Throughout basic training and the remainder of your military career you’ll be expected to partake in numerous obstacle course activities to develop coordination, team work, agility, endurance and resilience. The rope climb will become your bread and butter of obstacle courses.
Many people fear the rope climb due to their fear of heights. To help conquer your fear of heights you must trust your body. And to trust your body you must hone certain skills. And these skills are what we are about to discuss.
The main physical components for a successful rope climb include strong abdominal flexion, improved flexibility, the ability to hang with your arms flexed and good grip strength to support this and, finally, coordination for the technique. Let’s chat about these further.
1. STRONG ABDOMINAL FLEXION WHILST HANGING
I’m not referring to how pretty your 6-pack abs are, I’m referring to how easily you can curl your knees up to your elbows while hanging from a pull up bar. This exercise is referred to as ‘strict knees to elbows’, ab strength! Check out this video to see what we are talking about. The reason this exercise is essential to master is because when climbing a rope you must ensure that you are as efficient as possible. If you have to climb a rope you want to use as little amount of energy as possible. Say it takes you 6 or 7 bites to get to the top of the rope because you can’t lift your legs very high then you are likely to burn out your arms, especially if you are carrying your combat kit. So the aim is to reduce the amount of energy you burn by reducing the amount of bites it takes you to get to the top of the rope. Practicing strict knees to elbows on a pull up bar will greatly improve your ability to take bigger bites of the rope during a climb.
2. IMPROVED RANGE OF MOVEMENT AND FLEXIBILITY IN THE HIPS
Although you are required to have good abdominal strength, you will also need good range of motion in your hips to ensure you can get your legs in the right position to create a solid platform with your feet. With each bite of the rope it’s important to create a solid platform as to not let the rope slide through your feet at the same time getting your knees high enough to reduce the amount of energy you use. There are several stretches we recommend doing as part of your warm up to enhance the range of movement in your hips. Check out the following video for the stretches.
3. THE ABILITY TO HANG WITH YOUR ARMS FLEXED AND HAVING GOOD GRIP STRENGTH
I’m going to combine these 2 as they compliment each other. A flexed arm hang can be practice on a pull up bar first for beginners then progressed to rope hangs for more advanced people. A flexed arm hang is having the ability to hang from a pull up bar while your arms are kept at 90 degrees. At the same time you must ensure that you have the grip strength to support your flexed arm hang. You can read more on improving grip strength here. Although the primary way of getting up the rope is by creating a ladder rung (the horizontal bit on a ladder) with your feet and standing up, there is still a requirement to hold yourself securely in place while you prepare your feet for the next bite, hence the emphasis on a solid grip and flexed arm hang. Watch this video on the different levels of difficulty for practicing the flexed arm hang in the following grips: chin up, alternate grip, pull up, double rope, single rope.
4. COORDINATION AND TECHNIQUE
There are numerous ways to climb a rope but we will emphasis the method in which you'll be taught in the ADF. Climbing a rope can be daunting for several reasons, so if you've never climbed a rope before and wish to learn then we suggest starting by using this regression method. The regression method still allows you to correctly practice lifting your knee as high as you can, as well as allowing you to practice curling the rope around your feet to create the ladder rung. To set up the regression method you will require a climbing rope to be draped over a pull up bar. You'll use the pull up bar to hold onto and let the rope hang down the front of your body. This way you'll be able to focus just on the curling of the rope with your feet and not worry so much about swinging around and trying to hold yourself up. During the following video you’ll be able to see the correct way to use the regression method to ascend the rope as well as descend the rope. There's no point learning how to climb a rope before learning how to descend the rope first.
Great, so now you can go up the rope and down the rope safely using the regression method. Once you are ready to take on the rope using the full technique we recommend to only take 2 bites of the rope for beginners and without the aid of a mat for soft landings. The main points to remember when descending the rope are to always keep as many points of contact with the rope as possible, so no overlapping or crossing over of hands to readjust your grip. Watch this video on the full correct method to ascend and descend the rope.
Incorporate these tips into your training schedule and you’ll be safely and confidently up the rope in no time and dominating those obstacle courses.
If you have any questions on how to better prepare yourself for the physical demands of the ADF then feel free to get in touch with The Barracks Gym.
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