Physiological Responses to Increasing Battling Rope Weight During Two 3-Week High-Intensity Interval Training Programs : The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research

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Original Research

Physiological Responses to Increasing Battling Rope Weight During Two 3-Week High-Intensity Interval Training Programs

Bornath, Derek P.D.1; Kenno, Kenji A.2

Author Information
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: February 2022 - Volume 36 - Issue 2 - p 352-358
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003470
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Abstract

Introduction

Interval training is a specified exercise session with interspersed rest periods completed for multiple sets typically involving cycling or running exercise modes. The repeated exercise bouts are of short duration (<90 seconds) at high intensities and interspersed with recovery periods of low intensity, making the overall session duration shorter compared with traditional moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) (17). There is ample evidence demonstrating that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) involving repeated exercise bouts (15–90 seconds) at 80–100% maximum heart rate (HR), separated by a period of low-intensity work or inactivity (17), is a time-efficient training strategy to rapidly enhance the capacity of aerobic energy metabolism (16–18,27,29) and elicit physiological adaptations resembling that of high-volume MICT (2,5,6,15,17). The majority of HIIT research focuses on running or cycling modes of exercise and their ability to improve cardiorespiratory fitness (1,5,20); however, researchers have yet to thoroughly examine the effects of upper-body modes of HIIT and their ability to generate training adaptations.

The use of battling ropes as a method of training has gained great interest, and a recent study demonstrated that battling rope HIIT (14 × 30–45 seconds (s) of efforts with 60-second active jogging recovery, no rope weight mentioned) completed 3×/week (wk) for 4 weeks produced a 6% increase in maximum oxygen consumption (V̇o2max) (25). This increase in cardiorespiratory fitness is not surprising considering the acute metabolic demand of battling rope HIIT represents moderate-vigorous–intensity exercise. Previous battling rope HIIT has produced near-maximal V̇o2 responses with varying battling rope weight (13,37), suggesting that increased battling rope weight forces greater V̇o2; however, the magnitude of V̇o2max improvement over a longitudinal training protocol with varying rope weights is unknown.

In addition to the purported metabolic benefits of battling rope HIIT, recent research has also explored the capacity for battling rope HIIT to improve muscular outcomes such as strength, power, and endurance. To date, very few studies have evaluated the capacity for battling rope HIIT to enhance muscle outcomes. In terms of strength, battling rope HIIT (40 × 15-second efforts, with 15-second rest 3×/wk for 5 weeks) combined with kettle bell training resulted in a 6% increase in handgrip strength (32). Furthermore, 12 sessions of battling rope HIIT (10 × 15-second efforts with 45-second rest) attempted to produce increases in upper-body muscular power (24), however, were insignificant, and the battling rope HIIT affect on muscular power remains unknown. Regarding trunk muscle endurance, battling rope HIIT for 8 weeks consisting of 30–36 × 15–30 seconds of efforts with 40–45 seconds of rest resulted in a 26% increase in trunk flexor endurance and an 18% increase in trunk extensor endurance (8). Future testing should use upper-body specific tests as the current literature has yet to quantify the skeletal muscle strength and power improvements due to battling rope HIIT. Regardless, these initial reports support the use of battling rope HIIT to improve muscular strength, endurance, and metabolic efficiency.

Collectively, these studies demonstrated that battling rope HIIT can lead to significant increases in upper-body V̇o2max, strength, and endurance. Comparisons of battling rope HIIT studies suggest the potential for increasing V̇o2 with heavier battling rope weights, which to date has never been studied because previous research focused only on increasing the interval number or duration. Along the same premise of increasing V̇o2max, it is unknown whether battling rope weight increases would evoke further improvements in upper-body skeletal muscle strength, power, and endurance. Therefore, the purpose of our study was to examine the effect of a 6-week battling rope HIIT protocol with an increase in battling rope weight on upper-body aerobic capacity and skeletal muscle strength, power, and endurance.

Methods

Experimental Approach to the Problem

The battling rope HIIT protocol involved 3 sessions per week of 10 × 30-second efforts with 60-second rest periods for 6 weeks. Subject testing occurred before training (0 weeks), at the midpoint (3 weeks), and after training (6 weeks) with battling rope weight being increased in wks 4–6. Heart rate and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were collected immediately after each battling rope HIIT interval to determine whether the subjects were exercising maximally, along with blood lactate concentration [BLa] immediately after the 9th and 18th batting rope HIIT sessions. This experimental design enabled us to determine whether increasing battling rope weight would stimulate increases in V̇o2 and muscular strength in men and women.

Subjects

A total of 33 recreationally active subjects aged 18-27 were recruited (mean ± SD: 18 men, age: 23 ± 2 years, height: 1.77 ± 0.07 m, body mass: 82.99 ± 10.92 kg, body mass index: 26.49 ± 2.61 kg·m−2; 15 women, age: 23 ± 1 year, height: 1.66 ± 0.07 m, body mass: 64.36 ± 7.13 kg, body mass index: 23.36 ± 2.52 kg·m−2) from the University of Windsor who met our inclusion criteria of exercising a minimum of 2×/wk for the past 3 months and were not currently training with battling ropes. This study was approved by the University of Windsor Research Ethics Review Board with all subjects having signed the required informed consent documentation and completed medical/physical activity questionnaires.

Procedures

Battling Ropes Training Protocol

Upon arrival, subjects performed a standardized warm-up and were fitted with a Polar HR monitor (Polar Electro, Inc., Woodbury, NY). The battling rope HIIT comprised 10 × 30-second efforts of defined “all-out” battling rope HIIT exercise (16,20) separated by 60 seconds of rest. Subjects interchanged between sets of double whip (arms moving together) (31,37) and alternating whip (arms moving opposite) to prevent specific muscular fatigue and reduce battling rope form deterioration. Heart rate, RPE (Borg 6–20 scale), and number of repetitions were recorded at the end of each set to examine exercise intensity. For the first 3 weeks, men utilized a 50-foot (ft), 1.5-inch diameter, 25-lb battling rope, which was increased to a 50-ft, 2-inch diameter, and 35-lb battling rope for the last 3 weeks of training. Women started with a 40-ft, 1.5-inch diameter, and 20-lb battling rope for the first 3 weeks, which was increased to a 40-ft, 2-inch diameter, and 30-lb battling rope for the last 3 weeks. Battling rope weight was determined from the acute V̇o2 differences in previous studies (13,37). Female rope size was shortened, reducing the weight of the rope due to the difficulty shown with the full-length rope in previous pilot data (31). In addition, BLa was taken at rest, immediately post-battling rope HIIT, and 5-minutes post-battling rope HIIT during the 9th and 18th sessions as an additional marker of exercise intensity (Lactate Scout +, EFK Diagnostics, Elkhart, IN).

Measurements

Testing sessions consisted of a seated skeletal muscle shoulder flexion/extension isometric maximum voluntary contractions (MVCs), seated medicine ball slams, an adapted American College of Sports Medicine push-up test, a cadence-based Young Men's Christian Association bent knee sit-up test, and an upper-body Astrand arm ergometer V̇o2max protocol. During the arm ergometer V̇o2max protocol, HR monitors produced readings that were recorded at the end of each stage. Subjects completed testing sessions before training, after 3 weeks of battling rope HIIT, and again after 6 weeks of battling rope HIIT. All testing sessions were completed after abstaining from exercise and alcohol for 24 hours and a 4-hour fast.

Aerobic Performance Tests

To determine upper-body V̇o2max, subjects completed an upper-body progressive Astrand (1965) V̇o2max protocol pedaling with their arms on a Monark arm ergometer (Model 881) (Monark, Langley, WA) with a Cosmed FitMate PRO system measuring breath-by-breath oxygen consumption. Subjects were given a 10-minute rest period after completion of the skeletal muscle tests, at which time the portable metabolic cart was calibrated. Heart rate and RPE were also recorded every minute throughout the completion of the protocol. Volitional fatigue or a plateau in oxygen consumption indicated V̇o2max had been achieved.

Skeletal Muscle Strength and Power Tests

Skeletal muscle strength was tested in the seated position by performing an isometric MVC producing forces upward (flexion) and downward (extension) for a 3-second hold on a load cell (Interface, Scottsdale, AZ) with 90° of shoulder flexion. This test was performed at baseline, after 3, and after 6 weeks of battling rope HIIT. Shoulder power was determined through the average of 3 6-lb medicine ball slams from 110 to 120° of shoulder flexion into a force plate (AMTI, Watertown, MA). Subjects were seated and secured at the hips and torso for seated shoulder flexion, shoulder extension isometric MVCs, and shoulder ball slams with 30-second rest provided between all attempts.

Skeletal Muscle Endurance Tests

Upper-body endurance was assessed via the American College of Sports Medicine push-up test with men supported by their toes and all women completing kneeling push-ups to remain consistent. The test was completed until volitional fatigue or failure to maintain the proper form of chin touching the mat followed by full-arm extension for 2 consecutive push-ups. To establish trunk muscular endurance, a cadence-based Young Men's Christian Association bent-knee sit-up test was completed with 1 sit-up every 2 seconds until volitional fatigue. Subjects began lying on their back with knees bent and hands placed behind their head with elbows forward and the investigator holding their feet. Successful repetitions were completed with the subject lifting themselves off the floor until their elbows touched their knees followed by lowering themselves back to the ground within the 2-second cadence. Push-up and sit-up tests were performed until volitional fatigue to get an appropriate measure of muscle endurance changes. Between each of the skeletal muscle tests, subjects were given 2–3 minutes to recover and transition to the next exercise. To ensure consistency, testing was always completed in this order.

Statistical Analyses

Statistical analyses were performed using IBM SPSS24. All data including descriptive statistics are presented as means and SDs. Discriminative analyses using univariate analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were conducted on skeletal muscle performance data (shoulder flexion isometric MVC, shoulder extension isometric MVC, medicine ball slams, push-ups, and sit-ups), and physiological data (V̇o2max and average peak HR) to investigate and identify relationships throughout the training protocol. All ANOVA's required repeated measures on the factor of time (baseline, after 3 weeks of battling rope HIIT, after 6 weeks of battling rope HIIT). Direct comparison of the 2 sexes was avoided due to the different lengths of battling rope that were used throughout the testing and training period. Mean differences were considered statistically significant when p ≤ 0.05 and confidence intervals were 0.95 or greater.

Results

Training Data

Immediately after battling rope HIIT, [BLa] both men and women indicated significantly elevated levels compared with those at rest after both the ninth battling rope session (men (M): p < 0.001; Effect Size (ES) = 0.95, women (F): p < 0.001; ES = 0.84) and 18th battling rope HIIT session (M: p < 0.001; ES < 0.95, F: p < 0.001; ES < 0.88) (Table 1). In addition, significant decreases were observed in men [BLa] 5 minutes after battling rope HIIT during the ninth training session (M: p = 0.048, ES = 0.21; F: p = 0.09, ES = 0.19) and for both men and women during the 18th session (M: p = 0.017, ES = 0.29; F: p = 0.001, ES = 0.53). No significant male or female differences were produced when comparing the [BLa] sampling times at rest (M: p = 0.16, ES = 0.12; F: p = 0.37, ES = 0.05), immediately after battling rope HIIT (M: p = 0.61, ES = 0.02; F: p = 0.78, ES = 0.01), or 5 minutes after HIIT (M: p = 0.84, ES = 0.003; F: p = 0.15, ES = 0.14) for the 9th and 18th sessions (Table 1). Battling rope HR (Table 1) and RPE (Table 2) responses also did not significantly differ with the increase in rope weight between 3 and 6 weeks of training periods.

Table 1 - Summary of 9th and 18th battling rope high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session blood lactate concentration [BLa] and average heart rate values for male and female subjects.*
Sex Average heart rate (b·min−1) Resting [BLa] (mmol·L−1) [BLa] immediately post-exercise (mmol·L−1) [BLa] 5 min post-exercise (mmol·L−1)
Male (n = 18)
 9th session 178.64 ± 1.16 1.65 ± 0.44 10.56 ± 1.98 9.71 ± 2.47
 18th session 177.88 ± 1.44 1.46 ± 0.24 10.79 ± 2.19 10.29 ± 3.19
Female (n = 15)
 9th session 179.03 ± 1.41 1.61 ± 0.54 8.33 ± 2.71 7.70 ± 2.57
 18th session 176.27 ± 1.35 1.79 ± 0.58 8.21 ± 2.27 7.01 ± 2.15
*Values are means ± SD.
p < 0.001 resting vs. immediately post.
p < 0.05 immediately post vs. 5-minutes post; § p < 0.05 9th session vs 18th session 5-minutes post.

Table 2 - Summary of the Borg 6–20 rating of perceived exertion (RPE) at each interval during the 9th and 18th battling rope high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session.*
Interval # 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Male 9th RPE (n = 18) 9.7 ± 2.3 11.2 ± 2.4 12.3 ± 2.3 13.3 ± 2.3 14.4 ± 2.3 15.4 ± 2.8 16.2 ± 2.8 16.8 ± 2.7 17.5 ± 2.6 18.1 ± 2.5
Male 18th RPE 10.2 ± 2.7 11.3 ± 2.6 12.4 ± 2.5 13.4 ± 2.5 14.6 ± 2.69 15.5 ± 2.3 16.6 ± 2.5 17.1 ± 2.5 17.8 ± 2.5 18.4 ± 2.1
Female 9th RPE (n = 15) 12.3 ± 2.6 12.6 ± 2.1 13.4 ± 2.2 14.1 ± 1.7 14.9 ± 1.7 15.6 ± 15 15.7 ± 1.9 16.7 ± 1.2 17.4 ± 1.5 17.9 ± 1.4
Female 18th RPE 12.3 ± 2.7 12.9 ± 2.5 13.4 ± 2.5 13.9 ± 2.3 14.5 ± 2.2 15 ± 2 15.7 ± 1.9 16.4 ± 2 17.2 ± 1.8 17.5 ± 1.9
*Values are means ± SD.

Aerobic Responses to Battling Rope High-Intensity Interval Training

Both men and women increased arm ergometer V̇o2max (Figure 1) after 3 weeks (midpoint) of battling rope HIIT compared with baseline (M: p < 0.001; ES = 0.67, F: p = 0.004; ES < 0.45) and then again after 6 weeks of training compared with the midpoint (M: p = 0.001; ES = 0.48, F: p < 0.001; ES = 0.66).

F1
Figure 1.:
o 2max for men and women during the Astrand arm ergometer protocol after 3 weeks (midpoint) and 6 weeks (post-training) of battling rope high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Men n = 18, women n = 15. a p < 0.05, 0 vs. 3 weeks; b p < 0.05, 3 vs. 6 weeks; c p < 0.05, 0 vs. 6 weeks.

Shoulder Strength Responses to Battling Rope High-Intensity Interval Training

Men and women significantly increased their pre-training isometric shoulder flexion MVC strength at the midpoint (M: p = 0.001; ES = 0.46, F: p < 0.001; ES = 0.78) and after 6 weeks of training compared with the midpoint results (M: p < 0.046; ES = 0.21, F: p < 0.01; ES = 0.46) (Table 3). Shoulder extension MVC strength only significantly increased in women at the midpoint (M: p = 0.067, ES = 0.18; F: p = 0.04; ES = 0.45), and neither sex was significant comparing midpoint battling rope HIIT to 6-week post-training (M: p = 0.787, ES = 0.004; F: p = 0.793, ES = 0.01). Men only saw significant increases in shoulder extension strength comparing pre-training to post-training (M: p = 0.045; ES = 0.21; F: p < 0.001, ES = 0.67) (Table 3).

Table 3 - Summary of skeletal muscle performance comparing baseline pretraining (0 week) to midpoint (3 weeks) of battling rope high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and post-training (6 weeks) battling rope HIIT.*
Test variable Baseline (0 wks) 3 wks 6 wks
Isometric shoulder flexion (lb)
 Male (n = 18) 93 ± 18 96 ± 16 99 ± 18§
 Female (n = 15) 45 ± 9 50 ± 9 53 ± 10§
Isometric shoulder extension (lb)
 Male 47.1 ± 7 48.8 ± 7 49.6 ± 6§
 Female 23.2 ± 5 25.4 ± 4 25.3 ± 4.7§
Shoulder power (N)
 Male 3,904 ± 528 4,274 ± 523 4,597 ± 536§
 Female 2,883 ± 372 3,264 ± 465 3,425 ± 451§
Push-ups (#)
 Male 41.6 ± 17 45.9 ± 16 48.8 ± 18§
 Female 27.4 ± 9 32.3 ± 10 37.1 ± 11§
Sit-up (#)
 Male 44.9 ± 15 50.4 ± 15 55 ± 15§
 Female 43.7 ± 17 50.3 ± 20 55.7 ± 24§
*Values are means ± SD.
p < 0.05 0 vs. 3 weeks.
p < 0.05 3 vs. 6 weeks.
§p < 0.05 0 vs. 6 weeks.

Shoulder Power Responses to Battling Rope High-Intensity Interval Training

For men and women, significant increases in battling rope HIIT shoulder muscle power (ball slam) were produced at the midpoint (M: p = 0.001; ES = 0.51, F: p = 0.001; ES = 0.55) and post-training compared with midpoint results (M: p = 0.003; ES = 0.42, F: p < 0.001; ES = 0.67) (Table 3).

Muscular Endurance Responses to Battling Rope High-Intensity Interval Training

Upper-body muscular endurance (push-ups) increased significantly in men and women at the midpoint (M: p < 0.001; ES = 0.56, F: p = 0.001; ES = 0.56) and post-training compared with the midpoint results (M: p = 0.006; ES = 0.37, F: p < 0.001; ES = 0.8) (Table 3). For trunk muscular endurance (sit-ups), significant increases were produced at the midpoint (M: p = 0.001; ES = 0.48, F: p < 0.001; ES = 0.72) and post-training compared with the midpoint (M: p < 0.001; ES = 0.66, F: p = 0.008; ES = 0.65) (Table 3).

Discussion

The purpose of the current study was to examine the impact of a 6-week battling rope HIIT protocol with an increase in battling rope weight after the midpoint on upper body aerobic capacity and skeletal muscle performance. Completion of this training protocol produced significant male and female adaptations after 3 weeks of battling rope HIIT in upper-body arm ergometer V̇o2max and upper-body muscular strength, power, and endurance. With an additional 3 weeks of training and an increase in battling rope weight, significant improvements were produced in upper-body V̇o2max and upper-body muscular strength, power, and endurance, in both men and women.

When analyzing cardiorespiratory fitness differences, our battling rope training sessions produced insignificant differences in HR response when comparing the 2 3-week sessions at different battling rope weights. However, exercising HR was still greater than 85% of age-predicted maximums in both men and women similar to HR data reported in previous lower-body HIIT studies (1,19). Similar insignificance was reported with RPE during battling rope HIIT sessions although, during the final training interval, the average subjective response of 17 among both 3-week training periods indicating exercise intensity was trending toward maximum intensity (Table 2). It is also important to note the increases in RPE scores from the first interval to the 10th interval as each interval progressed in difficulty and reached near-maximal exertion for the final interval.

Performing multiple intervals at such a high intensity lead to greater anaerobic glycolytic activity to keep up with the high-energy demand leading to the accumulation of BLa during and after HIIT exercise (7,35). Concentrations of BLa were measured at rest, immediately after HIIT, and 5 minutes after HIIT after the 9th and 18th battling rope HIIT training sessions which demonstrated that immediately post [BLa] significantly increased from resting values (21,26). Men and women [BLa] were significantly elevated by 6- and 4–fold, respectively (Table 1), similar to previous battling rope and running HIIT studies (4,9,14), providing further evidence that subjects were exercising maximally during all battling rope protocols. When comparing immediately postbattling rope HIIT [BLa] to 5-minute post-battling rope [BLa], significant decreases were produced in men during the ninth battling rope session and in both men and women during the 18th battle rope session (Table 1). This significant decrease between the immediately post-HIIT and 5-minute post-battling rope HIIT could be attributed to the shorter work period not producing the metabolic by-products seen in long duration continuous training, requiring greater anaerobic glycolytic contributions. In addition, increasing battling rope weight for the last 3 weeks of training did not lead to any further increases in HR or [BLa], potentially a result of the 30-second work interval, small muscle group engaged, and improvement in V̇o2max limiting peak responses.

An upper-body arm ergometer protocol was chosen because of the specificity of battling rope HIIT and the ability to match our 6-week male and female upper-body V̇o2max improvements (43.8 ml·kg−1·min−1 and 38.7 ml·kg−1·min−1, respectively). These results are similar to that of trained swimmers, wrestlers, and gymnasts (41 ml·kg−1·min−1) (38). As in previous 4-week battling rope HIIT protocols, our first 3 weeks of battling rope HIIT 3×/wk resulted in a 10% increase in female arm ergometer V̇o2max and a 9% increase in male arm ergometer V̇o2max (Figure 1). These values are similar to a 7% increase in V̇o2max reported in women from pilot data in our laboratory using the same protocol for 4 weeks (31). However, these previous pilot data did not demonstrate an increase in V̇o2max in men in contrast to the present results. This could be a result of our average peak exercising HR being 85% of subjects maximum predicted HR (MPHR) compared with 75% MPHR during pilot training sessions with similar subject characteristics. After the 10-lb battling rope weight increase for the last 3 weeks, peak HRs during exercise were greater than 90% MPHR, resulting in a further increase in arm ergometer V̇o2max for both men and women by 9 and 11%, respectively. Overall, this increase in cardiorespiratory fitness aligns with the 5–10% improvements in leg V̇o2max seen after treadmill and cycle ergometer training (1,5,10,28,39), suggesting battling rope HIIT is an effective training modality for increasing aerobic capacity.

Given the repetitive shoulder flexion and extension associated with battling rope HIIT, we found that after 3 weeks of battling rope HIIT, men showed a significant 4% improvement in isometric shoulder flexion MVC strength, whereas women showed a 9–10% increase for both isometric shoulder extension and shoulder flexion MVC (Table 3). Increases in battling rope weight for the final 3 weeks improved isometric shoulder flexion MVC by an additional 5% in female and 3% in male subjects. The larger strength adaptations in both female isometric shoulder extension and flexion MVC vs. their male counterparts may be explained by their inexperience with battling rope workouts and that typical female resistance training workouts do not stress upper-body exercises as much as male workouts (11).

Individual exercises that increase strength but more importantly translate into muscular power in sporting events are gaining recognition as a key component in individual and team strength and conditioning programs (3,34). Given the repetitive downward battling rope motion during the 2 different whip exercises, we decided to assess shoulder power through medicine ball slams into a force plate (Table 3). After the first 3 weeks of battling rope HIIT, men improved their peak shoulder power by 8% and women improved by 12%, which are novel findings compared with previous insignificant upper-body power output changes after 4 weeks of battling rope HIIT (3×/wk for 8 × 15-second efforts with 45 seconds of rest) (24). Increasing battling rope weight and an additional 3 weeks of training further increased male and female peak shoulder power by 7 and 5%, respectively. A different 8-week battling rope HIIT program (30–36 × 15–30 seconds of efforts with 40–45 seconds of rest) also reported a 7.3% increase in upper-body anaerobic power and a 4.8% increase in upper-body power (chest pass speed) (8). These results, combined with increases in shoulder power output, would be expected to produce additional positive adaptations in skeletal muscular endurance.

To assess the upper-body muscular endurance benefits of battling rope HIIT, we conducted a push-up test until volitional fatigue. After the first 3 weeks, men improved by 10% and women by 15% producing similar improvements to push-up and chest press resistance training and 4 weeks of battling rope HIIT (12,22,31) (Table 3). Increased battling rope weight for an additional 3 weeks of HIIT resulted in further significant push-up increases in both men and women of 6 and 12%, respectively (Table 1), suggesting increasing battling rope weight can lead to additional improvements in upper-body muscular endurance similar to progressive overload techniques (23,30,33).

Trunk (core) skeletal muscle adaptations were assessed via a cadence sit-up test (every 2 seconds) until volitional fatigue. Female and male trunk endurance improved by 13 and 11%, respectively, after 3 weeks of battling rope HIIT, similar to the female improvements reported in our pilot data (31). The lack of significant male truck endurance improvements was attributed to the weight of the battling rope being an insufficient stimulus suggesting that increasing battling rope weight may be necessary to potentially induce greater physiological adaptations. With a 10-lb increase in battling rope weight for the last 3 weeks, both men and women improved significantly in trunk performance by 8 and 10%, respectively, demonstrating the efficacy of increasing battling rope weight to further improve abdominal muscular strength/endurance (Table 3).

With our improvements in both physical performance characteristics and cardiorespiratory fitness, it is worth highlighting the idea that both systems cannot improve simultaneously as they are at differing ends of the strength-endurance continuum. At the molecular level, previous research states activation of adenosine monophosphate–activated protein kinase after endurance training can inhibit the Akt-mTOR pathways activated during resistance training and subsequently prevent muscle growth (36). However, staggering the timing of lower-body resistance training with lower-body cycling HIIT prevented a compromise in the adaptations produced from resistance training (36), suggesting adaptations to both strength and endurance are possible.

The current study is not without its limitations as the protocol prescribes all-out activity; however, each subject determined their own all-out effort level, and we are only able to encourage maximum effort. Also, the performance metric of battling rope activity does not allow for comparisons to Wingate test power output. We prescribed a set battling rope weight based on previous data (31) and therefore did not consider each subject's initial body weight, skeletal muscle strength, endurance, and/or power. Finally, our sample population was all students from a Kinesiology program, which could have influenced our results as they were already an active population. Therefore, future studies should also look at a more sedentary group and/or highly trained varsity athletes to see whether similar results can be achieved.

In summary, 3 weeks of battling rope HIIT can lead to significantly increased male and female cardiorespiratory fitness and skeletal muscle performance, which can be further enhanced by increasing battling rope weight for an additional 3 weeks of training. These data suggest that strength and conditioning coaches should implement battling rope into their training programs using progressive increases in battling rope weight to stimulate additional upper-body physiological changes beneficial to the performance of recreationally active individuals and varsity/professional athletes.

Practical Applications

The improvements in the skeletal muscle and arm ergometer V̇o2max through both 3-week battling rope HIIT phases provide evidence that progressively increasing resistance while training can and should be applied to battling rope training in recreational training scenarios. In particular, the power output generated from such a dynamic movement speaks to battling rope being suitable for not only endurance and strength facets of training but also enhancing explosiveness of movement patterns, which are often more important in competition situations. In addition, with the availability of varying battling rope weights, they are suitable for the young, elderly, those with limited or restricted lower-body functioning, and for rehabilitative training to maintain or improve muscle performance and aerobic fitness.

Acknowledgments

A special thanks to Dr. Tom Hazell for his role in helping revise the manuscript through the review process.

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Keywords:

upper body; V̇o2max; power; muscular endurance; muscular strength

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