Learning The Ropes

Picture a solitary rope, hanging from the ceiling and terminating inches from the floor. Is this image enough to create angst and anxiety in your mind? Climbing to the top of a rope was a benchmark of a bygone era of physical education. Today, it’s an almost inconceivable feat for kids and adults alike.

The Rope Climb is a Wonderful Test of Strength

I’d argue that we’ve given up something precious. While safety should be a concern when designing any fitness program, the fact remains that the rope climb is a wonderful test of strength, and an achievement worth striving towards. Beyond the physical challenge, it can teach courage and tenacity, and create a sense of achievement that can’t be duplicated by the “safer” methods used in PE classes today.

At the turn of the 20th century, Georges Hebert created a system of physical training that he called the Natural Method. At its core, the system embraced the value of “being fit to be useful.” He firmly believed that physical training should have its roots in natural human movement, and should promote the moral and physical qualities of heroism.

Few exercises better encompass these values than the rope climb. The ability to pull yourself up has been an essential human skill throughout human history. Just grabbing a rope and pulling inspires a primal focus that few other movements replicate.



Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Progress slowly. Don’t go all the way up at first. Build confidence by going up a quarter of the way, and back down. Then halfway up and down, etc.
  • Come down slowly, and without sliding. The rope will burn you badly if you slide.
  • Practice with shoes on, particularly at first, to help protect your feet and help them grip the rope.
  • Not sure if you have the upper body strength? Rope climbs can be scaled by predominantly pushing from the legs, and only using the upper body to grip and stabilize.

Source: Learning The Ropes

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