Over the summer, we've been exploring fresh ways to get fit with trends and training to help you avoid boredom, plateaus and add challenge, variety and fun!

Functional training, which is so prevalent these days, is not a trend but rather an approach with exercise we've adopted from physiotherapy. The objective of functional training is to help people to perform activities in sport and everyday life more efficiently and effectively and without injury. This type of conditioning requires and improves stability, balance and is often done with the use of creative and interesting tools.

Introducing…Battling Ropes!

Battling Ropes is a training system that was developed by John Brookfield about six years ago in his back yard! John, multiple world record holder, author and strength conditioning expert, was searching for ways to sustain strength, power and speed.

Although waving ropes around seems pretty simple, it's way tougher than it looks and a lot of research and development has gone into this training program. It is being broadly used by professional and varsity sports team, military and law enforcement and we're now starting to see it in personal training and boot camps.

What ARE Battling Ropes?

The ropes are made from manila, polydacron or cotton, range from 1" to 2" inches in diameter and are typically a 50'-length. The material and the rope's diameter dictate the weight which can range from about 23-70 lbs to address varying fitness levels, ages and purposes.

Benefits of Battling Ropes

Ropes can be used anywhere -- inside, outside, in a gym, at a park or in your back yard! Although first used with athletes to enhance performance, rope training can be a great inclusion in fitness programs with many benefits:

  • Cardio: aerobic and anaerobic benefits
  • Strength: upper body, lower body and core
  • Power: combined strength and speed
  • Velocity: strength and speed with endurance
  • Mental: motivation and mental strength
  • Practical performance with everyday life: for your favourite sports, being active with your kids or making it through the hectic pace of your day!

How do you train with Battling Ropes?

Rope drills are considered high intensity interval training. This means that you perform short but intense burst of work followed by rest. These "work to rest ratios" are designed very specifically for sports, but generally you want to make sure you work hard enough to challenge yourself and then rest enough to recover before you work again.

Interval training can be a great option to add variety, intensity and fun to any program. You also never hit plateaus since it's so easy to vary -- increase work time, decrease rest time, vary positions -- and small changes result in significant training challenges.

Tips for using Battling Ropes into your fitness routine:

  • Choose the right rope – start with a smaller rope and/or shorten the length of the rope
  • Time with intention – start with 10-20 seconds of work with lots of rest to recover; when a drill starts to feel easier, increase the work time gradually but always allow time to rest (rest is as important as work when it comes to interval training); track your progress and time as those increases are your indicator of improvement
  • Keep your posture – start and maintain a strong posture with shoulder blades squeezing and your core engaged; when you can't maintain your posture, it means it's time to stop!
  • Use your whole body – although it appears to be an upper body drill, the objective is to engage your entire body so focus on the lower body and your core as well
  • Add variety – vary the exercises, body positions and the intensity of your drills; aside from the waving drills there are a variety of ways to use the rope in your training to focus on upper body, lower body and core

Interval training is physically and mentally challenging, so walk through exercises lightly first to establish comfort and stability before adding intensity. Think quality versus quantity and work on improving your time gradually.

For more information on Battling Ropes training and products, visit John Brookfield's site at http://www.powerropes.com.

For video clips, Dr. Mike Martino provides great explanations and demonstrations at: http://www.youtube.com/user/MartinoBattlingRopes

If you have specific questions or ideas for fitness segments, visit Libby at www.libbynorris.com