10 Great Battle Rope Alternatives (With Pictures)

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
July 29, 2022

The battle ropes are a length of rather thick and variably weighted cords designed to have both ends held in each hand as the exerciser stands on their two feet and whips them with the entirety of their body.

This, in a more technical fashion, marks the battling ropes exercise as a compound movement and a closed kinetic chain exercise, due to the fact that the majority of battling rope’s variants require the exerciser to keep their feet firmly in place as the exercise is performed.

However, due to a lack of availability, certain health conditions and injuries or even the simple desire to spice up their workout routine, the battling ropes exercise may require that an alternative exercise be found so as to retain the functionality of battling ropes without actually performing them.

Can Battling Ropes be Substituted?

Yes – like most other exercises of a compound nature, battling ropes may easily be substituted, either with a similar compound movement exercise or with several combined isolation exercises that may, in certain cases, train the muscle groups and cardiovascular system of the exerciser better than battling ropes itself.

battle rope

However, due to the unique nature of the equipment used during the battling rope exercise, the particular movement and form involved in performing said battling rope exercise may be rather difficult to replicate, and as such substituting this particular aspect of the exercise may not be possible.

This is not to say, though, that other exercises may not replicate the sort of benefits that would be imparted by performing battling ropes exercises, and as such simply combining one or two separate exercises should more than allow the exercise to be replaced in a workout routine or physical rehabilitation program.

Can Battle Ropes be Made at Home?

In the event that the primary reasoning behind the substitution of battling ropes in a workout routine is a simple lack of availability, it is entirely possible for an exerciser to create their own battle ropes with nearly no difference between the professionally manufactured kind and the Do-It-Yourself kind.

To do so, the exerciser can simply purchase a suitably long enough rope from a hardware store (approximately 45-55 feet should be suitable for most individuals) and create a make-shift handle by wrapping both ends in cloth or similarly smoother materials such as electrical tape or rubber.

Keep in mind that it is the particular diameter of the rope that lends the resistance found in the exercise, as thicker ropes over a certain diameter may present either too little or too much weight, depending on the exerciser’s particular level of physical strength.

Free Weight and Calisthenic Alternatives to the Battle Rope

Far more common in most households and public gyms than the presence of battling ropes, free weights such as the fan favorite kettlebell or even Olympic barbells may all act as perfectly suitable alternative forms of exercise equipment to the battle ropes, though with their own caveats that make choosing a suitable substitute highly variable.

Even in the circumstance that no free weight exercise equipment is available at all, it is still entirely possible to replicate the cardiovascular and muscular training stimulus that is imparted by the battling ropes through the use of calisthenic aerobic exercises.

1. Kettlebell Swings

Also quite commonly utilized in explosive athletic sports such as crossfit or functional strength training, kettlebell swings are among one of the top candidates for substituting battling rope exercises due to the similarity in their particular training stimulus and the methods of which it is achieved.

This is because of the explosive nature of kettlebell swings, which utilizes the entirety of the body’s muscle groups as well as places significant stress on the circulatory system, thereby imparting a similar level of muscular hypertrophy, O2 maximum growth and neurological strength adaptation to the exerciser.

2. Explosive Goblet Squat

Not to be confused with the goblet squat, of which is performed in a slow and controlled manner, the explosive goblet squat is a variation of the free weight exercise that makes use of resistance equipment like a dumbbell or kettlebell gripped between both hands of the exerciser as they lower themselves at the hips and knees into a below-parallel squat position.

The exerciser will then leap upwards by thrusting their feet into the ground beneath them, thereby launching their body back into a standing position as the kettlebell is also raised upwards, eventually coming to a stop against their chest as their knees and hips return to a relaxed straightness.

This, by some level of similarity, recreates both the power training aspect of battle ropes as well as the full body compound movement muscular hypertrophy that is also induced by the heavier types of battle ropes used in athletic training regimens.

3. Burpees

A perfect full body compound exercise known for its explosive movement and absolute lack of a requirement for any sort of equipment, burpees are yet another excellent alternative to battling ropes that are capable of recreating the cardiovascular, athletic and strength training aspects of most battle rope exercises without the need for anything save a suitably open space.

Burpees are performed by the individual performing a jumping jack-like movement beginning from a squatting position before lowering themselves to the ground in a push-up position and performing a repetition of said push-up.

burpee movement

The exerciser will then return to the original squatting position and perform another repetition of the entire movement, if so desired.

As can be inferred from this varied and somewhat complex form, burpees are no less excellent for body-wide systemic improvements, rivaling that of battle ropes without the need for the same kind of equipment.

4. Clean and Jerk

A staple of cross fit, strongman training and Olympic weightlifting, the clean and jerk is a barbell exercise considered one of the pinnacle movements in the capacity of explosive strength and power, combining every muscle in the human body in a single smooth and natural motion.

clean jerk

It is important to note that the clean and jerk is significantly more taxing on the body and its connective tissues than any sort of exercise that may be performed involving battle ropes, and as such is not a suitable alternative for individuals of younger or advanced age, or individuals with any sort of physical injuries.

Apart from this difference in mechanical stress, the clean and jerk is otherwise more than a suitable alternative to battling ropes in terms of building up an athlete’s full body explosiveness, muscular strength and mind-body connectedness.

Machine Alternatives to the Battle Rope

Whether the exerciser wishes to spice up their workout routine or the use of battling ropes in a physical rehabilitation program is in conflict with some sort of condition that the patient may possess, using a suitable machine as an alternative to the battle ropes should be quite easy, and allow the exerciser to achieve much the same effect without the use of the more free-moving battle ropes themselves.

A benefit that may be found from substituting battle rope exercises with exercise machines is the fact that they are far more stable and take the muscular stabilizing capacity out of the equation during exercise, allowing individuals with a history of certain injuries to possibly use machines instead without exacerbating their issues.

5. Rowing Machine

More focused on the cardiovascular side of exercise, depending on the level of resistance used in the machine, the rowing machine is an excellent alternative to battling ropes, especially in the capacity of a full body endurance workout geared towards practically any individual of relatively healthy function.

rowing

The rowing machine is best used at a lower level of resistance so as to help recreate the rapid and intense training stimuli produced from using battle ropes for exercise, though care must be taken to use proper form so as to prevent the exerciser from developing a repeated use injury in their wrists and shoulders.

6. Machine Assisted Cable Rows

The heavier and more controlled version of the rowing machine, machine assisted cable rows may be used to recreate the upper body muscular hypertrophic effect derived from the usage of heavier battle ropes and their subsequent exercises.

standing cable row

When using machine assisted cable rows as a battle ropes alternative, it is best to aim for a repetition range between five to twelve repetitions per set so as to best induce an upper body training stimuli without risking injury or entering the territory of endurance training.

This, by extension, also equates to the fact that machine assisted cable rows – when performed with the proper form and a reasonable amount of resistance – do not replicate the cardiovascular system training stimuli that is normally found in most battle ropes exercises, making machine assisted cable rows a poor substitute in that capacity.

Miscellaneous Equipment Alternatives to the Battle Rope

Not entirely constrained to the realm of exercise machines or free weight equipment, the following alternatives to the battle rope and its subsequent exercises may be found in practically any sporting goods store or public gym, allowing the exerciser to substitute the battle ropes quite easily, depending on their particular needs.

It is important for the exerciser to temper their expectations, however, as the following alternative exercises will not entirely replicate every aspect of training with the battle rope, and as such it is important to first identify what particular characteristic of the battle rope it is that they must substitute prior to choosing one.

7. Box Jumps

Explosive and practically equipment free, box jumps are a suitable alternative to the battle rope in terms of aerobic training stimuli and lower body explosiveness, wherein the act of jumping onto a suitably high enough platform requires a similar type of power output to the sort of exercises involved in the usage of battling ropes.

box jump

However, a caveat to using box jumps as a substitute to battling ropes is the fact that it does not involve the use of the upper body to a very large degree, alienating that particular characteristic of battle ropes training, of which produces quite a significant level of training stimuli to not only the lower body but to the arms and torso as well.

8. Medicine Ball Slams

An explosive full body compound exercise considered a closed kinetic chain movement, overhead medicine ball slams are among one of the top candidates to alternating battle ropes exercises in a workout program, especially for athletes wishing to train their full body power and speed.

medicine ball slam

A benefit to substituting battling ropes with medicine ball slams is the fact that the resistance and intensity of the exercise may be highly variable, depending on the particular weight of the medicine ball as well as the speed of the repetitions the exerciser will perform.

Medicine ball slams may substitute battle ropes best by utilizing a lighter medicine ball and a higher range of repetitions, going as high as thirty repetitions per set so as to maximize the cardiovascular intensity and endurance attained during the exercise.

9. Jump Ropes

Another form of exercise equipment utilizing ropes, jump ropes not only train the lower body explosiveness of the exerciser but also their bodily coordination and physical endurance, all of which translate quite well into athletic endeavors or other exercises performed for the purposes of such matters.

jumping rope

Much like box jumps, however, the usage of jump ropes as an alternative to battle rope exercises comes with its own drawbacks, especially due to the fact that jump ropes rarely activate the upper body’s musculature in any manner, making jumping ropes a better cardiovascular and endurance substitute than a resistance training one.

10. Punching Bag Work

While not quite the first thing that comes to mind when wishing to alternate the battle rope and its exercises, punching bags of varying heaviness nonetheless make excellent substitutes for practically every aspect of training derived from battling ropes.

This may be something as simple as the endurance and cardio training stimuli found in practically every exercise involving battle ropes, or more specific purposes such as the hand and leg coordination involved in learning to box using a punching bag.

References

1. Kandasamy, Mohan & Kaba, C. (2016). INFLUENCE OF BATTLE ROPE HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING ON SELECTED PHYSICAL AND PERFORMANCE VARIABLES AMONG VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research Review. 1. 158-161.

2. Bornath, Derek P.D.1; Kenno, Kenji A.2 Physiological Responses to Increasing Battling Rope Weight During Two 3-Week High-Intensity Interval Training Programs, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: February 21, 2020 - Volume - Issue - doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003470

3. Maté-Muñoz JL, Lougedo JH, Barba M, García-Fernández P, Garnacho-Castaño MV, et al. (2017) Muscular fatigue in response to different modalities of CrossFit sessions. PLOS ONE 12(7): e0181855. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0181855

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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