Get On UP That Rope..Ring The Bell
Climbing a rope…It’s one of the oldest (and most functional) exercises, and likely for the same reason one of the more universal OCR obstacles you will encounter. Humans have been perfecting technique for this exercise in some manner for time on end. Not surprising, if you plan on performing your best or out-speeding your opponent at your next OCR event, it is probably beneficial for you to become an expert at climbing a rope.
One major misconception about getting up a rope fast and easily is that it requires massive upper body strength. In fact, like many obstacles – good technique is usually your best weapon against a rope climb obstacle “fail”. More specifically, rope climbs typically require only reasonable amounts of grip and upper body strength, as your legs and foot technique are the key factors to move you upward.
It’s still badass to use your feet
Of course, any OCR badass could effectively climb a rope without using a foothold. However, for most successful OCR competitors, it’s typically quicker, smarter, and energy conserving to utilize solid technique and one of several effective footholds to get up a rope. Learning one (or all) of the following methods, will allow you to secure your feet to the rope and push down with your legs so that your upper body and grip aren’t the primary movers during your ascent.
Check out these 3 techniques, and see which one works best for you. Mastering all of them is ideal, as you may find one or another work better depending on the conditions of your OCR event (we all know how slick mud can be!).
S-Wrap (Marine Corps technique)
Of all rope climbing techniques, the military S-Wrap developed by the Marine Corps is typically considered the most secure. The only drawbacks however, are that because it’s a bit more intricate, it can take slightly longer, and typically with lots of practice you can develop some burns on your calf. However, this wrap is perfect for even the most muddy and slick rope climbing conditions.
First place the rope on the outside of your body, and kick your leg out to hook back and around the rope. Pull forward so your foot hooks the rope, lying across the the top of the foot (making the “S” of the rope around your leg). Step with the other foot on top of the rope that’s over your foot, locking it in place – you should be able to stand up with the majority of your weight through your legs. To climb, pull up with your arms, release the lock, letting the rope slide down your leg. Cinch the lock into place and repeat. To descend, just reverse the motion and lower yourself down.
J-Hook (Navy Seals technique)
Developed by the Navy Seals as an alternate to the S-Wrap, the J-hook technique is a more expedient rope climb technique that uses body leverage and a foot lock similar to the S-Wrap. However, it uses the bend in the rope to create a J shape along the outside of the climber’s leg.
First, let the rope fall outside of your body along the leg. Step on top of the rope, placing it under your arch. Slide the other foot under the rope and lift up. Form the lock either by cinching the rope between the insides of your feet (pressing them together) or by using the second foot to lift the rope over the first foot and step on it. To ascend, simply pull up, reset the lock and repeat. This technique, once mastered is efficient and speedy. Moreover, because it doesn’t utilize a leg wrap, you won’t suffer from rope burns during practice.
J-Hook alternate (Crossfit Style)
A variation of the classic military J-Hook is often seen in many CrossFit gyms and competitions (as well as many OCR events). It utilizes an almost identical method, but there are two slight changes. First, the rope doesn’t run along the outside of the leg. Instead, let the rope run up the center of the body with the primary knee on the outside of the rope. The second foot runs under the rope and lifts up, clamping the rope as in the classic J-hook technique.
Next, while climbing, kick your legs out and apart, scissoring your feet while holding the rope. This will allow you to raise your feet higher with each climb, thereby making upward progress quicker and more efficient – as much of the climb is done using your legs rather than arms. As such, it is quicker and a bit more secure than the classic J-hook technique, allowing you to ascend speedily.