Rope Climbing

By Ross Enamait - Published in 2005

Are you looking for a (fun) challenge?

Do you remember the days of childhood PE (physical education)? Perhaps my favorite PE activity was the few weeks each year that were dedicated to rope climbing. My friends and I climbed up and down the rope, competing against each other for the fastest time. Rope climbing was both challenging and fun. At the time, I didn't realize how effective it was for strength development. The rope was viewed more as a toy, rather than a strength-building tool.

Years later, I now use the rope as both an athlete and trainer. Rope climbing will develop pulling strength, as well as tremendous grip and forearm strength.

I am sure you recognize the benefits of pull-ups. Unfortunately, many athletes neglect the pull-up bar in place of the glistening lat pull-down machine. And if you think the pull-up bar is a forgotten tool, a climbing rope could pose as an antique collector's item. Most athletes have not climbed a rope since a pre-teen PE class. Fortunately, you and I are different. There is nothing quite like climbing a rope and waving at the neighbors as they peak through their windows with puzzled stares.

The Goods

I recommend purchasing either 1.5 or 2 inch thick manila rope. These sizes are commonly used during "tug-of-war" competitions. Certain suppliers offer the option of a tying a loop into the end of the rope, while others offer cable attachments. These options can be useful when attaching the rope to a beam.

Below are a few links to various rope suppliers.

Ahlstrand Marine

Wolverine Sports

US Rope and Cable

One last supplier is This site appears to have the lowest prices, while still offering a quality product.

To locate the ropes (from, simply enter the search phrase "manila rope" in the FIND box (upper left hand corner). A 1.5" manila rope rope sells for $141.03 per 100 feet. A 2" manila rope sells for $275 per 100 feet. Fortunately, you can buy shorter pieces. A 25-foot rope (1.5" thick) sells for $35.25. The 2" thick rope (at 25 feet) sells for $68.75.

I have purchased several ropes from The ropes are tied to a large pine tree. I do not use cable attachments. A sturdy knot gets the job done.

Oct. 2008 Update - Since writing this article in 2004, rope prices have changed at the links referenced within this article. It was recently brought to my attention that 1.5 and 2 inch rope can be purchased through eBay at lower rates than those referenced above. As of October, 2008, here is one link to an eBay seller with excellent prices:

Rope at eBay

If anyone fines better prices, please let me know and I'll revise this article.
You can learn to tie several knots at the link below. Personally, I have had good success using two half hitches to secure my ropes. Whatever you choose, you'll need a secure knot if you hang the rope from a tree branch. Be sure to properly secure the rope to a very sturdy branch if you choose this option.

Using The Rope

Most climbing ropes measure between 15 and 25 feet. I recommend using a rope that does not have knots tied throughout. Knots throughout the rope will make the climbing less difficult.

When climbing the rope for the first time, expect much more of a challenge than experienced on the pull-up bar. Rope climbing will blow away traditional pull-ups. I recommend viewing the rope climb as a race. Challenge yourself to climb the rope as fast as possible. Do not use your feet to assist. Pull with the arms.

Another useful routine can be performed by applying the "density training" concept to rope climbing. Set a timer for 10-minutes. Challenge yourself to climb the rope as many times as possible during this timeframe. You will be surprised at how difficult the rope can become after 10-minutes of dedicated climbing.


When searching for a new training modality, it is always helpful when the equipment is fun to use. Rope climbing definitely fits the bill. The benefits are also tremendous. If you have a place for a climbing rope, I highly recommend a regular session. Get out there and start climbing!

For more rope climbing ideas, check out Never Gymless

Disclaimer - Please exercise caution and use common sense when climbing the rope. The author of this newsletter is not responsible for any injuries that occur when climbing. Be sure to properly secure the rope and do not exceed your abilities. Falling from a 25' rope can be extremely dangerous.

About the Author - Ross Enamait is an innovative athlete and trainer, whose training style is among the most intense that you will find. Ross is committed to excellence and advancements in high performance conditioning and strength development. He has a sincere interest in helping today's athlete in their quest for greatness.

Ross has authored several training manuals, and operates a training business in the New England area. Feel free to contact him at [email protected], and follow his regular updates at