7 Battle Rope Exercises to Add to Your Routine ASAP

Battle Rope Workouts

Getty/Design by Cristina Cianci

My neighbors probably hate me. I recently bought myself a set of battle ropes — mostly because I thought if I canceled my gym subscription, I needed to really commit to the home gym — and now the whole house shakes during my morning workouts. 

Battle ropes conjure up intense CrossFit competitions or torture devices, but for $50, they're a great way to add a little fun to your at-home workouts. You’ll also need an anchor ($10-$30) — trust me on this one, the first time you try to use a kettlebell or dumbbell, you will end up in a face plant — which can be either installed directly into the wall or tied around a strong pole, depending on the style. But then, the battle is on.

Meet the Expert

  • Alex Leviner is an AAPT-certified personal trainer.
  • Bridget Sirotnak is a certified fitness trainer and health coach, currently at SoulCycle.


Why Workout With Battle Ropes?

The most beneficial types of workouts you can do, especially at home, are the ones that offer the same kind of functional movements of everyday life. You don’t need heavy weights or an expensive stationary bike to get your heart rate up.

But the biggest perk? It’s just fun. “My mom has a gym in her garage — we always do circuit workouts, and she finally got battle ropes over the summer. It's actually so much fun,”  says SoulCycle instructor and certified personal trainer Bridget Sirotnak. “It can be tedious to try and work in every muscle, and battle ropes just cover it all.”

Battle ropes give you a full-body workout, even though it looks like it’s just your arms. “You can pretty much work your entire body,” says AAPT-certified trainer Alex Leviner. “You can work your shoulders, your arms, your back, your core, and your legs when you put it into a workout.” 

And you’ll get all that without needing to worry about achy joints or high-impact. (Though real talk: you’ll likely be sore the first few days after finding back and shoulder muscles you didn’t know existed!) “It’s low impact which is a great benefit,” adds Sirotnak. “You’ll still get cardio in without having the impact of being on a treadmill or jumping around.”

Know Your Grip

Like pull-ups or pushups, changing your grip can hit hard-to-reach muscles using the battle ropes. You have three options:

  • Neutral grip: Hold the ropes with your inner wrists facing each other and thumbs pointed toward the ceiling. This is great for sore wrists or if you’re doing alternative waves, rope slams, or other basic moves.
  • Overhand grip: Hold the ropes with your hands facing down toward the floor. You’ll activate completely different muscles, especially for slams and waves.
  • Underhand grip: Hold the ropes with your hands facing up, especially for grappling-type motions, like twists and side-to-sides.

7 Battle Rope Exercises Anyone Can Do

Both trainers recommended using battle ropes sparingly rather than creating an entire set with them. They’re best as something to mix into a workout for a high-intensity kick. “If you’re doing a circuit workout, I wouldn’t necessarily put battle ropes at every spot,” says Sirotnak. “But they’re great as a cardio burst or cardio set, three or four moves with very little rest in between.”

Keep in mind, too: if you have shoulder or wrist injuries, are pregnant, or otherwise feel pain when you shouldn’t, don’t use battle ropes. “I always recommend trying something new under a supervised trainer,” says Leviner.

Here are seven battle rope exercises Leviner and Sirotnak recommended to incorporate into your workouts:

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Alternating Waves

Start with your basic stance, and take the ropes one at a time in an up-and-down motion as fast as you can. “Your knees are bent, and glutes and quads activated, which works on your stability,” says Sirotnak. “Balance on both sides and use the rope, so your core is working the entire time. Then get your heart rate up by alternating the ropes in either hand as fast as you can.”

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Slams

The second basic move is to take both ropes simultaneously and slam them down on the ground as hard as you can. This doesn’t need to be fast, but if you add a jump (or maybe even a burpee in between), all the better.

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Side-to-Sides

Finally, while holding a squat, take both ropes in one hand and move the ropes sideways, like a snake. “Rotate your whole body,” says Sirotnak. “You’re working your glutes in that squat position, you’re using the resistance of the ropes, and you’re getting in that cardio.”

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Russian Twists

Sit on the ground in a boat pose, holding the ropes in both hands, and twist over your feet. “Battle ropes really work your core,” says Leviner. “Twist the ropes over your feet in a seated position.”

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Agility and Footwork Drills

Get creative with them! You don’t have to hold the ropes to use them — lay them on the ground a few feet apart and alternate jumping, footwork, and hopping over each one as a quick cardio break. “I love using what’s in front of me,” says Leviner. “So I’ll use the ropes for agility and footwork, just by spacing the ropes apart.”

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Weighted Jumping Jacks

Ropes can also add resistance to regular cardio exercises, like jumping jacks. “It’s a killer way to get that upper body,” says Leviner. “Any cardio exercise with the ropes will work, but I like jumping jacks.”

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Core Variations for Alternating Waves

Here’s where it gets interesting. Once you have the standard alternating waves down, you can change your stance to get at different muscles, like holding a boat pose and alternating waves as fast as you can or by holding a lunge. “You have to stabilize your core to maintain yourself in that position, especially while moving the ropes,” says Leviner.

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