8 Battle Rope Exercises to Develop Power and Core Strength

You've probably seen the thick coils of rope positioned around your gym, almost as if your trainer were turning the weight room into his shed. Don't worry; they're not.

These long, heavy strands of rope serve as an incredibly challenging workout tool perfect for high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Keep reading for more on the effectiveness of battle ropes and the best exercises to try to develop power and core strength.

The Effectiveness of Battle Ropes

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that a 10-minute bout of exercise consisting of 10 15-second work periods followed by ten 45-second rest periods elicited an average heart rate of 163 beats per minute.

Just think about that for a second—even though the total amount of work performed during the 10-minute workout was just 2.5 minutes, the battle rope exercises were challenging enough to significantly raise heart rate to a "vigorous-intensity" level.

Additionally, while most battle rope exercises look like they primarily target the arms (you do have to swing your arms to perform each movement, after all), you may be surprised to learn that they also require the engagement of your entire core.

Another 2015 study also published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that battle rope exercises were effective at engaging the external obliques and the erector spinae through the lumbar region of the spine, in addition to the shoulders and, to a small extent, the glutes.

In other words, if you're looking for an effective way to torch calories and enhance cardiovascular health while firing up your core and developing upper body power, you really can't go wrong with a bit of battle rope training. There are many exercises to choose from, but consider starting with the following eight trainer-suggested moves.


Alternating Waves

battle rope exercises
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Diana Mitrea, a personal trainer in New York City, suggests using alternating waves, rope slams, and single-arm plank waves as part of a short, effective Tabata routine.

You can see all three exercises in action on Mitrea's Instagram account. Perform eight total rounds of 20 seconds work and 10 seconds rest, rotating between movements, so you perform each exercise twice.

Remember, when you perform the single-arm plank waves (instructions can be found below), you'll need to target each side of your body independently, so you'll complete the move twice before cycling back through.

Alternating waves are one of the most popular battle rope exercises. To perform the move, wrap the center of the rope around a sturdy object, like a pole or the support of a squat rack, and pull both sides of the rope straight so they're side-by-side and even.

  1. Stand tall, your feet roughly shoulder-distance apart and hold one end of the rope in each hand. Bend your knees slightly and draw your shoulders back before bracing your core.
  2. From this position, whip one arm upward, creating a wave-like movement along the length of the rope, and as you bring it back down, whip the opposite arm upward.
  3. Continue performing this alternating wave movement as fast as you can while maintaining control of the rest of your body.

Rope Slams

The next move in Mitrea's suggested three-exercise Tabata workout is the rope slam. "Think of this as one big standing crunch," she says.

You'll start in the same general position as you started the alternating waves—holding one end of the rope in each hand, feet shoulder-distance apart, knees slightly bent, and core engaged. This time, you'll whip both arms up above your shoulders in tandem as you extend your knees and rise onto the balls of your feet.

  1. From this extended position, you'll "bring the full force of the ropes down to the ground," Mitrea says, as you swing both arms downward.
  2. Immediately reverse the movement, whipping your arms upward again as you extend your body to continue the exercise.
  3. To develop a rhythm, Mitrea suggests paying attention to your breathing, "Take a big inhale as you extend and reach the ropes upward, and a big exhale as you bring them down."

Single-Arm Plank Waves

The plank exercise by itself already does a great job of targeting your core, particularly the deep, supporting muscles of your transverse abdominis.

Mitrea's single-arm plank waves take the challenge up a notch by requiring you to maintain a plank position while balancing on one arm and controlling a lateral wave with the battle rope with your opposite arm. Remember, you'll need to perform the exercise to each side, so complete a set with your right arm, then switch to your left side.

  1. Set up in a high plank position with your palms under your shoulders, your legs fully extended, and your body forming a straight line from your head to your heels.
  2. Shift your weight slightly to the left side and grab the right end of the rope with your right hand.
  3. WIth your hips square to the ground and feet out wide, begin whipping your right arm outward, then inward, creating a lateral, snake-like wave along the right half of the rope.
  4. Your hand should remain lifted, but it's OK if the rope itself touches the ground.
  5. Perform the entire set before switching sides.

Snake Variation

Like Mitrea's three-exercise Tabata workout, the following three moves are perfect for another Tabata or any other style of interval training series.

James Shapiro, a New York City-based trainer, says these three moves are some of his favorites for developing power output for the upper body without requiring any plyometric movement, such as an explosive push-up. This makes power training more accessible for individuals who aren't ready or able to do explosive exercises.

The snake variation starting position is much like that of the alternating waves.

  1. Stand with your feet roughly shoulder-distance apart, your knees and hips slightly bent into a half squat, your shoulders back, your core engaged, holding one end of the rope in each hand.
  2. But instead of whipping your arms up and down, this time, you'll whip both arms out laterally to the sides in a single movement before whipping them back in again so that the rope "claps" together as you execute these lateral waves.
  3. Continue this in-and-out motion for the entirety of your interval.

Battle Rope Russian Twists

You may have performed Russian twists with a dumbbell or medicine ball, but Shapiro points out that this ab exercise becomes much more challenging when you have to control the movement of a constantly undulating rope.

To perform the battle rope, Russian twists, sit on the ground, your knees bent, heels down.

  1. Position yourself, so both ends of the rope are just to the outside of your right hip.
  2. Grasp one end in each hand, so your left-hand reaches across your body, and your hands and the ropes are touching.
  3. Keep your hands together and the ropes moving in tandem for the entirety of the exercise.
  4. Lean back slightly, so your core engages—your torso should remain straight.
  5. Whip both arms up and over your body in a fluid motion, so the rope swings over your legs to your left side. Immediately whip your arms up and over your legs again, swinging the rope back to your right.
  6. Continue this motion for the entirety of the interval.

Single-Arm Pushup Oblique Slams

The final exercise suggested by Shapiro is the single-arm pushup oblique slam. This is very similar in set-up to the single-arm plank waves suggested by Mitrea, but a simple change in angle and wave direction is all it takes to further fire up your obliques. This is, however, a very advanced move.

  1. Start in a high plank position perpendicular to the battle rope with your palms under your shoulders, your legs extended, and your body forming a straight line from heels to head.
  2. Shift your weight to the arm closest to the battle rope, then reach your opposite arm under your body to grab one end of the rope.
  3. From this position, whip your arm upward, toward your torso, then downward with force, "slamming" the rope into the floor.
  4. Immediately whip your arm back up again and continue.
  5. After performing a set to one side, rotate your position and perform the exercise to the opposite side.

Sumo Tremors

The final two exercises are from Rachel Lucas, a Gronk Fitness coach at Boston Sports Clubs. She trains specifically with battle ropes during a rope-based fitness class, but she also likes to add ropes when working with personal training clients to provide quick cardio bursts between exercises.

If you're doing a circuit at your gym or looking for a way to amp up a strength training workout, she suggests doing 15 to 30 seconds of these moves periodically throughout your standard routine.

Sumo tremors are very similar to alternating waves, but the setup is slightly different, forcing you to hold a low sumo squat as you perform the alternating waves.

  1. Start with your feet wider than shoulder-distance apart, your toes angled outward at 45-degrees.
  2. Press your hips back and lower yourself into a sumo squat.
  3. Grab one end of the rope in each hand and perform alternating waves, whipping your arms up and down in an alternating fashion as you hold the low sumo squat.

180-Degree Jump Slams

Possibly the most challenging exercise on this list, the 180-degree jump slams are only for individuals who can perform a jump squat properly.

  1. Stand so your body is turned 90-degrees away from the ends of the rope so that the ropes are pointing to your left side.
  2. Position your feet roughly shoulder-distance apart. Squat down and grab one end of the rope in each hand so that your right arm is reaching across your body. Throughout this exercise, you'll want to keep your hands, and the ropes close together.
  3. Stand up, and adjust your positioning, so the ends of the ropes are to the outside of your left hip, your shoulders and hips are facing forward, square with your feet.
  4. In a fluid motion, press your hips back and bend your knees, squatting down slightly before powerfully springing up into the air. As you jump up, swing both up over your head as you simultaneously rotate your feet, hips, and shoulders 180-degrees.
  5. Land softly with your knees and hips slightly bent, facing the opposite way from where you started, and as you land, swing your arms down, slamming the ropes into the ground as you lower yourself into another squat.
  6. Immediately explode back into the air, swinging your arms up again as you rotate your body 180-degrees back to your starting position.
  7. Continue this exercise for the entirety of the interval.

A Word From Verywell

Lucas admits that battle ropes can look a little intimidating, but she's quick to add that they really are appropriate for all fitness levels. The main thing to remember is to start at your own pace.

"Take your time learning all the exercises," Lucas says, "don't feel like you need to keep up a certain speed or pace." And rather than go it alone, try taking a class that includes battle rope exercises, like the Rope Burn class she offers at Boston Sports Club. If you have a trainer there to check your form, you'll feel more confident as you master each move and more prepared to undertake new exercises on your own.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Calatayud J, Martin F, Colado JC, Benítez JC, Jakobsen MD, Andersen LL. Muscle Activity During Unilateral vs. Bilateral Battle Rope Exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(10):2854-9. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000963

  2. Fountaine CJ, Schmidt BJ. Metabolic cost of rope training. J Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(4):889-93. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182a35da8

By Laura Williams, MSEd, ASCM-CEP
Laura Williams is a fitness expert and advocate with certifications from the American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine.