“Which obstacle are you the most nervous about?”
*Almost always* “THE ROPE CLIMB!”
Whether it is residual trauma from gym class or the thought of muscling themselves ~12 feet in the air, the rope climb is a seemingly insurmountable giant to conquer to first-time Spartans and veterans alike.
And I understand the fear… See those arms? Yeah, number 23. That’s me in high school, 10 years younger and 30lbs lighter. I used to be terrified of the Presidential Fitness Test because 1 pull-up was impossible for me. Needless to say, climbing a rope wasn’t even in the conversation. But look at me now, ma! (see below)
That’s me at the top of that rope. The last obstacle of my first race. The moment I officially became part of the Spartan family.
If you had told me that the rope climb would be one of my strongest obstacles 10 years ago, I would have turned around to see who you were actually talking to. But now, I want you (yeah, you reading this!) can conquer the rope climb as I did! Just follow these three easy steps and practice, practice, and oh what was the other thing… PRACTICE!
[Start with a FREE workout from me! Register below!]
Step 1: LOCK
This is arguably the most important step as well as the hardest, but once you get it you’ll be at the top of a rope ringing the bell in no time! Sure you may be able to muscle up the rope with just your arms, but when the rope is slick from dew or the 1,000 muddy racers before you then your grip strength won’t be enough. The secret is, the rope climb is almost all legs when you learn the technique of how to properly lock your feet.
Watch this short video to learn the two most popular techniques, the S-Hook & the J-Hook, and how you can progress in your practice.
Step 2: THREAD
Once you are proficient at locking your preferred hook, now you need to practice threading the rope between your legs. Once you unlock your feet, keep them loosely in place to lock again, and make sure the rope remains between them. If you are unable to thread the rope, then you will have to re-lock each time. This takes away from your time and wears out your grip faster. To practice, hang from the bar as shown in the lock practice video and lock your feet. Then unlock your feet and pull your knees up and back down, all while keeping the rope between your feet. Lower your legs again and lock at the bottom! When you get proficient at threading, it’s now time for Step 3!
Step 3: ASCEND
If Step 1 is the most important, then Step 3 is the most satisfying! Now that you can lock and thread the rope, it is time to start making some vertical progress. In this step you will do as you did in Step 2 to thread the rope through, but instead of lowering your feet back down, you will lock at the top with your feet pulled up. From there, you can reach your arms up to grab further up on the rope. The secret however, is that you are using your legs to extend yourself upwards! It is almost as if you are doing a squat on the rope. Your arms are simply holding your body in place as your legs handle the propulsion to the top.
Get these three steps down and you will be more comfortable on a rope than Tarzan on a vine!
Bonus: Grip Strength
While it is true that the rope climb is largely lower body, grip strength still plays a large part in your success. As a matter of fact, grip strength is used in almost all obstacles, usually 3 or 4 carries precede the stretch of hanging obstacles to make sure you have trained your grip strength well. Thankfully, I have provided a simple grip strength workout, just sign up below!
FREE Grip Strength Workout!
Caleb Funderburk, Spartan SGX Coach
Personal Trainer, ONE Fitness Training