Battle Rope Training for Grapplers

Heavy ropes training has been a pretty hot topic in the fitness world for the last few years. A once unique tool that caught people’s eye, now everywhere from commercials to UFC highlight films. My goal in this article to explain the basics and show you some of the advanced techniques that we have been using at our gym over the last few years.

Developed by John Brookfield, the Battle Ropes system is incredible, versatile and powerful. The ropes can be manipulated for various training goals to accommodate a wide variety of people. Over the past few years I have seen physical therapists use them with patients, coaches use them with elite athletes and everyone else in between. The cool part about the ropes is that there is almost zero risk for injury, very little learning curve and it is a stimulus that is unlike anything else.


3 Keys To Rope Training

Relax – learning to relax under stress is vital. So many people grip the ropes hard and tense up their body which leads to quick exhaustion. Grip the rope lightly, relax your arms, shoulders, torso, and even your face. You will be able to move faster and maintain intensity for longer periods of time.


Breath – This goes hand and hand with being able to relax. Rope exercises are 100% output, meaning there is no rest. Typical exercises have a rest point, that allow relaxation and consistent breathing patterns. Novices to rope training hold their breath and hurt their performance. Try and match your movement with your breathing pattern. As speed and intensity increases, your breathing should match.

Use your whole body – While most rope exercises are thought to be upper body movements, the entire body should be utilized to increase power and efficiency. The legs and hips play a very important role in generating power into and through the arms. This is important for all movements, especially sports and athletics. When doing the waves, be conscious of your feet, legs, hips, and shoulders. Make sure not to stand to stiff and make sure that all areas of your body are active.

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Benefits of Rope Training

Learning to maintain intensity over time helps increase lactic acid threshold in your upper body. This is very unique, since the majority of conditioning these days focuses on locomotion, running, climbing, and other drills propelled by the legs. This has helped us all with our other lifts and activities outside the gym. It has also become one of our secret weapons when training MMA fighters. I expect each one of them to be able to maintain intensity on a variety of rope drills for at least 5 minutes.

They are fun. The majority of people that I talk to hate the gym and its not because they are lazy. Most people are seriously bored at the typical big box gym. There is no emotion and very little has changed over the last 30 years. Using tools like the ropes is a breath of fresh air for most people, it creates excitement, is unique, and gets people “playing” again.


Developing mental toughness. I think that developing mental toughness and learning to overcome obstacles is one of the most important things we can help people do. When people start using the ropes, the idea of maintaining intesntiy over 1 minute seems like a pipe dream, but consistent training will help them breakthrough mental barriers and come out with a new outlook and confidence.


Unilateral dominance/imbalance – The waves tell a story. If you watch carefully on the movements, you will notice that your left side (or right) may move differently than the right. It may have a smaller wave or be uncoordinated or a variety of other things, but the cool part is that, over time, these differences go away. Slowly, you will notice right and left start to balance out.



The Wave Series
The Wave Series is typically what you see on Youtube, commercials and advertisements. The most challenging aspect of the wave series is that, if done correctly, the exercises have zero downtime…it is 100% work!

These exercises can be used in circuits, intervals or distance. A 50’ rope, wrapped around an anchor, makes 2 – 25 foot lengths. You can use this information to design distance workouts (1/4 mile, 1 mile, etc). Time, distance, reps, etc can all be manipulated to a variety of workouts and goals. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Use the following variables to increase or decrease each exercise to fit your clients ability levels and goals.

Here are 6 wave exercises, each stressing the body in different ways, using different muscles.



Corey has been a strength coach for 16 years and works with a variety of combat athletes in Southern California. He owns Innovative Results gym in Costa Mesa, CA and founded a site called, that provides strength and conditioning advice for MMA fighters, jiu-jitsu players and other combat athletes.

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