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Sara Stover

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Using the Battle Rope in the Top 9 Aspects of Training Combat Athletes

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Using the Battle Rope in the Top 9 Aspects of Training Combat Athletes

There are so many areas that the combat athlete needs to gain improved adaptations in, and these must be considered when programming. Once you have read the principles of programming for combat athletes and watched the accompanying video, I am confidant that you will take into account all programming requirements.

It is possible to use the battle ropes exclusively in the top 9 aspects of training combat athletes.

The battle rope has been around for tens of thousands of years, and is among the most adaptable and productive combat athlete training tool out there. Although I don’t use only battle ropes in training combat athletes, I certainly could.

Below are the Top 9 Aspects of Training Combat Athletes:

  1. First Step Speed
  2. Agility and Quickness
  3. Full Body Power
  4. Full Body Strength
  5. Full Body Endurance
  6. Grip Strength and Endurance
  7. Hip Power and Strength
  8. Rotational Power and Strength
  9. Mental Toughness

First Step Speed

First step speed is critical for all combat athletes, whether on the mat, in the ring, or in war.

First step speed is about the brain, innervation, and the peripheral nervous system activating the muscles necessary for the athlete to accomplish what they aim to when beginning a movement that is fast or powerful. Kicks, knock-out punches, or take-down are nearly impossible without first step speed. In the absence of first step speed, the combat athlete will struggle to produce the snap and pop needed in take-downs or throws.

An ideal tool for training the speed demanded of combat athletes, battle ropes are also helpful for seeing the movement exacted down the line of the rope. In initial training, I use the full length of rope, with only one to two movements at a time.

To start, I increase the neural drive-through for 5 to 10 seconds of isometric loading, driving engagement up to 100%, for 2 to 6 sets. This can be modified to compliment the ability and focus of a combat athlete. I have the combat athlete do 1 to 3 reps of their first step speed movement after the athlete is prepped. Consider having them perform a movement such as the arc, the hook, or the jump with a slam as their first step speed movement. Have the athlete do this for 5 to 10 rounds. To assure that they are training at the highest possible speed, follow this with optimal rest.

Similar to plyometrics, the athlete should only perform this twice weekly. Depending on the athlete and the output, they will do 40 to 80 sets at the most. To stress the human system to the point of developing an adaptation, perfect quality, maximal effort, and maximal speed is essential and must be emphasized.

Agility and Quickness

Agility and quickness is trained in a manner similar to first-step speed, with the exception of repetitions. In agility and quickness training, you will potentially add in extra reps and will possibly develop the variation of the movement. Each combat athlete must possess the ability to move with speed, intensity, and agility in their hands, feet, limbs and torso. Without speed, agility and quickness, the athlete will give in to their opponents.

The following anecdote is helpful when discussing supramaximal speed or overspeed, which is imperative in agility and speed training:

A certain study was done on baseball players, revealing that many used a light bat to generate higher swing velocities. This is contrary to the belief that using a heavy bat is best for producing higher swing velocities. When using the battle ropes for training combat athletes, this should be kept in mind.

The battle rope can be used as a line or boundary for production of movement, or used to magnify agility, speed, and quickness down the rope’s line, whether it is full length or double rope. To train true maximal or supramaximal speed, agility, and quickness, keep the battle rope training you will do with your combat athletes short.

Full Body Power

When I refer to power, it represents the explosive, 1 to 3 repetition alactic or phosphogen bio-chemical and mechanical system. Full body power is the force behind movements such as fast take-downs, knock-outs, and immensely strong, fast reversals. It is not the same as full body endurance or strength.

All combat sport athletes use their entire body to develop power for producing kicks, violent strikes, take-downs, and more. To prevent suffering, athletes must understand or access the their bodies potential to produce such output of power from a musculoskeletal, nervous, and physiological view. The battle rope is beneficial in training an athlete’s mind and body metabolic productions and powerful movements to support full body power adaptations.


Full Body Strength

Compared to power, the metabolic pathways can be trained to produce adaptations for full body strength (lactic or glycolytic metabolic pathways or energy systems) by extending the duration of a battle rope full-body movement, and reducing the rest between movements. Unlike full body power, full body strength refers to training the athlete’s body to decrease the maximal output for increasingly longer durations. Strength can be utilized as a multiple-repetitive action that demands a lot of force. During a fight, this can be observed when the combat athlete struggles to outlast their opponent’s grip or position, or to get out of tough spot, but uses strength to prevail in the end. Full body strength is responsible for continual take-down attempts, clinch or pummeling struggles, and a storm of strikes.

Full Body Endurance

Every combat athlete has experienced the suffering that exists in the long bouts of a fight that goes too long. But full body endurance prepares the combat athlete physically and mentally, equipping them with action and thinking that is clear to endure the physical and mental anguish of the later rounds. Battle ropes are one of the best tools available to athletes who want to reach these points of anguish in training in order to move the adaptations in a victorious direction.

Endurance is the aerobic system taking control, enabling the longevity and distance to triumph, which is quite the opposite of power and strength. A combat athlete needs to go through the proper training and programming for capacity, duration, and volume to be present. Battle ropes are the ideal tool to improve the aerobic capacity and oxidative function of all athletes metabolic pathways or energy systems. This is especially evident with combat athletes, since the movements in a fight have more variation than movements such as jumping rope or jogging.

Endurance doesn’t always have to be full body either. Grip endurance and other regionally specific skills will improve through battle rope training.

Grip Strength and Endurance

Without grip strength and endurance, a combat athlete can’t expect to truly fight, let alone win a fight. Although there are many tools that exist for training grip strength and endurance, battle ropes might be the best.

Combat athletes who train with battle ropes experience enhanced grip strength and endurance because the battle rope is a grip-centric tool. Battle ropes are such efficient tools that training with them eliminates the need to dose an athlete’s program with grip-specific exercises. Training with battle ropes imitates the grip and position your athlete’s hand will be in during combat sport.

Whether performing pulling exercises or dynamic movements to create waves or static engagement techniques, battle ropes get the job done.

Hip Power and Strength

No one wants to kick at an opponent and miss entirely, or make no impact when you do hit them, which is significantly more humbling. We all want to take down our opponent instead of missing, and the dynamic snap and pop produced by an athlete’s hip hinge can make that possible.

Whether training the pop-through of a front kick or snap down in a clinch, hip power and strength is an essential tool in a combat athlete’s arsenal. Offering a broad spectrum of movements and repetition that is effective, the battle rope can make the athlete’s arsenal a lethally strong force.

Rotational Power and Strength

Although trained through a different plane of movement, rotational power and strength produces the same outcome as hip power and strength. Unfortunately, the majority of gyms overlook the importance of this movement. Utilizing a battle rope to train rotation can change all of that, however.

The battle ropes have a fluid quality that enables every plane of movement to be trained with precision, allowing for force translation to shift smoothly from training into live combat. Movements that can be trained solely with the battle ropes are the shuck, hip toss, and hook movement, to name a few. Since the output of the battle rope can be measured, the battle rope allows coaches to analyze the development of their athlete week after week

Mental Toughness

Mental toughness is a necessity for combat athletes, whether on the mat, in the ring, or in war.     While strength or power are about quantity, mental toughness is a quality that requires the right training environments, tools, and programming to produce results in the training of a combat athlete. The discipline in a fight strategy, the will-power in a weight cut, and tenacity in the final round are all examples of this quality.

There are several methods for training mental toughness:

The coach can definitely offer inspiration, education, and guidance to the athlete. For the athlete to completely conquer and understand true mental toughness though, they have to deal with many challenges and the occasional failure during their training program.

Learning the meaning of “mental toughness” is a process accomplished through multiple doses of disciplined movement. Challenge after challenge, the mentally tough athlete must show up on a regular basis, refuse to give up, and never allow temporary failure to keep them from success in the long-term.

In my most effective overload programs, I often does battle rope training. I also expect my combat athletes to overcome the battle ropes in preparation for beating their opponents.

You can use battle ropes to train your combat athletes in all 9 of these aspects. Just be sure to periodically and seasonally train with progressive overloading in all 9, without training all aspects simultaneously, and you will position your athletes for success.

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