Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Interview with founder of Battling Ropes Training: John Brookfield


John, you are a very accomplished strongman, coach, & author. Thank you for taking the time to share your insights with the CF community.
Recently you did a world-record truck pull, would you briefly fill us in on that before we get started?
How did you train leading up to this event?


Thank you Frank for the opportunity to share the Battling Ropes methodology with the Crossfit community. The World record truck pulling was actually done on November 1st in North Carolina. Jon Bruney and I pulled a semi-truck weighing in excess of 32 thousand pounds for one complete mile using only our physical strength and mental fortitude. The last 325 yards of the pull had a steady upgrade which pretty well kept Jon and I on all fours to keep the semi-truck inching along. The truck driver said the truck was actually trying to roll backwards during the last several hundred yards.
As far as the preparation and training for the one mile pull. I did a lot of heavy weight carrying where I would carry 200lbs. and sometimes close to 300lbs. on my shoulders and walk up and down a steep hill for a mile and sometimes much farther. I also did a lot of heavy chain dragging which is similar to sled pulling, however, I think the chain dragging is much better for actual pulling events. I also, did a few other methods of training including the Battling Ropes training.


What role did Battling Ropes training contribute to your being able to do this truck pull?

The Battling Ropes training is fast and furious where the truck pulling for distance appears to be slow. However, even though the truck is moving slow, your body must be going at high work capacity to keep the truck moving. The Battling Ropes training greatly helps for this due to the physical and mental discipline that the training demands. As you know Frank there is no lull in the action with the Battling Ropes. This type of intensity where momentum is absent greatly helps me with the physical and mental demands the distance truck pulling imposes on me.


There are numerous aspects to your training system, and I see you've selected the Tsunami?
Why was this your choice to share with CrossFit?


Even though the Battling Ropes training does have many aspects and concepts to the training, I choose the Tsunami drill or exercise as an opener to the Crossfit community due to the fact it introduces velocity to the athlete. Sustaining and maintaining velocity is also the foundation of the Battling Ropes training. The Tsunami is also very easy to measure in terms of work capacity and can be used as a training drill or it can also me measured as a way to compete against yourself or others. I actually presented at a Crossfit certification at Crossfit Charlotte as a specialist a little over a year ago. The Battling Ropes Tsunami was one of the drills that I introduced there and I think it made quite an impression. The Tsunami can also be implemented very easily into Crossfit workouts.


Could you fill us in on the Tsunami and elaborate on velocity training?


The Battling Ropes training system is a unique one of a kind training system which forces the athlete to use velocity and the athlete must be able to maintain velocity to be successful. Simply put velocity is the combination of strength and speed together. Velocity is seldom discussed or understood and even less implemented into training routines. Unlike training where momentum is used velocity is high output and gives the athlete no time to rest physically or mentally. For example lets look at the humming bird. Most people have seen the speed and intensity that the wings move on the humming bird. This intensity of the wings must be maintained to keep the bird in flight. This is a form of velocity being used with momentum being non-existent. Another form form of velocity is the cheetah as it runs and maintains velocity chasing its food in the wild.

I am often times asked if power is the same thing as velocity. They are quite different and often mistaked for velocity. A simple example would be someone hammering railroad spikes on the railroad. When the person swings the sledgehammer and strikes the spike explosively they are using power. Once the spike is struck with the hammer the user must reset for another strike. As he swings the hammer and strikes the spike he must reset over and over again. With this in mind velocity would be like an arrow shot out of a crossbow where as long as the arrow can maintain velocity it continues to travel. Another simple example in training would be an athlete training with a kettlebell. When the athlete swings the kettlebell he uses power as he thrusts and swings it forward and upward. Once the kettlebell reaches its height gravity takes over and momentum is used as the kettlebells travels back towards the ground. In fact the kettlebell swing or snatch relies on a high percentage of momentum. Once again true velocity training uses no momentum, but, forces the athlete to use total output to be successful.

With this understood the Battling Ropes training system helps the athlete to be able to train or compete at a higher level of intensity for longer durations of time due to the ability of being able to maintain velocity. The Battling Ropes training actually has seven different concepts or elements to the training with the first being the ability to maintain velocity and the second element is the ability to maintain strength without the use of momentum or the use of gravity. Even though the system is extremely vast and has many levels of improving and countless ways to up the intensity, we will examine and look at a couple simple techniques and exercises to start with. It is also important to understand that the training system is very easy to measure your workload capacity and very easy to track your improvement. The Battling Ropes can be used to simply train or also be used to compete with others.

The first method we will examine is the ability to maintain velocity be creating a series of waves with the Battling Ropes. In general my research shows that fifty foot ropes are used either being an inch and a half in diameter or two inch in diameter. For much of the training we wrap the rope around an anchor point which gives us two twenty five foot sections which are grasped one in each hand. However, the Battling Ropes Tsunami which is the exercise we will look at today, requires the athlete to simply lay the fifty foot rope out lengthwise on the ground. In most cases I use the two inch diameter fifty foot rope for training and testing purposes. I also, used Manilla ropes and Poly ropes for this testing depending on the setting. Once your fifty foot two inch diameter rope is stretched out length wise on the ground you can either have someone stand on the very end, the end can be weighted down by a couple of weight plates, or the very end can be tied off to an anchor point. If having someone stand on the very end or using weight plates to lay on the end, it is important to understand that it does not require alot of weight on the end since the athlete training is not actually pulling back or trying to stretch the rope tightly.

Once you are ready with your one end anchored the athlete simply grasps the opposite end with both hands using either an overhand grip or and underhanded grip. Also, be sure that the athlete grasps the end of the rope hand over hand and not with the hands and fingers interlocked. Now while grasping the rope with most of the slack out of the rope the athlete thrusts the rope up and down as quickly as possible which gets the rope moving and creates a wave or series of waves which travels all the way to the other end of the rope. You will notice that the faster you can move the more waves will flow in the rope. You will also notice that the Battling Ropes Tsunami may be the hardest drill you have experienced because you are now forced to use velocity and no momentum can be used. The goal is to sustain velocity and maintain the flow of the waves all the way to the other end. Once your waves don't reach the other end you are through, or if your wave or waves don't reach the other end you are not sucessfully completing the drill.

The Battling Ropes Tsunami can be used for training purposes as well as a way of testing the athletes ability to maintain velocity. The testing method can be measured several ways, however, lets look at a simple way to measure work capacity and workload. This method or formula will measure how fast the athlete can cover a mile of distance with the wave of the rope. By measuring this you must understand that the athlete must sucessfully complete the Battling Ropes Tsunami. To sucessfully complete the Tsunami you must have the wave or waves travel the complete distance of the fifty foot rope everytime you force the rope up and down. With this being successful each time you can figure out the distance the rope will travel over time. With this in mind, if you would take 104 fifty foot ropes and lay each rope end to end you would have one mile in distance. With this understood, if the athlete successfully forces the wave of the rope to the other end everytime 104 times without stopping or losing velocity he has covered a mile in distance with the wave of the rope.

Once the athlete can complete the series of waves 104 times without the rope stopping or not reaching the other end he has successfully completed the mile Tsunami. From here you simply time the athlete and see how quickly he can complete the mile Tsunami. The Battling Ropes Tsunami will force the athlete into total intensity by taking away the ability to use momentum and gravity to you advantage. You will also find that someone who is quite strong and not fast will not do well on this drill, or someone who is fast but, not strong will not do well either. The Tsunami will not only expose weak links in the athlete but, also correct the weak links as well. You will find that the Battling Ropes training and velocity training will greatly enhance anyone's work capacity in any sport or competition by increasing their ability to work at a higher level of intensity for longer durations of time.


We have been using Battling Ropes for a little over two months at our CF gym and it has been very well-received. It will be an ongoing part of our training.

This would, I believe, be the consensus with the CFers who have used Battling Ropes.

When guys like Coach Burgener, Josh Everett, Jeff Martone, Greg Admunson, Zach Even-Esh, and other highly-respected CFers find it useful, that speaks volumes to me.

Thank you for sharing your training system with us.

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