Not so long ago, if you wanted to get fit or lose weight, you probably did things like steady-paced running, cycling, swimming, and group exercise classes. A few progressive exercisers did more intense workouts such as circuit training, but stuff like interval training was mainly was reserved for athletes.
With the advent of CrossFit, recreational exercisers were suddenly exposed to lots of new training methods, including things like EMOM workouts, HIIT, and Tabatas. These workouts involved lots of new and unusual equipment, including SUV tires, climbing ropes, sledgehammers and maces, plyo boxes, ergometer rowers, and Assault bikes.
Another low-tech but high effect training tool that appeared about this time is battle ropes. Battle ropes are simply lengths of thick manila rope that are anchored in the middle. You then grip the ends and lift and lower them rapidly and in a variety of ways.
Training with battle ropes works lots of muscles at the same time, which means they burn loads of calories and deliver an intense workout that will drive your heart and breathing rate through the roof. And, because they’re a low-impact exercise, they’re ideal for heavier exercisers and anyone with knee or hip aches and pains.
On the downside, battle ropes take up a lot of space and can be expensive to buy. While a lot of gyms have them, many do not.
So, if your workout included battle ropes but you don’t have access to one, what can you do?
The good news is that there are plenty of great battle rope alternatives, and in this article, we’re going to reveal our 13 favorites.
Top Battle Rope Alternatives & Substitute
To make it onto our list, our battle rope alternatives had to meet the following criteria:
- Involve multiple muscle groups
- Easy to learn
- High intensity
- Readily available
While you might not have access to all these alternatives, you should be able to do most of them. Some are even equipment-free, making them ideal for home exercisers and outdoor training.
Read more about battle ropes in this in-depth guide.
So, without further delay, here are our 13 favorite battle rope alternatives.
1. Jump Rope
Jump rope is one of the most versatile workouts around and is an excellent alternative to battle ropes. Once you’ve mastered using a jump rope, you can go really fast and get an intense workout. Moves like high-knee sprints and double unders will crank your heart and breathing rate even higher.
Learn more about jump rope with our detailed guide.
2. Bear Crawls
You were probably a kid when you last crawled on all fours and, since then, you’ve spent most of your time walking upright! However, going back on all fours for bear crawls is a fantastic alternative to battle ropes.
Bear crawls work all your major muscles, not least your core. A few yards of moving like a bear will increase your heart and breathing rate. It’s challenging and effective because it’s awkward and a little unnatural.
How to do it:
- Squat down and place your hands flat on the floor, so your weight is supported on your hands and feet only. Brace your abs. Lift your head slightly and look forward but avoid hyperextending your neck.
- Walk forward on your hands and feet, keeping your core tight and your spine neutral.
- Experiment with keeping your hips above your shoulders, as well as level. These two positions feel quite different.
- You can crawl forward, backward, and sideways. You can also bear crawl up stairs and inclines and over obstacles. However, take care when descending because there will be a lot more weight on your arms.
Read more about bear crawls.
3. Assault Bike
One of the reasons that battle ropes are so effective is that they take next to no time to set up. Just grab the ends of the rope and go! This makes them ideal for circuit training and other high-intensity workouts where fast transitions matter.
Assault bikes are another quick-access exercise. Once the seat is the right height, you just jump on and get to work, and the harder you peddle, the more intense your workout will be. And, like battle ropes, assault bikes work all your major muscles.
Learn more about assault bikes here.
4. Rowing Machine
Like assault bikes, most rowing machines use fans for resistance. This means there is very little to adjust; you can just get on and go, and the harder you pull, the greater the resistance.
Rowing machines, also known as ergs (short for ergometer), are popular with CrossFit, and many workouts use them. Because rowing is a full-body activity, it’s an ideal battle rope alternative.
On the downside, rowing does involve a fair bit of technique, and it might take a few workouts to master. For example, if you round your lower back, you could hurt yourself. Because of this, make sure you learn to row correctly before going too hard or fast.
No one likes burpees! They’re tough and work your entire body. That’s what makes them such a useful battle rope alternative. Burpees combine squats with push-ups and squat jumps. They were originally invented to test soldiers’ fitness prior to World War II deployment.
There are a lot of different burpee variations to try, and each one will kick your butt! If you are looking for a simple, low-tech, space-efficient alternative to battle ropes, burpees could be a great choice.
Learn all there is to know about burpees here.
6. Kettlebell Swings
Heavy kettlebell swings are a useful alternative to power cleans and other explosive lifts. They work your posterior chain and could help increase muscle power. However, done with lighter weights and for higher reps, kettlebell swings are an effective conditioning exercise that is just as good as battle ropes.
Swings can be done using two hands or one-handed. You can swing the weight up to shoulder height (called a Russian swing) or overhead (known as an American swing). No kettlebell? No problem! You can swing a dumbbell instead.
Learn more about kettlebell swings here.
7. Box Jumps
Box jumps are a type of plyometric exercise that will increase lower body explosive power. However, done for higher reps and with a low to moderate-height box, they’re also a brutal conditioning exercise you can do instead of battle ropes.
Granted, box jumps ARE a lower body exercise, while battle ropes are more upper body dominant, but your heart and lungs don’t care about details like that! Rep out on box jumps, and your heart will soon be pounding.
Check out our detailed guide to box jumps.
8. Shuttle Sprints
Just because you don’t have a lot of space for sprinting doesn’t mean you can’t sprint! In fact, a lack of space may actually make a sprinting workout harder. With shuttle sprints, you place two markers about 5-20 yards apart. Then, you simply run between the markers as fast as you can for the prescribed number of reps or time.
Starting and then stopping breaks your rhythm, and you’ll have to work extra hard to accelerate and decelerate. The result? A challenging workout in very little space. Shuttle sprints can also improve your speed and agility.
Hitting a punchbag looks like an upper body exercise but, done right, working out like a boxer involves your entire body. A powerful punch starts at your feet and ends at your fist, using all the muscles in between. As such, if you throw a lot of punches, your heart rate will soon soar.
Needless to say, you need a punchbag for this type of training, and you should also wear wraps and boxing gloves to protect your hands. But, if you have access to a punchbag, you’ve got an excellent battle rope alternative.
Hitting a tire with a sledgehammer is a uniquely satisfying exercise. It uses many of the same muscles as battle ropes and is equally demanding. All you need is a standard sledgehammer, available from places like Home Depot, and an old SUV tire.
Just put your tire flat on the floor and hit the wall with your hammer. Continue for the prescribed number of reps or duration. Try to put your whole body into each swing, periodically swapping sides to avoid muscle imbalances. Wear work gloves to prevent blisters.
A complex is a sequence of exercises done back-to-back using the same training tool. There are barbell, dumbbell, and kettlebell complexes, and burpees are an example of a bodyweight complex.
Using a complex, you can virtually train every muscle in your body in a very small space, as most complexes are done in place. Done for low reps and with heavy weights, complexes are useful for building strength and muscle size. However, using lighter weights and higher reps, they’re an awesome conditioning tool and a great alternative to battle ropes.
Examples of complexes include:
- Barbell deadlifts
- Bent over row
- Hang clean
- Front squat
- Kettlebell goblet squats
- Overhead rear lunges – left leg/hand
- Overhead lunges – right leg/hand
You can read all about complexes in this guide.
12. Medicine Ball Slams
Medicine ball slams involve many of the muscles used in battle ropes. Slams can be done indoors or outdoors, but you should make sure both your floor and the ball are up to the demands of this intense exercise.
Place a mat on the floor to avoid leaving marks, and use a non-split ball so you don’t ruin your workout equipment. Some medicine balls are filled with gel, and they could burst during your workout. Non-filled balls are a better choice, as are old-fashioned leather and horsehair medicine balls. Some medicine balls are also specifically made for slamming – slam balls.
How to do it:
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and hold your medicine ball in both hands.
- Lift the ball above your head and come up onto your toes.
- Using your whole body, hurl the ball down at the floor about 12-18 inches in front of your feet.
- Catch the ball as it bounces and repeat.
Thrusters, like battle ropes, work virtually every muscle in your body, which makes them a good alternative to battle ropes. You can do thrusters using a barbell, dumbbells, a sandbag, or a medicine ball. A thruster is basically a front squat combined with an overhead push press.
How to do it:
- Rest and hold a barbell across the front of your shoulders. Stand with your feet hip to shoulder-width apart. Brace your abs, lift your chest, and pull your shoulders down and back.
- Bend your knees and squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Go deeper if your mobility allows. Do not round your lower back.
- Stand up explosively and use this momentum to help you push-press the weight overhead to arms’ length.
- Lower the bar back to your shoulders and repeat.
Battle Rope Alternatives – Wrapping Up
We love battle ropes here at Fitness Volt; they’re a challenging but fun exercise that builds high levels of fitness while burning fat like a blow torch. They’re also very joint-friendly. But, we also understand that not everyone has access to battle ropes, and knowing some alternatives is always useful.
Each of our 13 battle rope alternatives works multiple muscle groups and can be done fast enough to produce the same conditioning and fat-burning effect as battle ropes. Some require workout equipment, but several don’t, making them ideal for home and outdoor workouts.
So, whether you don’t have access to battle ropes or just want to do a different exercise for the sake of variety, use any of these tried and tested alternatives. They’re our favorites, and they’ll probably become your favorites too. Except for burpees, of course, because we ALL hate burpees!