Enhance Your MMA Skills With Heavy Rope Exercises

January 14, 2012

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Mixed martial arts requires you to be a complete athlete, possessing strength, power, endurance and mobility. Many training tools claim to enhance these attributes, but not all are effective. In addition to the TRX Suspension Trainer, which I covered in a previous post, I have found that heavy ropes (also known as climbing ropes, fitness ropes and battling ropes) are an effective tool for developing total body strength, power and endurance. Working out with these ropes will help you land more powerful blows, dominate the ground game and outlast your opponent.

Heavy ropes come in various lengths and sizes. I have found that ropes 40 or 50 feet long and one and a half to two inches thick are best. You can attach the rope to a sled, prowler, punching bag, pole or, for pulling exercises, just about anything that will slide.

Once you've attached the rope, face the anchor point and stand in an athletic position with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and your knees and hips slightly bent. This is a great set-up position for many traditional anterior chain (muscles in the front of the body) movements. Heavy rope exercises can also be done seated, kneeling or while performing lower-body movements such as Squats and Lunges for an increased challenge.

Below are some of the best heavy rope exercises for MMA athletes. Perform the movements as stand-alone exercises, as part of a complex or in a circuit.

Heavy Rope Exercises

Rope Jumping Jacks

This rope exercise is perfect for warming up the body and increasing mobility. Perform it as part of your Dynamic Warm-Up.

  • Stand with feet together and hands holding heavy ropes at sides
  • Jump straight up and spread feet apart slightly wider than shoulder width and raise arms overhead, swinging heavy ropes
  • Land on balls of feet and jump straight up again, bringing feet together and arms back to sides
  • Repeat for specified time

Sets/Duration: 1-2x30 seconds

Rope Slams

These are excellent for increasing overall power and endurance. If you are able to forcefully slam the rope for extended periods of time, then you will be able to slam your opponent on the ground or fight off his offensive strikes.

  • Assume athletic stance holding heavy ropes in front
  • Using entire body, explosively drive ropes up, then slam them into ground for specified duration

Sets/Duration: 2-3x20-60 seconds

Rope Circles

This exercise develops upper-body strength, core stability and endurance so you can be strong and balanced on your feet and when moving around the cage.

  • Assume quarter-squat stance holding heavy ropes in front
  • Swing arms in circular motion to create circle with ropes for specified duration

Sets/Duration: 2-3x20-60 seconds

Rope Pulls

These develop endurance in the back muscles, important for grappling and your ground game. They also develop grip strength, which is crucial for MMA athletes.

  • Assume quarter-squat stance holding rope with one arm extended in front
  • Pull elbow to side to pull rope
  • Immediately grasp rope with opposite hand and pull
  • Repeat in alternating fashion until entire rope travels around anchor point

Sets/Duration: 2-4x rope length

Rope Plank

This rope exercise increases core stability from different angles, so you won’t lose control of your body if an opponent attacks from the left or right side.

  • Assume plank position with wide feet and rope centered under body
  • Extend arm and grasp rope, balancing on opposite arm
  • Pull elbow to side to pull rope
  • Position arm on ground to assume start position and immediately repeat with opposite arm
  • Repeat in alternating fashion for length of rope

Sets/Duration: 1x rope length

View the video below for exercise demonstrations and for variations of these five movements.

Photo:  mediagallery.usatoday.com

Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is a personal trainer and strength coach in San Diego, Calif. He works with the Alliance MMA fight team, where he trains UFC champion Dominick Cruz, Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, Travis Browne, Alexander Gustafsson and others. Visit DBstrength.com for more information.

- Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is a personal trainer and strength coach in San Diego, Calif. He works with the Alliance MMA fight team where he...
- Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is a personal trainer and strength coach in San Diego, Calif. He works with the Alliance MMA fight team where he...

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