Updated: Feb 18, 2021
The Fitness Industry is going through a massive, seemingly pubescent phase of growth. The spotlight has been on conventional aesthetic training, mega gyms, machine circuits, aerobics and the like, for decades. As a culture and industry, we have had enough time to realize the pitfalls of these conventional modalities. After years of pioneering work from those in the industry who caught on early; we are finally seeing the light shine on more inherently functional avenues of fitness. You know... Movements that actually relate to real life activity. Rope Flow is one of those modalities grabbing massive attention from people around the world.
" Learning Rope Flow is a fundamental and indispensable tool for everyone, no matter where you are on your fitness journey." -ET
What is Rope Flow? (AKA "Rolling The Rope")
Using patterns based in figure 8 hand movements, and rotation of the upper body, you roll the rope around you as opposed to jumping through it. This teaches your body to dynamically unify the force production from the floor to your hands through both upper and lower limbs, as well as left and right sides. When jumping rope you actually counteract the force production by jumping up with the feet as the rope comes down in the hands, all while remaining in a static, neutral position. Sure, it may be a great way to work hard and tire yourself out... But, in terms of carryover to daily activity - it just does not cut it. This is the main reason why Rope Flow is a very different training stimulus in comparison to jumping rope.
When you flow with the Rope, it is viewed as an extension of your hands and as a feedback tool to understand your force production, accuracy, coordination, and rhythm. As you practice Rope Flow, your brain learns how to recruit your body to perform tasks more efficiently, using less energy for greater output. Simply put, the Rope teaches you how to move better, no matter how well you already move.
"Rolling The Rope is like a software upgrade for your nervous system." - Tony Reid (@onestrongab) says it best.
Here are 9 reasons why you should consider updating your nervous system with Rope Flow.
Reintegrate Rotational Movement
The bulk of conventional fitness exercises are done in the sagittal (think squats), and frontal plane (think Shoulder Raises). Very rarely do you find the typical gym-goer entering into the transverse plane, and if they do it is usually over-isolated. In reality, we are always using some combination of the 3 planes - yet most people are only training 2 at best, and usually biasing heavily toward sagittal movement only.
Beyond what we see in the mirror, we have to consider how the nervous system is translating these movements into the patterns we use for the other 99% of tasks in our lives outside the gym. When you start looking closer, the most important plane, the transverse plane, is sadly the most neglected.
Why do I consider the transverse plane the most important? Simple.. It is the plane of motion that makes for effective and efficient movement in the most fundamental human pattern we all share: walking and running, also known as "gait".
Have you ever watched a professional bodybuilder walk? Its like their spine is stuck braced in a 500lb squat (because it is). They waddle more than they walk. They've lost the transverse plane of motion in sacrifice for the aesthetics needed to perform on stage in the sport. Of course, this is a hyperbolic example. Sadly, the average person is doing something very similar to their body by following the conventional fitness model.
When it comes to Rope Flow, every repetition of every pattern involves transverse movement. Because of the rotational dynamics of the patterns, it directly translates to "Head Over Foot" positioning in the gait cycle. This stacks the skeleton in a way that eliminates joint compression, and creates substantial balance. It improves every step you take. This alone can be incredibly healing, and empowering for someone who has very rigid or braced movement. The transverse plane is a big missing piece of the puzzle for a lot of dysfunction that people find in their body.
Balance & Coordination
Creating a good relationship with gravity is a key factor of functional training. No matter where we are, or what position we may be in, we are always under the constant stressor of gravity. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, we are navigating this force from the moment of birth, to death.
Balance and Coordination are an essential part to a healthy relationship with gravity. Each day we are in an ever changing myriad of positions, angles, tensions, tasks and environments. It is the job of our nervous system to be able to sense and digest the information we are receiving from the environment or task at hand, and respond in an appropriate manner. If our nervous systems cannot fully receive, digest or respond to the environment, there are going to be limitations, dysfunction or deficiencies in our capacity to navigate the world around us.
The practice of Rope Flow creates robust proprioception; or the ability to sense and coordinate your body in time-space. Essentially, the patterns in Rope Flow expand the available bandwidth of your nervous systems ability to respond to a given task or environment. Increase in proprioceptive abilities not only effect the physical body, but our mental health as well. When your brain can trust your body and its ability to sense and move efficiently, it reduces perceived threat levels of the environment. This translates to a calmer mood, and greater resiliency to stress.
Experience The Flow State, Guaranteed
The "Flow State" is a really interesting aspect of our consciousness that is well worth spending some time in study on. Also known as getting "in the zone", The Flow State is described in many ways, my favorite definitions is this:
An optimal state of situational awareness where focus, performance, and presence is maximized, while distraction, anxiety, and mental chatter is minimized.
The flow state is often accompanied with feelings of time dissolution or dilation, sustained periods of elevated mood, increases in productivity (irrelevant to duration), an expansive "sense of self", and heightened creativity.
Author of Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has a great chart describing the psychology of flow. Essentially, when the environment is demanding a response with a high difficulty level, that also requires a high degree of skill (that you possess), your flow state is maximized. Depending on the environmental challenge in relation to your degree of skill, the emotional experience varies, as seen below:
Rope Flow is a great stimulus from the environment that presents a safe level of high challenge (that isn't inherently threatening or dangerous), which also demands a high degree of skill. The beautiful thing about the Rope is that no matter how far your skill progresses, the level of challenge can always expand, and vice versa. The capacity to increase the challenge and skill level is limitless with Rope Flow. This is why the Flow state is guaranteed, all you need to do is pick up the rope and try something new. The more you experience flow; the longer lasting the effects will be and the flow state can trickle into a few hours, the rest of your day, or even longer!
No More Non-Dominance: BOSU principles of WeckMethod
If we're talking about Rope Flow, it's impossible to leave out the shoulders of who this community stands on: David Weck, The inventor of The BOSU Ball, Propulse Speed Trainers and other unique training tools. For those of you who know me, you know I am a brand ambassador, practitioner, and product distributor with WeckMethod. For those of you who don't, now you do.
BOSU is an acronym for "Both Sides Utilized". Up & Down. Left & Right.
As I mentioned earlier, most people just do not train the transverse plane of motion enough to begin with, and if they do it is typically over isolated. On top of this, the other issue that arises is we all have biases to one side of rotational movement. Right or left handedness, throwing, swinging, kicking etc.
This one-sided dominance throws your brain for a loop that essentially begins to forget about the non-utilized side. It is a "use it or lose it" scenario. Isn't it interesting that with your dominant side you can throw or kick accurately, and yet your non-dominant side is worse than a 5 year olds coordination? This obviously shows a difference in skill between sides, but more importantly; a deficiency in neurological innervation of the non-dominant side.
The Rope is a powerful tool to recalibrate both sides of your body. You have a unique opportunity to practice specific variations of patterns with a focus on your non-dominant side. Because The Rope doesn't exhaust you (if you don't want it to), you are able to perform thousands of repetitions on your non-dominant side in a session. Think of it like this: every time you focus on a pattern where there is deficiency, you're laying more and more nervous tissue down. Eventually, it begins to catch up with your preferred side. As you practice Rope Flow you will become more ambidextrous, and your brain will absolutely love it! It will be palpable how it translates to everyday life.
Smart Hands, Strong Body
At first glance, you might be thinking: "What the F*ck is this?" Let me explain...
These two models are how your brain sees your body in relation to how you sense (sensory cortex) and move (motor cortex) through your environment. Fortunately, this isn't how you actually look. Just as fortunately, it is how you actually feel.
Take note here that the hands are massive. Like, insane in relation to the rest of the body. What these models show is that your brain cares a lot more about your hands than the rest of your body. If you can utilize both hands and make them smart - it will literally change your brains ability to sense and move through your environment. When you have robust sensory-motor cortices, you maximize your proprioceptive processing. This allows you to be more connected to your environment (as mentioned earlier). In terms of recruiting your nervous system for motor output, the smarter your hands are, the stronger your body will be in any given task.
To share a quick story of what sold me on the rope was this:
When I first decided that I would try the rope, I was only going to use it as a tool in between sets at the gym to keep my focus dialed, and body active. This is what happened on my first day: I was warming up with 3 sets of pull ups. My first set was cold, no warmup or rope, and I performed 7 repetitions. Between my first and second set I practiced, for the first time ever, the overhand "race and chase" for 1 minute with each hand leading. Two minutes later, on my second set of pull ups, I was able to perform 15 repetitions with ease. In that moment I knew that the Rope was a powerful tool that I needed to invest more time in. In just two minutes, the carryover was immediate.
The Rope trains the hands like no-other tool. You are constantly coordinating opposite hand movements, on opposite sides of the body in constant repetition and variation. The Rope gets your hands smart, and quick. This primes the nervous system to recruit more motor neurons in any training modality. Whether you just want to move better recreationally, or perform athletically at the professional level: The Rope is an indispensable tool to utilize.
Find Your Rhythm
It is obvious that the human body loves rhythm. The beat of your heart, the inhale and exhale of your breath, wakefulness and sleep, and so on. Without rhythm you could not function. Now there are subconscious rhythms like those I mentioned in the former, and there are conscious rhythms. Your gait, for example, is one of them.
Timing the repetitions of Rope Flow patterns with consistency translates to how your body is able to coordinate itself rhythmically when walking and running. When first learning the patterns, it is best to start slow. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. If you can control the rope fluidly in slow, consistent rhythm (60-100bpm), the pattern will be more easily executed at high speed (150bpm+). Using a metronome is an incredibly useful tool as a gauge to see how well you can control the rope, both for speed and duration measurements (How fast/slow can you go? How long can you stay in rhythm at that speed?).
Audibly, the Rope hitting the ground effects your brain in a positive way. Rhythm is a tool that has been used in primitive cultures, all the way to modern day nightclubs to coax the brain into deeper states of awareness, even so far as "trance states". Each time the rope ticks the ground, you have an audible cue. This feedback helps normalize your brainwaves, and drop your brain into that Flow State mentioned in #3.
Make Rehabilitation Enjoyable
I am going to cut straight to the chase with this one: Rehab from the conventional lens SUCKS. Research shows that only 35% of people actually follow through with the programs PT's prescribe them. Has this been you? It certainly has been me in the past. The "why" may vary from person to person, lack of responsibility, and discipline probably being numbers 1, and 2. However, not far behind those, I would have to say is the sheer dullness of prescribed programming that is often accompanied with the "get used to it, things just wont be the same." mindset from the letter boys/girls in their white coats.
I am not saying that PT is useless, and all of them are bad. I'm just speaking from personal experience, and to the majority of what I have seen in the field. There are some absolutely brilliant practitioners out there who can truly help bring people back up to speed, and even beyond expectations.
The Rope makes rehabilitation enjoyable. It is a safe, non threatening, and easily modulated tool to explore every muscle and joint in your body. Because the Rope is unifying, no matter what pattern you are practicing, you can find how each part of your body is engaged (or not). Often times what people find is that in a certain position or pattern, they may be lacking ROM, or maybe an old injury isn't allowing a group of muscles to activate. Whatever it may be, once you find that sweet spot that needs attention, you can perform thousands of controlled repetitions to bring that part of your body back online. Each rep performed is laying down new neural connections, enhancing blood flow, and even repairing fascia as you continually, and safely, place new load on those old "turned off" areas.
Once you master the basic patterns, every single dynamic flow you practice will be different. The rope gives you a fitness outlet that helps stimulate your brain in powerful ways, and can even be a means of artistic self expression. Put on your favorite music and dance with it. Try different variations and tricks with the rope. The possibilities are endless. The way you put to practice Rope Flow is going to look and be different than the way anyone else does it. Find your unique flow and get creative!
Make Fitness FUN-ctional
Rope Flow is anytime, anywhere FUN-ctional fitness. There is a smile that comes on someones face when they nail a new pattern, or finally get their non-dominant side to cooperate that is unique, and undeniable. Seriously. There has not been a single person who doesn't get STOKED at advancing in their Rope Flow practice. Just wait until you unlock the alternating underhand sneak (if you haven't already), that smile always seems to be the biggest!
My intention with ET Strength is to share with others what I have learned along my ever-evolving 13+ year journey in fitness. The Rope is hands down the most effective fitness tool that I have ever found. It checks off every box in functional fitness, with just a piece of cord in your hands. The best part: It's good old fun.
I hope that I inspire and nudge you to give it a try, if you haven't already began your journey. If you have - hopefully I inspire you to keep up and break your perceived limitations!
The best part about the Rope Flow community is that we all decided to pick it up one day, and try something new. Try something that was difficult, slightly intimidating, and maybe even checked the box of "I could never do that" (sadly a comment I frequently get from people who observe my practice). This is why I created the ET Strength Rope Flow Foundations Courses. It is designed to get you from complete beginner, to absolute proficiency in Rope Flow.
Click Here to get started on your ET Strength Rope Flow Foundations journey!
Keep flowing, keep growing.