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The Ultimate Rope Climb Workout

Build total-body strength using military rope-climbing techniques.
Rope climbs crossfit

The classic manila climbing rope is an all-purpose tool capable of building overall strength and endurance in minimal time. While rope climbs are popular in CrossFit and adventure racing, their use stems from the necessary task of climbing a wall during battle. No strangers to the body-hardening benefits of rope climbs, the U.S. Special Operations Forces fast-rope out of helicopters and climb over obstacles while wearing at least 50 pounds of gear.

“There’s more of a chance of me having to climb a wall versus having to swim the English Channel so it makes sense to hone my ability to climb the wall,” says Kyle Lamb, a U.S. Army Special Operations veteran. Lamb is one of many military personnel trained to scale walls vertically using a rope.

For athletes, the combination of increased grip and muscle strength, balance, and muscular endurance make for a true test of overall fitness. Replace your traditional end-of-workout cardio, with these muscle-building moves to bring your fitness to new heights.



Perform 1A, 1B, 1C, and so on, for 2 minutes each. This is one set. Rest 15 seconds between each exercise. Rest 30 seconds between sets. If you’ve been training consistently for at least 12 months, try two sets. Beginners start at one set. Do the workout twice per week, on the same day you do pulling exercises like rows and pullups.

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1A. Rope Vertical Climb
Anchor a heavy-duty indoor climbing rope (, $129) to a support beam overhead and recruit a spotter. Grab the rope as high as you can with both hands and pull yourself up. Position the rope between your legs, and wrap it, counterclockwise, around the outside of your right knee and back between the insteps of your feet. Pull your knees into your chest and let the rope pass through your feet. Clamp your feet together and stand up. Repeat until you reach the top and then reverse the technique to climb down.

1B. Rope Standing Vertical Climb
Using a sturdy overhead anchor, connect the Cyclone 100 monster pulley (, $399) and thread a 1.5-diameter rope through it. Attach one end of the rope to a 45-pound plate. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and pull the rope, hand over hand, until the plate reaches the top. Reverse your motion and repeat.

1C. Rope Standing Horizontal Pull
Attach a 50-foot climbing rope to Power-Lift’s Rope-Pull Attachment ( connected to a power rack. Crank the adjustable resistance knob a few turns to increase the intensity. Assume a staggered, shoulder-width stance and tense your abs, like you’re bracing for a gut punch. Pull the rope, hand over hand, as fast as you can. The attachment rotates so there’s no need to reset rope.

1D. Plank Rope Drag
Set Power-Lift’s Rope-Pull Attachment at shin height. Assume a plank position in front of the power rack. One arm at a time, reach to grip the rope, and pull it straight in until your elbow meets your rib cage, switching arms each pull. Maintain the plank position until you’ve finished the length of the rope.

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