This 4-move battle rope workout sculpts functional muscle in under 25 minutes

Man performing battle ropes holding them in both hands and creating waves during battle rope workout
(Image credit: Getty images)

Battle ropes are a functional training exercise that can improve your strength and cardio fitness and build functional muscle by targeting most major muscle groups — like your shoulders and core muscles — and ramping up your heart rate. They're also guaranteed to kick up a world of pain.

A battle ropes workout forms part of many strength and conditioning programs because of the exercise’s versatility. It’s a metcon training tool, which combines strength, power, endurance, and aerobic exercise into one sweaty package to help the body improve how it uses energy. And in one study, eight weeks of battle rope training improved shooting accuracy, power, and core endurance in basketball players. 

We spoke to Jesse Grund, pro wrestling strength and conditioning specialist, battle rope contributer to Living.Fit and owner of Unconventional Strength, who provided this belter of a battle rope workout to get you gassed and challenge your fitness levels — without the gym or heavy weights. 

Benefits of battle rope 

The benefits of battle ropes are endless, according to Grund. “Battle ropes won’t get you sore because of how they utilize muscle contractions,” Grund says. “You could train with a battle rope every day. They also allow for freedom of movement which is important for learning how to create force and strength in various positions, much like life throws at us, which makes it truly functional training.”

Grund adds that battle ropes are infinitely adaptable. “As you progress with a battle rope, just taking a few steps toward the anchor point creates a new set of challenges.” If it's a 50-foot rope (which Grund recommends), that's 50 feet of challenges fully lengthened and 25 feet of new challenges if you double up the rope and hold it in both hands.  

Moreover, It can create a stimulus for multiple systems of energy. Grund explains that you can build aerobic efficiency, anaerobic endurance, strength, and power all over using one tool. Talk about bang for your buck.

Battle Rope Workout to Try 

“This workout was taken from the "Battle Rope Origins" program on Living.Fit,” Grund explains. “Start with a dynamic warm-up and stretching routine for five minutes, then move into the four-move workout below.”

If you’re short on warm-up ideas, I recommend Obi Vincent’s hip mobility exercises and some light upper-body cardio. You could perform this battle rope workout as a circuit, moving through each exercise one set at a time, or complete one exercise followed by the next. Cool down afterward with some stretching and breathing exercises. I recommend Chris Hemsworth’s breathing exercise and this one move for hip flexor pain

1. Battle rope double vertical waves

5 SETS | 30 Seconds WORK | 00:30 REST

During the double vertical waves (moving both arms together), try to avoid creating too much tension in the ropes. Take a step or two forward and relax your grip to free up the move. Stand tall and engage your abs which should give you room to move. Aim for waves rather than slamming the battle ropes, keeping moves fluid and consistent. This is a real shoulder torcher!

2. Battle rope double lateral waves

5 SETS | 30 Seconds WORK | 00:30 REST

It’s a simple move with the battle ropes, working the body in the transverse and frontal plane, meaning your body is rotating and shifting from right to left to gain a strong and stable platform. Feet should be hip-width apart or slightly wider, and drop your hips for stability. Rotate the torso and “push the waves laterally.” The team advises the faster you rotate, the more your abs, upper back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and grip will engage. By stepping forward, you’ll create more force and engagement. 

3. Battle rope double outside circles

5 SETS | 30 Seconds WORK | 00:30 REST

The Living.Fit team advises using this battle rope exercise to create strong, stable, and supple shoulders – improving their ability to move freely. Create big circles or start small and slowly increase. You’re looking for rhythmic “cyclonic” movements rather than vertical or lateral, which work your shoulders in an entirely different plane of motion. 

4. Battle rope double alternating waves

5 SETS | 30 Seconds WORK | 00:30 REST

It’s considered the “OG” of battle rope movements. The team advises you to keep enough slack on the ropes to move in vertical waves and alternate them. Focus on keeping your shoulders down, chest proud, and abs engaged. Avoid hyper-hinging or gripping too tight. Stand tall and maintain a soft bend in your hips and knees as you move. 

Battle rope workout: verdict 

The battle ropes will dynamically challenge your grip strength and shoulder stability, building dynamic crossbody connection and stability. For example, the alternating wave is the "bread and butter" of battle rope movements, according to Grund. 

“Alternating waves create force via the sling system of the body (muscle connecting one side of the body to the other) and, in turn, produce force much like we sprint and move,” he says. “Battle ropes challenge body stability, which is a necessary component in most training programs and basic human function.”

Battle ropes are easy to find. If you’re considering buying one, Grund recommends a 50-foot, 1.5-inch battle rope and nylon loop. You can attach the loop to a tree, pole, or heavy object like a kettlebell and create a double or single rope. 

Next: Build upper-body strength with the best dumbbell chest workouts, and for more functional workout ideas, I did 50 wall balls every day

Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.