There are exactly two things that I dread every time I walk into a session with a personal trainer: Russian twists, and any and everything having to do with battle ropes—which is why my jaw nearly dropped when I saw Kaley Cuoco’s latest strength training routine, which combines both hellish-yet-effective moves into one ultra-intense hybrid crunch that works her shoulders, arms, and abs at the same time. Whew.
As Cuoco demonstrated on Instagram, the triple-threat move involves holding your body in a V-sit with your feet off of the ground (thankfully, you can bend your legs), which is challenging enough as is. To kick things up a notch, instead of weighting the move with a dumbbell, she holds a battle ropes in one of her hand and swings it back and forth across her body… somehow managing to make it look like it ain’t no thang.
“To get the rope over your legs, you’re using your shoulders, so it’s not actually primarily an ab workout,” says Cristina Capron, founder of personal training app CCFIT. But if you, like me, have watched this video multiple times in a row and wondered, “How is that even humanly possible?!” there’s some good news: Achieving the move on your own doesn’t necessarily require superhuman strength—it just takes a little bit of buildup.
“I think a great exercise to work up to this would be jack-knives, holding your hands on the floor for support if you’re more of a beginner, and bringing your knees into your chest for 20 to 30 seconds,” says Capron, who also suggests prepping your shoulders with front and lateral raises. Nike trainer Joe Holder advises getting used to basic battle rope techniques, too, by testing the waters with “starter varieties” like double slams and alternating moves before diving into a Cuoco-style crunch.
When you’re ready to put it all together, be sure to pay special attention to your form so that you’re actually reaping the move’s full-body benefits. “I see a lot of people slouching, which is natural when you’re sitting in that position—so making sure your back is straight and that your core is engaged is super important, as well as making sure that you’re not just using your arms to get that rope over your knees,” says Capron. “You want to make sure that you’re using your abs, because if you’re just using your arms it’s kind of pointless and you aren’t using your abs as much as you’re probably hoping you are.”
Once you’ve got that down, it’s just a matter of grabbing the rope and getting to work. “Think of the rope as an extension of your body. You’re transferring the force through you and back to the rope,” says Holder, calling out “dynamic stability” as what makes the move so effective. “A lot of people try to fight the equipment instead of realizing that half the battle is not letting energy leak out of your body and staying controlled and consistent. Once you find a rhythm, the exercise becomes much easier. Rotate through the torso, but don’t think about moving your lower half wildly—this connects back to the point above about shoring up energy leaks and will lead to be a better movement during the exercise.”
Double the workout in half the time? Even I’ll admit that that’s worth braving the battle ropes for.
Battle ropes and full body workouts go hand in hand—just ask Naomi Campbell, who’s also a fan of their muscle-making properties. No rope? No problem. Try one of these barre-inspired moves to give you a two-for-one arms and abs workout with nothing more than a dumbbell.
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