ropes to keep your body free from overuse, they’re actually great to work with when you have an injury, like a lower body injury, as they target the upper body and have minimal impact on the legs and glutes. That way, you’ll still get the cardio benefits without impairing your recovery.
“The muscles targeted will depend on the exercise you choose, but battle ropes tend to challenge your upper body the most—especially your shoulders. You can also target your triceps with a few variations,” he explains, adding that it's smart to skip them if you have arm issues. Battle ropes exercises are best for cardio-conditioning and endurance work, not necessarily strength, so you’ll want to include strength training into your overall fitness regimen elsewhere. What’s more, it’s a good piece of equipment for those new to working out, as well. "The technique required for more battle ropes exercises is relatively simple, so most people can get the hang of it quickly,” he says.
Use the right form
“This is going to vary with the exercise you're doing, but you want to stand in a strong athletic stance with knees and hips bent. A slight curve in your back is okay, and keeping your core tight in this stance will give you a solid foundation for any regular battle ropes exercises,” he says. You can also do a lot of battle ropes moves from a kneeling position, where you might want to put down a mat to protect your knees from the hard surface. Usually people can get the proper form down pretty quickly, he says, but if there's trouble, it will most likely come from overextension of the back when trying to get the full range of motion. “It's important to get that max range of motion from your shoulders and hips than from your back,” he explains.
Work toward that cardio
You’ll want to get your heart rate up, so keep that in mind when pushing yourself. “I think the biggest potential mistake with battle ropes would be using them for the wrong goal. If you want to build strength, battle ropes are not ideal, but if you want to improve your muscular endurance and overall conditioning, they can be a really helpful tool, especially if you need a low impact option,” says Spraul. Go for exercises that get you sweating and your heart racing to take full advantage of the workout. If doing a circuit, you can then go for some strength training in between sets with the rope for a balanced workout.
Try different variations for a challenge
Sure, you can do single or double slams and still get a great workout in, but you can also challenge yourself by adding in variations or jumps. “You can increase the difficulty by introducing jumps into each movement, so you're using your entire body to get the ropes up as high as you can before you slam them down,” he says.
For instance, you can do squat jumps while slamming or you can do 20 double slams and then do 20 tuck jumps, alternating for a period of time. “Another way to increase the challenge is to add a side-to-side shuffle while you're doing your ropes work,” he adds. You’d keep slamming as you side shuffle, he says, so it’s a fluid motion. You can also try tricep variations, he says, like a lying reverse double whip, where you’re really targeting that area for an added boost.
Play with positioning
Lastly, you can scoot forward or backward to increase or decrease the tightness of the rope. “If you're trying to send each ‘wave’ of the rope all the way to the end, it will be much tougher if you step forward until most of the rope is resting on the ground when you start,” he says.
In general, you want the rope in a good middle point between totally touching the floor and being in the air, off the floor. This way you're not "lifting" the rope the whole time, and you still have the challenge of trying to get the whole rope off the ground with each wave. “If the whole rope is off the ground, you want to scoot forward. The further you scoot forward, the more effort it's going to take in order to send the ‘wave’ the entire length of the rope,” he says.
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