Jan 29, 2015
Tug of War & Rope Climbing: A Lost Art?

One of the hottest “new” tools in the fitness world today is rope training. Trainers are clients everywhere are using ropes to pull them closer to their fitness goals. This phenomenon is even causing some equipment manufacturers to ride the rope-training wave. With the recent buzz about ropes, their uses, their benefits, etc., we chose to look at how long have ropes been used to promote and measure physical fitness?

Rope training and its many forms – swinging, pulling, climbing – have been around for 1000s of years. Rope climbing can be traced as far back as 200 AD to ancient Greece and Rome. Claudius Galen (the father of sports medicine) refers to “scrambling up a rope” as a means of improving one’s health & wellness and providing one with an overall robust energy in life. Rope pulling (more commonly known as Tug of War) also has roots deep into ancient times. This competition was used by ancient Greek and Egyptian soldiers to keep their minds and bodies ready for battle. Ropes maintained their popularity throughout Europe well into modern times. Friedrich Jahn (the father of gymnastics) constructed his turnplatz in the early 1800s. Jahn built this large wooden scaffold like structure in exercise parks which used rope climbing as their main form of exercise. The climbing competitions were speed-based events where the first person to the top was crowned the winner. Rope training was at its peak at the turn of the 19th century. Competitive climbing (1896) and Tug of War (1900) both became sanctioned Olympic events around this time. However by the 1920s, the rope community was “let go” and neither event remained part of the Olympics past 1932. Ropes maintained their popularity in the United States into the 1960s due to school emphasis on physical fitness and the NCAA sanctioning of competitive rope climbing. As we examine the lost art of the rope, we can make the following conclusion. The fitness world is cyclical, and EVERYTHING is a tool. The rope – which began as a physical & mental military training tool, evolved into an Olympic art, fell from the ranks of fitness popularity- now returns as a tool promoting overall health & wellness. It is a back to the basics…to a time where ropes were king and so were those who climbed them.

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