What used to be a staple of 1970s gym classes has become a common test of gymnastic skill, coordination, upper body endurance, and grip strength is a staple in the CrossFit world. And when it does…the rope climb often causes stress and panic (for us older folks!) Flashbacks to those dreaded gym classes and Presidential physical fitness tests!!!!!
So here are 8 tips to maybe help you conquer the rope now!! When it comes to rope climbing there are two factors, first there is the strength that rope climbing requires, and then there is learning the skill of efficient rope climbing,
1. Grip Strength
There’s no way around it, climbing a rope requires grip strength, says Wickham. But there are plenty of fun ways to improve grip strength (while also strengthening other parts of the body). Wickham’s go-to’s are farmers carries with plates or kettlebells and plate pinches.
2. Work On Upper-Body Strength
Any kind of exercise that works your lats, shoulders, or biceps such as a pull-up, bicep curl or row with a dumbbell, barbell, or kettlebell will translate to a stronger rope climb, he says. For athletes who cannot do a strict pull-up, Wickham recommends grabbing a set of rings or TRX bands and working on “ring” rows, which will help prepare an athlete for both pull-ups and rope climbs. He also recommends not rolling your eyes at dumbbell bicep curls and shoulder presses because isolating both of those muscles will improve your rope climb.
3. Work On Lower Body Strength
“If you have the upper-body but not the lower body (i.e. you find that your arms are doing ALL the work when you’re climbing the rope) work on the high box jumps or step ups which will strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. If you don’t like or are afraid of the box, work on single legged or even pistol squats with the assistance of a box or bench as needed,” says Maldonado. The leg movement used to scale a rope is very similar to a squat, he adds, so any squat movement or variation will lead to a better climb.
4. Core Strength
Climbing the rope efficiently is about being able to do some sort of toes to bar, or knees to elbows, and then standing up. Even if you don’t have the skill or rhythm of climbing a rope down, working on knees to elbow will help develop the core strength that rope climbing requires, Maldonado explains.
1. Baby Steps
For someone new to rope climbing, starting small and doing partial climbs up the rope is a great way to start safely, develop rope confidence, and improve strength and skill. Or, if you have access to a short rope that is 10 feet long, start there.
2. Get Nasty
“Get nasty, get seriously nasty with the rope. People are afraid to just go for it. But if you want to get better at the rope you have to trust the rope and your body,” says ICE NYC Head Coach and CrossFit Games Athlete Deanna Gibaldi. While skill is important, she explains, everyone will have a different relationship with the rope, so experimenting with holds that work best for your body and physical strengths is imperative.
3. Practice Foot Holds
“I recommend athletes practice getting their feet into position by setting up a box 6 inches from = a rope, sitting on the box, grabbing hold of the rope with their hands, and then practice putting their foot into position either the J hook or s wrap,” says Maldonado. “Once you get your foot in position, practice standing up and hanging from the rope so that you adjust to the feeling of the foothold,” he adds.
4. Get Used To The Feeling Of Climbing A Rope
To toughen up your hands, improve back strength, and get used to the motion of moving up and down the rope, practice by doing a rope climb variation. “Start by laying on the floor holding the rope with your hands as your legs lay either flat or bent. Using just your upper body strength, pull yourself all the way up to stranding, and then slowly lower yourself back down,” says Maldonado.