Looking for a way to build superhero biceps? Then forget about the curls. If you really want your arm development to set you apart from the average curl-obsessed gym-goer, you need to think outside the box and try out this move that cannot be found in most mainstream bodybuilding magazines.
Climb your way to impressive biceps
Have you noticed the biceps development of avid rope-climbing gymnasts? Rope climbing is such a simple action that you wouldn’t think of it as a worthy addition to your training routine. And you would be terribly wrong. There is a reason why rope climbing has been a staple exercise in military and combat training for decades and it has something to do with the fact that this is one of the best advanced upper-body builders available and one of the ultimate tests of strength and condition.
Besides presenting a great challenge for your biceps, shoulders, forearms, back, abs, rope climbing can help you develop an iron grip and improve your muscle coordination and endurance. You will need to reach a high level of overall fitness (especially in the upper back) before mastering the rope climb, but we assure you that practicing this move will be more than worth your while. Rope climbing shouldn’t be taken lightly – it causes dramatic neuromuscular activation and demands substantial rest between sets and workouts. Among other things, because of the hand positioning (neutral and close together), the rope climb will overload your elbow flexors and brachialis more than the upper back muscles, while at the same time forcing your gripping muscles to work like never before, thereby providing a superior bang for your buck than most traditional arm exercises.
Tips for beginners
Since rope climbing isn’t an easy exercise, you might want to first improve your strength and agility with the help of pull-ups, push-ups and sled pulls, all of which can significantly develop the muscles that help you lift your own body weight and improve your upper body endurance. Once you develop the required competency for a decent slow rope climb, add two sessions of rope climbing to your weekly training routine.
To begin, grip the rope with one hand above the other. Bend at the elbows and pull yourself up, then reach up to a higher part of the rope with the lower hand. Repeat until you reach the top of the rope.
Prepare for failure during the first few tries and don’t let that discourage you. You can’t master this move overnight, but if you’re patient and train regularly, we guarantee that you’ll get there. As your strength increases, challenge yourself to climb the rope a bit faster every time. It’s important to note that rope climbing can be tough on the elbows, so make sure to include a lengthy warm-up routine before each rope climbing session. In addition, your upper back muscles need to be strong enough to support the movement – if that’s not the case, your elbows could suffer.
Once you reach a point where you’re comfortable with the exercise enough to climb a rope in seconds, you can increase the intensity by adding additional weight to your rope climbs – weighted vests are a great way to do this because they evenly distribute the weight over the body. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to start small and gradually increase the weight.