Thursday, December 3, 2015

OCR How to: Rope Climb for Beginners

Ah, the rope climb. The immortal enemy of many Spartan racers worldwide.

So far, all the Spartan Races I have taken part in have had the dreaded rope climb. Sometimes, even two. Basically you can always count on Spartan to have its signature rope climb obstacle. Fortunately, this is an obstacle that can be defeated and conquered by learning the proper climbing technique(s).

If your upper body and grip strength are strong, then you should have no problem muscling your way up to the bell and down safely. But if you're like me with completely no arm power whatsoever, your only hope of getting up that rope is to learn one of two rope climbing techniques.

Personally my favourite is the S-Technique simply because I feel more secure on the rope even if the rope was moving up and down a lot. This technique requires the rope to wrap around the thigh and calf and is locked by your foot atop the other.
While I find it more secure on the ascend and descent, it is slower than the J-technique and therefore, the fingers need to hold on longer. Also when on the descent, I usually hook and unhook my feet to avoid rope burns but this can be costly for the race as it takes up my grip strength.
Obstacle Racer Magazine Online has a very good article on both rope climbing techniques - as it lists down the pros and cons of each technique and also has video tutorials.

For both methods, it is crucial to work on your grip strength because your hands and fingers will be the ones taking your weight while your legs does the fancy moves to make you don't fall and die. So here are some ways to strengthen and improve your grip strength.

1. Find a bar and just hang there. Not those social bars la...An overhead bar in any playground or gym will work. Hang there without swinging your legs If you are feeling strong, work on your knee-to-chest, pull-ups or chin-ups.
2. Use a towel, drape it over a bar and hang from the towel. It is particularly helpful in working the fingers to grip the towel or rope while holding up your weight.
3. Practice, practice, practice. Make your muscles memorise the moves so that you don't end up wasting precious seconds and energy trying to recall the next steps. Build up your grip and each attempt contributes to making you stronger. Eventually, it will become as easy as driving.

As for where, Crossfit Pahlawan in Citta Mall has several 15 metres ropes to train on. For more information, go to their website at

Occasionally Original Bootcamp Malaysia brings out the equipment and sets up a rope climb workout for its recruits. You'll be surprised by how many ladies can climb up ropes at OBC, myself included. Till today, I swear an angel just came down and hit me with an epiphany of how to rope climb. If this was an RPG, I freaking just leveled up and obtained a new skill.

Once you have the technique right, failing this obstacle is almost impossible. Soon you will have other racers gapping at you from below as you ring that bell on top. Aroo!

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