Hitting the treadmill for yet another steady-state run may be a tried-and-true way to burn a few calories, but it’s about as much fun as watching paint dry. If your workout is due for an overhaul, you may want to look for the coils of rope sitting in a corner of your gym. These combat ropes, or battle ropes, may seem inconsequential, but they’re actually a metabolism-boosting super tool in disguise. Swinging these long, heavy ropes doesn’t just work your arms, it works everything, taxing your legs, core, and upper body, all while sending your heart rate soaring.
“Combat ropes allow you to adjust the training to your own ability and fitness level,” says CJ McFarland, Onnit Academy’s head strength-and-conditioning coach. “This is done by speeding up the movement ormaking the movement more explosive. Both options elevate your heart’s beats per minute, ultimately increasing calorie burn.” Add to that the fact that the ropes are inherently heavy and unwieldy to manage, requiring your body to use its aerobic and anaerobic energy systems when exercises are organized in an effective way. “Doing this can force the body to feed into more glucose and fat storage, resulting in greater weight loss,” McFarland says.
Of course, the key here is planning your workout wisely. “To get the most out of your time, it’s best to place any high-intensity exercises at the beginning of your workout to quickly elevate your heart rate,” McFarland says, explaining that by boosting your heart rate in the early stages of your program, it’s more likely to remain elevated throughout your routine, increasing your opportunity to maximize calorie burn for the day. So instead of hitting the treadmill before your next strength workout, spend a few minutes warming up, then hit the ropes to torch your metabolism. McFarland suggests the following exercises, incorporated into quick, intense intervals.
In-and-out waves legitimately tax your upper body and core to a greater degree than your lower body. This is because you’re swinging your arms in-and-out laterally throughout the exercise, requiring exceptional back, shoulder, chest, and core engagement to control the rope while maintaining power and speed.
• Stand with feet hip-distance apart, your knees and hips slightly bent, your core engaged, and your shoulders rolled back. Hold one end of the rope in each hand, the center of the rope secured.
• With your elbows slightly bent, swing both arms out laterally from your midline, then forcefully swing them back to center. Continue this in-and-out motion, causing the rope to snake in front of you, each side repeatedly touching, then separating in the middle.
• Continue this swinging motion as fast as you can, performing the exercise for 15 to 30 seconds, depending on your ability. Rest and repeat, completing between four to six sets, resting 15 to 30 seconds between attempts.
Alternating Reverse-Grip Wave Punch
Just as boxing requires full-body engagement, so does the alternating reverse-grip wave punch exercise. Expect your legs and core to burn, even as your arms do the punching.
• Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-distance apart, your knees and hips slightly bent in a quarter-squat, your core engaged, your shoulders back. Hold one end of the rope in each hand, as if you were holding a can of soda, with your elbows bent at 90-degrees, the end of the rope pointing toward the ceiling, and your palms facing inward.
• Keeping your elbow bent, punch your left arm up and across your body, using your lower body to help power the movement. As you bring your arm back to the starting position, immediately punch your right arm up and across your body.
• Continue alternating quick, powerful, cross-body uppercuts, using your legs to assist. Perform the exercise for 15 to 30 seconds, depending on your ability. Rest and repeat, completing between four and six sets, allowing 15 to 30 seconds rest between attempts.
The hip toss exercise is all about the core and legs. Prepare yourself for exhaustion — you’re practically guaranteed to be sucking wind by the end of each set.
• Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart, your knees and hips slightly bent, core engaged, shoulders rolled back. Bend your elbows to 90-degrees and hold one end of the rope in each hand, with your hands together at your left hip. Your hands will remain touching throughout the exercise.
• Using your legs to power the movement and keeping your elbows bent, forcefully swing your arms up in an arc in front of your body before bringing both hands to your right hip. Immediately reverse the movement, again arcing your arms up and then down, returning your hands to your left hip.
• Continue the exercise, making sure to keep your core engaged and your shoulders back. Perform the exercise for 15 to 30 seconds, depending on your ability. Rest and repeat, completing between four and six sets, allowing 15 to 30 seconds rest between attempts.