Aricle by Doug Balzarini
As Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) continues to grow in popularity, so do the methods and techniques used to help the MMA athletes reach their full potential. Coaches are realizing that their athletes must have a complete well-rounded program that covers not only their specialty; but many other aspects as well. One “piece of the puzzle”, strength training, is an aspect that more and more coaches are implementing. Strength training is a great way to “lay that foundation” and help an athlete develop superior strength and power endurance. With my strength training and metabolic conditioning sessions, I experiment with all sorts of movements and equipment. Some tools are dropped, some are used sparingly, and then there are some foundational pieces that you will always find. One of these is the heavy rope. Ropes provide you with total body strength, endurance, and power. The ropes have many names (heavy ropes, climbing ropes, fitness ropes, battling ropes®, to name a few) and come in various lengths and widths. We typically use ropes that are 40 or 50 feet long with a thickness of 1.5 to 2 inches. This is a tool that has gained popularity very quickly and we are constantly coming up with new ways to utilize this versatile piece.

For a great deal of the popular movements, we begin with a handle in each handle and the midpoint of the rope is securely anchored. Facing the anchor point, stand in an athletic position with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and your knees and hips slightly bent. This is a great set-up position for many of the traditional anterior chain movements which include; jumping jacks, slams, waves, slams, grappler throws, walk-ins, single arm variations, etc. These can also be done seated, kneeling, or while performing lower body movements such as squats and lunges.

You can attach the rope to a sled, prowler, punching bag, wrap it around a pole, or just about anything that will slide and perform a number of posterior chain pulling movements. This creates a whole new set of movements that require a great deal of grip strength which is crucial for the MMA athlete.

This is not an exclusive list as my favorites change up on a weekly basis. Here are my current top 5 heavy rope exercises for MMA athletes:

1. Rope Jumping Jacks
I use this exercise as part of my dynamic warm-up. It is typically part of a series of movements and is performed for 30 seconds.

2. Rope Slam Variations
This exercise can be performed as a stand-alone exercise, part of a complex, or as one station in a multi-exercise circuit. They are typically performed for time (anywhere from 20 to 60 seconds).

3. Rope Circle Variations
This exercise can be performed as a stand-alone exercise, part of a complex, or as one station in a multi-exercise circuit. They are typically performed for time (anywhere from 20 to 60 seconds).

4. Rope Pull Variations
This exercise can be performed as a stand-alone exercise, part of a complex, or as one station in a multi-exercise circuit. Both the horizontal and vertical pulling exercises are performed until you reach the end of the rope. As I show in the video you can easily complete the full length of the rope multiple times in one set.

5. Rope Plank Variations
This exercise can be performed as a stand-alone exercise, part of a complex, or as one station in a multi-exercise circuit. Like the standing or seated pull variations, this exercise is done until you reach the end of the rope. If you load this up with enough weight, one length of the rope will be enough.

About Doug
Doug Balzarini is currently the strength and conditioning coach for the Alliance MMA Fight Team in Chula Vista, CA. He is also the founder of DBStrength.com, which provides fitness-related articles and education. Previously, Doug worked at Fitness Quest 10 for 6 ½ years as a personal trainer, strength coach, and Operations Director for Todd Durkin Enterprises (TDE).

A Massachusetts native, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science with a minor in Business Management from Westfield State University. Since moving to San Diego he has completed some graduate work in Biomechanics at SDSU, obtained an ACE Personal Trainer certification, the NSCA-CSCS certification, TRX instructor training, EFI Gravity instructor training, LIFT Sandbag Certification, Spinning certification, FMS training, and received his CPR/AED instructor status. He has also appeared in dozens of fitness videos, written numerous fitness articles, completed a MMA Conditioning Coach certification program and has competed in multiple grappling tournaments.

Prior to working at Fitness Quest 10, Doug worked for the American Council on Exercise as the Continuing Education Coordinator where he was responsible for managing over 400 continuing education providers.

For more information please visit www.dbstrength.com.