How To Train Your Cardio with Rope Flow: An Overview
Rope flow is an incredibly versatile tool and its benefits include promoting healthy joints and improving your coordination and mobility, mental health, and overall well-being. However, one of the biggest benefits is its ability to develop cardio like nothing else.
This is thanks to the wide variety of protocols and modalities available which can develop both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. This will bring about many benefits associated with a stronger cardiovascular system, such as higher energy levels in your day-to-day life and lowering your risk of health problems like depression and chronic fatigue syndrome. Aside from this, other reasons to develop your cardio include losing weight through fat burning and strengthening the lungs and heart.
Let’s dive into some recommendations for the best ways to train both your aerobic and anaerobic cardio capacity with rope flow, whether you’re an athlete or just simply looking to improve your general fitness.
First, the key to any successful training plan is that it is sustainable. Ideally, it needs to be enjoyable and not feel like a chore! Thankfully, rope flow offers a variety of options so you can switch up your training regularly to keep things fresh and exciting. Many people prefer rope flow simply because it doesn’t feel like a workout. Here are some general recommendations for planning your cardio sessions:
- Always warm up with some light exercises for at least 10 minutes before a cardio workout
- Work yourself hard enough to raise your heart rate and breathing, but not so you’re exhausted
- Aim to complete at least 3 x 30m sessions per week
- Gradually increase the stimulus by increasing the duration or intensity of the workout by about 10-20% each week
- Use a metronome to control your tempo (this can be effective at controlling the intensity).
Training Aerobic Cardio
What is Aerobic Cardio?
Aerobic cardio training is characterised by a slower, steady pace performed over a longer period of time. This means that oxygen can meet the energy expenditure demands of the body by metabolising fat, carbohydrates and proteins to produce energy. Sports which rely heavily on the aerobic system include long-distance running, cyclists and swimmers. However, many other sports will demand a high aerobic capacity whilst also requiring a strong anaerobic capacity. Rope flow makes it easy and fun to train your aerobic cardio.
Aerobic Cardio Training Plan
When incorporating aerobic training into your workout, it is important to work hard enough to raise your heart rate and breathing, but not so as to feel the need to mouth breathe. Ideally, we want to maintain nasal breathing throughout an aerobic workout as this has tremendous health benefits, such as improving oxygen uptake in the blood, but more on that in another post! Here are 3 simple ways you can implement this into your training:
Light to moderate intensity freestyle flow
For many people, this can be one of the more enjoyable ways to train aerobic cardio. This method involves simply piecing together the moves you know to make your own freestyle flow for an extended period of time. Of course, this method will require that you have at least learnt some of the basic patterns and know how to transition between them. This might make it a more suitable option for those who are not complete beginners
That being said, this style of training has some clear benefits which include:
- Easily adjustable tempo
- Huge variety of patterns to train
- Ability to test new ideas and transitions
- A More ‘expressive’ way to train
- Less structure so less planning needed
Drilling for time
This next method allows you to focus on a specific rope flow pattern for an extended period of time. This can be excellent if you want to really hone your technique on a specific pattern to improve your biomechanics and program your body to move better.
An example of this might be drilling the alternating underhand sneak pattern with marches to improve the gait cycle. This is a beneficial exercise for anyone but more specifically it will carry over to running. Similarly, we have patterns like the ace which can carry over to racket sports, and the dragon roll – a fantastic exercise for becoming light on your feet. Boxers and martial artists could benefit from underhand figure-8 swings which can mimic the mechanics of the bob-and-weave movement for developing evasive ability and striking power by strengthening the core whilst integrating the limbs.
Unlike freestyle flow, this approach will have less variety, so some people may find it less engaging. That being said, the benefits of it should not be underestimated. In fact, it can be one of the best ways to develop effortless movement, all whilst improving your cardio. If you’re fairly new to rope flow, you can use this protocol to train any patterns you have already learnt and before long you will have perfected the mechanics. Simply set a shorter time to start with (e.g. 10 minutes) and increase the amount each week.
This next protocol builds on the previous one. This time, instead of drilling one specific pattern, we’re going to split our workout up into segments and fill each of them with a different rope flow pattern. Here is an example of what this might look like.
Remember you don’t have to fill every segment with a different exercise. You can always repeat patterns at different intervals which will make it easier for you if you’re still new and haven’t yet mastered all the patterns. Take a look at this locomotion segmented drilling workout for an idea of how this type of workout works.
This style of training offers all the benefits associated with drilling specific patterns whilst still allowing for huge variety in your workouts. This makes it a better option for those who get bored easily during prolonged cardio sessions. If you’re still a bit shaky with certain patterns, it’s a great way to program them into a structured workout and iron out any imperfections.
Training Anaerobic Cardio
Unlike aerobic cardio, when we perform anaerobic cardio workouts our body must produce energy in the absence of oxygen, as the energy expenditure is too great to be fulfilled entirely by the oxygen we breathe in. This makes it a great way to train for sports which require us to expend a lot of energy in a shorter period of time. Examples of such sports include martial arts, sprinting, rugby, rowing and many others. It’s recommended that you first develop a solid base of aerobic cardio before delving into higher-intensity workouts. There are many different styles of anaerobic training protocol known by the umbrella term HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). Here are two different protocols that you can try in your training:
The Tabata protocol was initially developed by Japanese professor Dr Izumi Tabata and has since become an incredibly popular and effective way to train one’s anaerobic cardio. Dr Tabata’s studies found that training with intermittent rounds of intensity followed by short rest periods was superior to moderate exercise in terms of benefitting both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. Tabata not only improves our anaerobic cardio capacity but our aerobic cardio too. The same can’t be said for prolonged exercise of lower intensity. Here’s a rundown of the Tabata protocol:
In summary, the Tabata protocol consists of 8 intervals of 20 seconds max effort work with a 10-second active rest period in between each of them, during which the intensity is reduced significantly but not completely. The active rest period serves as a small break from the intensity so that it can be sustained for a longer period of time and it also has a carryover to sports which combine both aerobic and anaerobic cardio requirements. An example would be boxing or other ring sports as strikes are interspersed with short breaks, during which the fighter is still constantly moving and analysing their opponent to determine an opportune time to strike again.
When it comes to training the Tabata protocol with rope flow, there are two main options that I would suggest:
Firstly, keep things simple and pick one rope flow pattern of your choice to perform for the entire duration of a 4-minute round. Let’s say I choose Dragon Switches – this means I will first perform 20 seconds of Dragon Switches at max effort before my 10-second active rest period where I’m going at a much slower pace to allow my body to recover slightly. I’m then going to go back at it for another 7 such intervals to make up an entire 4-minute round.
This type of workout would be an excellent introduction to training Tabata if you’re new to it. Once you feel you’re ready, you can add additional 4-minute rounds afterwards. After each round is over it’s advisable to take around 1-2 minutes of rest before the next one starts. You could then choose to either repeat the same exercise or choose a different one entirely for each subsequent round
Another option which involves a little more planning would be to select a different pattern for every 30 seconds of the 4-minute round. This means you would perform one exercise at max effort for 20 seconds and then as an active rest phase for 10 seconds before going into your next exercise for the following intense interval.
Here is an example workout of how you might choose to plan this >>
Another HIIT protocol I’m going to share with you is Fartlek. The word ‘Fartlek’ comes from Swedish, translated as ‘speed play’. This is because this modality of training is characterised by varying periods of intensity and rest, unlike Tabata which is regular throughout. There are many different types of Fartlek workouts but we’re going to look at two in particular and you can get creative and develop your own based on their structure.
The principle of this style of Fartlek is to gradually reduce the active rest period whilst keeping the same intense phase of 30 seconds. A good starting point for active rest would be around 2 minutes for those with an average level of fitness. You can always adjust this to suit your level. You then perform a round of intense work for 30 seconds before going back into the active rest phase again, this time for 15 seconds less. Repeat as such, taking 15 seconds from your active rest after each intense phase until you get down to just 15 seconds of active rest, at which point you can choose to finish the workout with an extended intense round of 1 minute to really finish you off.
The first one looks like so:
A second variation for you to try would be to perform a 30-second intense round and follow that with a rest period for twice as long. Then your next intense round will match the length of time of the previous rest period (1 minute). The next rest will be twice as long as the intense, and so on and so forth.
Whilst your intense rounds can get pretty long doing this style, you also get a lot of rest in between, as your next rest period will always be longer than then intense round. Give it a try!
This variation looks like so:
Exercise Selection for Fartlek Workouts
My recommendation when it comes to which patterns to incorporate into these workouts is as follows:
Pick one exercise for the active rest phase. Ideally, one which isn’t too physically demanding. This will make it easier for your body to recover. Some examples might include UH Matadors, OH matadors, Maki Rolls, Figure-8s, and Alternating UH Sneak, to name a few.
Pick one exercise for the intense phase. This time, select a pattern which places more physical demand on the body. For some, this might be Dragon Switches (performed with a deep knee bend), Bowler (especially the 1-beat variation), and any pattern involving scissor lunges.
The possibilities of training your cardio with rope flow really are endless. We’ve seen some example workouts but it’s up to you to get creative and see where you can take it. Your exercise selection is also going to vary depending on the sports you are training for. For example, long-distance runners might like to incorporate more underhand patterns which mimic locomotion and the modality will tend to be aerobic. If you play tennis, try drilling certain patterns like the ace on both sides until it becomes smooth, mixing both aerobic and anaerobic modalities. Sports such as martial arts will benefit from both underhand and overhand patterns as well as a mixture of both aerobic and anaerobic training.
Keep working consistently to build up your cardio each week, and gradually increase the amount of work your body has to do. Remember, a metronome app can be very useful in controlling your tempo. Don’t forget to experiment with a whole range of modalities to shock the body and ultimately force it to adapt and become more resilient.