Simulating Rope Climber Exercises


Rope climbing is an excellent upper-body workout that focuses on your arms, shoulders, back and abs. If your gym or health club has a rope you can climb, you’re in luck. If not, you can still do exercises to simulate the workout you receive when you climb a rope. Either way, warm up with at least five minutes of aerobic exercise before you start the main workout.

Rope Machine

  • The best way to simulate rope climbing is to use a rope-climbing machine. The device contains a continuous loop of rope on which you pull as you work against the machine’s resistance. In effect, you pull the rope down and move it through the machine instead of pulling yourself up a stationary rope. You can do numerous exercises on the machine to achieve a full-body workout. To simulate rope climbing, stand close to the rope, reach up with one arm and grasp the rope. As you pull down with your first hand, reach up and grab the rope again with your other hand. Continue pulling on the rope in the same hand-over-hand fashion you’d use if you were climbing an actual stationary rope.

Towel Pullups

  • Standard pullups work many of the same muscles that rope climbing targets, but you can more closely replicate the rope-climbing experience by adding a pair of towels to the mix. Drape two hand towels over the pullup bar about shoulder-width apart. Grasp each towel and perform otherwise standard pullups by raising your chin to the bar and then lowering yourself slowly until your arms are extended. Towel pullups work your forearms harder than standard pullups.

Lat Pulldowns

  • If you’re not quite ready for rope climbing, the lat pulldown can help you develop the necessary strength. Lat pulldowns target the latissimus dorsi in your back but also work other back muscles plus your upper arms, shoulders and chest. Sit facing a high cable machine with a lat bar attached. Hold the bar with a wide grip, sit up straight and pull the bar to your upper chest. Allow the bar to rise slowly until your arms are extended to complete one repetition.

Program Considerations

  • Perform substitute rope-climbing exercises two or three times per week, but not on consecutive days. Time your workout on the rope-climbing machine instead of counting repetitions. To perform a moderate workout, for example, set the machine’s resistance to a level you can maintain for three minutes and then start pulling. Rest for one minute after each three-minute set and try to work up to four sets. Raise the resistance, increase your sets or reduce the resting time if the three-minute sets are too easy. Do eight to 12 lat pulldowns or towel pullups and try to work up to two or three sets. If towel pullups become too easy, hold a weight in between your feet or perform more reps. Add 5 to 10 percent to the weight stack if your lat pulldowns aren’t sufficiently challenging.

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