10 Battle Rope Alternatives (that still work great)


Battle Ropes are one of the most effective tools for building a strong core, powerful arms and shoulders and they’re also great for upper body conditioning. They’re also very beginner-friendly and can fit perfectly into a circuit.

However, sometimes you may find yourself needing an alternative for Battle Ropes. The most obvious of which is… you don’t have Battle Ropes.

Admittedly it’s difficult to replace everything Battle Ropes can do with just one exercise. But, don’t worry, that’s why I’m giving you 10. Some of these exercises are great dynamic core movements, some will tax the shoulders and others will get your heart rate up.

So, you can treat this list like a buffet: Grab the battle rope alternatives that you like and thumb your nose at the ones you don’t.

Alternatives for Battle Ropes


Medicine Ball Slams


Med Ball Slams

Med Ball Slams are probably the closest exercise that can provide all the benefits of Battle Ropes. They’re a dynamic exercise that works the core, the arms and can get your blood pumping. If you don’t have battle ropes but you have a medicine ball, Medicine Ball Slams would be my first suggestion as a substitution.

Bonus Exercise: Medicine Ball Side Slams is a slight variation to regular slams that get the obliques more involved. I would suggest throwing those in the mix as well.

Equipment Needed

  • Medicine Ball (it’s literally in the name)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a medicine ball and stand tall with feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
  • Reach the medicine ball high overhead.
  • Using the core, pull the body down – hinging forward at the hips.
  • Follow through with the arms and release the ball.
  • Let the ball slam into the ground, catch it off the bounce and repeat for the designated number of reps.

Coaching Points

First and foremost, test how ‘bouncy’ your medicine ball is before starting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen athletes almost have their face smashed by a medicine ball bouncing much harder and rebounding much faster off the ground than they were anticipating.

The biggest mistake I see with Medicine Ball Slams is athletes not utilizing the core and simply throwing the ball down with their arms. The bulk of the force should be generated by aggressively using the core to hinge forward. If done correctly, it should almost (and actually might) lift your feet up off the floor.


Sledgehammer Slams


Sledgehammer Slams

Sledgehammer Slams may look a lot different than Battle Rope exercises, but the major muscles used and the overall movement pattern is actually very similar. If you have access to a Sledgehammer and a Tractor Tire, they can work as an excellent alternative for a Battle Rope.

Equipment Needed

  • Sledgehammer (10-20 pounds)
  • Tractor tire

Muscles Worked

  • Shoulders and Upper Back
  • Abdominal Core Muscles (Rectus abdominis, Serratus anteior, Obliques)
  • Forearms

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Hold the sledgehammer with one hand on the end of the handle and the other hand about 3/4 of the way toward the head of the hammer.
  • Take a strong athletic stance. Slight bend in the knee and hips back.
  • Always remember to engage the core.
  • Pull the hammer up and rotate the hammer until it is slightly overhead.
  • Your arms should still be slightly bent.
  • Forcefully bring the hammer down to slam
  • As the hammer approaches the tire, you should feel your top hand slide and they will be together at impact.
  • Alternate sides until you finish your set.

Coaching Points

  • Be sure to select a hammer that is not too heavy. If the hammer is too heavy, you will not have proper form and you will not benefit from the exercise
  • Focus on force production. Slam the tire as hard as you can.
  • Remember to engage the core. As you bring the hammer down, really pull down with those lats and abs to get the best strike possible.

Kettlebell Swing


Kettlebell Swing

If you have kettlebells, Kettlebell Swings is another movement that closely resembles Battle Rope exercises. The core, posterior chain and arms are all involved in this exercise that works the entire body.

Kettlebell Swings are also relatively easy to learn and can fit well into a metabolic circuit.

Pro Tip: If you don’t have a kettlebell, you can also do Kettlebell Swings by grabbing the head of a dumbbell.

Equipment Needed

  • Kettlebell (you can also use a dumbbell by grabbing the end of it)

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • Approach the kettlebell with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Take a deep breath, slightly bend the knees, hinge at the waist, and squeeze the kettlebell with both hands.
  • Maintain a neutral spine, eyes focused on something just in front of you.
  • Initiate the movement by pulling the dumbbell off the ground and into the “power position”.
  • The power position is where the hips are flexed (loaded), knees are slightly bent, and you are now going to drive the kettlebell forward.
  • Extend the hips and knees, driving the kettlebell forward.
  • The kettlebell will drift from the hip extension to about shoulder height but should not go any higher.
  • Gravity will bring the kettlebell back down.
  • Actively “pull” the kettlebell back to the power position. You should never feel loose or out of control as you swing.
  • As you pull the kettlebell and prepare for the next rep, remember to keep a tight abdomen and upper back.
  • This movement is fast and works on rapid force development via hip and knee extension.

Coaching Points

Kettlebell Swings are a great movement to train rapid hip extension and flexion. Remember to always keep a neutral spine.

Choosing the proper kettlebell weight is important. Heavier is not always better. Because of the rapid nature of Kettlebell Swings, the emphasis should be on velocity, speed, and power.


Single Arm Dumbbell Snatch


Single Arm DB Muscle Snatch

Single Arm Snatches are a very close cousin of Kettlebell Swings and therefore also a good Battle Rope alternative.

Single Arm Snatches may not be able to be done at as high of a tempo, but they are an explosive hip movement that hits the posterior chain, core and shoulders.

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbell

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab a dumbbell and stand with feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Put a slight bend in the knee, brace the core and set the back – shoulder blades pulled back, lats engaged, chest out.
  • Hinge forward by pushing the hips back and let the dumbbell slide down right in between the knees, coming at a stop just below the knee.
  • You are now in the ‘power position’.
  • From here, drive the feet through the floor and aggressively extend the hips, driving the shoulders up and slightly back.
  • As you reach triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles – use a quick, powerful shrug and allow the elbow to break and begin the pull with the arm.
  • Keep the dumbbell close to the body as it travels up.
  • Once the dumbbell reaches the highest point of the pull, rotate at the elbow to catch the dumbbell overhead while simultaneously dropping the hips into a quarter squat and shift the feet slightly out.
  • Finish the rep by standing tall and lowering the dumbbell down to the shoulder first and then back to the starting position under control.
  • Repeat until all reps are completed and then switch arms.

Coaching Points

The dumbbell should travel close to the body all the up until it gets about head height, then rotate the elbow, drop the hips and catch. Don’t allow it to swing forward out away from the body.

The second technique flaw is not staying braced through the return of the dumbbell to the starting position, oftentimes from being in too big of a hurry to knock out reps. Letting the dumbbell, especially the heavier you get, yank the shoulder down at the bottom of the rep is asking for trouble.


Medicine Ball Situp and Throw


Med Ball Situp and Throw (1)

One of my favorite med ball exercises is the Medicine Ball Situp and Throw. It mimics the Med Ball Slam (the top alternative exercise listed above) almost exactly. The only differences are the starting position and the direction the ball is thrown.

Equipment Needed

  • Medicine Ball
  • Partner or a sturdy wall to throw the ball against

Muscles Worked

  • Abdominals
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Teres Major

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Find a partner (or wall) and sit down an appropriate distance away*.
  • Lay on your back holding the medicine ball overhead on the ground.
  • Brace the core, engage the lats, aggressively begin to raise off the ground and throw the ball as hard as possible for distance.
  • The follow-through of the throw should bring you to a full situp position.
  • Allow your partner to throw the ball back (or retrieve the ball coming back from the wall) and repeat.

Coaching Points

*The distance away from your partner should be far enough that the ball will hit the ground before reaching your partner so they do not have to catch the ball out of the air. If using a wall, the distance away will be dependent upon the amount of bounce the ball gets off the wall. Find a distance so that you do not need to move between reps.

The biggest mistake I see with athletes trying to learn Situp and Throws involves the timing of the movement. The throw should initiate the situp, not the other way around. If you try to situp first, the movement will turn into more of a situp followed by a chest pass – not the intention of the movement.

I cue my athletes to just concentrate on the throw. If they throw the ball hard enough the situp will happen naturally.


Med Ball Cannonballs


Medicine Balls on Field
No gym? No worries! All you need is a medicine ball and a field to get good work in.

I’ve given you multiple medicine ball exercises as an alternative for battle ropes and there is a reason for this. Battle Ropes are extremely dynamic, powerful movements – much different than your typical stagnate presses or curls.

Medicine balls also allow for the same type of dynamic movements and there is a greater chance you have access to a medicine ball versus battle ropes.

Med Ball Cannonballs are a pretty simple concept. Get in a good starting position, brace your core and throw the ball as high as possible. Reset and repeat.

Equipment Needed

  • Medicine Ball

Muscles Worked

  • Medicine Ball Cannonball Throws are a total body exercise that involves almost every major muscle group.

How To

  • First, make sure you have enough ceiling height to be able to do Cannonballs. I recommend doing them outside to avoid this issue altogether.
  • Grab the ball with both hands cradling under the ball. Stand tall, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Pull the shoulder blades back, engage the lats and core, slightly bend the knees and hinge forward at the hips.
  • Allow the medicine ball to fall in between the shins.
  • You should now be in a good athletic position that looks very similar to the starting position of a Hang Clean.
  • From here, explosively drive the feet through the ground and aggressively extend the hips and throw the ball as high as possible*.
  • Allow the ball to hit the ground, grab it, then reset and repeat.

Coaching Points

Do NOT try to catch the ball directly out of the air. This is a great way to jam a wrist or a finger. Allow the ball to hit the ground first before grabbing it for the next rep.

*Cannonball Throws can either be done straight up in the air or behind you to a partner. If working with a partner, stand facing away from them and throw the ball at about a 45-degree angle. The goal is to throw the ball as far as possible in the air.


Tire Flip


Tire Flips

Not all tires are built the same. A giant, heavy tire may not be the best alternative for a battle rope.

However, if you have a tire that is challenging, but light enough to be flipped rather quickly then you might be in the sweet spot needed for this substitution. You need to be able to flip rather quickly to get a similar effect to Battle Ropes and if you have a tire that’s the right size then Tire Flips can be a great alternative.

Equipment Needed

  • Tire

Muscles Worked

  • Tire Flips are a true total body movement. Almost every major muscle group is at work at some point during Tire Flips.

How To

  • Make sure you have plenty of space to be able to safely flip the tire.
  • Start with the tire laying on the ground on its side.
  • Stand with toes almost against the tire, feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
  • Drop the hips and reach under the tire.
  • Once you have a good grip under the tire flatten your back and brace your core.
  • Drive the feet through the ground and aggressively begin to extend the hips.
  • If the tire is heavy, you can slide one knee under the tire to help with leverage once the tire is high enough.
  • When the tire gets above stomach height, flip your hands around so you can begin to push the tire.
  • Push the tire forcefully forward – extending with both your arms and legs.
  • The tire should land on its side. Repeat for the designated amount of distance or reps.

Coaching Points

The biggest key to Tire Flips is perhaps in finding the right tire.

Every school I’ve ever worked at had big tires that were used for Tire Flips. However, the size and weight of these tires have all been drastically different. They’ve ranged from tires that were barely heavy enough to be worth using to tires that took two and sometimes even three football players to flip.

Just like with Deadlifts and Power Clean, it’s extremely important to drop the hips, use the legs and keep the back flat. Once fatigue starts to set in I generally see athletes resort to using more back than legs. If form reaches this point then it’s time to stop flipping the tire.


Seated Med Ball Twist


Seated Med Ball Twists

Another good exercise that can be used as an alternative for Battle Ropes is the Seated Medicine Ball Twist. It’s not quite as dynamic as some of the top alternate exercises but it does work the core and upper body.

Equipment Needed

  • Medicine Ball

Muscles Worked

  • Obliques Externus Abdominis
  • Rectus Abdominis

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start by grabbing a medicine ball and taking a seat on the floor.
  • Slightly bend the knees and raise your feet roughly six inches off the floor.
  • Start by rotating your torso to the left and lightly tapping the med ball against the ground.
  • Now turn your shoulders and rotate your torso to the right and, again, lightly tap the ball against the ground.
  • Keep legs mostly still and maintain the feet off the floor throughout the movement.
  • Continue rotating back and forth until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points (Common Mistakes)

The biggest mistake I see with my athletes when doing Seated Med Ball Twists is moving the ball back and forth primarily with their arms instead of rotating through the core. The focus should be on the rotation. The ball touching the ground is simply an added bonus to the movement.

Speaking of the ball touching the ground – there is no need to bang the ball off the ground as hard as possible each rep. Stay in control of the movement and the med ball and lightly tap it on the ground.


Ab Wheel


Ab Wheel

The Ab Wheel uses a similar movement pattern as battle ropes. It’s not quite as dynamic but it’s still much more so than just lying down and doing crunches.

If you don’t have an Ab Wheel you can also use a barbell with bumper plates on each side.

Equipment Needed

  • Ab Wheel

Muscles Worked

  • Abdominal Core Muscles (Rectus Abdominus, Obliques Externus Abdominus)
  • Quadriceps Rectus Femoris
  • Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start on your knees with hands on the ab wheel handles.
  • Brace the core and begin pushing the wheel forward along the ground.
  • Keep rolling out, extending the body until it feels like you’re going to lose tension and fall.
  • Stop just short of losing your tension and pull the wheel back towards you.
  • Continue until all reps are completed.

Coaching Points

Make sure to keep the core braced so the strain doesn’t end up in the low back. As your core becomes stronger you’ll be able to extend out further with the wheel.


Knees to Elbows


Knees to Elbows are a dynamic hanging ab movement. Not only will they help build a powerful core, but they’ll also work the back, biceps and forearms as well.

Equipment Needed

  • Pull-Up Bar – Ideally a stand-alone pull-up bar or one connected to a squat rack although any sturdy object you can hang from will technically work.

Muscles Worked

  • Core Abdominals (Rectus Abdominus, Obliques Externus Abdominis)
  • Quadriceps Rectus Femoris
  • Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)
  • Back, Biceps and Forearms

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Find yourself a pull-up bar and grip the bar with an overhand grip
  • Engage your lats so your body doesn’t go limp once you begin to hang
  • Now hang from the bar and flex your arms to about a 90-degree angle at the elbow
  • Lift the knees up and slightly roll the hips forward until the knees touch the elbows
  • Actively drive your legs down and straight and then repeat.
  • Don’t allow your legs to ‘just fall’ after touching your knees or you’ll swing uncontrollably.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps

Coaching Points

The biggest issue that most of my athletes run into when doing Knees To Elbows is how to keep from swinging.

To keep from swinging, you have to actively lower your legs back down. If you ‘let your legs go’ and just allow gravity to take over you’ll completely lose control of the movement. Timing and rhythm are both important for Knees To Elbows and you can’t achieve either if you’re not in control of your legs throughout the movement.

Final Thoughts

Battle Ropes are an excellent tool for developing a strong, powerful core but sometimes Battle Ropes just isn’t an option. You may not have the proper equipment available to you or at other times you might just be looking to add some variety to your training program.

In these situations, you’ll need Battle Rope alternatives and I hope that at least one of the exercises I’ve listed here fits what you were looking for.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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