The 8 Best Battle Rope Exercises For The Perfect Cardio-Strength Workout

In the past, you may have only encountered ropes in a gym during a dreaded rope climb in elementary school phys ed. Today, however, the basic rope has found new life in gyms and studios everywhere, as more and more people discover the benefits of battle rope exercises.

Battle ropes, ICDYK, are thick, heavy-duty ropes with handles at either hand, and you can anchor them to a wall, a squat rack, or even a tree. They come in a variety of widths and lengths, and with a little creativity, battle ropes are one of the most versatile full-body workout tools around. Here, learn more about the benefits of battle rope workouts and watch a trainer demonstrate the best battle rope exercises to add to your routine.

Battle ropes benefits

The biggest advantage of battle rope workouts is that you can use battle ropes in a variety of ways, and they’re accessible to all fitness levels says Shelly Triolo, NASM-certified personal trainer and Living. Fit-certified battle ropes trainer.

“Battle ropes are so incredibly versatile,” she explains. “They’re a great tool to build power, strength, and endurance in a safe and challenging way because you can create a lot of force with very low risk.” That low risk is because battle ropes are low impact (read: you can do battle rope exercises with both feet planted on the ground), and there are plenty of ways to scale battle rope moves up or down. And bonus: You’ll experience less post-workout soreness because battle rope exercises don’t have the eccentric phase of the movement.

Plus, battle rope exercises are often full-body movements that require you to use your arms, shoulders, back, butt, and core — just to name a few muscle groups. In fact, much of the power you’ll develop through battle ropes workouts comes from your lower body, not just your arms. That’s because the energy you generate from your lower body transfers up to your arms. shoulders, and core — so the more explosive you are with your legs and hips, the more movement you’ll create in the rope, Cristina Chan, C.P.T., trainer at F45 Training in Venice, California, previously told Shape.

Best tips for battle rope exercises

Unlike a relatively simple biceps curl or lat pulldown, knowing how to use battle ropes with good form might not come naturally. Start by ensuring that your battle ropes are set up and secured properly to an anchor point, whether that’s by looping the rope around a squat rack or weaving it through the handle of a heavy dumbbell. Test the sturdiness of your set-up before going full-out on your battle rope exercises; if the battle rope comes loose, you or someone nearby might get injured.

Then, you’re ready to set up your stance. “When working with a battle rope, set up so that you have some slack in the rope resting at your feet,” says Triolo. The rope shouldn’t be pulled all the way taut, but too much slack will keep you from being able to do the moves effectively. “Grip the ends of the rope like a pet bunny — a firm, but not crushing grip,” she continues. Then, with feet planted about hip-width apart, keep your chest proud, back flat, and spine long with an athletic stance (read: a slight bend in your knees).

When you’re gripping the battle rope, BTW, you often have the option of a pronated or supinated grip. In a pronated (aka overhand) grip, your palms will face down with your thumbs closest to the ends of the rope; however, you’ll most often use this grip with battle ropes by rotating your wrists slightly so that your palms face each other and your thumbs point up (as in a thumbs-up sign). In a supinated (that is, underhand) grip, your palms will face up toward the ceiling. There’s no major advantage to using either grip for most battle rope exercises, so choose what’s most comfortable for you.

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Finally, the duration of each exercise can vary based on your goals, says Triolo. “If you’re looking to increase your power, use battle ropes at the top of the workout (after a warm-up) and keep your intervals short and rest periods long,” she recommends. For example, try 10 seconds of work followed by 50 seconds of rest, with the goal of working so hard in those few seconds that you truly need the extra-long rest.

For other goals, such as strength and endurance, battle ropes can be a standalone workout. To build strength, use a work-to-rest ratio of 1:2 (i.e., 20 seconds of work, 40 seconds of rest). For endurance goals, use longer rest periods and shorter rest times (i.e., 60 seconds of work, 20 seconds of rest).

The 8 best battle rope exercises

Ready for the challenge of a battle rope workout? Try these eight battle rope exercises to add some spice to your fitness routine.

How to add battle rope exercises to your workout: Good news: You can do battle rope exercises as often as you want, says Triolo. “Because they’re low impact [exercises] and all concentric phase, you can use them several days a week with little risk for overtraining,” she explains. You can do a full battle rope-only workout using the below exercises, or choose a couple of moves to incorporate into a high-intensity finisher after a strength training workout, using the above work-to-rest intervals as suggestions.

Below, Triolo demonstrates the best battle rope exercises for power, strength, and endurance.

Alternating waves

Why it works: Alternating waves are a classic battle rope exercise; you can make the waves smaller and faster for more cardio benefits, or create larger slams for strength and power. “Maintain an athletic stance (a slight bend in knees and hips), and pump your arms like a runner, not like a drummer,” advises Triolo.

A. Start with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and holding one handle in each hand using whatever grip is most comfortable to you. Keep elbows tucked in toward ribs.

B. Create a wave-like movement down the length of the rope by quickly lifting left arm and forcefully whipping the left end of the rope back toward the ground. Immediately lift right arm and forcefully whip the right end of the rope back toward the ground.

C. Continue alternating arms for a constant wave throughout each rope.

Double slam

Why it works: Think of the double battle rope slam as a variation of a med ball slam, in which you lift the equipment high over your hand and slam it to the ground with force. “Maintain a long spine and use your hips to create power,” says Triolo. “This move is very similar to a deadlift or a kettlebell swing where the hinge in the hips is the primary creator of force.”

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A. Start with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and holding one handle in each hand using whatever grip is most comfortable to you.

B. Hinge hips backward and bend knees slightly. Drive feet into the ground, then raise up onto tiptoes as you bring both handles overhead with arms extended, keeping spine long.

C. Quickly bring both handles down toward the ground with force to create a giant wave, driving hands toward the outside of legs and finishing with hands slightly behind hips.

Outside circles

Why it works: “If you sit at a desk a lot, this one is a great choice to improve your posture through your upper back and shoulders,” explains Triolo. Pro tips: bigger circles in this battle rope exercise will build power and strength, while smaller circles will build endurance.

A. Start with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and holding one handle in each hand using whatever grip is most comfortable to you. Keep elbows tucked in toward ribs and the handles slightly outside of hips.

B. Simultaneously bring both hands up and in toward sternum, then continue the motion by lifting handles up toward shoulders and outward to form giant circles with each arm. Keep ribs tucked to prevent arching in lower back.

Rainbows in staggered stance

Why it works: This battle rope exercise doubles as a standing abs exercise, and with the right adjustments, you can also use these “rainbows” to challenge your balance. “To challenge your core even more, try this in a staggered stance with most of your body weight in your lead leg, using your back leg as a kickstand and back foot up on ‘Barbie’ toes,” recommends Triolo.

A. Start in a staggered stance with right foot back and legs hip-width apart (as if your feet were on train tracks, not a tightrope). Keep knees slightly bent, holding one handle in each hand using an overhand grip, thumb pointing up and both hands on outside of left hip.

B. Engage core, tuck hips, and squeeze glutes. Then, moving both arms simultaneously, bring handles from outside of left hip up and over to outside of right hip, as if drawing a small rainbow with hands. Keep the rainbow arc tight and directly in front of torso.

C. Continue, alternating directions.

Slashes in half kneeling position

Why it works: Another core-strengthening movement, these “slashes” are similar to woodchops, which work your obliques (aka the abdominal muscles on the side of your torso that help you twist and rotate). Plus, this battle rope exercise will improve posture by strengthening the muscles around your spine, says Triolo.

A. Start in a half-kneeling position with left leg forward and right leg kneeling. Both knees should form 90-degree angles, hips stacked directly under shoulders and spine long. Grasp one handle in each hand in whatever grip is most comfortable to you, with both hands at the outside of right hip.

B. Bring both handles from right hip up and over toward left shoulder as if removing a long sword from your belt.

C. Slash both handles back diagonally down and toward the right across torso.

D. Continue on the same side for a set duration or number of reps, then switch legs and repeat on opposite side, slashing in the opposite direction.

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Lateral waves in tall kneeling position

Why it works: These side-to-side waves force your thoracic spine to rotate, which helps maintain your shoulder health, says Triolo. You can also use this battle rope exercise as an active recovery or a movement prep exercise, she adds.

A. Start in a tall kneeling position with shoulders stacked over hips. Grasp one handle in each hand in whatever grip is most comfortable to you, with both hands in front of torso.

B. Swish the ropes from side to side continuously. Engage core and squeeze glutes to keep hips square, preventing torso from over-rotating.

Battle rope dead bugs

Why it works: “You can do more with battle ropes than just slam them!” notes Triolo. In this core exercise, the battle ropes provide extra time under tension in an isometric hold.

A. Start in tabletop position facing away from the battle ropes anchor point, knees stacked over hips and ankles in line with knees at a 90-degree angle. Grasp one rope in each hand using whatever grip you find most comfortable. Arms reach straight overhead, in line with shoulders.

B. Pull the ropes isometrically toward toes to create tension in the ropes and in core. Slowly exhale and extend both legs long toward the ground, going only as low as possible while keeping low back planted on the ground.

Alternating waves in marching

Why it works: “Not every exercise with the battle ropes needs to get your heart racing,” notes Triolo. “Some are very effective at improving your body mechanics by challenging stability.” This battle rope exercise is one of those moves. “For the best challenge, work on maintaining a tripod foot each time you touch the ground — your first and fifth metatarsal [the long bones in your foot that connect your ankle to your toes] and your heel should all maintain contact with the floor.”

A. Start with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and holding one handle in each hand using whatever grip is most comfortable to you. Keep elbows tucked in toward ribs.

B. Lift right leg up and balance on left foot, with right leg at a 90-degree angle and right knee in line with right hip. Engage core and tuck hips under.

C. Establish balance, then begin alternating waves by quickly lifting left arm and forcefully whipping the left end of the rope back toward ground. Immediately lift right arm and forcefully whip the right end of the rope back toward ground while still maintaining balance.

D. Complete 4-6 reps of waves, then lower right foot back to the ground. Immediately lift left leg up and balance on right foot, with left leg at a 90-degree angle and left knee in line with left hip. Continue alternating waves as you switch the balancing foot.

E. Continue marching, switching legs after 4-6 alternating wave reps.

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