“Comparison of the Acute Metabolic Response to Traditional Resistance, Body-Weight, and Battling Rope Exercises.”
Nichoals A Ratamess, Joseph G. Rosenberg, Samantha Klei, Brian M. Dougherty, Jie Kang, Charles R. Smith, Ryan E. Ross, and Avery D Faigenbaum. (2015) Comparison of the Acute Metabolic Response to Traditional Resistance, Body-Weight, and Battling Rope Exercises. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(1)47-57.
Are battling ropes a worthwhile exercise?
In short yes, but let us look at the protocols for testing and results to explain why. This study used 10 trained men ages 19-22 years of age. Each subject was training 2-4 days a week, were former or current athletes, and were not taking any form of medications or enhancing drugs. All subjects performed VO2max testing, and 1 rep max (1RM) testing. The free weight exercises used for this study were Squat, Bench press, Curl, Bent over row, High pull, Lunge, Deadlift. Body-weight exercises consisted of regular push-ups, BOSU push-ups, Push-ups with a lateral crawl, Burpee, and Plank. For the rope circuits there were three different styles they used during the circuit; Single arm wave, Double arm wave, and Double arm slams. The rope used was 50 feet in length and weighed proximity 24 pounds.
The highest acute metabolic response was in fact battling ropes coming in at approximately 51% VO2max. This was accomplished with three 10-second bouts equaling 30 seconds of work with a two-minute rest interval. Another way to look at this energy expenditure is there were 9.6-10.3 Kcal used per minute.
The next closest to battling ropes was Squat, Deadlift, and Lunge, which all utilize the largest muscle groups within our bodies. These came in at approximately 47% VO2max utilizing 7.2-8.2 Kcal per minute. This protocol was based on using 75% of 1RM for three sets at 10 repetitions. It is important to note that these figures are from this study, adjusting rest intervals, and or increasing weight/reps could elicit a completely different response.
On a side note, push-ups and BOSU-push-ups showed earlier the same energy usage, noted within this study Saeterbakken and Fimland (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 27: 130-136, (2013)). It showed a lower force production when push-ups are performed on a BOSU along with nearly the same EMG activity in the muscles. However push-ups performed with a lateral crawl greatly increased the metabolic response regarding push-up comparisons.
As we can see, using battling ropes within our exercise routines, can have added benefits. Today, battling ropes are in nearly every gym. Ask a fitness professional for a demonstration and/or explanation and give these metabolic bad boys a try.