How to Climb a Rope

One of our more unique exercise implements at Spring Hill Fitness is a 15 foot climbing rope.  Most people don’t have a clue about how to climb it, so I wanted to give you all some tips on doing so safely and effectively.

You can approach rope climbing as either an obstacle to conquer or as an upper body strength building exercise.  The technique is way different depending on which approach you’re taking.


Rope climbing as an obstacle

Here the goal is to get up the rope as efficiently as possible, and to do that you want to use your legs primarily.  To use your legs, most people’s instinct is to pinch the rope in between their feet, but that doesn’t work very well as your shoes will tend to slide on the rope.  There are three better ways to orient your feet on the rope which are illustrated in the video below.  In all three methods, the idea is to loop the rope under one foot before clamping it in between your feet which creates a secure spot to stand on the rope.  First, hang from your hands, then bend your legs to pinch the rope with your feet at a higher spot, stand up, and repeat.  Video is much better than a written explanation, so check it out to see how it’s done:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53WgYmEwGh4 (won’t embed).

Note: I recommend wearing pants or long socks to avoid rope burn on your shins.


Rope climbing as a strength exercise

Here the goal is to build up your arm and upper back strength, so you want to use your legs as little as possible.  Once you can climb the rope without any use of your feet/legs, you’ll have some legit strength in your biceps, forearms, and lats.  The general idea technique-wise is to grab the rope with your hands fairly close together, pull yourself up with both arms, then quickly move the bottom hand up and over the top hand, and repeat.  If you don’t have the strength for it, work up to 10 regular pull ups first, then work up to 10 pull ups done hanging from the rope.  At that point you should be able to make good progress on the climb.  I recommend doing a few sets on the day you work biceps or back, after warming up but before tiring out those muscles with your usual back or bicep exercises.  Or, if you’re really strong, you can use it as a finisher after your normal workout.

A great ultimate goal to strive for is to complete the climb with your legs straddled out in front of you in an L-sit position, starting seated on the floor.  This video illustrates:

Note: The rope we have at the gym is fairly slick, so I recommend using chalk to help you keep your grip.

Let me know how it goes, and good luck!


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