Learning the (Battling) Ropes

Step 1:
Stroll over to your local hardware store and purchase yourself a manila rope—50-feet long and two inches thick.

Step 2:
Anchor your brand new manila rope to a strongly rooted post or pole, looping it around the pole to create two 25-foot lengths.

Step 3:
Let the battle begin.

“Battling Ropes is a cost-effective, simple lesson in minimalism, sheer brutality, and entertainment,” says Ethan Baum, a long-time personal trainer and a native of Northport. “They pose as a safe, effective fat burning and conditioning tool with tremendous benefits, including opportunities for improving cardio workouts, strength and enhancing your metabolism, while saving time.”

First used by the Romans a few millennia ago, Battling Ropes is back in a major way—creating waves in the ever-evolving fitness world. Literally. The idea behind Battling Ropes is to create “waves” in the rope by moving your arms in a variety of intensities and directions. The momentum you produce depends solely on the momentum you generate; “battling” the increasing momentum is the heart of the workout.

To get started, Ethan has a few suggestions:
1. Up and Down Waves
If one of your goals is to build cardio strength, swiftly pull the ropes (around the pole) by alternating your arms, or vigorously moving them up and down, as if you were drumming. This is to be performed while standing with your feet firmly planted on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Be sure to maintain a neutral spine by bracing your core. This approach will amp up your metabolism, but if it’s strength you seek, this can be accomplished by pulling the ropes at a slower speed, which will increase resistance.

2. Split Outside Circles
With the same setup and stance as above, move your arms simultaneously in a circular motion outside to inside, thus focusing more on your shoulders. Those looking for a greater challenge and increased core stabilization can perform this motion while standing on a BOSU (dome up).

3. Jumping Jack Waves
For an even more dynamic exercise, try performing jumping jacks with the Battling Ropes in hand—one end of the ropes in each hand to add resistance.

Of course, Battling Ropes can be integrated into just about any workout regimen but they work extremely well in interval training. “I love combining a few timed sets in between other unconventional training methods such as kettlebells, sledgehammer swings, tire flips or as a final sprint to the conclusion of a full set,” adds Baum. Such interval-style training has been shown to be remarkably efficient in terms of building muscle while burning body fat.

If the standard Battling Ropes method is too heavy and/or challenging for your current fitness level, you can start by practicing the movements with a very heavy towel or blanket. On the other hand, if it’s access to Battling Ropes that’s the issue (budget-wise, proximity to a gym, etc.), stop by your local firehouse and ask if they have any old hoses that are destined for the dumpster.

Besides offering a potent full-body benefit, Battling Ropes can help keep your gym experience fresh and challenging without (as Ethan reminds us) “the impact on joints, or the use of archetypal, uninspiring and highly expensive stationary machines.”

Isn’t it time you starting learning the ropes?