Friday, June 20, 2014

Want to Get Ripped & Strong? "Battling the Rope" Could be THE Exercise to Do! The "Battle" is More Demanding Than Squats, Lunges and Deadlifts - Only Burpees Come Close

Battle the rope, folks!
In view of the fact that it has become really popular, I am pretty sure that you all know what kind of exercise "battling the rope" is, right? In case you ain't I'd suggest you check out what the lady on the right-hand side of this paragraph does. Looks familiar, right? Yeah, even the guy in the video that's playing at the McDonalds of Fitness Studies, McFit, here in Germany is doing it and if you remember the purpose... right! He does it as a conditioning exercise - for a good reason, as anyone who has ever "wrestled" or "battled" one of these big ropes will tell you.

Now, the SuppVersity is not the place where "anyone's" assessments are posted. What we are interested in are hard facts. Hard facts as they are produced by scientific studies like the one Nicholas A. Ratamess, Joseph G. Rosenberg, SamanthaKlei, Brian M. Dougherty, Jie Kang, Charles Smith, Ryan E. Ross, and Avery D.Faigenbaum conducted (Ratamess. 2014).
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The corresponding paper is about to be published in one of the upcoming issues of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning one of the few go-to journals for everyone interested in the irongame.

In their study, the scientists from the Department of Health and Exercise Science at the College of New Jersey had 10 well-trained men (age = 20.6 ± 1.3 yrs) perform 13 resistance exercise protocols on separate days and in random order; and believe it or not, the guys performed exactly one, and only one, of the following exercise programs per session:
  • free-weight exercise protocol - subjects performed 3 sets of up to 10 repetitions with 75% of their one repetition-maximum (1RM)
  • push-up and push-up on a BOSU® ball protocol - subjects performed 3 sets of 20 repetitions
  • burpee and push-up with lateral crawl protocol - subjects performed 3 sets of 10 repetitions
  • plank and battling rope circuit protocol - subjects performed 3 sets of 30-sec bouts. 
A two-minute rest was allowed between all sets for each exercise. The recorded data was averaged for the entire protocol including work and rest intervals and yielded the followed values for the individual mean oxygen consumption (see Figure 1):
Figure 1: Energy expenditure in kcal/h during the different exercises (Ratamess. 2014)
As you can see the energy expenditure and thus the oxygen consumption in the subjects' mitochondria was by far the greatest during the battling rope (24.6 ± 2.6 ml ·kg -1 ·min -1 ) and burpee (22.9 ± 2.1 ml ·kg -1 ·min -1 ) protocols.

The free weight exercises, on the other hand, were rather disappointing. Outside of the squat (19.6 ± 1.8 ml · kg -1 · min -1 ), deadlift (18.9 ± 3.0 ml ·kg -1 ·min -1 ), and lunge (17.3 ± 2.6 ml ·kg -1 ·min -1 ), the energy expenditure was rather mediocre. The same could be said for push-ups and push-ups on the "bogus ball" (aka BOSU® ball) which turned out to be similarly ineffective as means of getting rid of yesterday's cream cake.
Bottom line: Whenever your goal is to get ripped and buffed like the guy on the Men's Fitness cover, physical play is key. Those exercises that involve the whole body and activate maximal amount of muscles are true "burners". As a SuppVersity reader you're well aware that it does not really matter whether it's fat or glucose you're burning and that exercise alone is not going to cut it.

If you are looking for a workout that builds muscle and get's you shredded at the same time, you may want to reread my article "Building the Jack-of-All-Traits Legs Workout With Squats, Jump Squats and Body Weight Plyometrics?" | read more
Assuming that you're dieting and trying to up your diet success by re-structuring or modifying your workouts, there is yet little doubt that the incorporation of the battling rope (BR) protocol, in the course of which the subjects performed 3 sets of 30-sec bouts of exercise, which were divided into three 10-sec bouts in the course of which they performed (a) 10 sec of single-arm alternating waves, followed by (b) 10 sec of double-arm waves with a half-squat, followed by (c) 10 sec of double-arm rope slams with a half-squat, would make an excellent addition / replacement to your "cardio" or "HIIT" day. And if you don't have access to a 10.9 kg, 15.2 m (50 feet) long and 3.8 cm thick cable that can be anchored in a low position to a power rack using zip ties (with one loop) 10-12 inches from the floor, you can still do the burpee workout - no?
  • Ratamess, NA, et al. "Comparison of the Acute Metabolic Responses to Traditional Resistance, Body-Weight, and Battling Rope Exercises." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2014). Publish Ahead of Print - DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000584