Battle Ropes Benefits | What Research Shows
New rope training methods growing topic of exercise science
Training with battle ropes has exploded in popularity moving from athletic performance training into the mainstream. Ropes for fitness have been around for decades, but only more recently has a whole range of battle rope exercises taken off. Similar functional fitness tools have soared in popularity with kettlebells, SandBell sandbags, and body-weight suspension training on the scene before rope workouts came along. All are believed to enhance athletic endurance, core strength, and cardio conditioning leading to fat loss. While there is much research on kettlebells and research on sandbag training, as recently as 2015 there were only a handful of battle ropes benefits studies of using long, heavy, anchored ropes for fitness. The very first battle rope study confirmed that rope training provides a high-intensity workout with cardio strength benefits as good or better than kettlebell training. At the same time rope exercises are low impact. Here we will cover common questions about training with battle ropes and what the research says.
What are the most effective battle rope exercises?
Three of the fundamental fitness rope exercises are the single-arm wave, double-arm wave, and double-arm slam. Working out with ropes gets your heart rate up fast starting with the single-arm wave where you generate rope waves by alternating your hand. Your upper body, arms and shoulders are all very active which taxes your cardio respiratory system quickly.
All battle rope exercises work the upper body. As you bring the larger muscles of the glutes and legs into play you can progressively increase the benefits. You will always be limited in movement because battle ropes are anchored.
Using the double-arm what where you move the hands together up and down to create a wave in both ends of the rope at once requires a half-squat. Your lower body starts to make a contribution to the movement and amps up the exercise.
Finally the double-arm slam exercise requires a tremendous amount of strength and endurance. It is like the double-arm wave but instead of focusing on creating a rope oscillation you are going from a half-squat to a fully extended position raising the arms and hands above the head. Then you slam the rope to the floor and repeat. You can add a jump to the extension and leave your feet making an explosive movement. Studies have shown this move to create the greatest fat-burning metabolic response and battle ropes benefit.
How long should my rest interval be when rope training?
High intensity interval training or HIIT is the engine behind battle ropes benefit to your fitness. The duration of work and rest intervals can be varied. One study focused on the rest interval to see if a short or a long rest between work intervals would provide the best results. (Ratamess, NA, Smith, CR, Beller, NA, Kang, J, Faigenbaum, AD, and Bush, JA. Effects of rest interval length on acute battling rope exercise metabolism. J Strength Cond Res 29(9): 2375–2387, 2015). They found that a short rest (one minute in the study) provided much greater benefits. Overall the researchers concluded that battle rope exercise requires levels of energy expenditure that is often greater than any traditional resistance exercise. Using ropes for fitness has become a novel way to maximize aerobic capacity and metabolic health. The shorter rest interval improves the effectiveness of the workout and increases the benefit. They went on to say: “Battle Rope exercise is a challenging modality that can target weight loss and body fat reductions ….” The longer rest period tested in the study was 2 minutes. Varying the rest interval length is an ideal way to vary intensity of the workout. The length and diameter of the anchored ropes along with velocity of wave generation are other methods of varying the intensity. Adjusting the rest interval is the easiest and most effective.
Do women and men differ in response to battle rope exercise?
Battle ropes benefits research has also looked at differences in response between men and women. In the past, studies using exercises similar to fitness ropes have found that women have a reduced lactate response and recover faster during moderate to high intensity exercise. Should you use shorter rest intervals if you are a female? It depends on your goal. Energy expenditure has been shown in one study to be greater in men than women. This was true even though the intensity perceived by women is the same as men for the same workout. Shortening the rest interval could help increase the metabolic response in women for better results if they can power through the workout.
Other researchers found that the difference in battle ropes benefits between men and women was more a factor of the women in the study having smaller body mass. (Fountaine, CJ and Schmidt, BJ. Metabolic cost of rope training.J Strength Cond Res 29(4): 889–893, 2015). They did not find significant gender differences in peak lactate, average heart rate or peak heart rate.
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Battle ropes for exercise are one of the few recent innovations in fitness that are having a great benefit. Only a few other functional fitness tools offer a cardio benefit that is close to using ropes: SandBell sandbags and kettlebells. The problem is finding enough space and a safe and secure anchor point. Few homes have enough home gym space for a battle rope. Even fitness studios and health clubs have trouble finding 25 ft of open space for one rope let alone the 4-10 needed for small group training.