I remember when I was first starting out in the world of CrossFit, I was pretty convinced I would never ever climb a rope. Between my crippling fear of heights, heavy body weight, and weak upper-body strength, I just KNEW it would never happen. My CrossFit coaches ignored my protests and challenged me to try the methods they were teaching. So, I gave it a go knowing I was going to prove them wrong! Not too surprisingly, I ended up being the incorrect one. Now, I can climb up and down a rope with no issues despite my proportionally heavy body weight and relatively weak arms! This article is written to help spread the secret of easy rope climbs with everyone who has similar doubts or just wants to make their technique a little more efficient.
CrossFit is pretty demanding of the upper body as a sport and most people run into the problem of their shoulders being the first muscle group to give out during a metcon. The main trick to getting a rope climb is to take the pressure off of the shoulders since they are probably already tired and legs are WAY stronger. The way to do this is by using either an S-Wrap or a CrossFit J-Hook. The S-Wrap is the most secure option because the rope will wrap completely around the leg before your free foot pins it against the other leg. The CrossFit J-Hook is not quite as secure but is a much faster technique. I usually recommend that most CrossFitters should learn the S-Wrap first to become comfortable with the movement before making if faster. Attached below are some diagrams that. (The middle option is a Tactical J-Hook and is not often used in CrossFit, but is an option if you want to try something new!)
Even if you are performing legless rope climbs-you still want to use your legs as a source of upward momentum. Attached below is a video of Shehzad (Homeward’s own Vanna White) performing a legless rope climb but still using a kip with his legs to make the ascent a little easier on his shoulders.
Knees to Elbows: Up the Efficiency!
If you have mastered both the S-Wrap and the J-Hook (and perhaps even the legless) and are looking to bring your rope climb to the next level-the Knee to Elbow (K2E) is the next step. This option looks a lot like the K2E scaling option for Toes-to-Bars. This is because it is pretty much the same movement except you are on a rope instead of a rig and have to loop your feet around a rope. Attached below is a rope climb without the K2E movement and then a video with the K2E and you can see the difference!
A few other important aspects to note in the good rope climb are:
- The elbows never straighten-keep the rope close and biceps engaged.
- You should actively lean back when pulling your knees to your elbows- your abs and hip flexors should be doing a LOT of work!
TLDR: use your feet & legs, pull your knees to your elbows to hook your feet, keep your elbows bent, lean back, don’t fall off!
Please practice these different techniques in the gym and as always ask your coaches for help!