I remember my first experience with trying to climb a rope was right after I started CrossFit as a way to prepare for my first Spartan Race. This task seemed impossible at the time but I was determined to make the climb one way or another. I was under the impression that I would need extraordinary upper body strength and hit the gym until I could hardly lift my arms above my head. I quickly decided it was going to be impossible and gave up. Knowing what I know now, I could have been up that rope a lot sooner. I want to share what I have learned over the years about rope climbs to help you conquer the “impossible”.
Use Your Legs!
To a beginner rope climbs seem like they would be very shoulder and upper body dependent. Incorrect. The biggest tip is to use your legs to take away the pressure from your upper body. I’m sure you have figured out that your legs are stronger than your arms by far. The easiest way is to utilize the J-Hook as shown in Coach Tony’s demonstration and in the pictures below. If you are finding the J-Hook to be a little sketchy you can use the S-Warp until you have become more confident in your rope climbs.
What do I do with my hands?
After you have spent some time practicing your foot holds the next step is how to use your upper body. Using the same technique as when performing knees-to-chest from a pull-up bar, hold your body weight pull your knees as far up to your chest as you can and re-wrap your feet then using your legs press down to a standing position. You will then move your hands farther up the rope and repeat the knees to chest until you have reached the top. Practice this technique a few times only going half way up the rope until you feel more secure.
How do I get back down?
Once you are able to get up the rope the next problem is how to get back down safely. Simply put, loosen your foot hold on the rope and allow it to slowly slide through your feet and hand-over-hand yourself back to earth. You should be able to use your feet as a brake by tightening your grip back. If you are using the S-Wrap you might want to consider wearing long socks as rope burns can happen.
Use some of these tips and tricks to assist you in getting that first rope climb!