The Rope Climb

The Rope Climb

How to Rope ClimbVideo Link

Rope climbing is one of our favorite body-weight exercises to include in Work Capacity and Aerobic efforts.  It is also for a lack of a better word, very functional.  Although we are huge proponents of the Olympic Lifts you can’t snatch your way out of a canyon, you can however climb out.

When done correctly a rope climb should not tax the grip nor leave long red rope burns on your body.  All to often we’ll see athletes muscle through this exercise when it’s execution is actually quite easy if you put in a little practice.  The goal is to be as efficient as possible while climbing a rope, unless of course you are intentionally training grip and upper body strength.

There are many ways to climb a rope, this is the most efficient method we have found.  It does not require pants or long socks nor does it require the athlete to reconfigure their feet at the top of the rope like the traditional military technique.

The Lock off
The first thing you’ll need to learn is how to lock off on the rope properly.  When locked off you should be able to let go with one hand and support the entirety of your weight with your feet.  Next time you train work in 5x lock offs between sets to get hang of it.

  • Reach High with your arms
  • Lift your legs up
  • Pull the rope across your left foot with the right foot in a scissor motion
  • The Right foot should be stacked on top of the left foot, with the outside edge pressing down into the rope
  • The feet must remain very close, the key is to have the outside edge biting into the rope
  • Stand up
  • Test the lock off by removing one hand from the rope

Going up

Once you have the lock off down it’s time to start climbing.  Remember the goal is to climb the rope with as little effort as possible.  If your forearms are getting a pump then you’re using too much upper body.

  • Walk the hands up the rope
  • Lift the legs
  • Lock off
  • Stand up using your legs as the movers and hands for balance
  • Remember to keep your feet close, stacked on top of each other, and use the outside edge of your shoe
  • Walk the hands up and repeat until you reach the top

Coming Down

Traditional leg wrap methods require the athlete to unwrap the legs then pinch the rope between the feet.  This takes all of the load and places it onto the hands.  As they come down hand over hand they start to fatigue then simply slide down or let go.  Usually this results in rope burn, or worse a twisted ankle from landing on the excess rope coiled on the ground.  If you use the lock off method coming down is much easier.

  • Once you reach the top touch the bar or anchor
  • Spread your feet apart about 2 inches
  • Keep the outside edge of your foot pointing down and into the rope
  • Lower yourself hand over hand with your feet still supporting the majority of the load
  • The further your spread your feet the faster you will descend, the closer the slower

Avoiding Rope Burn
If you started practicing before reading this entire article then you may have noticed a red mark on your shin starting to burn.  To avoid this you simply have to push the rope away from your body by hinging at the hips.  This is very similar to how we fast-roped in the military.  By keeping a slight “L” shape the rope is not in contact with the legs at all.

Final Notes
So practice the lock off, remember to reach-lift-stand, then control your descent by spreading the feet about an inch apart.  Keep in mind that rope climbing will destroy certain types of shoes.  A pair of Nike Frees will last about 2 climbs before the little treads rip off.  If you plan on rope climbing during your training session we suggest a somewhat sturdier pair of shoes.  Also If you’re a sweaty beast make sure to chalk up the hands before going up, and NEVER drop off a rope.

Good luck and Train hard.
Coach Saenz
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