There’s a reason why every “Be All You Can Be” recruitment commercial shows candidates training with ropes – they’re intense and they work! Whether you’re climbing up a rope, jumping over them, or throwing them around, training with ropes helps tighten and tone nearly every muscle in your body.
What’s more, experts say it can improve your coordination and reaction time by fine-tuning the way messages travel between your muscles and your brain. That can translate to anything from a faster return on the tennis court to a quick-action catch of a glass before it hits the kitchen floor.
These three calorie-torching workouts will whip you into bikini shape in record time.
1. Climbing Ropes
It’s no wonder this is a staple in military fitness tests: There are few better assessments of total-body strength and endurance. No muscle gets a free pass. You’ll strengthen your hands, arms, back, shoulders, core, inner thighs—even the same pelvic-floor muscles you target with Kegels. Everything is working together as you climb. Plus, you can score the body-toning benefits straight out of the gate—even if you’re not quite ready to race straight to the top.
Do It Right
Test your strength. There are a number of ways to simulate the movement until you gain enough strength to pull yourself all the way up. First, sit on the ground with the rope between your legs. Grab the rope above your head, then try to pull yourself up to standing. Repeat that five times. Too hard? Follow the same pattern, but starting in a low-squat position. Too easy? Hold the rope on one side of your body and lean back about 45 degrees with your legs straight. Then pull yourself up to standing.
Start climbing. Grab the rope as high as you can, then bend your knees up toward your chest; bring your feet together and create an S-shaped lock with the rope (it should go under one foot, then over the other), which will allow you to transfer the force so you can use your legs to support your body weight. Then think about “standing up,” pulling yourself hand over hand until your arms are reaching overhead. Keep repeating that motion—knees to chest, lock in with your feet, pull up hand over hand.
Descend. Climb down the way you climbed up: Lock the rope between your feet and lower your body hand under hand until your knees are bent about 90 degrees; straighten your legs and relock your feet. Continue until you touch the ground.
Can’t get your hands on a climbing rope? Tie a weight to the end of a battle rope and get into a plank position on your forearms; keeping your body in a straight line. Reach forward and pull the rope toward you with alternating hands.
2. Jump Ropes
Simple and yet oh-so efficient: Just 10 minutes of jumping rope can provide the same cardio benefits as 30 minutes of running, two sets of tennis, or 45 minutes of racquetball. It also shores up your entire kinetic chain (your body’s interconnected system of muscles, joints, and tendons), starting with your feet and ankles, to build the functional strength needed for day-to-day tasks such as carrying heavy bags.
Do It Right
Size yourself up. Stand on the center of a rope and pull the handles up—they should reach the top of your shoulders. More advanced jumpers can choose a slightly shorter rope (where the handles extend to your armpits).
Grab a hold. Pinch the handles with your thumb and index finger, then wrap your hands around them with your thumbs on top. Keep your hands relaxed and parallel to the ground at waist height. From that position, make small, quarter-size circles with your wrists.
Land softly. After each jump, land lightly on the balls of your feet; your heels should only skim the ground between hops.
Look ahead. Focus on an object in front of you at eye level instead of looking down at your feet.
3. Battle Ropes
Popping up in gyms across the country, these ropes do more than just tone your arms, abs, and shoulders: Ten 15-second battle rope intervals (with 45-second breaks in between) can boost your heart rate and scorch as many calories as a 10-minute run, according to a recent study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. They’re a cool tool to get metabolism-revving benefits—without the impact of running or jumping.
Do It Right
Start strong. With feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, grab the ends of the ropes, thumbs on top, palms facing each other. Avoid a tight grip, which tenses your shoulders and tires you out more quickly.
Learn the wave. From that position, quickly alternate bringing one hand and then the other up to shoulder height, making an undulating wave pattern with the rope. Your arms are like extensions of the ropes; use your whole body, especially your core, to create power through them.
Mix it up. Try the two-handed slam: Hold the ropes with your hands together, then extend your body upward to lift both arms overhead; bring both ropes down to the ground as hard as you can.
Give it Your All
Work your way up to 30-second intervals, resting for 30 seconds in between. Remember, the best results come from all-out effort during the work interval. An option: Keep the intervals short (say, 10 to 15 seconds) but add extra rounds.