Rope Climbing for Physical Fitness

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Rope climbing builds strength through pure body weight resistance. Climbing is a great confidence builder and perhaps not as mundane of an exercise as compared to lifting weights, for instance. Depending with which style you climb rope, all the major muscle groups can be utilized, with special focus on the arms, shoulders and back. It's best to climb with a partner for safety reasons, and use a soft surface, such as a mat or grass, in case of falls.


Rope climbing has been a means to increase physical strength for generations. The simplicity and availability of ropes makes climbing an exercise that nearly anyone can participate in. Climbing dates back to the Greeks and is an integral part of military workouts today. The most common type of rope used in climbing is made from 1.5-inch diameter manila fiber but thicker ropes are available. The thicker the rope, the greater grip strength you will need to support your body weight.

Rope Climbing Benefits

The versatility of a rope can greatly reduce the amount of fitness equipment you need to perform a total body workout. Because rope climbing utilizes pure body weight, you have no need for weighted plates or dumbbells. Another benefit of rope climbing is its psychological impact. Climbing to heights anywhere from 10 to 20 feet off the ground will keep you hanging on and using your muscles, whereas you can drop weights to the floor if you get tired while lifting. Simply letting go would, of course, be a bad idea when climbing.

Climbing Styles

Practically, there is no limit to the types of exercises you can perform with a rope. The traditional and most common way of climbing a rope is by gripping it with both hands above and wrapping it around one leg, while clamping it tight with the other below. Your arms reach upward while the legs hold your body in place on the rope. Once you have mastered this move, you can try more challenging climbing styles, such as hands-only, two ropes -- one for each hand -- as well as pike-positioned climbing.

Rope Climbing at Home And at Gym

Because climbing the full length of a rope is not practical for most home setups, a variety of rope climbing machines have been introduced. Rope home gyms feature a rope that is continuously looped through a resistance mechanism. This system allows you to perform exercises such as pull-downs, ab crunches and a variety of lifts incorporating biceps, shoulders and triceps. Very few gyms and fitness studios still offer ropes due to safety concerns. If you want to climb a full-length rope, contact your area gyms to see if they offer one.