By Josh Gonzalez

On the ropes about battle ropes? See how to incorporate battle ropes into your personal training programs using the NASM OPT model.

Fitness has definitely changed over recent years, becoming smarter with the application of human movement principles and corrective exercise. Fitness now reaches an even wider audience online and through social media while also introducing new and innovative exercise equipment and programming to meet anyone’s goals or interests. One of those eye-catching pieces of equipment that has extended its reach is the battle rope. Battle ropes are easy to learn, easy to use and offer some serious strength and cardiovascular training results. This simple, yet fun and effective tool can be used by anyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The questions now become: Is there a preferred method for using battle ropes in a training program? How do you use them correctly? How can you get the most benefit from using the ropes? In order to successfully integrate battle ropes into a training program, all of these questions need to be answered.

NASM OPT Model

The National Academy of Sports Medicine has given us an excellent platform for using battle ropes for achieving different goals and adaptations. By using the NASM Optimum Performance Training™ (OPT™) model we can dial in different ways we can use the battle ropes, other than just varying waves, to achieve stability, strength and power. Most people use the battle ropes in an exercise called “Tsunami Waves.” This is an exercise where one rope is wrapped around a post and the client is holding one end in each hand. They then perform alternating up and down motions to have the rope produce an undulating pattern along the floor as the waves move from the hand to the end of the post. Programming is typically based on how many waves they will perform or for a selected amount of time. This is probably the most popularized exercise and the one used the most but we can use the ropes in so many different ways! If our goal is a Level 1 – Phase 1 exercise to improve stability, and to address possible corrective exercise needs, here are a couple of new ideas on how to incorporate the battle ropes. (Watch the video to see how they are done.)

  1. Battle Rope Squats: Start by holding each end of the rope, much like the Tsunami Wave, and lift the rope off the ground by pulling the hands to the chest. This isometric row improves strength and stability in the scapular retractors. As you isometrically hold this scapular position and keep the rope off the ground, begin to descend into a squat. As your slowly squatting with a 4,2,1 tempo (eccentric/isometric/concentric) your goal is for the rope to never touch the floor.
  2. Battle Rope Plank Pulls: Begin by winding the battle rope once around a stationary post and having the end of the rope close to the post. The majority of the rope will be laying in a pile by the post not lengthened out (if you lengthen the rope the exercise intensity becomes easier). From a plank position, forearm at the top position on the palm, take one hand and grasp the short end of the battle rope. Then pull the rope towards your hip. As you pull the rope into an opposing pile focus on not letting the low back arch, hip twist or the head to move into extension. Plank Pulls improve the strength in the latissimus dorsi and overall intrinsic stabilizers.

Once you begin to progress towards a more strength focused goal we can begin to change how we use the battle ropes. Following OPT Level 2 – Phase 2 programming, where strength endurance becomes our goal, we can use these variations in our training program to superset a strength move with a stability move.

  1. Battle Rope Tsunami with Alternating Reverse Lunges immediately followed by Single Leg Circles Out and Circles In: Begin by holding each end of the battle rope. Begin your tsunami wave swings right and left and add an alternating reverse lunge pattern. As you perform 12 lunges per side at a regular 2,0,2 tempo maintain a constant tsunami wave with a medium intensity or speed. Once you have finished with the specified reps or time move to exercise two. The single leg circle exercise is performed on one leg. As you hold your balance move your arms in a large circle movement in to out. You can perform 12 circles on one leg then switch to the next leg and perform 12 circles where the hands move out to in.
  2. Pushup to Single Dynamic Wave followed by Half Kneeling Over-shoulder Pulls: Begin this superset by holding each end of the battle rope in each hand in a pushup position. Descend into the pushup and push back to the top. Once you have reached the top position use one hand to perform a single rep of a dynamic wave to the end post. Repeat the pushup and switch to the opposite hand, performing a total of 12 pushups. Once all pushups have been performed take a half kneeling stance with the front foot directly in a straight line with the back foot. With a neutral spine position take one end of the rope and place it over one side of shoulder, then feed the rope over the shoulder with alternating hands until you have reached the opposite end of the rope. Repeat to the other side. Your goal is to try to maintain your posture and neutral spine position as you perform the pull.

As you progress into the Level 3 Power Phase, the element of speed can be added to battle rope programming. Since battle ropes are easy and safe to use, they are an ideal equipment choice when it comes to developing power, even someone new to the power phase can quickly benefit from using them. Common exercises such as Tsunami Waves, Stagecoach Slams, Rotational Stagecoach Slams and 180 Degree Jumps to Slams are extremely effective in this phase. Maximal effort and speed is the common denominator but you should still avoid simple mistakes such as letting the knees cave inward, allowing the shoulders to elevate, or prolonging the duration of the exercise to where quality begins to diminish. Here are a couple of different power exercises using the battle ropes.

  1. Single End Partner Slams: Begin by lengthening the entire rope between two partners. Holding on with both hands, one partner will maximally slam the rope into the ground trying to send one large wave to their partner. If done correctly, the wave would be received to the partner’s hands. The receiving partner will now do the same. Continue alternating waves back and forth, performing 10 reps each. This can be performed on its own or as a superset after a maximal lift such as heavy Lat-Pulldowns or weighted Pull-Ups for 5 reps. Rest 2 minutes and repeat or move to your next superset.
  2. Jumping Jacks: Start by holding each end of a battle rope and then begin a jumping jack. A lateral swing will begin moving up and down. This is a very cardiovascular demanding exercise that will tax the whole body. This exercise can be performed alone as maximal effort exercise or as a superset with a whole body maximal strength exercise such as a Thruster. Perform 10 reps or a 10-15 second sprint.

The battle rope can be used in a variety of ways to meet fitness goals. They can be used as a cardiovascular component in a circuit program or as strength exercises in a circuit, stand alone, or vertically loaded program. The uses are endless and can be adapted into the NASM OPT model for whatever fitness level or goal – stability, strength or power – you are looking to achieve.