Rope Climb

This is one of the exercises that we can face in the box without any previous experience.

Although it may seem that it requires a lot of strength, in reality it has much more to do with technique.

In this post we explain the step-by-step to get you to climb the rope, and help you overcome the most common mistakes.

What is a rope climb?

A rope climb is a common gymnastic exercise also in CrossFit in which the athlete must climb/climb the rope with his arms. Depending on the variant, he/she can also use the legs to perform the exercise.

Muscles that are worked when climbing the rope

Rope climbing is a very complete exercise both at a muscular level and in other capacities such as coordination or balance.

The muscles mostly involved are:

  • Dorsal
  • biceps
  • triceps
  • abdomen
  • and hip flexors.
rope climb crossfit tutorial

Types of rope climb


When rope climbs are specified as legless, it means that leg support cannot be used. This version of rope climb is the most difficult, as it requires great upper body strength to maintain your body weight while climbing the rope with your hands.

Athletes use kipping similar to that of the pull upsto help with the balancing when climbing.

With legs

In most cases we see rope climbs in the WOD, leg strength can be used. The athlete uses his feet to anchor himself to the rope and stretches to be able to reach the rope as far as possible with his hands. 

Once stretched, raise your legs, anchor your feet and stretch again until you reach the end of the rope.


For people who have to gain strength to support their own weight hanging from the rope. Also those who have vertigo or pregnant women to avoid falls.

The athlete lies on the ground and pulls his body with the rope, keeping his feet anchored on the ground to end upright. Again, he descends controlling his weight while moving his hands down the rope.

crossfit rope climbing

Rope climb techniques with legs

Coiling the rope 

This mode is the most recommended for people who are new to the rope, as it is the one that provides the most safety. 

It consists of wrapping the rope around one of your legs. In the initial position you must stand with the rope between your legs and passing through the inside of your thigh roll the rope until the end of it passes over the foot. From there, the other foot presses as a clamp on the foot on which we have rolled up.

To keep climbing, you must wind more rope around your leg and keep stretching with your hands.

Clamp version

This option is faster than the previous one.

It is also usually the way in which the descent is made.

The rope is on the outside of one of your legs, passes under that foot and it is the other foot that does the clamp on top. It is faster than the previous one, since it does not require winding the rope.

YouTube video

What mistakes to avoid

I need to repeat it many times because I hardly make any progress

We tend to think that it is the hands that climb, but with the assistance of the legs, it is actually the legs that set the speed at which we climb.

The higher you can bring your feet up with each step, the faster you will climb the rope, the hands only correct the posture so you can repeat the operation again.

Practice the descent

It may seem surprising, but many people manage to climb the rope and then don't know how to get down.

The most common way to descend is by doing the clamp. One foot is on top of the other stepping on the rope. As you move your feet apart, let the rope slide and let it go down little by little.

Unless you are Mat Fraser who slides at high speed and catches himself just before he hits the ground. I don't advise you to try it.

Injury to your shins

In this case, prevention is better than cure. The rope is an abrasive element, if you wear shorts it is advisable to wear shin skins or knee pads dropped over the ankles.

Earwaves ® Ungraze Shin Guards -...
  • Pair of 5mm neoprene shin guards for men or women
  • They offer greater protection in the front part of the tibia on the inside...

Breaking in the slippers

If you are a beginner, it is normal that you will not be equipped with all the necessary equipment. CrossFit accessories. But if you face the rope you will soon understand that the most important thing is that you get some CrossFit shoes because they are designed for this type of exercise.

If you climb the rope in gym shoes or running shoes, it is very likely that the material of the inner side will be destroyed (I tell you this from my own experience).

Evolution of rope climb in the Games

Rope climbs have been getting more and more demanding every year they have appeared at the Games, and we have seen all these versions:

  • Traditional
  • ballasted
  • at a higher altitude
  • with thicker rope
  • with a shorter rope (which forced them to climb leg less the first stretch, until the athlete was able to step on the rope with his feet)

Rich Froning's fall on the rope climb

A mythical moment in the history of the CrossFit Games was when in 2010 Rich Froning was leading by 4 points from the second place before the last wod was played.

The wod included legless rope climbs and Rich was not able to perform them correctly.

Holmberg snatched first place from him and was proclaimed the winner of the 2010 CrossFit Games.