CrossFit moves: The hows and whys of rope climbing

If you’re a member of CrossFit, then you’re already aware of the wide range of exercises that you can learn from being a member of this group. If you’re not a CrossFit member, then chances are you’ve at least heard people rant and rave about how CrossFit can teach its members tons of unique exercise moves.

CrossFit is renown for the quality it provides through its well-educated staff and quality equipment. There are more than 10,000 CrossFit gyms that stand to keep this high standard operating in full-force. But we’re not here to talk about CrossFit’s quality today. We’re not even here to talk about the unique training moves that CrossFit has developed.

We’re here to talk about how CrossFit has chosen to deviate from the standard exercise routine and has begun exploring new territory. Most gym brands will provide you with their own training methods and some research-backed moves that their trainers can provide you, but that tends to be where most brands stop.

CrossFit has extended its training program to include rope climbing. Rope climbing is a fantastic, full-body exercise that is typically only offered to people who are part of particular clubs or who go rope-climbing as a recreational exercise. CrossFit has offered it as a part of its programs, and here’s how it can help you. Much of the information in this article was gleaned from Kenny Kane, head coach and owner of CrossFit LA.

Why rope climbing?

Kenny loves to advocate rope climbing. It’s a great tool not just for improving your physique, he says, but for training your mind. While you’re toughening up your core and upper body, you’re also building determination, motivation, focus, and – most importantly – getting rid of your fear of heights!

Rope climbing is a fantastic full body workout. While your core and upper body are going to be constantly in use for most of the climbing process, your legs are needed when you’re climbing upwards – you have to perform a squat-leg maneuver, which involves your core stabilizing and twisting and your upper body pulling.

“It’s inclusive of so many skills,” says Kane. “And once you get the foundational pieces, it’s fun.” These are the basics of CrossFit rope climbing.

Gain control

While rope climbing might look plain and simple at first, it takes a lot of concentration. You need to learn to control your bodyweight vertically, along your midline, which is no easy feat to master.

A good way to practice without actually climbing rope is to do plank pulls. Sit on your posterior with your legs straight out and a rope to your side. Grab onto the rope, relax your hands and wrists, and lift your body hand-over-hand, keeping your arms straightened and the rope away from your body.

You don’t need to lift yourself into the air. Stop when you’re at a 45 degree angle, hold the pose for a few seconds, then return yourself back to the floor in a controlled, easy fashion. This will get you used to the motions of rope climbing and will help you train your muscles to get used to it.

Gain strength

Now that you’ve got some practice in regarding the motion and the required muscles, it’s time to actually strengthen those muscles so you can use them to get climbing. There are a couple things you can do to test your strength for rope climbing.

  • A tuck hold involves keeping your arms straight with a comfortable handhold – don’t hold too tightly. Grab onto a rope above you and then pull your knees to your chest. This is a tuck – hold it for ten seconds and do it over for a total of five times.
  • This will give you a good idea of the position you’ll be in as you’re ascending on a rope, and will help you strengthen the muscles that you’re going to be using.
  • Once you’re good doing a tuck, move onto the next step. Do a tuck, but slowly kick one leg out and hold it for ten seconds. Return your leg, then switch and do the other one for ten seconds.
  • This will give you a good idea of the kind of coordination required or rope climbing, and will help you practice moving your limbs for rope climbing. It also trains your arbs, abdominals, and leg muscles, all while building comfort and familiarity with the rope itself.

Gain technique

Now that you’re comfortable holding a rope and you think you’ve got the strength needed to actually get up in the air, you can start practicing the actual rope climbing.

  • Your feet will be the anchor while you’re climbing a rope. You can rest your weight on knots in the rope, which will give you a few moments to rest your arms. You can also shake them out one at a time, making sure you don’t lose your balance.
  • The grip with which you hold the rope between your feet will determine how fast you can climb down the rope.

Use an L-hook or a J-hook (the same technique, just named differently depending on who you’re talking to) which involves the rope falling on the inner side of your leg, crossing over your shin, and wrapping under your foot. Your non-dominant foot should be swept under the other one to pull the rope higher, after which you will clamp the rope between your feet.

To move upwards, you have to grab the rope overhead while keeping your arms straightened. Maintaining your foot hooks, tuck your legs and bring your knees towards your elbows. Use the L-hook, then push through your gluteus maximus like you were raising yourself up from a squat, and pull your upper body closer to the rope, hand-over-hand.

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To wrap it all up

To wrap up the basics of rope climbing, you’ll just need to remember that this type of exercise requires immense core and upper body strength. Try out the practice exercises before you actually try climbing a real rope. Once you can handle so, you shouldn’t have too much problem becoming a rope climbing master.

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