Rope climbs are one of my favorite exercises, and something that we really pride ourselves in doing well at CrossFit Palm Beach. A few weeks ago, we tested some speed rope climbs with our competitors, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that myself and a few of our other athletes were able to perform most of the reps in under 4 or 5 seconds. With enough practice, I believe that anybody can get to the point where they are consistently climbing the rope in about 5 seconds or less.
Here are the things you need to get you there:
- Start with a jump. By starting with a jump instead of just wrapping your legs from the ground, you can quickly turn a 15 Ft rope climb into a 12-13 Ft Climb. This is key to saving your forearm strength for those days you have to do 10+ climbs, but this will also allow you to do 1 climb as fast as humanly possible.
- Maximize each pull by leaning back and bringing your knees to your elbows – The biggest difference between a good and great rope climber, is the distance they cover on each pull. We typically challenge our best rope climbers to reach the top of our 15’ ropes in 2 pulls (which includes the first jump). In order to maximize the distance covered, I recommend leaning back slightly and bringing your knees as high to your elbows as physically possible.
- Use a J-Hook – There are a few different methods for wrapping your feet around the rope, but none I have seen can match the speed and efficiency of the j-hook. By keeping the rope sliding along the front ankle of your dominate leg, it allows you to always know where the rope is, maximize how much ground you can gain with each pull, and quickly tie off the rope with your other leg in a strong manner. Also, another key advantage of the j-hook over some of the other wrap methods, is that you can easily transition from a strong hold on the way up, to a quick and controlled descent for the way down. All you have to do is allow the rope to slide away from the front of your ankle while still sliding between both feet. Check out the j-hook in action in the slow motion video below.
- Use gravity to your advantage on the way down – It may seem scary at first, but I have found that the safest and fastest way down from a rope is with a good amount of speed. This doesn’t mean that you want to just drop from the top, but that you want to move your hands quickly down the rope to allow gravity to do most of the work. While some athletes have some success with simply sliding down the rope, I have found this to be a recipe for rope burn. I prefer the hand-over-hand method where you just quickly alternate hands down the rope.
If you can put these 4 things together, here is what the final product should look like…