You love CrossFit but don’t have a rope to climb at home or at the gym. Rope climbing is an excellent upper body workout that improves physical and mental stamina. If you’re looking for the best rope climb alternative, we’ve rounded up 9 substitutes for you to try. You’ll still target the same muscles and achieve a similar workout.
Table of Contents
- 9 Best Rope Climb Alternatives (Substitute Exercises For CrossFit)
- Muscles Worked With Rope Climb Alternatives
- Frequently Asked Rope Climbing Questions
9 Best Rope Climb Alternatives (Substitute Exercises For CrossFit)
If you don’t have access to a rope, there are plenty of other exercises you can do to work the same muscles. Any activity that works your upper body muscles will be a good rope climb alternative, but we've rounded up nine substitutes that will simulate rope climbing best.
1. Towel Climbs
Towel climbs are a great way to simulate actual rope climbs without using a rope. All you need is a towel and a bar that is at least 7 feet above the ground. Although it's sometimes referred to as "towel pull-ups," it is distinctly different in its execution. Towel climbs are also the best legless rope climb alternative.
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How To Do Towel Climbs:
2. Towel Pull-Ups
Towel pull-ups are similar to towel climbs in that they also require the use of a rolled-up towel and a horizontal bar. However, instead of a climbing motion, you’re going to be doing a pull-up. This exercise is a great variation that is the most recommended when wanting to simulate a rope climb without a rope.
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How To Do Towel Pull-Ups:
3. Underhand Lat Pull Downs
This rope climb alternative exercise is perfect for those who don’t have access to a horizontal bar but do have a lat pulldown machine. This seated exercise will target your biceps and back muscle. Additionally, you can adjust the weight to suit your strength level.
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How To Do Underhand Lat Pull Downs:
4. Regular Pull-Ups
The regular pull-up exercise is an easy on-the-go option that also works your biceps and back muscles. While you don’t need anything else other than a bar to do this exercise, you can add weight to your ankles for a more challenging workout.
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How To Do Regular Pull-Ups:
5. Inverted Row
Also called a body row, this exercise is perfect for beginners who don’t have enough strength to do a regular pull-up yet. There are a number of ways you can perform an inverted row, making it ideal for people who don’t have access to a lot of equipment. Inverted rows can be performed on a low bar, rings, or even your dining table.
How To Do An Inverted Row:
6. Monkey Bars
Monkey bars are a fun exercise you can do at the gym or if you live near a park. The motion of crossing the monkey bars is pretty similar to that of rope climbing, making it a great alternative! Additionally, this exercise will help improve your grip strength and assist you with other overhead exercises like pull-ups.
How To Do Monkey Bars:
7. Sled Pulls
Sled pulls are a great alternative for rope climbs because they involve your legs as well. In addition, you can also add or remove weights, depending on your strength level. If you don’t have a power sled at home, you can achieve the same workout by attaching a resistance band to an anchor.
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How To Do Sled Pulls:
8. Rock Climbing
If you’re looking for something challenging that will improve your grip strength, upper body, lower body, and core strength - rock climbing is the ideal option for you!
Rock climbing can be done both outdoors or indoors, with indoor climbing typically divided into three disciplines: bouldering, top rope, and lead climbing. Bouldering is great for beginners, while top rope climbing will require a partner. Lead climbing is slightly more advanced.
How To Do Rock Climbing:
9. Ring Muscle Ups
Ring muscle-ups are perhaps one of the most challenging exercises that require a lot of baseline strength to do. They’re an excellent upper body exercise, targeting your lats, biceps, triceps, traps, and pectoral muscles. Ring muscle-ups also help with improving your shoulder mobility. If you’re not able to do a standard ring muscle-up, you can start with an assisted variation.
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How To Do Ring Muscle Ups:
Muscles Worked With Rope Climb Alternatives
While many people think grip strength comes from the hands and fingers, the muscles used to grip actually originate in your forearms. These muscles, the flexor carpi ulnaris, flexor digitorum superficialis, flexor carpi radialis, flexor pollicis longus, and flexor digitorum profundus, all work together to help you grip an object.
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The front of your upper arm consists of three muscles and is where most of your strength will come from when rope climbing. These muscles include the biceps brachii, which is often referred to as "your biceps." Next, we have the brachialis (which lies underneath the biceps) and the coracobrachialis.
The latisimus dorsi muscle (often called “lats”) is the primary muscle used when pulling your body up the rope. This muscle is found on the sides of your upper back. Other muscles that are worked include the lower trapezius muscles, as well as the serratus anterior muscles.
Using your legs as much as possible when rope climbing will reduce the load on your arms. This is true for rope climbing alternatives like rock climbing too. These muscles include your adductor muscles (magnus, brevis, and longus), as well as your gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles.
Frequently Asked Rope Climbing Questions
How many pull-ups equals a rope climb?
For a standard 15' rope climb, aim for 15 towel pull-ups. For a more specific calculation, divide 15 by the length of your arm. This will give you the total number of single-arm pull-ups you will need to do to simulate a 15’ rope climb.
What is a legless rope climb?
There are two methods of legless rope climb: Hand-over-hand and Kipping. Hand-over-hand is the fastest way to climb a rope but is most tiresome. Kipping involves swinging the legs back and forth. It is a slower method but places far less strain on the biceps.
Are rope climbs better than pull-ups?
Yes, rope climbing targets the brachialis muscle more than a pull-up does. Additionally, your hands are positioned in such a way that your biceps can exert more force than they can in pull-ups.
That wraps up our comprehensive guide to rope climb alternatives. Now that you have nine substitutes for CrossFit training, you’ll be able to achieve your goals and build your strength without needing a rope.
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