Workout: all ropes, no slack

Using his favorite secret weapon, group fitness instructor Gerren Liles creates a metabolism-boosting, muscle-toning power routine.

Skipping and jumping it is not—this type of rope work has a bit more heft. Though often found coiled in a corner of your exercise floor, the weighted rope has potential beyond its occasional appearance in a circuit workout. In fact, if used creatively, this understated piece of equipment can offer a stand-alone, total-body workout that’s anything but basic. Rope work is one of the most efficient ways to simultaneously boost your metabolism and tone muscle, which is precisely why we tapped one of its masters, group fitness instructor Gerren Liles, who teaches the rope-centric Whipped! class, to show you the ropes.

“If you want an upper-body activity that maintains the level of cardiovascular intensity of plyometric exercises like sprints or box jumps, whipping is an excellent addition to your routine,” says Liles. “Plus, even though you'll get the awesome upper body workout, engaging the legs in some capacity, even by simply squatting down and up, will increase the total-body benefit.”

Liles, who created the routine he demonstrates in the slideshow below, recommends adding rope work to your regimen twice a week. “Whatever your typical routine, this will be beneficial in maintaining a high calorie burn during and after your workout,” he says. “I designed this particular mix so that seven to eight of these exercises could form an excellent stand-alone workout, as these moves target upper body, lower body and core.”

Liles’s Bonus Technique Tips:

Making small tweaks to your stance, grip and even your choice plane of motion can translate to serious payoff during your session, in the form of increased muscle isolation and activation. Follow Liles’ advice below.

(1) Change Your Stance: “Anything that decreases your base of support ups the intensity of the whip. Narrowing your stance, such as standing in a split squat or lunge position, will up the challenge to your balance. On occasion, I would stand on one leg, or even stand on top of a Bosu to further increase my instability.”

(2) Get A (Different) Grip: “Changing the grip can also affect the workout. Grabbing the handle with the end facing up keeps the biceps in a consistent state of contraction and makes sagittal motions easier. Gripping with the handles pointing towards you (or overhand) is good for circular or lateral motions.””

(3) Hit Multiple Planes of Motion: “Whipping in a lateral or side-to-side motion will force you to contract your obliques and transverse abdominus more to stay centered.”

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  • Plyo Push-Up

    Plyo Push-Up

    Start in plank position with an end of the rope beneath each hand. Grip the rope with the thumb and first two fingers, or wrap your fingers around the top, but do not rest your knuckles under the rope. Lower your chest towards the floor, then dynamically push off, raising and slamming the rope down. Land in a push-up, being careful not to lock out your arms. Return to plank position, then repeat. Do 3 sets of 10 reps, with 30 to 45 seconds of rest in between.

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  • 180-Degree Jumps

    180-Degree Jumps

    Turn your body to your left so that you're standing perpendicular to the rope, and hold the ends of the rope together with both hands at your right hip. Squat and do a 180-degree jump, turning towards the rope and raising the rope overhead in an arc. Land in a squat, bringing the rope to your left hip. Immediately repeat in reverse. Do 3 sets of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off.

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  • Star Jump

    Star Jump

    Start in a narrow squat, legs together, gripping the handles of the rope with the ends facing upward. Jump while opening and closing the legs quickly, and swinging your arms overhead as if doing a jumping jack. Land in a squat with your legs together and hands in front of your hips. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off.

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  • Alternating Squat Whip

    Alternating Squat Whip

    Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. As you whip, squat on one leg. Return to starting position and then immediately squat on the other leg. Do 3 sets of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off.

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  • Lateral Shuffle With Whip

    Lateral Shuffle With Whip

    Find a starting point and shuffle to the side, timing your whip to the steps (your hands should be close and whipping together). When you reach your endpoint, squat and push off the outside foot to return to the other side. Do 3 sets of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off.
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  • C-Sit With Whip

    C-Sit With Whip

    Sit with knees bent, feet up, leaning back with back flat, core engaged, and grip the rope handles with ends facing upward. (Make sure the rope is taut; you should feel like you are holding yourself up with it.) Whip 3 to 5 times, and then straighten your legs and lean hips back, then return to C-sit position. Repeat for 15 to 20 reps. Do 3 sets with 30 to 45 seconds of rest in between.

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  • Plank With Alternating Hand Whip

    Plank With Alternating Hand Whip

    Start in plank position, a rope handle beneath each hand. Raise one arm and whip 10 times, keeping your upper body square to the floor and trying not to twist your torso. Repeat on the other side. Repeat so you do five sets on each hand, with 30 to 45 seconds of rest in between.

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  • Jump Slam to Burpee

    Jump Slam to Burpee

    Holding an end of the rope in each hand, jump, raising the rope, and slam down as you're landing into a burpee. You can add a push-up once you're in plank position, or even combine with the earlier movement by whipping the rope with each hand a few times before jumping your feet forward to return to stand and repeat. Do 3 sets of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off.

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  • Sit/Stand


    Sit with heels close to your glutes, holding the rope against your chest, the ends facing upward. (Keep constant tension in the rope, making sure there is no slack.) Drive through your heels to stand up, keeping the rope at your chest, with a straight back. Slowly return to the seated start position, keeping your weight on your heels. Do 3 sets of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off.

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