Wind Sprints for Your Arms: 15 Battle Rope Exercises

by Brett on October 17, 2013 · 60 comments

in Fitness, Health & Sports

When it comes to cardio, I’m one of those people who like to get it done as fast as possible. Jogging long-distance or spending thirty minutes on an elliptical isn’t my thing. That’s why I love high intensity interval training (HIIT). The basic idea of HIIT is to alternate between periods of short, intense anaerobic exercise (like sprinting, kettlebell swings, or burpees) with less intense resting periods. You repeat this sequence of short, intense exercise and resting for as little as four minutes or as long as thirty minutes. Research has shown that HIIT improves both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, boosts testosterone levels, and ramps up your metabolism and keeps it ramped up hours after you’ve finished exercising.

I’m always on the lookout for new HIIT routines, and I’ve recently discovered one that has become my new favorite: battle ropes.

I’ve heard battle rope exercises described as “wind sprints for your arms.”

That’s a perfect way to describe it.

In just twenty seconds of intense battle-roping, your heart rate will reach its peak and your arms will feel like battery acid is coursing through them. In short, you’ll feel great. I don’t know what it is, but battle rope exercises are incredibly satisfying. And effective: the intense anaerobic and aerobic conditioning that battle rope exercises provide has made them a staple in the training of professional athletes and mixed martial artists.

There’s not much to battle rope exercises. You just hold a thick, long rope by the ends and move your arms up and down or in circles as fast as you can. In essence, you’re “battling” the ropes.

Today, I’m going to give you the lowdown on 15 different battle rope exercises you can do, along with a suggested workout.

The Equipment

battlerope1

Because of the increasing popularity of battle ropes, you can easily find them online with a quick Google or Amazon search.

The battle rope I use is from Onnit.

The longer and thicker your rope is, the harder it is to battle. Go for a rope that’s around 2 inches thick and 50 feet long. That will give you a nicely challenging workout.

2″ x 50′ rope will run you around $125-$150, which isn’t cheap. Fitness companies will sometimes boost the price of something you can get at a hardware store (minus that fancy packaging/marketing), so I looked around for cheaper alternatives. But even basic manila rope of that size from contractor websites costs the same. If you know a source of cheaper rope, let us know in the comments.

anchor

I used my basketball goal post as an anchor for my battle rope.

Once you have your rope, you’ll need to find an anchor to wrap it around. Basketball goal posts, fence posts, and trees all work. You can even thread your rope through the handle of a heavy kettlebell and use that as an anchor.

The Workout

Battle rope exercises are an excellent addition to any high-intensity interval training routine. My suggested workout goes thusly:

15 rounds — each round do one of the battle rope exercises described below. Each round consists of two parts:

  • 20 seconds all-out, high-intensity exercise. Don’t stop until the buzzer goes off.
  • 20 seconds rest.

The whole routine will only take you 10 minutes. I use a HIIT Timer app on my smartphone to mark off my time and rest periods. You could also use something like Gym Boss.

The Exercises

Alternating Waves

altwave

Alternate moving your arms up and down as fast as you can.

Double Arm Waves

doublearm1

doublearm2

Instead of alternating your arms up and down, move them up and down together.

Double Arm Slam

slams1

slams2Lift both arms as high as you can and then slam the ropes down to the ground as hard as you can. Go as fast as possible.

Double Arm Slam Jump

jumpslam1

jumpslam2Same thing as the double arm slam, except when you lift your arms up as high as you can, you also jump.

Snakes

snakes1

snakes2

Swing your arms together side-to-side and make your rope slither like a snake.

Claps

clap1

claps2

Move your arms in and out like you’re clapping your hands together.

Outside Circles

circles1

circles2

circles3

Make big circles with your arms. Your right arm circles clockwise and your left arm circles counter-clockwise.

Ultimate Warrior

warrior1

Turn your body to the right with your feet perpendicular to your anchor. Hold the battle rope ends together in your hands as if you were gripping a baseball bat — right hand on top of the left. Raise your arms up and down as fast as you can. Midway through the round, switch your stance and face the left, and reverse your grip so that your left hand is on top of your right hand. Continue lifting your arms up and down as fast as you can.

Grappler Hip-to-Hip Toss

grappler1

grappler2

grappler3

This is a fun battle rope exercise. It mimics the movement a grappler makes when they toss someone over their hip. Grab the rope so the ends are sticking out from between your thumb and index fingers and hold the ends down by your right hip.  Pivot your torso to the left. During the pivot, flip the ropes over your hip as if you were throwing a grappling opponent to the ground. Pivot back and forth like this until time is up.

Alternating Waves + Squat

altsquats

Just your basic alternating arm wave movement with air squats thrown in the mix.

5 Double Arm Waves + Burpee

burpee1

burpee2

This exercise combines my two favorite high-intensity cardio movements. Perform five double arm waves and then perform a burpee. Repeat the 5+1 sequence until your time is up.

Double Arm Side-to-Side Shuffle

waveshuffle

waveshuffle2

Perform a double arm wave while shuffling side to side.

Uppercuts

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uppercuts2

Harness your inner Rocky with a series of alternating uppercuts while holding the ropes.

Figure Eight Circles

eight1

eight2

eight3

Make a figure eight shape in the air while holding the ropes. Feel free to reverse direction in the middle of your round.

Jumping Jacks

jumpingjacks

Just hold the ropes by the end and perform some old-school jumping jacks.

Have you tried battle ropes before? Have any favorite exercises we didn’t include here? Share them with us in the comments!

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gabriel Palmer October 17, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Fantastic video and article, sir. Thank you for sharing.

2 Paul October 17, 2013 at 8:59 pm

I came across a video of a guy who contacted his local fire company and got a length of old fire hose to use as battle rope. I’m in the process of checking my local station to do the same thing.

3 chris hluzek October 17, 2013 at 9:33 pm

I have been very interested in a ropes workout, thanks for this. Also, great intro music!

4 AP October 17, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Thick garden house works just fine as a cheap alternative.

5 Spencer October 17, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Three things; I didn’t know that you could do so many ropes exercises, nice choice in footwear (minimal shoes for-the-win), and, not to be weird, but I’ve followed this blog for a number of years now and Brett’s startin to get big.

6 Jimmy October 17, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Just what I was looking for! My local gym just got a rope and I’ve only been doing the alternating waves.

7 Steve October 18, 2013 at 2:25 am

I’m a PT and I’ve been looking for more creative ways to integrate the battle ropes into my clients’ workouts. Thanks a lot, Brett, well-done.

8 Alex October 18, 2013 at 3:57 am

You can get cheaper manilla and cotton ropes at: http://www.knotandrope.com

Love the video, keep them coming!

9 Zambia October 18, 2013 at 5:34 am

Here’s a few others…
- Side to side slams: Hold both ropes together, slam both down at about 45 degrees to one side, repeat to other side. Take the ropes as high as possible between the slams.

All your cardio-type exercises can be varied by changing your distance from the anchor point. There is a natural point where the exercise just “feels better” stepping a few steps closer or back from that point alters the exercise drastically. Try it out. You can also walk in and out during the movements for some extra burn. Fighter types can shuffle in and out from their fighting stance. Athletic types can hop in and out from the low-squat stance.

Try doing each of the exercises from a kneeling position, or do it on one knee. Swap knees in the middle of the exercise without breaking your rhythm.

There’s a few other exercises you can do without anchoring the rope in the middle…

- Drag: Tie one end of the rope to a kettlebell or other heavy object. Stretch the rope all the way out. Grab the other end. Sit down or squat low. Drag the weight to you pulling the rope with a hand-over-hand motion. It’s like a building block to rope climbs.

- Quick hands: Lay the rope in a pile. Grab one end of the rope. Pull the rope hand over hand as fast as you can grab and release it (imagine it is one fire). Use short, fast movements. Don’t cover more than a few inches with each pull. When you reach the end of the rope, quickly flip it over and work back to the other end. Continue the exercise for the time duration. Increase the difficulty of this one by changing the way you grab it (grab from below with an upward motion is easy. Grabbing from the side is trickier. Grabbing with a downward, snatching motion is tougher).

- Overhead pass: (This one works best with a *heavy* rope. Good shoulder work) Grab one end of the rope. Stand upright. Keep both elbows extended and locked throughout the exercise. With one hand pass the rope up and over your head. Grab the rope in front of you with the other hand. Pass that hand up and over. Grab the rope in front of you with the other hand. Basically you are doing a hand-over-hand pass of the rope over your head. When you run out of rope, spin 180 and start passing it back. Watch your face as you run out of rope. If you are moving fast, you can sock yourself in the nugget.

10 Jesse October 18, 2013 at 6:46 am

Looks like an awesome workout. I want to see if I can find a cheaper rope alternative though.

On another note, anyone know what kind of shoes he has on?

11 Big Bad Moose October 18, 2013 at 7:17 am

Mr. McKay,

Another stellar post – I loved how you introduced your battle ropes and took the time to demonstrate all your moves. I bet the last hair on my chest that you had fun! Keep up the great work!

Sincerely,

Big Bad Moose

12 Chris October 18, 2013 at 7:29 am

Awesome post!

Jesse-they look like the New Balance Minimus

13 Tom October 18, 2013 at 8:16 am

I’ll just say what we’re all REALLY thinking: You are a beast Brett.

14 Claude October 18, 2013 at 9:27 am

An extra bonus to doing this workout is how crazy you look doing it. I like to keep my neighbors guessing, so this might be worth trying.

15 Geoff Casavant October 18, 2013 at 10:23 am

Just spitballing less expensive alternatives – would it be feasible to get several lengths of thinner ropes and braid or splice them together?

16 Sonny October 18, 2013 at 11:03 am

Looks like a heck of a workout.

Jesse – Looks like Brett’s wearing the New Balance Minimus MT10v2. I own the same pair and they’re great, and as a bonus they’re US-made as well.

17 Rich October 18, 2013 at 11:43 am

Here’s another AoM article that mentions how to obtain ropes including making your own. Happy climbing!

18 Brian October 18, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Awesome Work Out! Been looking for something that I can do during the winter months when I dont feel like Running! This will be great.. and it will go great with my beard too!

Thanks Brett!

19 AKEngineer October 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Try looking at marine supply stores for rope. You can get rope of all kinds of thicknesses and material from them – try doing your workout with a 4-inch rope!

20 Rich October 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

URL didn’t make it’s way in. Here it is again: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/01/11/how-to-climb-a-rope-like-a-navy-seal/

21 Daniel October 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm

I see the rope at my gym and really didn’t know what to do with them. Now, thinks to Brett, I do. Great job on the demonstration and let us not forget Brett did this while sporting a manly mustache!

22 Brett McKay October 18, 2013 at 4:36 pm

@Gabriel-
Thanks! Glad you liked it.

@Paul-
Thanks for sharing that idea. Sounds like a cool and viable option.

@Chris-
Hope you enjoy the workout!

@AP-
Interesting idea. The hose would have to be really thick to work. You need a good amount of weight to get the desired intensity level. Could be good for beginners though.

@Spencer-
Ha! Not weird. This last year I’ve been getting more into lifting and improving my diet and have had great results with the Critical Bench program. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to get bigger.

@Jimmy-
Glad to be of service!

@Steve-
I’m happy to help you put the hurt on your clients.

@Alex-
That was one of the websites I checked out when writing this post. But their price for 2″ manila rope is $3.21 a foot, so 50 feet would run you $160.50.

@Zambia-
Thanks for the great additional exercises!

@Jesse-
As other have mentioned, they’re New Balance Minimus. I love them. Great minimal shoe for working out.

@Big Bad Moose-
Rest assured, your chest hair is safe and secure.

@Chris-
Thanks!

@Tom-
Thanks good sir. Striving towards beastliness each day.

@Claude-
I am watching for the men in white coats to come take me away any day now. If they arrive, I will fend them off with my ropes.

@Geoff-
Interesting idea. Could work maybe. But I wonder if buying enough thin ropes to make it viable would end up costing the same as one big rope.

@Sonny-
I’m not sure if they’re made in USA or not. If so, that would be the icing on the cake.

@Brian-
Indeed — ropes and facial hair just go together.

23 David October 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm

@ Geoff I made my own with three lengths of 5/8″ manila rope. My son’s boy scout troop has a “rope machine” which made braiding it a breeze. Ended up being about $40 total and is going strong after a year of use!

24 Jared C. McCall October 18, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Hit up your local military surplus store. I bought 2” rope at $2 per foot for my gym

25 Sugapablo October 18, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Great video! I need to try this some time. For now, if I do HIIT, I use a good old heavy bag and yes, there are great timer apps available for free.

26 Omar A October 19, 2013 at 1:04 am

Hey Brett et al,

According to the Onnit website,

“Our polypropylene ropes are originally designed to withstand the rigors of the shipyard. Whereas manilla ropes can rot, retain water, and usually leave a trail of fibers, our battle ropes provide excellent weight while remaining virtually water, weather, and shed proof. The ends of the rope are wrapped with special vinyl tape for additional grip support.”

It’s about $150 for the 50′x2″ on onnit.com

27 Stephen October 19, 2013 at 9:05 pm

This was a sweet post!

Not to endorse a specific brand (they’re expensive), but my gym uses something similar to battle ropes called stroops—or rather their version of them. They’re kinda like ropes, but with giant bungee cords in the center. With these you can do a lot of the same wave movements, but also rows and strikes. One of the challenges of them is the tension they have when you start to back up—forcing your back to fire to keep you stable during your movement. That being said, the feel is very different. Battle ropes are much heavier, and will work your grip a lot better. Stroops will provide tension and the option to turn around and work your chest/striking. BOTH are fun as hell. And of course where cardio is concerned, your results are going to reflect your output.

28 Mark October 20, 2013 at 8:47 am

The first time I saw these in action I was watching a work out video on Todd Clever, the Captain of the USA Rugby team. He’s a beast. But suggesting to wrap the ropes around a tree is an arbor death sentence.

29 Marty October 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Very nice post as always!

Could you tell us how you incorporated this session in your lifting routine?

30 Brian October 20, 2013 at 11:20 pm

If you have something to brace your feet against, I’d say start in a sitting position and use the ropes to pull yourself into standing.

31 Brian October 20, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Also… Dat mustache!

32 Duke October 21, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I dipped the ends of the rope in the rubberized solution for hand tools which gives a great grip on the rope.

33 Steve October 21, 2013 at 2:07 pm

I got a great deal on thick anchor lines that were retired from a fishing boat. Not entirely clean and a bit salty, but also less than 0.50 per foot. The guy was advertising in the classifieds, but may be worth checking out the docks…

34 Jackson October 22, 2013 at 8:21 am

BATTLE ROPE!!!!!!!!!

I use this to train for my boa constrictor fights and various feats of strength!

In all seriousness, this workout will put hair on your chest.

35 Peter Leffel October 23, 2013 at 2:33 am

Amazing workout. This is something new for me but it looks very interesting. Reminds me of those heart-pumping actions of the God of War games. Looks easy but I know it’ll leave the body sore afterwards.

36 Amirul October 23, 2013 at 7:10 am

In fire stations in my country, this is part of their routine physical training, but with hoses, as mentioned in a previous comment. (Now you can feel like a firefighter!!) With hoses, it’s done in pairs though, and that these hoses are much heavier. Maybe garden hoses would be a viable and cheaper option as a start?

37 Victor October 23, 2013 at 10:30 am

Cool! I have never imagined that there are so many exercises using the battle rope. With a bit of imagination anybody can add extra difficulty to them.

38 mike graham October 25, 2013 at 4:48 am

At my gym, The Old Texas Barbell Co., Inc,we alternate bouts of the Rope with bouts of box jumps for a very complete workout – try the combination.

39 Chrissy Tan October 29, 2013 at 9:54 am

The only rope I tried using to exercise was the skinny skipping rope.

40 Derrick October 29, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Anyone tried using chain? Like what you’d use to tow a car or pull a tree stump? If the area is clear, I would think it would work to be a good cheaper alternative.

41 JB October 30, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Absolutely do not want to spam or be an asshole plugging my company but we sell battle ropes at really good prices and thought we could be a resource for you guys looking for ropes.

Our site is discountbattleropes.com check us out if you’re in the market for some ropes.

42 Brett McKay November 1, 2013 at 2:40 pm

@Marty-

I lift weights 5X a week, and twice a week I do this rope workout at the end of the weight workout.

43 Jen November 5, 2013 at 10:35 am

I’m NOT a man …. HowEVAH! I totally groove on battle ropes. Awesome awesome stuff. I just found your site and will be using it as a resource to introduce folks to the mighty battle rope! And .. the Art of Manliness BadAssery

44 Neil November 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Great video

45 Adam November 12, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Uber dumb question. Is this a full body workout. Chest back butt etc?

46 Brett McKay November 12, 2013 at 10:33 pm

@Adam-

It works your arms the most but also hits your back and legs. I’m not sure you feel it so much in the chest but I think it recruits some butt. So I’d say it isn’t exactly full body, definitely predominantly upper body but your other muscles get pulled into it too, to varying degrees.

47 Exercise Battle Rope November 13, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Hey People in the UK can get great deals on battling ropes on my website check it out and email me for details.

Thanks and Happy Battling !

48 John Wilmans November 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Thanks for this article sir. I have been using these objects of evil for a few months now and it is really a love hate relationship. I have only been doing slams and waves, so thank you for these extra movements. I will be sure to incorporate them into my sessions immediately.

49 James November 21, 2013 at 11:26 am

Hey guys

couple of things. 1 great workout for a start into this kind of training. Got me started into it.

2. what is more manly than making your own rope?

here is what I did:
I am a firefighter so I had access to an alternative (out of service fire hose) so I decided to make use of it. You should be able to get some. Just go to your local department (paid or volunteer) and see if they have some they can spare. Also offer to make on or two for them/ show them how to do this.

1. Select your hose size from what is available. If you are just begining then I would reccomend 1.5″ or 1.75″ hose. If you are more advanced 2.5″ (that’s what I am on) to 3″, but this all depends on what is available.

2. Cut the couplings off (metal threading on each end of the hose) A hack saw will work fine for this. I recommend putting the hose in a vise to hold it in place (that is what I did anyway)

3. take each end of the hose and fold it inward (width, not length wise) in a c fold (one edge overlaps the other) and put 3 or 4 zip ties to hold this in place. the rope and tape will go right over these

4.take a piece of rope (cheap clothesline stuff from your local store is all you need) and wrap it around the end. I recommend running the about 8 inches of line inboard to the end of the hose, then wrapping around it back inborad to the start of the line.

5. take some grip tape (hockey tape)tightly around the rope/line. this provides an excellent and durable grip that won’t get slickwhen your hands are coveerd in sweat. With duct tape, cover the end of the line to finish sealing it up, rewrap the end with grip tape.

the advantages of this is it’s inexpensive ($10 to $12 out of pocket at most, less if you already have this stuff lying around), it’s already the 50′ recommended length, and when rolled it stores very easily.

there are video links to this on youtube aswell

enjoy

50 Cisco November 26, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Ha really nice one I was goggling HIIT rope workouts and your clip came up first. I just ordered the same 50 foot 2 inch ropes from onnit they look great and I can’t wait to get my hiit started a few times a week BOJAAH thanks for posting this and keep on being manly
cisco

51 Sebastian November 27, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Reaslly like this workout. I wrestled this type ropes many a day when I worked as a deckhand. One possible source if you live near a waterway is to check with towing companies to see what they do with worn ropes (or lines as we called them on the river). Many companies throw them out and you could get some free or cheap.

52 Josh December 31, 2013 at 10:27 am

There’s a ton more that you’re missing, but aren’t really cardio. Try using ropes for any workout you would use DBs for. Say, an overhead press, get in 1/4 squat with back straight (no leaning back you cheats!!) and squeeze your blades together to keep the weight of the rope up and maintain that tension while pressing the rope overhead! Do the same for a shoulder hold squat (if you thought overhead squats were difficult!). I love working out with my ropes and have a small community following me. Mix it up, experiment, and enjoy! I can get a full body workout with just my ropes!

53 joe gowac January 23, 2014 at 8:00 pm

A local fire fighter gave a 50ft ft fire hose. Works perfect and free. Made my own grips.

54 Grant February 8, 2014 at 3:28 pm

I just did this…well…half of it, and I can not move my arms.

55 Timothy February 11, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I got some 2″X50′ rope for Christmas and today was the first day I worked with them. Wow!! What a workout but I wish I had waited until the workday was over.

56 JForman February 15, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Go check out artofstrength.com. They will throw on specials from time to time on their ropes. I picked one up last month. They are a bit spendy, but are very very nice. They are jacketed in nylon which prevents fraying and are equipped with aluminum handles. The 2″ was a bit out of my price range so I picked up the 50′ 1.5″. Great video, I went through the workout today and loved it!! Thanks!

57 Robert March 7, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Great post –

I’ve yet to aquire a legit battle rope, but can vouch for the effectiveness of the DIY garden hose alternative. Works fine, and through inadvertent laziness discovered that you can make an “adjustable weight” rope/hose. First time I took the garden hose out to see if it would work it was half full of water and it had a nice heft, and worked great. Cheap, straight bronze spray nozzles work as great handles.

Grab an old tire for free from the local gas station, a couple of kettlebells or dumbbells, and head off to the local playground or park and use a good sturdy bench as the anchor and you have and endless variety of exercises to choose from.

And idea I’ve never seen mentioned that I use a lot is to use the garden hose…rope… as a sort of agility ladder. Most of the exercises you’d use on an agility ladder can be improvised w/ the rope. Pull it tight together and hop over and back w/ two feet; lay the rope so that there is a space of about a foot between and hop outside, inside w/ feet, alternate feet, etc. Look up agility ladder drills and for the most part they’ll all work.

Look up “fight gone bad” and use a 5 round/5 inteval per round (1 min each interval) for a great workout. For example:
- 1 min/battle rope exercise (pick from article)
- 1 min agility drill exercise
- 1 min tire drag w/ kettlebells tucked into tire for weight
- 1 min step-ups on picnic table/bench
- 1 min kettlebell snatches.

Repeat 5 times and vomit.

I can also vouch that an old tire makes a fantastic safety carrier for your kettlebells. My ex TOTALLED my beautiful Audi….but the 4 kettlebells stored in the tire in trunk – which could have been transformed into makeshift cannonballs – were safe and sound, and caused no damage.

I think I’ll give the fire hose idea a shot!

thanks for article. Love this site

58 Scott C March 22, 2014 at 11:50 pm

Thanks Brett for the post! I just bought my ropes and can’t wait to use them!

59 Greg March 23, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Yes this is a plug and some informative info. Whether you get them from me or another company, you def want to use a good poly dacron for battling.

Brett has a polypropylene rope, which is plastic and will fray much quicker than poly dacron, also it is not nearly as heavy. I sell poly dacron, manila and polypropylene. Make sure you are getting apples for apples.

Poly dacron will last you for many years even if used on cement. Fire hoses and regular house will not give you proper (undulation) or wave action, needed for a proper workout. Also my webiste has a video section along w/ very informative information about various workout ropes. And YES I do carry battle chains as well.

This is your health and well being and this is a portable piece of equipment that will last you for years so spend a little time doing the research and you will see apples for apples you will get the best quality rope at the lowest cost at http://www.ropefit.net. Great video though Brett

60 ML April 3, 2014 at 10:13 pm

I want to add your rope training to the cardio on myfitnesspal.com can you give me an estimate of how many calories a 130 pound female will burn doing 4 sets – 20 double arm waves?

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