How to rope climb

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How to rope climb

Let me ask you: when was the last time you did rope climbs? Was it some time during your years at school? Or did you have to climb ropes during your time in the military? Or is the rope climb a regular exercise during your workout sessions?

Or did you just watch Rich Froning at the Crossfit games and decided that now is the time to master the rope climb just like the Navy Seals do?

No matter which of the above situations applies to you, I think we will agree on one thing: climbing ropes is just really hard!

Yes – it´s tough!

If you’re like me, you probably think rope climbing is one of the most challenging exercises out there. Not only does it require a lot of upper body strength, but it also tests your coordination and grip strength.

But wait! Upper body strength? Yes – sure – you will need a strong upper body too. But the basic rope climb is actually an exercise where you will push yourself upward using your feet. So this means, the old excuse of not having enough upper body strength for rope climbing doesn´t count here!

It does count though when your coach calls for another rope climb variation: legless rope climbs, which means you´re in real trouble if upper body strength is a problem for you.

a guy climbing a rope

 But don’t let that deter you! Rope climbing is actually an excellent exercise for developing both upper and lower body strength, as well as improving your coordination.

Plus, it’s just really fun. There’s something about scaling a rope that makes you feel like a badass.

So if you’re ready to start climbing ropes like a pro, here are some tips to get you started:

a guy climbing a rope

With or without leg support

As we mentioned above, you can climb ropes with or without support from your legs. When performing the legless rope climb, you will rely solely on the power of your arms and upper body to propel yourself upward.

Not much practice is needed here when it comes to technique! Raw pulling power – that is what you need to reach your goal. You can even increase the difficulty by starting from a sitting position.

On the other hand, you have the standard rope climb. Here you can make life much easier for you when you learn how to apply the proper technique. Your legs will do nearly all the work.

a guy climbing a rope

Here are some tips for the rope climb:

  1. Do a proper warm-up! You will climb a rope and move your whole body up and down (yes, you have to come back down again in a controlled manner) on a swinging rope! This might cause some muscle damage if you´re not warmed up properly.
  2. Position yourself in front of the rope and grab the rope overhead – at least above shoulder height. The rope should now run down over your chest and be in the center of your body.
  3. The leading gym class technique goes like this: use your “leading leg” – this is usually the one you would use to kick a football. Lift your leading leg until your knee is bent at an angle of about 90 degrees and let the hanging rope run on the outside of your leg.
  4. Now let yourself hang on the rope and clamp the rope between your legs. “clamping” means, your leading leg steps onto your second leg with the rope in between. This makes it possible for you to push yourself up as if you would stand up.
  5. Pull yourself up with your arms and extend your legs at the same time as in a squat movement. Your legs will do the majority of the work!
  6. Now as your legs are fully extended, re wrap your feet around the rope again and repeat the same motion to work your way up the rope.
  7. Do not simply let go and jump down from the rope, once you have reached the top! Not only could you injure yourself badly when hitting the ground. You could also get caught in the tangling rope during your “rope fall” and get hurt that way.
  8. On the way down, keep your legs straight and the rope sliding through your legs, and use your arms to slowly lower yourself down in a controlled way to avoid rope burn.

However, there are several methods to wrap the rope around your legs. Have a look at this excellent video, explaining several different methods :

And also check out this video which has some more excellent rope climbing tips for you : 

Using an advanced method, you will see the pros jumping from the ground gripping the rope as far up as they can reach, and start the rope climb from there. This saves them a few feet on the way up.

Equipment for rope climbing:

You will definitely need “rock guards” for your shins. That climbing rope is not made out of silk – I can tell you from my own experience. Abrasions suffered from rope climbing are especially nasty and will need a long time to heal.

You might also want to use some chalk for your hands to improve your grip.

Most Crossfit or weight lifting shoes are perfect for rope climbing, as their soles and the areas around the heels are designed so that you won´t slip from the rope.


The rope climb is an excellent full-body exercise, not only increasing your upper body and core strength but also working your legs and grip strength in your hands. Additionally, for many of us, it is quite a challenge to climb the rope and we have to overcome a certain barrier in our minds.

But the rope climb is a fun exercise and a major “trust-building” exercise in yourself! Once you´ve managed to climb the rope several times, you will start to love the rope climb!


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