Battle ropes are not a strength solution for your workouts.  Here's how to use them correctly.

Battle ropes are not a strength solution for your workouts. Here’s how to use them correctly.

SLAM A SET doing battle ropes in the gym is, quite frankly, a ton of fun. This type of workout is not only popular because it looks and makes you feel badass, but because of its ability to help you burn quite a few calories while you eliminate your aggression on the ropes.

Battle ropes can be a solid conditioning tool, making them an effective part of an athlete’s training plan. But if building muscle and strength are your ultimate goals, battle ropes shouldn’t play a major role in your program, according to men’s health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, CSCS, and trainer Mathew Forzaglia, NFPT, CPT, founder of Forzag Fitness. Instead, battle ropes should be relegated to when you want to train to improve your conditioning, and only then. In other words, battle ropes have a place in your workout, but not as a primary muscle-building move.

“It’s just a filler move — it has no real purpose other than to just get your heart rate up and wear you out,” Forzaglia says. “So when you go into that next move, you’re already exhausted, and that next move is just going to feel a little bit harder.”

Why Battle Ropes Are Overrated

Limited exercise library

Using battle ropes can be fun, and the constant snapping sound can project a powerful vibe. From a training standpoint, however, there’s not much you can do with them. You’ll feel taxed – in your grip, your shoulders, and your core – after about 30 seconds of intense slamming. Your heart rate will get elevated quickly, but that’s about all you’ll get from the battle ropes.

Limited progressive overload

If you do presses, squats, and deadlifts, you know your goal is to gradually shift more weight week after week. But how do you measure your battle rope progress? It’s a lot less linear than bodybuilding. There are ways to do this, like cutting the rest, adding a bit more time, or changing the motion. This can help measure your conditioning progress, but again, if your goals are to build big, strong muscles, there’s not much you can adjust to make your workout more efficient.

Limited programming options

If you haven’t noticed by now, Samuel and Forzaglia’s biggest problem with battle ropes is the restriction of your options when you want to use them. In this case, there are a limited number of ways to program the strings into your routine, and usually in a sequence of 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off (or maybe 30 on, 30 off). If you’re a boxer, martial artist, or other type of athlete who competes in short, intense competitions, battle rope training can be an essential conditioning tool. For the rest of us, the ropes can periodically be a fun challenge for cardio workouts. But it’s not the best bang for your buck when it comes to consistent strength and muscle training.

How to Use Battle Ropes for an Effective Workout

Use the battle ropes as a workout finisher

    When you’re in the mood to raise your heart rate to finish a workout with a quick burst of conditioning, battle ropes will certainly do the trick. All of this takes less than 10 minutes of total work to feel the burn. Forzaglia says the best way to implement battle ropes as a finisher is simple:

    • Choose two moves (one arm slams and two arm waves, for example)
    • Turn on and off for 30 seconds/30 seconds (40/20 also works)
    • Perform this series for about six to eight minutes in total.

    Be sure to push hard to get the most out of your workout.

    Use Battle Ropes as a time-crunched workout solution

      If 20 minutes is all you have, then mixing battle ropes with a quick workout with weights is a good way to make the most of those limited minutes. You will increase your heart rate in no time while weight training focuses on building strength. To do this:

      • Choose two exercises in which you can perform a high number of repetitions, consider goblet squats and barbell rows.
      • Perform both exercises back to back. Then hit the strings for 30 seconds before moving on to the next round.

      Battle ropes can be effective agility training

        Agility isn’t a bad thing to work on, and some battle rope exercises can help with that, especially moves that add lateral movement. It’s great for athletes or just a way to take agility training off the beaten path a bit. Try that:

        • Choose two to three battle rope moves.
        • Do two rounds – this time only 15 to 20 seconds of intense effort – then rest for 40 seconds. The shorter intervals in this style of training will allow you to better focus on overall agility and speed.

        Jeff Tomko is a freelance fitness writer who has written for Muscle and Fitness, Men’s Fitness, and Men’s Health.

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