Ropes training, otherwise known as battle ropes, has become an increasingly popular modality in strength and conditioning programs in recent years because of the numerous training benefits it provides. It is an effective tool to enhance strength, power and endurance2. However, the questions are does it fit in the sport of baseball and is it an appropriate training tool for baseball. It is important that strength and conditioning professionals understand the movements and energy systems being emphasized, the variables in ropes training and how to utilize rope exercises to achieve optimal results.
Typically, when performing battle ropes exercises, the athlete starts by looping a large diameter rope through or around a fixed point that will allow the him to perform repetitive movements commonly referred to as waves1. There are many different exercises that can be performed with ropes. The most basic include closed kinetic chain, bilateral and unilateral, total body movements that incorporate the muscles of the hip and core.
- The diameter and length of the rope are the main things to look for when picking an appropriate load for an athlete1. The weight of the rope is determined by the material that the rope is made of and the diameter and length of the rope. During the performance of battle rope exercises, the amplitude and speed of the waves produced can be used to determine the intensity of the exercise1.
- Since the movement of the battle ropes produce repetitive intense movements, ropes training can be considered to be an anaerobic form of exercise. Thus, depending on the duration of each bout of exercise (sometimes lasting 30 s-60 s), rope training can be used as a tool to improve anaerobic endurance.
Application in Baseball (Where does it fit?)
Given that ropes training can serve as a metabolic training tool, ropes training might benefit starting pitchers the most in programs where anaerobic conditioning is the primary emphasis. It is common for pitchers to run some form of pole intervals for their conditioning the days after they pitch. However, given the energy expenditure of ropes exercises, ropes may be a useful alternative to running intervals for metabolic conditioning2, 3. This may be most beneficial throughout the length of the season when considering a conditioning modality that consists of reduced impact3. Of course, the appropriate volume and duration should be programed to account for the purposes of cumulative volume. For relief pitchers and position players, it may be more appropriate to incorporate battle ropes into their lift in the form of a metabolic finisher, as long as it’s appropriate for the individual, their position and the availability of equipment.
The following is a sample of a starting pitcher’s 5-day plan.
Sample for a 5-Day Rotation:
|Day 1 (Start)||Day 2||Day 3 (Bullpen)||Day 4||Day 5|
|High Volume Intervals
@ 35-40 s
(1:2 or 1:1 W: R)
16 Rounds Rope Exercise
@ 30-40 s
(1:2 or 1:1 W: R)
|Moderate Volume Intervals
|Moderate Volume Intervals
8-10 Rounds Rope Exercise @ 15-25 s
(1:2 W: R)
|Sprint or Agility
12 x 40 yd
Upper Body Lift
|Lower Body Lift||Upper Body Lift||Light
Lower Body Lift
It should be emphasized that this 5-day sample is only a suggestion and that it should be modified or adjusted to fit into the athlete’s current training program. There are also some precautions to factor in when implementing battle ropes programming. It is recommended that these exercises be performed on days 2 and/or 4 in a 5-day plan. This is due to the metabolic demand from the exercise and the taxation that it has on the upper body3. It is also recommended that ropes exercises that target the shoulder musculature be used sparingly (“S” waves, “Outer and Inner” waves, and “Figure 8” waves) due other prescribed shoulder care that would be considered a priority from the sports medicine staff. It should be noted that although beneficial, upper body dominant exercises that target the shoulder musculature can produce fatigue during a battle ropes session that may affect technique and should be performed with caution to avoid injury. It is up to the strength and conditioning professional to determine what is appropriate for each individual athlete, most notably pitchers. For athletes with little experience in performing ropes exercises, it should be implemented more conservatively to avoid excessive soreness resulting from any metabolic distress, especially leading up to their next game.
To ensure you get the most out of performing these exercises, proper technique is imperative. Otherwise you’ll change the effort level and ultimately affect the output of the intensity and frequency of the waves.
- Address the rope by gripping slightly above the rubberized handle. By not gripping the rubber coating directly, you may be able to increase the longevity of the rope as a training tool as they may have a tendency to detach and slide off which may cause it to eventually unravel.
- When setting-up in the starting position, give the rope some slack and let it hang straight down to the floor. If there is too much tension on the rope at the start of the exercise, you will not get proper feedback on whether you are applying the appropriate intensity.
- When programing exercises, pick the appropriate rope for the exercise. Total body movements such as a double arm or single arm wave can incorporate a larger diameter rope, whereas isolated upper body and shoulder movements would require smaller diameters that will result in a lighter rope.
- When emphasizing metabolic conditioning, use quick movements that produce high frequency waves that ripple all the way to the fixed point. If the wave stops short of the fixed point, there is not enough output to control the rope and the intensity of the athlete either needs to be increased or the size of the rope should be decreased.
- Catatayud, Martin, Colado, et al. “Muscle activity during unilateral vs. bilateral battle rope exercises.” J Strength & Conditioning Res 29.10 (2015): 2854-2859.
- Ratames N.A., Smith C.R., Beller N.A., et al. “Effects of rest interval length on acute battling rope exercise metabolism.” J Strength & Conditioning Res 29.10 (2015): 2375-2387.
- Fountaine C.J., and Schmidt B.J. “Metabolic cost of Rope Training.” J Strength & Conditioning Res 29.4 (2015): 889-893.
Scott Smith, CSCS, is a Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coach with the Philadelphia Phillies.