Remember those giant ropes you used to play tug of war with as a kid? Well, you can also use them as a tool to blast calories and build muscle at the gym. In fact, you only need a few minutes at the end of your regularly scheduled strength workout to get your burst of cardio in, along with a full-body workout burn.
With the five battle rope exercises below, you’ll strengthen your abs, arms and shoulders, as well as activate your leg muscles and increase both upper and lower body power production. Even better, you get high-intensity conditioning all at the same time, says Liz Adams, athlete and coach at CrossFit Union Square. To top it off, any move can remain low-impact, which means they’re great for athletes with joint issues, and you can cater each exercise to any fitness level, Adams adds.
So, next time you see those burly ropes at the gym, head over and give them a whirl (or whip) for 10 minutes. Research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning shows that’s all you need to achieve a vigorous full-body workout. These five battle rope exercises will give you a creative, seriously taxing Tabata-style routine, so get slamming!
5 Battle Rope Exercises for a HIIT Full-Body Workout
Before you start swinging, make sure you anchor the rope around a heavy kettlebell (think more than 50 pounds), a weight machine or a railing. When you’re set, it’s time to wave in the results.
1. Jumping Power Slams
Power slams offer a total-body plyometric burn that tires your muscles out fast, says Adams. Now, add an explosive lower-body element and you turn up the benefits even more.
How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart in a quarter squat, facing the anchor. Hold one side of the rope in each hand, then lower the battle ropes down to your sides with your arms extended (a). Lower into a squat, tighten your core, and then explode into the air, jumping high, while raising both hands overhead (b). As you land softly back down into a squat, forcefully slam the ropes onto the ground in a wave motion (c). Repeat 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Do 3-4 sets.
2. Squat to Shoulder Press
Strengthen your shoulders as you work your lower body and core, too. This movement is especially beneficial for barbell athletes because it uses the same muscles as the thruster or clean and jerk, Adams says. Instead of going for HIIT-style for this movement, focus on form. When your form starts to break, it’s time to stop, she says.
How to: Start with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Hold the ropes on your shoulders, making sure that there is very little slack in the rope itself (a). Lower down into a squat (b). As you stand back up, simultaneously press the ropes overhead to straighten your arms (c). Then, in one fluid motion lower the ropes back to the tops of your shoulders as you sink back into a squat (d). Repeat for 10-20 reps, rest for 60 seconds, then repeat for 3-4 sets.
3. Alternating Wide Circles
The wide circle motion in this full-body move puts extra emphasis on your back and grip strength, says Adams. Make the circles as big as you can, using your legs only if you need to. “I recommend keeping as much momentum going throughout the exercise as possible, because the more you slow down, the heavier those ropes will feel and the harder it will be to get those ropes moving again,” Adams says.
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart in a shallow squat. Grip one end of the rope in each of your hands. Tighten your core, and move each rope out to the side in a circle motion (a). Then, complete the circle by bringing your arm back in front of your body (b). Use the momentum to keep the circular motion going. Each arm should move independently, but still in-sync (c). Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Do 3-4 sets.
4. Jumping Jacks
Jack up your heart rate up while working the smaller muscles in and around the shoulders. You’ll definitely feel this in your core and obliques, too, Adams says.
How to: Start by holding one end of the rope in each hand, elbows bent and feet about hip-width apart (b). Jump your feet out wide as you bring your arms up and out to the sides, keeping your elbows bent so you can lift the ropes to shoulder height (b). Then, slam the ropes back down as you jump your feet back together (c). Continue the jack for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Do 3-4 sets.
5. Alternating Jump Wave
Finish up arm day with a little full-body workout action that requires solid coordination and power. You’ll feel it in your shoulders, arms and back, while the squats target your glutes and legs, too.
How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and grab one side of the rope with each hand. Place both hands to the right side of your hips and drop down into a squat (a). Explode off the ground as your swing the ropes up and over to the outside of your left hip, landing softly back into a squat (b). Continue alternating swings as you do jump squats for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Do 3-4 sets.