How To Master The CrossFit Rope Climb - Swolverine

If you’re trying to reach the highest level in the sport of fitness there are a handful of movements that need to be mastered. The CrossFit rope climb is among the most complex and elusive movements to become proficient in. Let’s dive deeper into what exactly a CrossFit rope climb is, what the benefits are and how to perform them.

This article was written by the Director of Competitive Programming At TrainTSK and The Swole Kitchen, Donnie Ochampaugh.

What Are CrossFit Rope Climbs

CrossFit rope climbs are a high skill upper body gymnastics movement that primarily involves vertical pulling. The rope climb involves grabbing the rope with both hands and using a hand-over-hand pulling motion to work your way up the rope. You can perform this movement using only the arms or you can use a technique involving the legs to delay fatigue in the upper body.

Both styles of the CrossFit rope climb frequently show up in competition from the local level up to the CrossFit Games. Not only is it great to develop the rope climb for competition, but it is also an overall display of upper body strength, grip strength, coordination, and athleticism.

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CrossFit Rope Climb - Swolverine

CrossFit Rope Climb Benefits

Develop Upper Body Strength

The CrossFit rope climb focuses primarily on the upper body muscle groups like biceps, shoulders, and back. Utilizing the various muscle groups in the upper body to perform the rope climb will greatly contribute to building muscle strength, hypertrophy, and stamina that can translate into several other upper body movements.

RELATED: 15 Upper Body Dumbbell Movements PLUS Free Training Program

Develop Coordination

The act of jumping, grabbing, and climbing a rope requires a significant amount of coordination and body control. Repeatedly performing the CrossFit rope climb will create adaptions with your mind-body connection as you become more proficient with the placement of your hands and feet and moving your body through space. Once you become comfortable and confident with the rope climb you will have drastically improved your coordination.

Develop Core Strength

When you perform the CrossFit rope climb, particularly when using the legs, you will have to engage your core to control your body. Any giving rope climb can take anywhere from 10-15 seconds in which your abdominal muscles will be activated. Compound this over several reps and you will find your core muscles fatigued, ultimately leading to core strength development.

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Build Aerobic Capacity

When performed in high volume or within a metabolic conditioning workout, CrossFit rope climbs will spike your heart rate and can contribute to improving your cardiovascular endurance. Not only will the movement alone help improve your aerobic capacity, performing them with other modalities will improve your ability to perform them while under fatigue.

RELATED: Aerobic vs Anaerobic Training

Improve Athletic Performance

With the CrossFit rope climb being a staple in the sport of fitness, developing this skill is a critical part of reaching the next level and becoming the most well-rounded athlete possible. Whether your goal is to compete in the RX division of a local competition or compete in the next stages of the CrossFit Games season, becoming proficient in this movement is an absolute must.

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How To Do CrossFit Rope Climbs

Both standard and legless rope climbs show up in the box and in competition. 

Standard Rope Climb (using legs):

The CrossFit rope climb begins with standing on the ground with the rope directly in front of you. The movement is initiated with a jump while grabbing the rope with both hands. Once you have a firm grip on the rope, lean back, extend the arms, and lift both legs to wrap the rope with your feet. Once the rope is firmly locked between the feet, stand up while using the arms to pull your body to full extension and then repeat this same action until you’ve reached the top of the rope. This version tends to be a little bit slower, but is more efficient and using less energy 

Legless Rope Climb:

The legless rope climb is performed the same way as a standard rope climb aside from the obvious absence of using the legs. The legless version of the rope climb requires less technique and more brute upper body strength. You will use a hand-over-hand pulling motion to work your way up the rope. Swinging the legs or extending the hips with each pull is a great way to assist with momentum as you move up the rope. This version tends to be faster but using far more energy.

CrossFit Rope Climb Technique Tips

Use A 'J-Hook' Technique For Your Feet

The most common and efficient way to lock your feet in the CrossFit rope climb is the j-hook technique. This technique involves having the rope between your legs and then running over to the outside of your foot. Bring the opposite foot underneath to wrap the rope over and then clamp it between your feet (see video below).

Use Shin Protection With A Knee Sleeve

The rope can create a nasty burn on your lower leg from the friction of ascending or descending on the rope. Wearing a covering over your lower legs is a great way to protect you from rope burn while performing the CrossFit rope climb. Some good options for protection are wearing long socks, pants, or placing a knee sleeve over the lower leg area.

Descend Safely

Getting up the rope is one thing. Getting back down is a technique in itself and can be crucial to perform the rep efficiently and prevent injury from landing improperly off the rope. When you get to the top, keep the rope between your legs and feet but loosen up the clamp slightly to allow you to slide down the rope with control. Another technique is to keep the rope between your legs to control your descent.

CrossFit Rope Climb: Takeaway

The CrossFit rope climb is a high skill gymnastics movement and an extremely effective upper body exercise for building muscle strength, hypertrophy, and stamina. Mastering this skill will not only improve your fitness, but also move you into the next tier of athletes and move you along the path to achieve your competitive aspirations. Remember, movements like rope climbs require a lot of practice so consistency and patience are the keys to mastery. If rope climbs aren’t already part of your routine, add them in now and take your fitness to the next level.

Need Help With Optimizing Your Functional/Competitive Fitness Performance?

TrainTSK provides 1:1 customized functional fitness performance and online personal training to help guide you to optimizing your fitness to become the best athlete possible. We also offer personalized nutrition coaching, macro coaching, and custom meal plans to compliment your effort in the gym. Schedule a FREE competitive/functional fitness consult today to see how we can develop your weaknesses, magnify your strengths, and get the results you're looking for from your effort both in and out of the gym.

We believe that everyone can optimize not only their athletic performance but their human potential. The way we believe we can optimize performance is through transparency, clinically effective doses, and clinically proven ingredients with evidence-based outcomes. We provide the nutrients you need to power your active lifestyle.


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