The Best Battle Rope Workouts to Make Waves in Your Training

Get a firm grasp on your grip strength and your cardio gains.

Conditioning circuits aren’t just for CrossFitters. A lot of commercial gyms are realizing the raw appeal of all-out effort. Tools like prowlers, medicine balls, and particularly battle ropes aren’t just available in specialty gyms. You can find them in a lot of locations — and for good reason. 

The outright cool factor of the many battle rope signature moves might be the first thing that caught your eye about this mode of training. But that enthusiasm is met in equal measure by the deceptively brutal training effect a battle rope session can quickly impart. Give your training a shake with these five best battle rope workouts.

Best Battle Rope Workouts

Upper Body Battle Rope Workout

A good battle rope circuit often takes the form of an AMRAP — as many reps or rounds as possible — workout. Try to complete as many rounds as you can within a goal time limit. Rest only as much as absolutely necessary between rounds. 

Prepare yourself for some mental warfare as the burn accumulates in your arms — and lungs.

The Workout

Your upper body circuit will consist of battle rope waves, smashes, and horizontal waves. Each will offer a subtly different challenge to your arms, shoulders, core, and postural endurance. Take an athletic stance with your feet planted, core tight, and knees soft — like you’re prepared for someone to try and knock you over. This will help you maintain your balance for the duration of each circuit and go all out.

  • Wave: 20 seconds
  • Slam: 10 repetitions
  • Horizontal Wave: 15 seconds
  • Slam: 5 repetitions
  • Wave: 10 seconds
  • Perform as many rounds as possible within 15 minutes.

Note: Keep your core engaged and your shoulders back and down the whole time.

Lower Body Battle Rope Workout

This lower body battle rope circuit will challenge your coordination and endurance. Combining waves, slams, and lower body movements will create a devastating challenge.

You’ll need a bit more space to perform this circuit. Clear a path and get to work.

The Workout

Your lower body workout will pair classic battle rope maneuvers with bodyweight variations of squats, lunges, and other assorted goodies. Bodyweight and battle rope moves are hard enough on their own. Combining them will make even unloaded leg exercises extremely challenging.

  • Elevator Wave: 10 repetitions
  • Reverse Lunge Wave: 5 repetitions per side
  • Jump Squat Slam: 5 repetitions
  • Cossack Squat Wave: 5 repetitions per side
  • Perform as many rounds as possible within 15 minutes.

Note: Elevator waves combine tempo squats and battle rope waves. Jump squat slams have you slamming the ropes as you land from a jump squat.

Battle Rope Core Workout

Battle ropes are particularly effective at demolishing your core. The undulating waves from any style of battle rope exercise will force every muscle of your abdomen to hang on for dear life. 

Between the pure cardio of keeping the ropes moving and stifled inhalation from holding your core, make sure you remember to breathe.

The Workout

It will be very tempting to hold your breath to get yourself through this core scorcher. Instead, try to breathe as steadily as you can manage. To get through each round, transition from position to position as quickly as possible. 

  • Tall Plank Single-Arm Wave: 10 (side one)
  • Side Plank Wave: 10 (side one)
  • Tall Plank Single-Arm Wave: 10 (side two)
  • Side Plank Wave: 10 (side two)
  • Hollow Hold Horizontal Wave: 20 waves (alternating)
  • Perform this circuit for five rounds.

Note: Be sure to complete this circuit evenly, working each arm and plank in alternating fashion.

Full Body Battle Rope Workout

Performing a full body battle rope circuit is not for the faint of heart. You’ll be roping in upper and lower body exercises in combination with waves and slams of all kinds.

This workout also has you weaving in some lateral movements, too. Don’t be surprised if you can’t get in all that many rounds. 

The Workout

  • Side Shuffle Wave: 5 shuffles per direction
  • Elevator Wave: 5 
  • Figure-Eight Slam: 5 per side
  • Cossack Squat Wave: 5 per side
  • Hollow Hold Horizontal Wave: 20 
  • Perform as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes.

Note: Make sure you’re performing each exercise with a full range of motion.

Battle Rope (Plus) Workout

Let’s not forget all the fun other pieces of equipment that you can be adding to your circuits. Many gyms give you access to an array of unique training pieces for you to choose from. 

Take full advantage of all this cool equipment by integrating medicine balls or prowler pushes into an epic battle rope (plus) circuit.

The Workout

This workout will be about survival. Each exercise on its own has the capacity to ruin your lunch, let alone chained together in a circuit. Finish each exercise with intensity, resting where necessary between exercises and rounds. Push yourself to max out your total rounds, but trust yourself when you know you need a break.

  • Wave: 20 seconds
  • Medicine Ball Slam: 10 slams
  • Prowler Sprint: 20 yards each way
  • Medicine Ball Slam: 5 slams
  • Horizontal Wave: 10 seconds
  • Perform as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes.

Note: You can substitute the medicine ball slam with burpees or hanging leg raises and the prowler sprint with box jumps or burpees.

How to Build a Battle Rope Workout

Building a good battle rope circuit has a few essential components. The nuts and bolts of any workout still apply. You’ll consider exercise selection, equipment needs, and defining your sets and repetitions. More unique to battle rope circuits is planning when to rest and whether or not you’re completing the workout for time or a specific amount of rounds.

Exercises

You’ll want your circuit to have a logical movement flow that will keep you from wasting time and energy transitioning between exercises. The purpose of a battle rope circuit is to put a unique and challenging spin on often mundane endurance training. Aim to eliminate awkward transitions that will slow down your workout and give you unintentional rest. 

Choose full-body movements that you can weave together seamlessly with battle ropes in hand. Squats, planks, and slams are great choices to build off of.

Equipment

A good battle rope circuit doesn’t only need to involve ropes. You can incorporate anything from dumbbells and medicine balls to simple calisthenics. Especially if you’re going to be using dynamic movements and multiple pieces of equipment, make sure you have all necessary equipment lined up and ready to go

Sets and Repetitions

The way you organize your sets and repetitions can take your battle rope circuit from a challenge to something that will push you toward full-body failure. With any style of battle rope circuit, it’s safe to assume that you will be performing some form of upper body movement all the way through. 

Account for this ongoing cardiovascular, grip, and arm challenge by tapering your repetitions per exercise as the circuit stretches on. Alternatively, a pyramid or reverse pyramid style of organization can be extremely effective, as well.

Rest

Rest can be an assigned parameter or something that happens out of pure necessity. It’s important to challenge yourself. At the same time, pushing through dizziness or nausea isn’t necessarily the best for gains. 

Push yourself but allow for intermittent rest when you need it. Try focusing on your breathing to regulate your heart rate during difficult sessions.

Rounds or Time

Determine whether or not your circuit will be based upon completing a maximum amount of rounds or if you’re performing an AMRAP. You can assign a specific number of rounds to complete with the goal of performing them as quickly as possible. Alternatively, you can push yourself to complete as many rounds as possible within an assigned workout duration.

This decision may ultimately come down to knowing yourself as an athlete and what will keep you most engaged. You want to challenge yourself while making sure you’re going to come back for more.

Benefits of Battle Ropes

It’s not all about glitz and glam with battle ropes. The novelty and enjoyment factor are certainly part of battle ropes’ popularity. But there are huge gains to be made to cardiovascular health, grip endurance, and overall coordination.

Novelty

You’re likely going to make the most progress getting big and increasing absolute strength with strength training in the long haul. But when it comes to something like circuit training, adherence is a particularly huge factor — especially for strength athletes who are more comfortable with barbells

A person performs battle rope waves in the gym.
Credit: DG FotoStock / Shutterstock

The willingness to consistently push yourself often diminishes over time when you’re stuck on a hamster wheel of cardio boredom. The ability to create novel, effective, and even enjoyable circuits can play a massive role in your desire to keep pushing as hard as you need to make gains.

Cardiovascular Health

Circuit training can help build some baseline strength and muscle, but one of its greatest assets is weaving cardiovascular benefits into resistance training. Performing battle rope workouts can utilize your full body to blast your heart rate into the upper echelons of cardiovascular gains. Although you might be targeting your arms, legs, or core, your heart won’t be able to hide from a battle rope circuit.

Grip Endurance

This may seem obvious, but to perform a battle rope circuit, you’re going to have to hold onto the handles for pretty much the whole workout. Not only are they potentially slick to maintain their quality, but you also might accumulate some pretty sweaty palms in the process. Squeezing the ropes consistently for the entire circuit and avoiding slippage will build some serious grip endurance.

Coordination

Have you ever tried to tap your head and rub your stomach? Now you’ll be performing high-intensity battle rope waves in combination with alternating reverse lunges. There’s going to be some rewiring of your brain to accommodate these seemingly straightforward tasks when you start to combine moves into interesting circuits. 

Not only that, but with the whip of the ropes constantly pulling you out of your movement pattern, you’ll be forced to develop a pretty keen understanding of each exercise.

Grip and Rip

If you still haven’t taken the plunge, grab a set of battle ropes and start slamming. You can opt for a sprint-style challenge of basic waves. Or, you can go for an infinite number of combinations for a circuit-style workout. Coordination, grip, and cardio gains are all on the table. And at the core of it, battle ropes are just a fun way to shake up your normal routine. If you’re in the market to blast some cardio and your core all at once, ditch the treadmill and roll out the ropes.

Featured Image: JR-50 / Shutterstock