Heart rate, resting O2, exercise O2, and EPOC were measured via indirect calorimetry with a metabolic cart (Parvo Medics True One 2400, Sandy, UT, USA) in 15-second sampling periods. Age-predicted maximum heart rate was estimated using the Gellish formula, 206.9−0.67 × age (1). All blood-lactate measurements were recorded in duplicate using 2 handheld lactate analyzers (Lactate Plus Meter; Nova Biomedical, Waltham, MA) and were averaged for data analysis.
Aerobic energy expenditure was estimated at 1 L O2 = 21.1 kJ (22). To estimate anaerobic energy expenditure, the authors utilized non–steady-state O2 uptake measurements methods previously described by Scott et al. (27,28,29,30). Anaerobic energy expenditure was determined from the difference between peak and resting blood lactate measures, multiplied by body weight, then by 3.0 mL of O2 (22). Conversions to O2 equivalents were subsequently converted to kJ as 1 L of O2 = 21.1 kJ (26,27,28,29). Resting O2 and EPOC were converted to energy expenditure as 1 L of O2 = 19.6 kJ to dismiss the glycolytic component from the O2 measure (27,28,29,30). Total energy expenditure was calculated by summing aerobic energy expenditure, anaerobic energy expenditure, and EPOC (27,28,29,30).
All data were analyzed using IBM SPSS Statistics (version 21). Independent samples t-tests were used to analyze for gender differences between cardiovascular and metabolic measurements. Due to the large number of t-tests conducted, a Bonferroni correction was used to control the global Type I error rate at α = 0.05 for the 11 between gender comparisons. Thus, statistical significance was defined as p ≤ 0.05/11 = 0.0045. Cohen's d effect sizes were calculated (M1−M2/pooled SD) to assess the meaningfulness of significant differences, with effect sizes >0.8 considered large (9).
Descriptive statistics of the cardiovascular and metabolic variables of rope training are presented in Table 2. All data are presented as mean ± SD. Throughout the 10-minute testing protocol, subjects averaged 25 ± 4 rope undulations per 15-second work interval. Peak lactate levels were 11.9 ± 1.4 mmol, and average EPOC length was 13.4 ± 4.1 minutes. The average heart rate throughout the 10-minute session was 163 ± 11 bpm, which was 86% of age-predicted max. Peak heart rates reached 178 ± 11 b·min−1, 94% of age-predicted max, and peak METs averaged 10.1 ± 1.6.
Male subjects demonstrated significantly greater differences than females with large effect sizes for aerobic energy expenditure (487.6 ± 64.0 vs. 258.1 ± 30.3 kJ, p < 0.001, d = 4.6), total energy expenditure (622.2 ± 85.5 vs. 338.3 ± 44.8 kJ, p < 0.001, d = 4.1), kJ·min−1, (54.9 ± 7.5 vs. 29.9 ± 3.2, p < 0.001, d = 4.3), peak
(40.2 ± 3 vs. 31.3 ± 2.9 mL·kg−1·min−1, p = 0.001, d = 2.9), and peak METs (11.5 ± 0.9 vs. 9.0 ± 0.8, p = 0.001, d = 3.1).
The results of this study suggest that an acute 10-minute bout of rope training is a vigorous workout, resulting in very high heart rates (86% of age predicted max heart rate) and energy expenditure per unit of time (41 kJ·min−1). According to American College of Sports Medicine standards for cardiorespiratory fitness, the cardiovascular and metabolic demands of rope training would be classified as vigorous-intensity exercise (1,2); therefore, rope training may be most appropriate for individuals acclimated to high habitual amounts of vigorous-intensity exercise (1).
Significant differences in aerobic and total energy expenditure were observed between genders; however, this may be accounted for by the 30 kg average difference in weight between males and females. No significant gender differences were observed for peak lactate, EPOC length, average heart rate, or peak heart rate, suggesting that when controlled for bodyweight, males and females will have similar responses to the cardiovascular demands of rope training (20). Nevertheless, due to inherent male and female strength differences, the fitness professional may want to consider ropes of a smaller length and diameter when incorporating rope training with females.
As mentioned previously, no published research has examined rope training, making comparisons and conclusions rather limited at this time. However, the metabolic demands of rope training are most similar to other upper-body modes of cardiovascular conditioning, such as training with kettlebells. In a population similar to the present study, a 10-minute kettlebell routine consisting of 35-second swing intervals followed by 25-second rest intervals resulted in average heart rates of 180 ± 12 b·min−1, average
of 34.1 ± 4.7 mL·kg−1·min−1, and kJ·min−1 of 52.3 ± 10.5 (15). Another similar kettlebell study found that a 12-minute kettlebell routine also resulted in similar metabolic demands, with an average
of 26.5 ± 4.9 mL·kg−1·min−1and average heart rates of 165 ± 13 b·min−1 (13).
This study is not without limitations. First, the sample size was small and included only physically active young adults with an intercollegiate athletic background. Therefore, care is needed when generalizing the findings to other populations, particularly those who may be less active. Second, because no length or diameter of rope is standard when rope training, our findings may only apply to the use of 15.2-m length, 3.8-cm diameter rope. Ropes of differing diameter and length may result in a varied cardiovascular response, thus smaller sized ropes may be more appropriate dependent on the activity level and physical strength of the target population. Additionally, this study examined only a double arm wave method of rope undulation. Therefore, the results of this study may only apply to rope training in which the lower body is static. Third, the results of this study are from 1 acute bout of rope training. Therefore, it is not known at this time if an improved economy of rope training technique in latter phases of training would result in reduced cardiovascular and metabolic demands. Fourth, maximum heart rate data was predicted and not objectively determined via
max testing, thus percent max values reported are duly noted as estimates. Furthermore, when compared with lower-body exercise, upper-body exercises produce greater physiologic strain (heart rate and blood pressure), thus it has been recommended that exercise prescriptions based on lower body cannot be applied to upper-body exercise (20). Due to the unique upper-body demands, rope training may place on an individual subjective workload assessments such as ratings of perceived exertion or talk tests may be more appropriate than percent max heart rate when initially assigning workload (1).
Collectively, the results of previous studies assessing metabolic demands of kettlebells and the current study using rope training provide evidence that these novel high-intensity upper-body exercises meet previously established thresholds known to increase cardiorespiratory fitness (1). Future research concerning rope training would be well served to investigate acute responses to various sized ropes and undulation protocols, along with chronic adaptations for individuals seeking changes in body composition, cardiovascular conditioning, or performance enhancement.
Rope training provides a vigorous-intensity cardiovascular and metabolic stimulus, as demonstrated by elevated heart rate and energy expenditure per unit of time. Our results suggest that rope training can provide a high-intensity stimulus for strength and conditioning professionals who seek alternative or reduced impact-conditioning methods for athletes or clients.
The authors wish to thank Eric Adolph, CSCS, and Chris Sheckler, CSCS, for their assistance in data collection and instruction.
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Keywords:Copyright © 2015 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.
battle rope; cardiovascular conditioning; energy expenditure; undulation training