Featured story November 4, 2015
You have no doubt seen the clips all over the internet of elite athletes thundering away on conditioning drills with heavy ropes – slamming them in a fury and drowning in a pool of sweat, only to walk away looking stronger and leaner as a result. Battling Ropes were developed by John Brookfield and have since spawned a legion of imitators who have tried to capitalize on the amazing versatility and efficacy of these increasingly ubiquitous body-carving tools.
“I knew athletes had the potential to sustain high levels of power, strength and speed over longer durations of time,” says Brookfield. “I started to mimic the flow of water by creating a series of waves with long heavy ropes. I started out simply playing around with the ropes and quickly found out there was much more to this than meets the eye.”
Brookfield experimented with the ropes in secret for over a year before sharing the idea with anyone else. Ironic, considering how present they are in the repertoires of elite performance trainers and physique athletes.
So are the Battling Ropes just a gimmick? The short answer is no. But what results do they actually produce?
“The Battling Ropes will teach the user to sustain higher levels of intensity over greater durations of time,” Brookfield says.
There are plenty of ways to make the ropes work for you but there are a few that newbies should get initiated with.
“The alternating waves are probably the most versatile of all the basic movements because they teach the user to develop equal strength, power endurance, dexterity and muscle control on each side of the body. This ability is a huge advantage because it transfers into any sport or tactical situation plus it also promotes a tremendous amount of injury prevention by the balance it creates.”
While the alternating waves offer plenty of athletic and injury prevention equity, the two-handed (or bilateral) slams are just plain dirty.
“The two-handed slams develop explosive power,” says Brookfield. “However, the user should strive to sustain the length of time doing the slams and also push themselves to keep a constant slamming motion with equal force thrusting up as slamming down.”
That means when you pick a time – say, 30 seconds – you should insist upon working for the entire time and using the same range of motion from start to finish. This will test you in a unique kinetic chain from your forearms, up through your shoulders and down into your core musculature as your resist the pull of the ropes and the sting of lactic acid buildup.
Despite the variation you choose, the ropes help you to build strength and muscular endurance and provides a unique metabolic challenge. The all-out bouts of work that the ropes call for supercharge your fat-burning furnace, helping you to nuke calories well after they are neatly coiled and stowed.
The Battling Ropes will help you trim up while staying as fierce as a belted middleweight fighter but there are other perks.
“The Batting Ropes are very easy on the joints and I have not heard of or seen even one small injury as of yet,” says Brookfield.
Because the ropes require a high degree of core engagement, you can expect to see a high degree of strengthening with your postural muscles, particularly those along your posterior chain. They are also easy on your shoulders, providing a gentle stretch throughout each torrid set while bolstering the vulnerable musculature around your shoulder capsules.
This provides a degree of insurance when it comes back to your heavy presses and squats.
If you find yourself in the company of some heavy ropes, try this sample starter routine to spice up your conditioning efforts.
Alternating Waves: 20 sec.
Two-Handed Slams: 20 sec.
Rest: 20 sec.
--Repeat this mini-circuit for a total of 10 minutes.
If you are new to the ropes, try this routine on a non-lifting day. If you are a more experienced lifter and are looking to simply augment your existing routine, add this to the end of your normal bodypart work. If paired with high-intensity intervals, do this after your more demanding sprints.