Rope Climb – CrossFit Exercise Guide with Photos


Muscles Targeted: Rope climbing is a very popular exercise used in CrossFit and it’s a true test of upper body strength. It can be used either as a full body workout or can be focused strictly for the upper body. As a full body workout, the rope climb uses all the major leg muscles to anchor the climber on the rope and requires less upper body strength. As a workout focused mainly on the upper body, it works every major upper body muscle group. Both styles of rope climbing use the core to stabilize your body along the mid-line. If you want to test how strong you really are, try climbing a rope and find out!

Rope Climb – Normal Version (with feet)

Exercise Instructions: Start by building up your strength for the rope climb. Reach up until your arms are straight and then grab the rope. Pull your knees up to your chest. When you can do this comfortably, extend one leg straight out parallel to the floor. Hold it for 10 seconds and bring it back down, then extend the other leg. When you can fully control your legs, you will be comfortable on the rope and you should be ready to climb it.

Rope Climb – Modified Version (without feet)

To climb the rope as a full body workout, start by grabbing the rope overhead with your arms straight and the rope between your legs. Pull your knees up about 6 inches and pass the rope behind the calf of your dominant leg. Reach down with your other foot and pull the rope up and over the dominant foot so that it is between both feet. Squeeze the rope with your feet and push yourself up like you are coming out of a squat. Climb hand-over-hand until your arms are straight. Relax your grip with your feet and bring your knees up again. To climb the rope as an upper body only workout (without using your feet or legs), do not pass the rope over your dominant leg. Keep the rope between your legs as you climb hand-over-hand all the way up the rope. This is extremely difficult so make sure you can execute it correctly to avoid falling off the rope and possibly causing serious injury.

Things To Avoid: To avoid rope burns, practice climbing in long pants and chalk your hands. After you are comfortable with your skills, you may switch to your typical workout attire. Do not descend too quickly. You will build momentum quickly as you descend, which can cause you to lose your grip. If you are doing the rope climb as a full body workout, slightly relax your grip on the rope with your feet and let the rope slide between them as you climb down hand-over-hand. If you find you are descending too quickly, squeeze the rope with your feet to slow or stop your descent. If you are doing the rope climb as an upper body workout, stop your momentum by keeping both hands on the rope. After you have stopped, resume climbing down hand-over-hand. Do not bring your feet too far up the rope when climbing as a full body workout. Bringing them up farther will get you up the rope quicker but requires more strength and stamina. Start with moving your feet up 6 inches and slowly increase the distance from there.

Reps and Sets: Beginners should always get assistance from a certified CrossFit instructor before attempting the rope climb. It’s also important to place padded mats on the floor in order to cushion your landing if you happen to fall. Beginner should only climb about half way up the rope when first starting out in order to execute the decent correctly before increasing the height of the climb.

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