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Q | I want to start working with battle ropes. How do I use them?

A | Battle ropes are thick, oversize ropes that can be found in most gyms (typically anchored to the floor or wall). They offer a fun and challenging alternative to traditional cardio and are easy to use.

Just 10 minutes of battle-rope intervals (alternating periods of intense effort with periods of rest) can deliver a serious sweat-inducing, fat-burning workout that strengthens the arms, shoulders, and core.

“Most popular forms of conditioning, like sprinting, sled work, and running hills are lower-body oriented,” says Fort Lauderdale, Fla.–based strength and conditioning coach Nick Tumminello. “Using the ropes adds an upper-body-oriented conditioning element, making weekly training more balanced.”

To use battle ropes, pick up each end of the rope and pull them straight toward you. Stand with feet hip width apart, knees slightly bent, and core tight. Keep your lower body loose and your spine extended. From there, it’s all arm and shoulder movement. Consider starting with these three basic patterns:

  • Double waves: With one end of the rope in each hand, simultaneously move both arms up and down rapidly.
  • Alternating waves: Similar to double waves except you raise one arm to shoulder level while quickly lowering the other.
  • Shoulder circles: Grasp the rope with palms facing down. Lift your arms up and around, moving your arms and the ropes in a circular motion. Try performing clockwise circles, then counterclockwise circles.

Once you get the hang of these movements, combine them in this challenging upper-body workout from Tumminello:

  • Perform as many repetitions of double waves as you can in 20 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds. Repeat for a total of five rounds.
  • Rest for two minutes, then do alternating waves, performing five sets of 20 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds of rest.
  • Rest again for two minutes, then do shoulder circles for five sets of 20 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds of rest.

This protocol is great to do with a partner, because one person is always working while the other is resting and (ideally) offering encouragement.

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