Training with battle ropes offers an excellent upper-body workout, plus a few reps have the potential to burn lots of calories.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a set of the battle ropes handy, but the good news is that there are a lot of alternative workouts that can be just as effective at targeting muscles and burning calories.

If you’re looking for an alternative exercise to battle ropes to add to your fitness routines, check out this battle rope alternative guide.

1. Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell Swings

Using kettlebells is the best alternative to the battle ropes alternating waves workout. With battle rope waves (this is where you hold a rope in each hand and swing in an alternating motion), the entire body is being worked.

With double-arm kettlebell swings where you hold onto a kettlebell with both hands and swing it in a forward motion, you’ll get the same full-body workout.

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure your elbows are soft during each swing. This means that your arms should not be perfectly straight to help prevent strain.

2. Dead Ball Slams

Dead Ball Slams

Dead ball slams, also called medicine ball slams, are extremely effective for targeting the core muscles. 

Start by holding the medicine ball with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in the knees.

Then lift the ball overhead as you inhale, and as you exhale, throw the ball on the ground directly in front of you while contracting your abs.

Tips From A Trainer!

This exercise is a great substitute as it puts less strain on the shoulder joints, so it's perfect for people with pre-existing injuries.

3. Burpees


If your main goal for battle-roping is to burn calories, burpees are the alternative workout for you. A few rounds of burpees is an excellent full-body, calorie-burning workout, and best of all, it requires no equipment whatsoever.

To properly perform a burpee, start by standing in an upright position with your feet separated hip-width. As you inhale, bend dramatically at the knee and place your hands on the ground.

Jump your feet into the plank position, lower your body to the floor, push back up into the plank, and jump your feet to meet up with your hands. Lastly, jump in the air while swinging your arms up above your head.

Tips From A Trainer!

Try to do as many burpees as you can in 30 seconds. This is a great exercise to get your heart rate elevated and burn more calories.

4. Box Jumps

Box Jumps

Similar to burpees, box jumps are great for burning calories. For this, you will need a stable box or bench. With the box positioned directly in front of you, stand with your feet hip-distance apart and pointed forward. 

As you take a big inhale, swing your arms back, lean forward, bend at the knee, and lower into a half-squat. As you exhale, jump onto the box. Step down carefully after each rep, then do it all over again!

Tips From A Trainer!

While I recommend a plyo box for this exercise, if you don't have one, you can do explosive jump squats to activate the same muscle groups.

Related Article - 9 Best Plyometric Boxes

5. Barbell Thrusters

Barbell Thrusters

Barbell thrusters aren’t for everyone, especially for those suffering from knee issues or joint pain. However, this is a great workout for strength building and cardio, as long as it’s done safely.

Start with the barbell resting on your chest in a front racked position. As you inhale, lower into a squat while keeping your core engaged. Exhale and rise up, and once you’ve reached the standing position, extend the barbell upwards into an overhead press.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you struggle with this exercise due to the weight of the barbell, you can use light dumbbells as well.

6. Rowing Machine

rowing machine

There are so many affordable rowing machines on the market, and investing in one is a great substitute for battle ropes. Rowing machines are an amazing cardio solution, working the entire body from forearms to calves.

To use a rowing machine, simply sit on the seat and grab the handle in front of you. Pull on the handle as you simultaneously push back with your legs.

Tips From A Trainer!

It's important to remember to make each stroke long and controlled. This will help you engage the most muscle groups and burn more calories.

7. Air Bike

Air Bike

Air resistance bikes are another great cardio solution. Similar to battle ropes, air bikes allow you to push yourself as hard as you want to go.

Because the tension is created by air passing through the bike’s wheel, there are infinite resistance levels, making this a great choice for HIIT workouts.

Tips From A Trainer!

To get the most our of your air bike, remember to adjust the seat height appropriately before riding.

What Muscles Do Battle Ropes Work?

Before understanding a battle rope substitute workout, you first need to know how traditional battle ropes work and what muscles this exercise targets.

They are a set of 2 ropes, lined side by side, and are used for full-body fitness training and conditioning. This conditioning happens by putting these ropes in motion. By rapidly moving the ropes, you’ll be able to lose weight, gain muscle mass, improve balance, and boost endurance.

Men’s Journal’s guide on working out with battle ropes states that “because ropes create forces and tension from angles that are harder to achieve with basic weight training, they confuse and surprise your muscles into making new gains.”

Even though it’s easy to assume that battle ropes target only the upper body, this isn’t the case. They deliver a full-body workout, including the muscles of the upper body, lower body, and core. In addition to challenging full-body strength, battle ropes are also a great form of cardio so the benefits are multiplied.

Battle Rope Substitutes (DIY Rope & Anchor Guide)

If your idea of an alternative for battle ropes is to create a DIY rope course, this next topic is for you. It’s possible to create your own battle ropes at home on a budget if you’re not interested in buying high-priced commercial fitness ropes.

There’s a very good chance that you already have the majority of materials needed to create a DIY rope substitute. Here are a few ideas to get you started if you prefer to save some cash with these DIY alternatives.

Garden Hose Battle Ropes

When that old garden hose has met the end of its life, you might head straight for the trash can. Before tossing it, consider transforming that old hose into your newest piece of fitness equipment. Hoses work great as battle ropes, especially long garden hoses measuring 50 feet long.

Fire Hose Battle Ropes

If you’re able to get your hands on an old fire hose, this also works great as a battle rope substitute. Most hardware stores carry 50’ fire hoses for around $15, or you can try contacting your local fire department to see if there are any extras lying around.

Old Climbing Ropes

Climbing ropes tend to be a lot cheaper than commercial battle ropes for fitness. If you choose to use climbing ropes, just be sure to braid 2-3 of them together to increase the weight (and the challenge).

Another important aspect of creating DIY battle ropes is creating a sturdy anchoring system. The battle rope anchor is responsible for holding the ends of the rope in place as you pump your arms with the ropes in hand to work the upper body.

Anchoring your DIY rope system should be fairly easy. Just find something heavy to loop the rope through, or even consider using a tree if you plan to workout outdoors. Another option is to attach a hook low on a wall - make sure there’s plenty of clear space surrounding the wall - and use a carabiner to secure the rope to the hook.

Common Battle Rope Questions Answered

What can you substitute for battle ropes?

Any of the substitutions for battle ropes mentioned above - kettlebell swings, dead ball slams, burpees, box jumps, etc. - can give you a fantastic workout that’s similar to what you get from using battle ropes.

Can you use battle ropes without an anchor?

While it’s not recommended that you use battle ropes without an anchor, there’s an easy solution if you don’t have an anchor handy. Just thread the ropes through a heavy object to keep them anchored. You can even use heavy dumbbells as your anchoring system. 

How much space do you need for battle ropes?

This depends on the length of the rope you’re working with. For a 50-foot rope, you’ll need at least 25 feet of clear space. For a 40-foot rope, you’ll need 20 feet, and for a 30-foot rope, at least 15 feet is required.

What type of rope is used with battle ropes?

Most battle ropes are made from synthetic fibers constructed from nylon, dacron, or polypropylene. Since none of these materials shed, they’re ideal for indoor use.

Do battle ropes build muscle?

Absolutely! This is one of the main benefits of battle ropes. Not only will you build upper body muscle mass, but you’ll also be targeting the core and lower body.


Just because you don’t have a set of battle ropes at home doesn’t mean you can’t get a great workout. There are many effective alternatives that will produce similar results, like kettlebell swings, dead ball slams, or burpees.

If you’re up for it, it’s even possible to create a DIY battle ropes course with just a few materials you have lying around the house, like an old garden hose or climbing ropes.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2023