3 Ways to Use Battle Ropes for Effective Cardio Workouts

HITTING A SET on battle ropes in the gym is, frankly, a lot of fun. This type of workout is popular not just because it looks and makes you feel bad, but because of its ability to help you burn a lot of calories while taking out your aggression on the ropes.

Battle ropes can make a solid conditioning tool, making them an effective element in 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, the battle ropes should be moved when you want to start training to improve your fitness—and only then. In other words, battle ropes have a place in your workout, but not as a primary muscle-building movement.

“It’s just a filler movement—it has no real focus on it other than just getting your heart rate up and blowing gas,” says Forzalia. “So when you go into that next move, you’re already burned out, 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 hitting sound can create a powerful mood. From a training perspective, however, you can only do so much with them. You’ll feel loaded—in the grip, shoulders, and core—after about 30 seconds of intense hitting. Your heart rate will quickly rise, but that’s about all you’ll get from the battle ropes.

Limited progressive overload

If you’re benching, squatting, and deadlifting, you know your goal is to gradually move more weight week after week. But how do you measure progress on a battle rope? It’s much less linear than weight training. There are ways to do this, such as reducing the rest, adding a little more time, or changing the movements. 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 work more efficient.

Limited programming capabilities

If you haven’t noticed yet, Samuel and Forzaglia’s biggest problem with battle ropes is how narrow your options are when you want to use them. In this case, there are a limited number of ways the ropes can be programmed into your routine – and usually it’s in a sequence of 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off (or maybe 30 on, 30 off). If you’re a boxer, martial artist, or some other type of athlete who competes in short, intense bouts, fighting rope training can be an essential preparation tool. For the rest of us, ropes can be an intermittently fun cardio challenge. 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 effective training

Use Battle Ropes as a workout finisher

    When you’re in the mood to get your heart rate up to finish a workout with a quick burst of conditioning, battle ropes are sure to do the trick. It takes less than 10 minutes of full work to feel the burn. Forzaglia says the best way to apply battle ropes as a finisher is simple:

    • Choose two moves (one-handed punches and two-handed waves, for example)
    • Switch back and forth for 30 seconds on/30 seconds off (40/20 also works)
    • Complete this series for about six to eight minutes total.

    Make sure you make every effort to get the most out of your studies.

    Use Battle Ropes as a short-term training solution

      If 20 minutes is all you have, then mixing battle ropes with a quick weight workout is a good way to make the most of those limited minutes. You’ll get your heart rate up in a short amount of time, while weight training focuses on building strength. To do it:

      • Pick two exercises where you can perform high reps – think squats with dumbbells and rows with dumbbells.
      • Do both exercises back to back. Then hit the ropes for 30 seconds before moving on to the next round.

      Battle ropes can be an effective agility drill

        Agility isn’t a bad thing to work on, and some battle rope exercises can help with that, especially those moves that add lateral movement. This is great for athletes or just a way to take agility training a little outside the box. Try this one:

        • Choose two to three moves with a battle rope.
        • Do two rounds—this time just 15 to 20 seconds of effort—then rest for 40 seconds. The shorter intervals in this training style will allow you to maintain a better focus on overall flexibility 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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