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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. Chris Smith Says:

    Been interested in incorporating ropes into my training for a while. Think I might finally suck it up and buy some. Good post Smitty!

  2. Jim Smith Says:

    Thanks Chris!

  3. Mathison Says:

    Great post. Always look forward to the diesel emails. Few things tire my forearms like doing something with 2″ rope.

  4. Jim Smith Says:

    Thanks for checking it out Chris.

  5. Doug Says:

    That video was just damn brilliant! Are those Ironwoody or Muscle Driver bands? I’ve been using 50ft links of 1.75″ and 2.5″ fire hose for a while now.

    I haven’t tried the rope, so I’m not too sure how they would compare. My guess is that they are very similar. The hose is flat and rigid, which definitely makes it hard to grip. Try burpee slams where you do a full burpee, jump w/ the hose/rope in your hands, and slam w/ all your might. Swallow your heart and repeat. Awesome post.

  6. Josh Hewett Says:

    You forgot to add to the Benefits list that rope training is FUN! Nice vid and post Smitty; thanks. Looking forward to your next vid!

  7. jason z Says:

    Sweet! Great tip – thanks! I think this might get me kicked out of my gym, though. Guess we’ll find out soon enough!

  8. coach mike Says:

    Nice band/rope combo! I like to pull a prowler loaded heavy with rope pulls. Not enough? Find a steep enough hill it will slide back down and pull it up hand over hand then lower it back down!

  9. Adam L Says:

    I like the rope/band idea! Thanks for the tip.

  10. Spida Hunter Says:

    Awesome stuff Jim, it’s a shame you didn’t show this earlier while your winter is comming our summer is comming! Oh well, at least now I have an option inside for next winter or rainy day!!

    Awesome stuff,

    Oh by the way since purchasing the ropes 8wks ago, we have done;
    1) Rope slams (1 & 2 hands)
    2) Tug of war
    3) Sled pulls
    Nothing crazy but a start with basic foundations!

  11. Luka Hocevar Says:

    Smitty, we go outside regardless lol but that’s a great idea! This will be great for supersetting and circuits inside the warehouse.

    On top of that it gave me a couple of great ideas. Thanks for the great video, keep them coming.


  12. Tom Says:

    As always, great material Jim!

  13. Mike D Says:

    Great stuff Smitty. Can’t beat the ropes for grip strength.

  14. rem Says:

    Awsome smitty, been using thick ropes for a while anyway but not with a band set-up on the power rack. Lovin it, im smashing that 2day!

  15. Don Brovero Says:

    This a great idea. I have been thinking about adding rope training and this is an easy way to do it. I train middle school and high school kids and these basic movements are great!!!

  16. dixon Says:

    hi smitty, this one is an excellent indoor alternative for sledge in saudi arabia climate is too hot for outdoor training. thank u. dixon

  17. 3-Pin Says:

    Smitty – Great idea with the bands. My rope trick is to use a short piece of thick rope draped over my pull up bar instead of a towel. Good job with the video ideas; keep ’em coming.

  18. Mike Hanley Says:

    Fucking Brilliant! Great stuff Jim………I will sen ya some rope videos this weekend.

    Mike Hanley

  19. Phil Says:

    Hey Jim,
    Awesome idea, haven’t seen anyone @ my gym using a rope, I’ll have to be the first!

  20. don Says:

    as usual great stuff, keep up the great work

  21. clayco Says:

    Very innovative, thanks for the post Jim!

  22. John Says:

    Another good one, Jim. Keep ’em coming!

  23. Mark Young Says:

    Great post brother!

    With the cold Canadian winter approaching I could definitely use this.

  24. David Morgan Says:

    Great idea I have been doing a similar thing but I add handles to the rope such as eagle loops, thick grips etc. The weight of the rope adds to the tension in the bands. I have a 31/4″ tug boat rope- This drill will be perfect. Instead of tying a loop use a nylon strap to cinch around the rope and attach the other end to the band attachment or anchor. Thanks for your innovative movements. I have been following you guys since you started and your products are well thought out and productive in the right hands.

  25. Smitty Says:

    Thanks for the great feedback guys, really appreciate your comments and support!

  26. Jim Smith Says:

    Just went in the dashboard and found 13 new comments!


  27. Frank Says:

    Great post! I don’t have the room for a sled and I’ve been wanting to do that exercise for a while. Thanks for figuring out a way to do it indoors with limited space!

  28. Mark Huband Says:

    Hey Jim, thanks for another great video. Your content is always excellent and is greatly appreciated. You are taking fitness marketing to a different level.

  29. Richard Says:

    Great idea! I tend to pull outside year-round but you never know when you will need to alter your workout so I’ll keep this in mind.

  30. James Bullock Says:

    Absolutely Awesome Smitty… I always get inspired watching the Diesel Vids…

  31. Anthin Says:

    Rope training is the one thing I have been looking to add to be toy box and unfortunately I have found most of what is generally presented is very incomplete and or very rudimentary. Trying to find economically priced rope is difficult as well!

    I have felt that rope training is a missing piece that has been ignored by most for far too long. Rope training (and it’s many variations) should be viewed as an extremely important protocol or element to helping anyone achieve overall conditioning and practical strength (if applied correctly to an intelligently designed program of course).

    I enjoyed what was presented here and I hope you and your cohorts continue to expand on this and many other types of training protocols and apparatus like this (especially for the home gym trainer). Thanks for the information, but more importantly thanks for sharing all of your ideas and work with us all. I know it comes easy for someone who loves what they do and wants to share with all that care to read or listen.

    Your desire, commitment and enthusiasm are appreciated.

  32. Shawn Says:

    Great vid Smitty.
    Are those 1.5″ or 2″ thick ropes your using?

    Good music as well going in the background.

  33. Daniel Ng Says:

    I need to get my rope training up to speed. I’ve been very limited. It’ll be my next project & goal.
    I really like that Diesel Crew is innovative, not just to be different, but your ideas are deviceful, effective and definitely functional.
    There are no excuses. Let’s do this!

  34. Justin Says:

    Thanks for the vid. Where is the best place to buy ropes?

  35. Jim Smith Says:

    Shawn, it is a 1.5″ nylon rope.

  36. Jim Smith Says:

    Thanks Daniel!

  37. Jim Smith Says:

    Thanks Anthin

  38. Jim Smith Says:

    Thanks everyone!

  39. Jeff Says:


    Great stuff, as always. Thanks for sharing.

    One question I have always had is regarding power/battling ropes………….I can clearly see all the elements on the upside of these movements, but is there potential for overworking the anterior delts/repetitive stress or even other shoulder issues if using these? Or would it be a non-issue if worked in in appropriate volumes and covering all other bases to keep the taters healthy and mobility optimal?

  40. Keith Says:

    Just found your blog interesting reading and will follow your stuff. Ropes? see a lot of people in the Gym using them have to give them a try.

  41. Ray Says:

    Rope training looks cool. I know it’s hard work. I have been looking at trying this training out to help out my judo training as well as strongman powerlifting. Keep up the great work!!!!!!!

  42. Chuka Says:

    Killer stuff. Like kettle bells, one piece of equipment = infinite variations. By the way where can I buy a good quality rope?

  43. Mike Says:

    Very cool. It’s sometimes hard to come up with new and interesting ways to stimulate muscle growth differently, but this could be a great way to do so. Thanks for the awesome info!

  44. Phil Says:

    Great post.
    Cheers man

  45. chad Says:

    great post, well worth the time. and referals

  46. Taylor Says:

    Nice ! That’s a great idea I will use that in good and bad weather!! (Sunny California). Thanks for always pushing the envelope in the training world.

    Peace, Kill it

  47. Jim Smith Says:

    “Good post Jim. I have incorporated a hammer and bands and some other stuff that I haven’t used in the past, thanks to Jedd’s nailbending book and your AMD program. I work out in a room in my home, so this is a great idea.
    Where can I get a thick rope? Do you guys have it on the site that sells the foam rollers? (lost my link to that site, if you could shoot it to me).
    Thanks again for the great ideas! Keep em comin!”

    Todd Hudson

  48. Jim Smith Says:

    I tried to post Smitty but got this message but Im no computer expert it could be my system anywho great idea the football team will love it ACS has been keeping us injury free especially our shldrs with all the hitting thanx again

  49. Kieron Says:

    What are some ideas for ropes hanging from the ceiling? That’s all was have at the gym I work out at . . . I do climbs up and recline rows. Any other ideas? As always, great advice.

  50. Mike T Nelson Says:

    Dang you Smitty!! Another use for a rope, so I just bought 80 feet of rope for some battling ropes and rope rows/pulls. I just have a shorter piece that I use currently, so this will be a good upgrade. Great idea for the winter!

    If anyone is looking for cheap rope, this was the cheapest I could find for 1.5 inch manila

    Rock on!
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)
    Dang you Smitty!! Another use for a rope, so I just bought 80 feet of rope for some battling ropes and rope rows/pulls. I just have a shorter piece that I use currently, so this will be a good upgrade. Great idea for the winter!

    If anyone is looking for cheap rope, this was the cheapest I could find for 1.5 inch manila

    Rock on!
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  51. Jim Smith Says:

    Mike, where’s my guest blog post bro!

  52. 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.

  53. Jun Fan Says:

    Very cool ideas. You are very innovative.

  54. 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!!

  55. 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.

  56. jason z Says:

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

  57. 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!

  58. 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.

  59. 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!

  60. 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!

  61. Jim Smith Says:

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

  62. 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)

  63. ben Says:

    rope training is brutal . Defintely hardcore love it.

  64. Jim Smith Says:

    Thanks PK!

  65. 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.

  66. Adam T Glass Says:

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

  67. Rob Says:

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

  68. Rich Says:

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

  69. 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.

  70. Jonathan Von Plinsky Says:

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

  71. 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)

  72. Michael Darlington Says:

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

    Mike D.

  73. 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?

  74. 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

  75. David Says:

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

  76. 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?

  77. Lenny Nieves Says:

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

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