Which Muscles Do Battle Ropes Work?

You’ve probably seen those workout videos with the sweaty athlete whipping away at the battle ropes, and you’ve probably wondered what the point of it was – I know I certainly have. Can you increase your fitness with battle ropes? And seriously, what muscles battle ropes work?

Is it as crazy as it looks? Rest assured that there is science behind the madness, and more than one way to approach a set of battle ropes.

So, What are Battle Ropes?

Battle ropes are heavy ropes that are connected to an anchor point. They come in different weights, lengths, and sizes, but are usually 30 to 50 feet long.

A basic rope is exactly what you imagine it to be – simply, a rope with a grip or handle on each end.

Battle ropes are a very basic method of training, in the same way, that lifting heavy weights is a basic method. Neither are complicated, and it is simple to see how they work, but the results cannot be denied.

How Do You Use Battle Ropes?

Battle ropes are a form of resistance exercise and can be used with several techniques. The three main methods are (1):

  • Waves: an undulating movement sending waves down the length of the rope
  • Slam: lifting the ropes and slamming them into the ground
  • Whip: a motion that focuses your energy towards the anchor point

What Are The Best Movements To Use?

The most common movement, the one you are most likely to visualize when thinking of battle ropes, is a variation on two-handed waves.

One rope is held in each hand, and moved rhythmically up and down, resulting in rolling waves down the length of the rope.

This will work the muscles of your arms, shoulders, abs, and back. However, there is a lot more to it than that.

As this video shows, there are many different motions you can choose from, and with the addition of squats and jumping, you can work virtually every muscle group in your body.

Motions and Muscles

There are two motions you must absolutely master to get an effective battle ropes workout – waves and slams. (2)

Waves created by moving each arm up and down opposite to each other (so when your left arm is up your right arm is down, and so on) works each arm independently.

If training with a regular barbell, one arm can compensate for the other, and you may find that one side of your body is stronger.

When lifting a weight, the stronger side will work harder, not allowing the weaker side to develop as fully. Using ropes in this manner entirely separates the two sides. Each arm has to lift the weight, each arm has to lower it.

It will feel natural while performing this technique to squat down a little, which will further work the muscles of your back and legs.

The slamming technique also works each side of your body independently. Start by lifting the ropes on your left-hand side, with your hands close together.

Arc them over your head to the right and slam them on the floor. Repeat the process to from the right to the left.

This will work the muscles of your arms and shoulders, but will also have a major effect on your core strength due to the lifting and slamming motion and the rotation of your body during this exercise. These exercises are the one’s muscles battle ropes work.

Do I Need To Squat?

To gain the maximum benefit, yes, of course! However, if you choose to stand while using battle ropes, the muscles in your legs will still be used, just not as much.

You will need to remain balanced while working out, and so your leg muscles will constantly be engaged to keep you upright – squatting only increases the resistance.

If you are a beginner, it is fine to just work your arms while standing, but the best results come when you engage your entire body.

High Intensity, Low Impact

A battle rope workout is a high-intensity workout, but also low impact. There are no great detrimental effects or pressure on your joints, and so it is a good way to build muscle and strength, no matter what your general level of fitness is.

As battle ropes can be used to work for many different muscle groups, it is both a full-body workout and suitable for part of a HIIT plan.


Battle ropes are a great workout for your upper body, and with a little bit of thought, they can also be a workout for your lower body too.

There are only a few basics to learn, but the pay-off for combining and adapting techniques is tremendous, meaning you may only need this one piece of equipment to get a full workout.

The amount of effort you need to exert to get the ropes to move may surprise you, as they provide constant resistance for your body to work against.

They are easy to pick up, easy to get started, but difficult to master – but also tremendous fun once you get into the rhythm of the motions. Now you know what muscles battle ropes work.

Let us know what exercises you find to be the most fun with battle ropes.

  • Waves will work your arms, shoulders, and back
  • Slams will work your abs as well
  • Squatting while using battle ropes will work your leg muscles more than just standing

Sources and References: