How (And Why) To Climb A Rope

Today’s article discusses an action that is simultaneously a practical skill and a fantastic strength building exercise that will work a majority of the muscles of the upper body, especially the muscles of the hands and fingers that don’t get used much (and you all know how much value I place on grip strength): rope climbing!

A Brief History

In one of his Convict Conditioning books, Paul Wade semi-humorously posits that the pull-up, and the various other pulling motions that we are capable of doing, are the first exercise that humanity invented, as it would highly useful for our arboreal ancestors to be able to pull up their own bodyweight. Rope is believed to have been invented around 30,000 years ago,  when some early modern human figured out that braiding strands granted that compilation greater tensile strength than its individual components. And it can be presumed that the act of climbing said ropes started shortly thereafter.

The earliest fitness manuals that you can still find today, such as De Arte Gymnastica by Girolamo Mercuriale, or El Libro de Ejercicio Corporal by Cristobal Mendez, both praise the strength building qualities of climbing exercises such as rope and pole climbing. And for many years climbing exercises were seen as a necessity for the physical man until the decline of physical education that I have discussed in a previous article.

If you have any experience with rope climbing at all, it is likely in your gym class, a faded remnant of better days of physical education training in American public schools. You were likely given no preparatory steps to train your muscles and central nervous system before undertaking this Herculean task. A Herculean task that ended with you falling on your face, possibly tearing the palms of your hands open, and coming nowhere near the top of the rope. Dejected, you probably said something to what Principal Skinner is saying in the featured image, and then vowed to never climb a rope again. Certainly, that was my experience with the exercise for many years.

How to Climb a Rope

I feel there are two facets to the climbing of a rope: strength and technique. To put it simply, using certain techniques can make the climbing of a rope substantially easier than you think it is but you’re still going to need a large amount of hand, finger, and latissimus dorsi strength.

To begin with, let’s go over the various techniques you can use for climbing a rope:

1. The free climb

This is the climbing technique that most people instinctively know (or rather, instinctively try during their first failed attempts to climb a rope). Leaving your legs dangling in the breeze, pull up with just your arms and climb. As you might imagine, this is pretty tough. As such, it should be a part of your rope climbing repertoire as a way to maximize the effort you will have to exert—ie: if you want to build maximal strength, you’re going to have to use this.


But what if you actually need to climb ropes as a means of transportation? At that point, you’re going to want to make it a little bit easier, correct? How?

2. The S-Wrap Technique

One of two techniques taught in the military, this climbing technique utilizes the legs to take some of the weight off of the arms and thus make the climb a bit easier.

Grab a hold of the rope, and allow it to pass by your right hip, around your back, between your legs, and down to the feet. Put the rope under your right foot and then hold it in place with the other foot, as shown in the image below.

You should be able to essentially stand on one foot, while only holding it in place with the hands and other foot. Pull up with the hands and hold the position, and then unwrap your legs and reestablish your foot grip and “Stand” on the rope again.

3. The BUDS technique

The other military technique involved in rope climbing, it’s similar to the S-Wrap in that it utilizes the rope as a “platform” to take weight off your arms, but the positioning is different. And personally I find this the easier of the two.

Let the rope fall past your hip and down to your feet. Place the rope under your right foot, and lift it up and pinch it against the right foot with the left foot.

That’s it!. Just pull yourself up with both hands, then lift your feet and reestablish your feet position higher up on the rope, and repeat. Naturally with all these techniques, with repetition comes increased speed and ease.

Those techniques are good, and do work, but they do reduce some of the strain on your arms, thus making them not as effective in terms of building strength. Also, they obviously do not work on pole climbing. This is where grip training comes in:

Grip Training

I have already written several articles on grip training, so rather than me being redundant you can go read those. However, one technique I didn’t discuss in those previous articles is the mere act of progressive hanging.

Yes, the mere act of hanging is a great way to train the hands and forearms, as well as the shoulder girdle. And with all exercises worth doing, it can be done in progressions.

From hanging from a bar with two hands, to hanging with one hand, to two hands on a towel, to, ultimately hanging with one hand gripping a towel, I have found that the towel hang is the most relevant exercise specifically for rope climbing. Hold each hang exercise for one minute before progressing further.

Thus you can learn to climb a rope, and develop all the strength associated with it, simply (albeit not necessarily easily)

Read More: How To Get In Shape And Practice Your Fighting Skills

72 thoughts on “How (And Why) To Climb A Rope”

    1. I keep forgetting that I am a fascist…thank God for lady gaga and the half time show to remind me

      1. How many commercials will have overt social justice/ man shaming theme? Apparently Audi is running one regarding the (debunked) $.77/ $1.00 wage gap.

        1. You gotta love how those who push the bogus pay gap inevitably have someone use the fraudulent equation against them! Then suddenly “you’ve got to account for the various factors on why women as a whole earn less than men.”

        2. But by taking those factors into the equation, that means women don’t work as hard as men… you’re a bigot! /s

        3. To anyone who still believes in the phantom wage gap, as in, males are paid 23% higher than women, then why would any company bother hiring men at all??

        4. For some real fun, point them to that one company founded, owned, and staffed entirely by women. Not only did they fail to save money because they only hired women, but they went bankrupt because of all the backbiting and gossip.

        5. and as usual the double standard. a men only company would cause outcry, as would white radio but the opposite is ok because …….. racism and sexism

        6. Fuck Airbnb.
          This AD makes complete sense to me because I worked for Airbnb years ago on West Coast. At the time, Airbnb was in its infancy and those listing on site primarily did it to pay mortgage as we were in grips of ’08-’09 recession.
          Vividly recall the day a pack of their degenerate office dykes came to my market and made it known they wanted only a certain type of host. Ever since then the company has been hellbent with injecting social justice into the transaction of renting a guest home/ room.

    2. Watching pre-game coverage with NFL legends & of course an affirmative action bitch on set to pontificate as a female that’s NEVER played the game.

    3. When feminists threaten to boycott something they do it. When we men threaten to boycott the Super Bowl or Star Wars movie it’s all bullshit.

        1. I bet most of them will lie and tell us they didn’t watch the game. Since they lie about that they’re probably still in those bars after the game where they are white knighting and cockblocking!

    4. It’d be nice if we could truly have ONE event without an injection of politics. This includes Bill O’Reilly’s damn Super Bowl interview airing over Super Bowl coverage.

  1. I can bench 150kg on a warm day, and deadlift 220ish.
    But I’ve always been lukewarm at bodyweight exercises. Much to my frustration.
    My oldest Daughter is a county championship gymnast who can scale a 30 feet rope in seconds. I genuinely think its genetic.
    My Wife is 5 feet 6 inch and weights 105 pounds. We always say she has her build and my strength. We’re genuinely hopeful for the 2024 Olympics

    1. That’s great, I hope your daughter succeeds.
      I am also luke warm when it comes to body weight exercises.
      I like the judo push-up. Starts at :30.

      1. Those are ass-kickers! I’ve done them both ways and either way it’s done is a great workout with it’s own set of advantages. When done the second way, as in the video, it taxes the lats moreso (IME) than reversing the downward “sweep”, or version 1. Either way, cannot go wrong!

    2. Keep her well, mate. I know a few Olympic hopefuls, but they suffered career-ending injuries shortly before trials.
      The saddest, though, was this one martial artist who just fucked up her joints right before each trial. Her career didn’t end, but she’s passing her prime and still hasn’t been able to go qualify.

  2. This is a good and useful article Mr. Halleck.
    Shows that you truly are a physical culturalist and not just another broscience gym rat.
    Keep up the good work!

  3. I can’t do more than 1 chin up. Maybe I should try it with rope climbing until I can do chin ups properly.

    1. Get a big athletic rubber-band. Use it until you can do about 15 assisted pullups, then take it off and start from the bottom. Two different programs once you can do 5-10: Recon Ron Pull-up Program, or the Armstrong Pull-up program.

      1. Okay, I’ll take your advice. Have to get some rubber-bands. I have a bench, a pull up bar, a roman chair, many dumbbells and a big mirror at home but I don’t like the weightlifting exercises for the latissimus.
        I really love doing chin ups and pull ups and back when I was in school I did 15 without help regularly (I was supperskinny) but I am much heavier now (a bit skinnyfat) so I can’t do them anymore.

        1. Definitely add a push to the pull – not only will balance your strength and muscles out, but it’ll actually help a bit with the pull.
          Handstands (handstand pushups, if you’re one of the few who can pull it off) work great. Standing overhead press is better and looks cooler.
          Also, if you have a gym membership, do lat pulldowns. When you can pull consistent reps near your own body weight (or over it), you’re ready for the big leagues.

        2. Bent rows will help build your lats; which will assist with pull ups (as a plus they work your lower back too, adding core strength). Be sure to learn and use proper form. If you don’t have a fitness band of sufficient strength to assist your pull ups, use a stable short stool or wooden box and assist with your legs. It’ll take a little practice, but focus and you’ll get a feel for it. Once you’re up, bend your knees so your feet are off the box as you lower yourself doing negatives until you get to where you can manage full pull ups again. Shoot for five reps and once you can manage that unassisted, start adding reps. Don’t overdo it (i.e. over train) as you can injure your brachioradialis. It will take a long time to heal and pull ups will be off the menu for sure. Work your way up slowly, be patient and you’ll get back where you were. I’m 57 and still do pull ups regularly. But injured my left arm pretty severely due to over training in my late forties. It’s taken me a long time to recover, so remember more isn’t necessarily better. Probably two sets of five, twice a week with 3 days rest between sessions will give you maximum benefit with less risk of injury.

        3. Barbel training bro.
          If you want to get strong, deadlifts + bench + squats + cleans is all you really need.
          Do this kind of training and eat more than you currently do, and you’ll get results. Gradually you’ll become bigger than the majority of people you see on the street. I went from 165 to 210 over 2 years of serious training (4 years when including the years of teaching myself weightlifting) using this regimen, and people definitely do treat me differently than when I was younger and thinner.
          The real trick to gaining strength is lifting more than you think you can by testing your one-rep max, and then realizing the weight you are currently stuck on isn’t as heavy as you originally thought. There’s more to it than that of course, but barbel training is the way to go if you’re after real strength, whether or not you’re trying to gain mass and size.

    2. I harken back to what my percussion/drum teacher used to say: “If you want to play the drums, ya gotta play the drums!” In other words, if you want to do more chin-ups, do more chin-ups. In the Army, we were tested on 2-mile runs as part of the APFT; if we wanted better times, we would try to run faster 2-milers, etc. when not being tested.

  4. Speaking of climbing ropes (or dangling from them)…I already mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but I’m jumping on the Falcons +3 points for $400 on the spread side, and +130 on the Money Line (to win) for $200 against the Patriots in the Super Bowl…whatever you do, be sure to have fun, and don’t forget to tip your servers (even if you lose). And if you bet the game, only bet half of what you bet on the spread, on the Money Line. That way if New England wins by less than 3 points, you’ll still profit. And if Atlanta wins and covers, you’ll get a double-dip. Sweet.
    See you at the cashier’s window, or out in the alley behind The Lucky Thong, where we can smoke cheap hash from a beer can rigged into a bong, as we slurp down a couple of six-packs of PBR…ahhhh. Good shit, man.

    1. Wow. That was the craziest Super Bowl I ever saw. A miracle comeback for the ages, and the Patriots win by 6 in overtime. Good thing I have this PBR and this hash. Tomorrow is another dayyyyyyyyy….

      1. Missed the game myself, due to lack of interest. Saw the post-game highlights, with Tom Brady on the dais, so I knew the Pats won. Oh, well, go to work on Monday…

      2. Thanks for that. I don’t watch sporting events as a rule, so at least now I can act like I give a damn when it comes up around the water cooler.
        And ditch the PBR, mate. After a loss, I find liquor more palatable than beer or cocktails.

  5. Grip strength is key. I have always loved climbing rope, I used to do 10-15 climbs every-time I would get on it. I had a fall from about 9ft from a rope during a Spartan Race (Beast distance about 16 miles) about 6 months ago, my hands were sliding down as I was trying to get myself to the top. I have been reluctant to get back on it.

    1. Beat the fear. What we fear is that which we must overcome.
      …says the guy who doesn’t climb at all because he hates to be more than a few feet off the ground.

      1. I love rock climbing and such, but now when I see a rope I think “maybe next time”. I am sure I will get back to it, my local rock climbing gym has a 30 ft rope that I can do while belaying, so I think that is how I will start back up.

  6. A client who I did some art for in the past owns and teaches at a professional pole dancing studio. Needless to say climbing a pole everyday has done her body good!

      1. because red pill guys here aren’t blue pill guys.
        althought it is fine to watch, i admit, sex doesn’t sell too much here.

        1. Sex is a control instrument.
          Nobody can deny the basic drive of human desire.
          But take it to the point where you need to get laid daily….
          ….than that is a problem….

  7. You may never need to climb a rope yet when the time comes and you cannot do it you will look like a complete FAG.

  8. The thing is, with a little foresight you can avoid most situations that might result in you having to climb a rope in the first place.

  9. Rope climbing is legit. It’s a lot of fun. Became better at it in my 30’s oddly enough. Though I’d be more afraid of the tree branch or top anchor snapping while i’m in mid climb.
    Taking Kratom removes the need to even have a rope to climb though.

    1. “Taking Kratom removes the need to even have a rope to climb though.”
      What do you do, throw your dick up over a branch and use that to climb up?

  10. >If you have any experience with rope climbing at all, it is likely in your gym class, a faded remnant of better days of physical education training in American public schools. You were likely given no preparatory steps to train your muscles and central nervous system before undertaking this Herculean task. A Herculean task that ended with you falling on your face, possibly tearing the palms of your hands open, and coming nowhere near the top of the rope
    100% this
    Schools are huge money wasters. Exact same process when they rent rock climbing walls and instructors.
    Teaching chinups would have prevented embarrassment and injury and made everyone happy and healthy.

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