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Innovative Rope Training for Athletes


When you think of old school strength, you think of the strongmen of old.  Dudes like Cyr, Sandow, Saxon, Inch, Hackenschmidt, Klein, Aston and Arco, just to name a few.

These guys trained with basic, compound movements and use very simple equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells and thick rope – yet were some of the strongest men who ever lived.  A lot of their feats are still unmatched today.


We here at Diesel have always been interested in these amazing men because their strength and raw power.  We have old videos of us doing lifts like zerchers from the floor (prisoner squats), Steinborn lift, 2 Hands Anyhow and many others.  We loved challenging ourselves and just paying tribute.

As you know with all of our training here, we’ve always tried to “think outside the box” and not do what everyone else was doing and it really got us a lot of respect fast.  Before sites like Youtube, Viddler and Vimeo, we used to stream our 100’s of videos right off of our site.  Our visitors would just come to the site and stream videos all day.  I used to make quick clips showing exercise technique and full scale production videos like the Blob Inch Project (how many of you guys remember that)?


We use thick ropes throughout our training protocols for athletes.  The form the basis of our philosophy by building the hands, the same as building the rest of the body.  The hands are often the “forgotten element of functional training”.  We have spoken at NSCA conferences, in articles, in posts and throughout our products about this very fact.

Benefits of Thick Rope Training:

  • grip strength – dynamic crush / dynamic pinch (dependent upon thickness of rope); dynamic wrist postures
  • intermuscular coordination – summation of tensions through the coordinated engagement of multiple muscle groups (prime movers, synergists, secondary movers, etc.) simultaneously
  • mental toughness – rope training is NOT easy, it is not a quick fix, it is a bust ass, relentless training means that most forgo
  • massive core strength – rope training can be done in a L-sit position, with knees tucked or while holding various odd objects in guard
  • high work capacity – because rope training utilizes the entire body, a high level of work capacity and muscular endurance is developed

How to Use Thick Rope with Your Training Protocols:

  • sled dragging; hand over hand sled dragging, sled dragging with rope fixed at various positions, sled training – presses, curls, tricep extensions, flyes, etc.
  • any type of pulling movement; pull-ups, rows, shrugs, curls
  • climbing
  • power ropes
  • NOTE:  Leave a comment with other rope training movements you use!

Here are two movements we also use here at Diesel:

Mike hitting some power ropes on the left and power cage rope climbing (a Diesel original)!


Innovative Rope Training for Athletes

I wanted to show you a new video I just posted involving thick rope training.  Winter is coming and training outside is sometimes limited.  Also, many of you don’t have big lots outside, a field nearby or even much room in your gyms – so it might be hard to do some sled dragging movements with thick ropes.

I’ve come up with a solution for you.

Here is a setup we use when training outside is not an option.  Hope you enjoy it.

Please leave a comment with thick rope training that you like to do AND what you liked about the video!


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77 Responses to “Innovative Rope Training for Athletes”

  1. Jim Smith Says:

    Mike, where’s my guest blog post bro!

  2. Benjamin Cooke Says:

    Great rope idea Smitty. Here’s how I utilize bodyweight exercises and ropes. Hanging inverted pull ups (basically take one or two ropes, hang upside down and pull yourself up. When you do single rope on this one it’s a real killer). Rope fallouts, rope pike ups, L-sit rope climbs, and I’m working on doing an iron cross with two ropes. I learned this one from Zach Even-Esh, you recline back with one rop in your hands pull yourself up in a rowing motion but when you get to the finishing point twist your body either to the left or the right and finish off in the pike positon. Then reverse the movement and go the opposite direction.

  3. Jun Fan Says:

    Very cool ideas. You are very innovative.

  4. Nico Says:


    Your training methods have been a huge source of motivation for me and I am not ashamed to say that I “stole” some of your techniques to use for me and for the athletes I train here in Japan.

    Thank you!!

  5. Roberto Says:

    This looks interesting, I’ve never done rope training before. I like that the exercise has your muscles in constant motion and tension as you pull AND release the rope. I’ll have to give that a go.

  6. jason z Says:

    What’s a better type of rope – manila or nylon?

  7. David Says:

    Man, I just have to say that this rope training has done wonders for me. Ever since I incorporated them in my workouts (rope climbing, sled dragging, rope/band pulls), I’ve been seeing new muscle growth and strength. This surely would have never been possible had you never mentioned this. Without a doubt, the idea of rope training is the most original and innovative idea I’ve ever seen. I truly am thankful that you took the time to share this with all of us. Keep up the awesome work and ideas!

  8. Jim Smith Says:

    I would get your rope from, tell Anthony that Smitty sent you.

    Jason, it depends.

    For most stuff I recommend manila rope, but for power ropes and sled dragging, I like the nylon.

  9. jason z Says:

    Smitty – thanks for the advice. Can you put links to the equipment that you’re using in the videos in your future posts? I’m sure the folks at EliteFTS, ArtOfStrength, and others would be happy to have the extra traffic.

    Again, thanks for the great content!

  10. Lisa Says:

    Smitty.. hahaha.. I’m am WOMAN and I can’t wait until Monday.. Sorry… I just once again have to tell you how much I LOVE LOVE THE ROPES~ Try just a little quick tabata of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds rest for 8 rounds…4 little minutes and you think your heart is going to explode thru your chest and your arms are going to fall off! I love when I can get one of the guys to try it out.. they are so amazed at how hard that little 4 minutes really is! LOOKING forward to MORE amazing videos..and I am hoping I am one of the lucky 5~ are you kidding me? I can’t think of a great birthday present for this soon to be 52-year-old mother of 4… who loves to KICK ASS with the BIG BOYS… ohhhh yeah… age is irrevelant.. just get out there and DO IT! 🙂 Thanks Smitty as always!

  11. Jim Smith Says:

    Thanks for the great comments Lisa. Make sure you comment on my new post on Tuesday morning.

  12. PK Says:

    G’Day Smitty,

    Love the innovation Diesel Crew keep coming up with. I can’t wait to try the band-rope rowing, this will be something that i will be able to use with my limited space. Keep up the great work.

    PK (Yamba, Australia)

  13. ben Says:

    rope training is brutal . Defintely hardcore love it.

  14. Jim Smith Says:

    Thanks PK!

  15. Doug L Says:

    Sheer brilliance. I’m going to give this one a try. Also going to give my son a taste of the rope…he’ll probably think it’s just plain fun.

  16. Adam T Glass Says:

    Superior as is standard round these parts. Keep kicking out the hot stuff Smitty!!!

  17. Rob Says:

    cool post, i think i might try to add rope training to my workouts..

  18. Rich Says:

    Great idea, I never thought rope could be a positive item for the body. Will give it a try.

  19. S. Says:

    Smitty – Thanks for the video,some new ideas.I’ve been using a 2″ manila rope for pullups and something similar to what B.Cooke post #52 describes, in my bodyweight xrcize routine. Been doing this for 2 years now.

  20. Jonathan Von Plinsky Says:

    Rope training video was interesting.Shows that you can train anywhere/any time ! Keep up the good work !

  21. Mike T Nelson Says:

    You are right Smitty and I totally owe you a post. I have a few others I am banging out today and then your will be next; so look for in a few weeks. I appreciate your patience!

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  22. Michael Darlington Says:

    I found this training video to be helpful and informative, i might just have to try it out.

    Mike D.

  23. paul Says:

    given to understand that 1 and a-half inch rope is way sufficient for starters…2 inch rope is for bear hands!? do you agree?

  24. Antonella Says:

    Hi, thanks for the ropes information it looks like you really get a great work out for your arms legs butt and back cant wait to try

  25. David Says:

    How long of rope 1 1/2 do I need to start with?

  26. Warren garris Says:

    Where am I able to buy the rope I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find some. What type of store would have it?

  27. Lenny Nieves Says:

    Where can I purchase these ropes? Any input would be greatly appreciate d. Thank you

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