Battle ropes, man…
…those big, heavy, scary-looking pythons that the most hardcore-looking people at your gym make a lot of noise with!
(If you know, you know)
Truth be told, battle rope exercises are really tough and it doesn’t take long to wear yourself out with these bad boys. Whipping them up and down and side to side takes a surprisingly large amount of energy and effort.
…but are they actually benefiting you that much?
As they say…”is the juice worth the squeeze?”
Let’s look at the numerous benefits you can derive from setting up a couple of battle ropes in your garage or basement. We’ll also look at exercises you can do if you haven’t gotten around to pulling the trigger on a pair…yet!
Table of Contents
The Top 15 Benefits of Battle Ropes
Battle ropes are a beginner-friendly and versatile tool to use in your workouts. Regardless of the type of fitness you’re into, the benefits of battle ropes are numerous.
They can provide relatively light or heavy resistance, depending on your selected exercise. From “waves” to “whips” and “slams”, there are a lot of things you can do with a good set of battle ropes..
But that versatility is only the tip of the iceberg. Here are 15 other benefits of battle ropes.
1. They Provide a Full Body Workout
Battle rope-focused workouts will activate multiple muscle groups. They will primarily work your:
- shoulder muscles
- arm muscles
- core muscles
- upper and lower back muscles
- hip and leg muscles
The main beneficiaries are the shoulders, especially the deltoids and rhomboids.
By changing the specific movement, you can change the muscle groups targeted. Some examples of this are:
- unilateral waves (arms alteration): external obliques
- bilateral waves (swinging with both arms in the same motion): erector spinae muscles
- snakes on the floor: shoulder, legs, and core
- shoulder circles: deltoids and rhomboids
- side slam: core
2. Great Cardio Exercises
Most battle ropes movements work you.
Like, seriously. Even 10 seconds of intense “battle roping” has left me gasping for breath!
Studies show that battle rope exercises can increase cardiopulmonary function and overall physical fitness metrics..
Only have a few minutes to work out? That’s okay; 10 minutes on the ropes has been shown to significantly increase the heart rate.
Battle rope workouts also increase your energy and stamina, a big help in getting you to meet your overall health and fitness goals.
3. Excellent for Increasing Muscle Endurance
Working a “different” kind of strength and cardio, battle ropes can increase your overall muscle endurance.
A study done on basketball players showed that battle rope training increased upper-body and lower-body power, agility, and core muscle endurance.
Battle rope training increases the level of blood lactate values, and because of that, it can improve muscular resistance to fatigue by increasing lactic acid tolerance after a long workout.
4. Warm-up Benefits
The benefits of battle ropes even extend to your “active” warm-up!
Its cardio elements will increase your heart rate and activate your muscles for the rigors to come.
However, don’t make the warm-up harder than the workout! Use a lighter rope and/or go at a slower cadence or intensity level than you would during a “real” workout.
“Red-lining” during the warm-up (which I have done…more than once), isn’t the most ideal way to start your workout!
Battle ropes are usually 30 to 50 feet long and 1.5 to 2 inches thick.
That doesn’t sound very compact, but when you consider that they’re…ya know…ropes, you can easily wind them on top of themselves.
That means it’s a very compact piece of equipment that you can store in a cramped (garage!) gym space.
Battle ropes are cheap compared to other gym equipment. You can get them online for $40-125, depending on the material, length, and thickness.
Plus, they are durable, so you probably won’t need to replace them for quite some time.. Keep in mind that they are composed of either polyester or nylon. If you want them to last longer, get polyester ones.
7. Torch Calories
Battle rope workouts are pretty efficient at burning calories. A study showed that using the ropes results in increased energy expenditure per unit of time (41 kJ·min−1). Simply put, battle rope training can help you eliminate excess fat.
As we mentioned, there are numerous ways to use battle ropes, and different exercises can target different muscle groups.
Here are some types of battle rope exercises:
- Bilateral waves: you swing the rope with both hands in the same motion
- Unilateral waves: the rope swings in opposite motions to one another
- Jumping slams: you squat, jump and swing ropes as high as you can
- Rope slams: you slam the rope hard on the floor when swinging them
- Alternating wide circles: you swing the rope out to the sides in a circular motion
This versatility also makes battle rope exercise exciting and challenging.
You can step up the challenge by increasing the length and thickness of the rope. You can start with lighter and thicker rope (10 feet long and 1.5 inches thick). After that, increase the length and thickness slowly up to 20–30 feet and 2 inches.
9. Improved Grip Strength
Holding and swinging a long heavy rope activates the muscles in your hands and forearms. This strengthens your grip.
I’m guilty of missing deadlift rips due to a weak grip. As such, I can personally speak for the importance of having a strong grip!
You may as well kill two birds with one stone with battle ropes training; your grip will thank you!
10. A Low-impact Workout
Battle rope exercise are generally low-impact activities. They are good on your joints and lower body while activating large muscle groups.
You can balance low-impact battle rope training with your higher-impact movements. This is especially great news for those with pre-existing injuries.
11. Improved Mental Stamina
Besides working your body, battle ropes work your brain too. Believe it or not, swinging the ropes requires a lot of focus.
(You don’t want to be that guy who gets all out of rhythm and just randomly flails the ropes around the floor!)
That means you’re practicing “mental endurance” while keeping the waves in a consistent rhythm.
12. Good for Balance and Coordination
Your body’s position when “battle ropin’” requires balance and coordination to maintain. You really need to activate your core if you want to last for any significant amount of time.
Increasing this core strength and balance has a lot of carry over to a host of other fitness movements.
13. Low Injury Risk
We mentioned that battle rope training is a low-impact exercise. That means you are generally less likely to get injured while training with the ropes compared to many other exercises.
Battle rope exercises are relatively gentle on your joints and lower back. While swinging the ropes, you activate your core muscles and keep your back aligned, which lowers the risk of injuring your lower back.
However, it’s still not a risk-free exercise (especially its variations, such as jumping slams), so you should still take things slow, especially when you’re first starting with battle rope training.
14. Increased Core Strength
As previously mentioned,, battle ropes exercises activate the core. To be able to swing those pythons, you need to be in a stable position. It does so by activating:
- Pelvic floor
- Transversus abdominis
- Internal and external Obliques
- Hip muscle groups
- Erector spinae
- Rectus abdominis
- Quadratus lumborum
Battle rope exercises work these core muscles, particularly the side slam variation.
With 10 minutes of rope-swinging, you can pretty much pack up for the day (I mean, if you really want to).
(Arguably one of the top benefits of battle ropes!)
A study showed that you could significantly improve core and upper-body strength by doing battle rope exercises only three times per week for 6 weeks.
Plus, as we mentioned, this exercise has a very high energy expenditure per unit of time which means it has a high rate of burning calories. So it can be an efficient way to cut weight if this is your objective.
Top 10 Battle Rope Alternatives
What if no battle ropes are available, and you just have to get your ropes “fix”? Let’s check out the best battle rope alternatives that have similar impacts and will allow you to experience the same benefits of battle ropes!
A Russian kettlebell swing produces similar stimuli to the battle ropes.. Alternatively, you can use a dumbbell instead of a kettlebell.
This is an effective conditioning exercise that works the core, posterior chain, and upper body muscles, just as battle ropes. A few more similarities are:
- cardiovascular benefit
- it’s a full-body exercise
- low impact
Medicine ball slams work the core, as well as upper and lower body muscles. They provide an excellent battle ropes alternative.
In this exercise, you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart (knees slightly bent), holding a medicine ball. Then, you inhale and lift the ball high, contact your abs, and slam it into the ground in front of you.
Medicine ball slams have similar benefits as battle rope muscles, including improving heart health.
Just make sure you use an appropriately designed ball for these. You’ll literally blow up a standard medicine ball or wall ball with these after only a rep or two!
I know you really didn’t want to see these as a battle ropes alternative, but hear me out!
Burpees are done without any equipment, which makes them even more affordable than battle ropes. They work:
- leg muscles
- arm muscles
- hips and buttocks
- chest and shoulders
Like battle ropes, burpees are a full-body exercise that helps you burn fat and improves cardiovascular health. Also, they are convenient and versatile, mimicking two of the top benefits of battle ropes.
4. Bear Crawls
This is another simple and effective exercise that requires no equipment and gives you similar results as battle ropes. If you’ve participated in the scaled version of the CrossFit Open any time in the last few years, you’ve probably done your fair share of bear crawls!
This exercise engages all major muscles and works wonders for your core and shoulders. Plus, it increases your heart rate, and it has a low impact, just like battle ropes.
5. Box Jumps
This is a plyometric exercise that builds muscle power with quick and powerful movements.
While you’ll reap some of the same benefits of battle ropes by doing these, they do not share the same “low-impact” attribute that the ropes do.
Although this is primarily a leg exercise, it still has similarities with battle ropes in terms of cardio benefits and burning calories. A worthy addition as a battle ropes alternative
The goblet squat is a free-weight exercise which is basically squatting with a dumbbell or kettlebell.
While regular goblet squats are performed slowly, there is a variation called the explosive goblet squat. The difference is that instead of going up slowly, you literally “launch” yourself out of each rep..
This exercise works mainly your legs but also the core and upper body muscles (I mean, you do have to hold a heavy ball of iron for the duration of each set!).
Boxing as a battle ropes alternative?
Although one could say this looks like only an upper-body workout, boxing a punching bag activates more than arm muscles. Similar to battle ropes, it’s beneficial for:
- core strength
- stamina and endurance
- cardiovascular health
Also, the involvement of the hips to produce torque is a yuge part of heavy bag training and many battle rope movements.
Sledgehammer training is actually one of the oldest forms of training. It builds strength, endurance, and muscle conditioning.
It works your core, forearm, and grip strength, just as battle ropes. Also, it increases wrist mobility and coordination.
Watch yourself with these though. The owner of the CrossFit gym I regularly frequented in Merida, Mexico had about 30 of these that we never used.
“Tom…the first day we tried to use these, 3 of the abuelas smacked themselves in the leg…now we don’t use them anymore!”
Complexes are performed using the same tool in a sequence of exercises. The tools can include:
The sequence can also be done without an implement, for example, burpee complexes (….yuck!)
They are a good battle ropes alternative as they are a full-body workout that builds strength and grip endurance.
10. Tire Flipping
This is a satisfying battle ropes alternative, but only if you have the right tire and adequate space. The tire shouldn’t be too heavy because you need to be able to flip it quickly to reach the similar intensity of battle ropes. A 200–300-pound tire is great for beginners.
Tire flip is a full-body workout that activates:
The best of all is that this exercise doesn’t have to be an expensive investment. You can use any old tire from the junkyard as long as it’s the right weight.
The big tire is the perfect thing to hit if you’re working the sledgehammer as mentioned above. Also, depending on your neighborhood, it might actually look pretty appropriate in your backyard!
Now…Go Prepare for War with Battle Ropes!
It’s hard to not think that battle ropes are cool.
People look cool when they’re using them and that unmistakable heavy clap, clap, clap sound that the ropes make each rep can really get you pumped.
Of course, there are also the numerous benefits of battle ropes that you get to enjoy.
I’d say they’re worth investing a little money in to add to your garage gym empire.
However, giant tires, heavy bags, and sledgehammers may actually look and sound cooler if you’d prefer to go down the battle ropes alternative route.
And for those on a budget, you can never go wrong working on burpees. Plus, you just never know when you’ll have to do them for 7 minutes straight!
Now get out there and start “ropin’!” Or, if you’d prefer to try some barbell complex alternatives, check out our list of the best barbells for CrossFit. Most of these entries may actually be cooler than even the best pair of battle ropes!