Is Rope Climbing Better Than Pull Ups?

rope climbing
December 19, 2022 0 Comments

Table of Contents


In this article I will be answering the question “is rope climbing better than pull ups?”. Both are fantastic exercises that have a lot of utility for working the pulling muscles and strengthening the lats, forearms, biceps and back. 

There are many benefits of rope climbing. This article will explore this exercise and determine whether it is better than performing pull ups. 

Is Rope Climbing Better Than Pull Ups?

This is a subjective question and one where you have to consider many factors. In terms of improving grip strength, working your biceps, forearms and lower lats, the rope climb could be considered better.

However, there are also many advantages of pull ups over rope climbing. Pull ups allow you to add load in a safer manner and the loading potential is incredibly high. 

There is quite a high risk involved to doing rope climbs with a very high amount of added weight. This is something important to consider. I would say for optimal results you should do both, rope climbing and pull ups.

This way you can take advantage of the benefits of each exercise and have even better back development. Getting strong at pull ups will also transfer to rope climbing. Rope climbing is an advanced exercise that many people cannot do for a decent amount of time. 
rope climbing

Rope Climbing Requires Shoulder And Elbow Prep Work

Rope climbing is more likely to cause tendonitis issues in the elbow and it does require good shoulder mobility. This is why you have to do preparation work before you start rope climbing to warm your pulling muscles up.

Some people may consider this a disadvantage of rope climbing when compared to pull ups. It is unlikely for pull ups to cause elbow tendonitis unless you are doing muscle ups. 

Rope climbing is a relatively advanced exercise and therefore pull up strength will carry over very well to it. If you are very weak at pull ups, it is unlikely you will be very good at rope climbing.

You also need to have good lat mobility for climbing rope. Rope is a lot more unstable as it moves about, this is different to a pull up bar that is completely stationary. 

Rope Climbing Is Fantastic For Grip Strength

One of the huge advantages of rope climbing over pull ups is that it is even better for developing a very strong grip. Pull ups with heavy added weight is also a very good grip exercise.

However, your forearms and grip will get taxed substantially more from rope climbing. Your grip will become super strong, particularly if you are doing rope climbs with a weighted vest.

You just have to be careful with issues such as “rope burn”. Rope climbing is unforgiving on the hands and therefore you should consider how much volume you are incorporating into your training.

Rope Climbing Is Analogous To Neutral Grip Pull Ups

Rope climbing shares some things in common with neutral grip pull ups. However, the rope is substantially harder because of the instability aspect as well as how hard it taxes your grips.

One of the massive benefits of the rope climb is how much bicep involvement there is. It is an incredible movement for building bicep size and strength and you will notice what an amazing pump the movement offers you.

In addition, the brachioradialis is heavily involved in the movement. The forearms as a whole have to work really hard when doing rope climbs. The movement involves short and intense repeated bouts of effort. 

Arguably one of the downsides of rope climbing is the range of motion. Compared to pull ups where there is a lot of range of motion, rope climbing involves less range of motion.

The focus with rope climbing is repeated effort and fatigue can build up very fast. This make rope climbing so tough, you have to sustain the effort and there is no let up.

Doing many laps up and down the rope is exhausting but it is an incredible workout. You will find your core getting targeted to a far greater degree than pull ups!

Alphadestiny Talks About Rope Climbing

There is a great video from Alphadestiny about the utility of rope climbing and training with a rope in general.

He makes some great points in the video, some of which I would like to also share. He talks about how crossfitters, combat athletes and military personnel all employ some form of rope training.

In the video he discusses how rope pull ups combined with rope climbs are the best rope exercises you can do. It could be argued that specificity dictates that rope pull ups will carry over a lot better to your rope climbing than regular pull ups.

This is because you are using the same piece of equipment that you are going to be using for the climbs. Another very important point is that rope climbing with your legs wrapped around the rope is a lot easier.

To get the best out of this exercise you should avoid wrapping your legs completely around the rope.

Final Thoughts

Is rope climbing better than pull ups? There are ways in which it is better and ways in which it is worse. Overall, rope climbing is an advanced exercise and it is brutal.

However, there are countless benefits to doing this exercise. You will build an incredible grip and make forearm and bicep gains. Your pulling muscles as a whole will get stronger and you will see good hypertrophy in your upper back.

Some negatives are that you won’t get the same range of motion that you will get in a pull up. In addition, pull ups have a higher loading potential and are safer to load heavy.

Rope climbing will work more stabiliser muscles and target your core to a greater degree than pull ups. This is due to the fact that the rope presents a stability challenge, it will make you fatigue a lot faster than pull ups as well.

Overall, for the best of both worlds I would recommend performing both pull ups and rope climbs. If you want to improve your rope climbing faster, I would recommend incorporating rope pull ups.

Your grip will become monstrously strong from doing rope pull ups and rope climbs – especially if you work up to loading these two exercises with decent weight.

If you have any comments about rope climbing please leave the below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

>> Are Muscle Ups Useless?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.