Spartan Race Rope Climb (Without The Rope)

The Spartan Race rope climb is one of the most failed obstacles on the course. So much so that you’ll see racers skip the rope climb all together and just go right to the burpees without even trying. You know it’s a dreaded obstacle when racers choose 30 burpees over what could be a quick climb to the cowbell.

And it’s not just the fact that it’s a rope climb that makes this obstacle so tricky (rope climbing can be hard enough as is)… it’s the fact that most of the time the rope is covered in mud from prior climbers or is soaking wet (in cases where the weather is rainy or your rope is dangling across a chilly pool of water), making gripping the rope a challenge in itself.

So how do you train for the Spartan Race rope climb if you don’t have a high tree branch to tie a rope around in your backyard?

Most racers think they just have to “wing-it” come race day and hope they don’t fall to their death.

The truth is, you don’t have to wing-it come race day. You can train for the rope climb without a rope and I’m going to show you how in the video below.

“Ropeless” Spartan Race Rope Climb Training


If you’re not much of a video watcher then I’m going to list out some of the best rope climb training moves you can do at the gym without having to… well, use a rope.

Let’s start with the most important movement you need to work on for nearly any Spartan Race obstacle.

1. The pull-up.

This may seem obvious, but there is a method to pull-up training that is really going to develop muscular strength fast. You’ll want to follow this progression unless you’re okay with hanging 15 feet in the air with only one way down. It’s called progressive overload. Here’s an example:

Pull-ups Progressive Overload Model:

Week 1: Max out on pull-up repetitions you can perform in 60 seconds time (for the sake of the example we’ll say 10 reps and 1 half rep)

Week 2: You’ll perform your 60 second pull-up sets with at least 11 full repetitions and 1 or 2 half reps

Week 3: You’ll perform your 60 second pull-up sets with at least 12 full repetitions and 1 or 2 half reps

And the progression continues. Each week you MUST beat your last workout, no questions asked. 

If you can only do partial repetitions on pull-ups right now then begin your progression to working your way to a complete pull-up by using partial reps and chin-up hangs to develop your back muscles.

2. Hanging Knee Raises

You may not be pulling yourself up on this exercise, instead you are working two vital muscle segments that are extremely important for your Spartan Race rope climb success.

The hanging knee raise is going to strengthen your midsection and lower body which will ultimately propel you efficiently and successfully to the top of the rope. Think about climbing a rope for a second.

Do you ever climb a rope using just your upper body? Of course not. Truth is, very few people have the upper body strength to do so. Instead, you use your legs and abs as assisting muscles to synergistically help you up a climb.

As you pull your body up the rope, your core tightens as you scrunch your knees to your chest to brace for the next pull of your climb. Everything muscle in your body is working together. Without a strong core and legs, you’ll be forced having to rely on only your upper body strength. Good luck with that one.

I will say this… the hanging leg raise does challenge your grip strength which is essential when rope climbing. Which only furthers the argument that the hanging knee raise is an exercise you can’t do without for your Spartan Race rope climb training.

3. Hammer Curl

You’re only as strong as your weakest link… And let’s face it, biceps are one the weakest muscles on your body. Your primary mover, even before your back muscles begin to contract will be your biceps. They begin the movement of your entire body up the rope. If they are weak then the Spartan Race rope climb will be a struggle.

Most people think hammer curls are a “bodybuilding” exercise however they play an incredibly functional role with some of Spartan Race’s most challenging obstacles including the rope climb and the Atlas stone carry.

My recommendation: Set a timer for 60 seconds and pick a weight that is 7/10 challenging. Complete as many reps of the hammer curl in the 60 seconds as you can. If you stop at any point, DO NOT set down the dumbbells. Instead, hold onto them for extra grip strengthening work. Proceed with your curl until the time is complete.

There you have it. A set of secret-weapon exercises that will help you dominate the Spartan Race rope climb without a rope. So instead of skipping right to the burpees next Spartan Race… you should be more than ready to slap the cowbell and continue on your with your burped-free race.


To The Obstacle Course Crusher Guide!

Discover how to run a Burpee-Free Spartan Race with some of the best obstacle simulation training exercises.



Joe LoGalbo is an obstacle race trainer for racers of all levels - elite and beginners. He is also the creator of the revolutionary Obstacle Race Training systems: Obstacle Overtake System, Obstacle Insanity Program, Obstacle Beast Program, and The Short Course Crushers Program. Joe is passionately providing the OCR community with expert training and nutrition articles and videos daily.

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