Last month, I got an email from a gentleman named Bruce Pahl, who introduced himself and offered to send me a set of his Battle Ropes, which he calls Slam-N-Ropes (available from his site SlamNGear.com).
I had never used Battle Ropes before, and honestly, didn’t really know much about them. But I had seen them used by some other professionals I respect. So, I gratefully accepted Bruce’s offer. He was even kind enough to throw in one of his sandbags (Slam-N-Sandbags), a climbing rope, and a training DVD, too.
I’ll be honest that I haven’t had much time to test his equipment this past month, but I thought that since I know nothing about Battle Rope training, the first thing I should do was ask Bruce some questions about it and post an interview with him – not just for your benefit, but mine as well!
So, I sent him some questions via email, and he sent me back some audio files with his responses, which I had transcribed for you.
Here it is…
John: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and what you do today?
Bruce: Yes. Hi, thanks for having me for the interview. My background comes from natural bodybuilding, which I started when I was only fifteen years old. I realized that I did not have the genetics to become a pro bodybuilder. So, I decided to switch to my second physical area of interest, and that was martial arts. Through martial arts, I learned the value of stretching, grappling, MMA-type conditioning, and functional fitness. I also was trained as a dental and medical specialist, EMT, and an expert field medic while serving in the U.S. Army for five years. This is where I learned more about prevention and health.
John: Thank you for your service! Now, what are Battle Ropes and what makes them unique?
Bruce: Battle Ropes are a unique training system because they utilize waving undulation training, and circle or rotational type training. You can do explosive-type work or power-type work with the heavier, thicker rope. It improves work capacity and it’s very mentally engaging because as you watch the ropes wave and undulate, your mind gets engaged to see them wave all the way to the anchor point. You can do strength-type training or you can do pulling on a pole, simulating pull-ups or a pull down – or a continuous rope type machine.
To summarize, it’s really functional training at its best, and I tell people Battle Rope or Slam-N-Rope type training is like sprinting without having to run. And you do not get the benefit of momentum as you are training in some of the methods. So, it’s actually more difficult to sustain output. And when you lower your height to the ground or sit down or do it on an instability ball or something like that, it becomes much harder and you have to go faster. And there’s an element of coordination, also, that’s involved.
John: There are a lot of different fitness tools available today. So, why Battle Ropes? What can you do with them that you can’t do with other tools, or can’t do as well? And what are the specific benefits they provide? What training niche does this fill? And what kinds of goals can it be used for?
Bruce: I can answer that question the best by explaining what John Brookfield said to me when he created this system in 2006. Battle Rope training is unique and nothing else you do in your training will duplicate the benefits you would get from battle ropes, or as I like to call them, Slam-N-Ropes, because we do a lot of slamming. And you get to focus on different areas of development. So, you have coordination, there’s timing issues. You can have footwork. You can go very fast. You can go very slow. You can slam it very hard. You can do rotational exercises. You can do it on a stability ball or stability disk. You can do it with a partner or without a partner. You can do it outside or inside. So, there’s a lot of great benefits to Battle Rope Training.
Also, as mentioned, it increases work capacity. And it does not duplicate other training methods. It complements. Plus, it’s a great warmup. It’s a great cooldown. And it can be done pretty much daily, if you wanted to. And I like to alternate it or supplement it with the pole pulling method. Because the rope training is going to work more of the posterior. Where the pulling will work more of the anterior. So, you get more balance. And that’s one of the downfalls of a lot of tools – where people… They’re pressing. They’re doing a lot of linear exercises. They’re doing a lot of movements, but they’re not balancing the posterior.
The training niche is speed, power, explosiveness, coordination, timing. It’ll help with footwork. It greatly complements martial arts training, and it kinda fills in the gaps. And if I didn’t already mention, it’s a great way to recover from a previous workout.
John: I read that some professional sports team, including some NFL teams, swear by the Battle Ropes. What do athletes usually use them for?
Bruce: Battle Ropes started from the top down. In other words, professional athletes embraced battle rope training and the unique benefits that BR training provides because nothing else was equivalent. And the NFL teams, the Buccaneers, the Bengals, and other sports teams and the US military were the first to implement it. And it trickled from the top down. So, it went from the best trainers in the world and the coaches to the average person training in their backyard.
They’re usually used for explosiveness, work capacity, grip strength, and many many other benefits. It’s a complement to everything else you do.
People don’t do enough cross training or enough functional training. And I think every training method has it’s place, but we can’t do it all. So, I like strength training and power training and endurance training, and stretching and clubbell training and sandbag training and kettlebell-sandbag training. And so, the variety is the key from getting overuse injuries and from getting bored in your workouts. And that’s one of the most important benefits of battle rope training.
John: What are the most important things to keep in mind when starting out with Battle Ropes? And what are some of the common mistakes to avoid?
Bruce: With Battle Rope training, firstly it’s rope length. A 30 foot rope is for a beginner – someone deconditioned. Or, maybe a child or a woman. A 40 and 50 foot rope is for a man. A 40 or 50 2″ (i.e. thicker) rope would be for an athlete. And then partner ropes would be for athletes also. Now, if you are lacking in space, you could use a 2″ rope in a smaller spaced area. So, if you only had 20 feet of training area, you could use a 30 or 40 foot rope in that training space. You just need about a foot of space behind you, depending on how much room you have in the room.
So, the point of BR training is again work capacity and coordination and timing and all those are great athletic benefits that you get.
The other mistake that people make is they don’t make it progressive. In other words, if you start with a 2″ rope, and it’s too heavy and too hard, you won’t be able to progress over a minute or two in any short period of time because you’re not going to be able to improve your work capacity. You’re going to gas out too much. It’s just like using too heavy of a clubbell or sandbag. Like most trainers and people do – guys – they lift too much and they don’t use proper form, usually, unless they’re properly trained.
And then the other thing is, grip variety, using instability, and using proper anchor straps. You can shorten any rope to make it easier, and you can lengthen ropes to make it harder and the anchor straps and the anchoring method make it more of a natural, dynamic movement. So, instead of anchoring around a pole or around a bench leg or something like that, the anchor straps kit that you can get from Slam-N-Gear are able to move and have more of a natural, dynamic movement.
So, grip variety, changing your height, incorporating your legs, and doing a large variety of different types of movements going from different angles and positions, incorporating and this is very important – proper hip movement – I explain this in my videos, in my opt-in. So, you can use hip snap, you can use hip rotation. You can use your body wave and whipping motion that comes from the martial arts and most sports. So, there’s a lot of different ways that you can train with the rope, and the key is keep it natural.
And one other point is the flexible handles that we provide at Slam-N-Ropes and Slam-N-Gear helps the handle to bend at the point of the wrist. Instead of bending out past the point of the hand because when you have a hard plastic end cap, your hands sweat, your hands will slip. You’ll choke up on the rope to make it easier, and these are some of the biggest mistakes that people make.
So, I recommend a 40 or 50 foot rope, a variety of grips, the flexible sport-grip handles that Battle Rope Training provides. And the other thing is, our ropes are all commercial quality and specifically designed for trainers. And our ropes are used in hundreds, actually thousands, of gyms, personal training centers, Jewish community centers, rehab facilities, sports teams, martial arts. We were the number one and the original Battle Ropes reseller/wholesaler in the nation at one point. And we were the original to start doing it under John Brookfield. And then we broke away and we improved the Battle Ropes product. That’s the key. You get what you pay for.
John: What are some lessons you’ve learned from your background in Circular Strength Training that you could apply to training with the Battle Ropes?
Bruce: As I mentioned earlier, Battle Ropes training has five primary methods. You can do waves, circles, slams, strength, and pulling type training. And then of course partner-type training. And each method offers a different benefit and develops a different area. It’s very hard to understand these methods without a visual. The other thing is that when I started CST and got certified under Scott Sonnon, I used too heavy of a clubbell and dislocated, tore my rotator cuff. I did not watch the video. I did not learn about packing shoulders and I made mistakes. The good thing about rope training is that I haven’t gotten hurt from rope training, but I’ve gotten hurt from everything else that I’ve trained with: kettlebells, sandbags, clubbells, pretty much everything has hurt me in one form or another. but as a martial artist, that’s what it’s about: health-first, safety-first, and we don’t try to hurt each other in martial arts training. We just want to be toughened up.
John: What other training tools do you think complement Battle Ropes well?
Bruce: I like to cross train, as I mentioned, and I like to do circuit type training where I pick suspension training, Battle Ropes training, stability ball training. I do, jump roping, weight lifting, whatever it is. And I bounce between maybe strength and cardio and functional training, med-ball training, and I do it as a circuit. And you can do it for time, or you can do it for reps. Obviously, if you’re alone, reps works better. Or, you can do it with a timer, or a clock, or follow along. Music definitely helps. Rocky and Eye of the Tiger and Survivor is my favorite.
So, circuit cross training for time or reps, improving work capacity, and having a large variety in your training equipment will enable you to keep improving and your cardio will soar, and your work capacity will improve. And your recovery will improve greatly. It really is the great cross-over, carry-over for sports, martial arts, and for general health and fitness.
John: What are some of the best exercises you can do with Battle Ropes?
Bruce: Some of the best exercises you can do with Battle Ropes I’ve already mentioned, but I would say that doing a variety and making it natural and trying to focus on the output and what you’re trying to accomplish. So, whatever specific goal you have: is it power? Speed? Coordination? Timing? You can get all that from Battle Ropes training. So, focus on what your goals are and specifically what you’re trying to accomplish. And that’s what every good trainer asks: “what is it you want to accomplish? And what do you want to get out of this training?” And then once we evaluate as a trainer, we start to personalize their program. And that seems to be the hardest because every tool has complexities and uniqueness and potential injury. So, I like to focus on dynamic, natural movement.
John: Do you have a favorite workout you could share?
Bruce: I’ll send you to my video and my opt-in, and then you can go to my blog. I’m gonna be launching another blog called Be Challenged Workout. That’s coming. My Youtube channel, my SlamNGear Facebook. And I have a lot of blog articles that you can read on slamngear.com. So, I would refer you to that.
My favorite workout would be circuit-type training. But you could start with warming up with ropes, or jump ropes, or calisthenics, or suspension training, and then go right into weight training. Go right into kettlebell training. Go into sandbag training. And you can have a variety of training so that your body doesn’t get stale and you don’t get over-training.
John: How could someone plug the Battle Ropes in to their current training program?
Bruce: Just get out there. Get waving. Get moving. I was certified in 2006. I’ve been doing Battle Ropes longer than anybody else, and I would say that variety is the key. It’s the spice. It keeps you focused. And also, it enables you to personalize your program for what you’re trying to accomplish.
John: What kind of trainees would be best-served by Battle Ropes? And what should someone look for when choosing a set? Also, I noticed that your Slam-N-Ropes are a little more expensive than other Battle Ropes I can find online. What makes them worth the extra cost?
Bruce: Anybody can use Battle Ropes training. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve have wheel-chair athletes. We’ve had injured athletes because you can do it kneeling, seated, standing, with a partner. You can do it with stability. You can do it with movement. You can incorporate legs into it. When you incorporate leg training, lunges, squats, slams, and big circles, your heart rate will skyrocket. And you will get a burn in your shoulders and arms, and you’ll get a lot of blood flow. And so, the biggest benefit would be that your improving that work capacity and you are improving your recovery ability. It works really good for a post-weight lifting soreness and just general recovery. Or, if you’re injured.
They’re 80/20 poly blend. They don’t fray like other ropes. They aren’t as light as other ropes. The three strands are tightly round so they don’t fall apart. They have flexible rubber handles with a steel core. And they have the right weight and size ratio to them. Plus, there’s a lot of variety you can use to the ropes. And just the durability. We give a 1-year warranty. We offer free shipping on our website. So, the value that we have offered is above and beyond the cost. And as we said before, you get what you pay for. No one buys cheap equipment. If you go to the gym or if you go to the sporting good store and buy equipment, it’s going to fall apart on you. Their sandbags are horrible. They’re cheap. They’ve been mass-produced overseas. And I would focus on commercial-quality equipment if you’re going to use it on a regular basis. You get what you pay for.
John: Is there anything else someone should know before they get started with Battle Rope training?
Bruce: As I mentioned, Battle Rope Training can be used by anybody at any level, and it’s progressive. And that’s one of the things that Scott Sonnon – when I first demonstrated Battle Rope Training at the 2006 Kappa Cadre certification for clubbell training – after 3 days of training, I demonstrated the rope training. And I used 2″ manila rope. It was 50 feet. I was extremely tired, but I did it. And he looked at me, suspectly, and he wasn’t sure if there was proper progression. And that has been proven over the years because Battle Rope training has been around for almost as long as clubbell training. And of course, Circular Strength Training, we all know comes from Indian Clubbell training and other rotational type training methods. And I learned a lot from CST and I’ve incorporated that knowledge into Battle Rope training.
Just try to use a lot of variety. Keep it natural, dynamic, and flowing. And try to segway or move from one movement to another without pausing. Keep that heart rate up and rest only as long as you have to between your sets. So, you could go for – what I usually recommend – is you can do 15 seconds on, and 30 seconds or 1 minute, or you could go for multiple minutes. The most I was ever able to do was 20 minutes non-stop of training. And that’s real work capacity. That was with a 40 foot rope.
Now, I tried to use a 2″ rope for the longest time, and I couldn’t get my work capacity up because I kept gassing out and I was too tired. And I didn’t know back then that I could shorten that rope. It just didn’t dawn on me. So, I created the anchor straps and started to wrap my rope using anchor straps around poles and shortening it and using a lighter rope and it really helped me to progress.
So, don’t make the mistake of choosing too heavy a rope or too long a rope, too fast. But also don’t make the mistake of choosing too light of a rope and too short of a rope. And a poorly designed polyester type rope. Or, a manila rope that sheds. I usually recommend – and you can see this in my videos in great detail – poly rope is for indoor training. Manila is for outdoor training. Poly is best for outdoor storage. Manila rope can shed. So, you don’t want to leave manila indoors unless you can sweep up. Poly is softer, less abrasive, and of course better for climbing. And we also sell climbing ropes. And we sell partner ropes. And our ropes are black. So, they don’t get white. But we also do carry some white ropes, depending on the order and the customer. And that’s about it.
So, thank you very much for this interview and for asking these questions. And I really hope everybody has learned a lot from this little interview and this seminar. And please again, come to SlamNRopes.com and you can post any question you want on my Facebook. I will answer them. You can post to the PhysicalLiving.com Facebook and I’ll answer them, too. Just friend me and like me. I’m just now getting on social media, and I’d love for you to follow me. So, be encouraged, and keep training safely. And God bless.
John: Thanks for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Bruce! I’m looking forward to learning more and testing out your equipment over the coming months.
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Health-First Fitness Coach