Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rope Climbing

Rope Climbing Technique - General

We've gotten and hung new ropes at our Gym so I snuck over to our local Gymnastics Gym to refresh my rope climbing technique.  After each session my forearms were on fire.

The military has long considered rope climbing a functional skill, and rope climbs are a staple of military and  obstacle courses.  There are also applications in fire, rescue, mountaineering, forestry, and other occupations. Being able to go up and down a rope without mechanical assistance is a handy skill to have in your pocket.


The rope climb is often thought of as as arm motion similar to a pull up, or a towel pull up(a staple of grip training).  This is the case if your are attempting a legless climb, or an L sit climb.  With the addition of the feet and legs the hip-flexors are the primary driving force for climbing.. The hip flexors lift your legs while climbing, the quads push your body weight up the rope and the forearms hold you onto the rope.

Think of rope climbing as climbing a ladder using your hip and legs with your arms advancing for stability, not brute strength.  The arm involvement is primarily forearm and grip, and the grip strength training aspect of rope work is phenomenal.

In our case(using the legs) the feet grip the rope securely preventing your body from sliding.  In all of these methods raising the feet and legs as high as possible to initiate the grab and extending them outward fully before climbing with the arms.  All of the effective distance comes from the leg extension.

For general technique progressions see: The Rope Climb with Laurie Galassi, just a great video


Monkey Grab

This method is equivalent to climbing up a rigid pole.  It is the technique you may have seen in gym class(back before they were removed for liability). Friction on the rope is created between the feet by squeezing them together.

This technique will eventually get you up the rope.  It is not efficient.  The legs and hip extension don't contribute as much as they could. Very difficult to maintain a solid foot grip.

Spanish Wrap (Also know as the Wraparound or the Grapevine[Military])

In this technique the dominant leg wraps the rope around the back of the calf over the toe and the opposite foot steps on the rope over the other foot. The wrap is initiated by moving the heel of the dominant foot over and around the rope.

Possibly not the fastest way.

Often because the foot position feels very secure, this is often the best place for beginners to start.

Will force you to reacquire the rope with the dominant leg if it is not controlled and you lose the wrap.

Initially jump as high as you can when grabbing the rope - See Rich Froning, Jason Kalipa, Chris Spealler in the 2011 Crossfit Games. NOTE: This is to illustrate the jump he is not using the Spanish Wrap.


See the Grapevine Technique here: 



S Step Method (also known ad the Fast Rope, Break, Lock Climb[Both Military])

This is the method Rich Froning is using in the 2011 Games 


  1. Jump and grab the rope as high as you can.
  2. Let the rope fall to the side of the dominant leg.
  3. Raise you rlegs as high as possible on the rope.
  4. Use the non-dominant leg to lift and catch the rope around the heel of the dominant leg.
  5. Once lifted over the non-dominant leg wedge between the feet and step with the dominant leg.
  6. Stand on it and extend your hips, driving the rope as far forward of you as possible.


So the dominant leg hooks the rope with the heel instead of the toes as in the Spanish Wrap.

May be the fastest method.

The lock is also great for descending quickly without getting ropeburn.  Simply apply friction to the rope with the feet.




See the Lock Climb Here

UPDATE: Excellent Video on Tactical Rope Climbing: 




Far Advanced Technique (Legless Climbs) and too see all of the variations in action along with the advanced moves see: 

Rope Climb Demo with Annie Sakamoto

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