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Old 08-12-2008, 11:10 AM   #1
Latham Fell
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A suggestion for rope climb substitution

The proper sub for a 15' rope climb should be 5 towel pullups, not 15.

To sub for rope climbs properly, consider that the equivalent of pulling yourself up 15' of rope is to pull yourself up 15' of towel. If you are pulling from full extension until your chin reaches your hand on each towel pullup, you are covering more than 1' on each pull. For example, the distance from my fist to my chin with my arm fully extended is 20", or 1.67 feet.

Also, if a 15' rope reaches the ground, then you do not have to cover the distance of your own height, since you start from a standing position. For example, I would subtract 69" from each rope climb, leaving about 9'. Even if I start from the sitting position, that would still be around 12'.

Taken together (9' divided by 1.67' per pull), each 15' rope climb should be subbed with 5 or 6 towel pulldowns, not 15. That's a total of 75, which is a reasonable number, considering that the grip requirement makes towel pullups more difficult than regular pullups.

This is backed up by a look at the rope climb video below (work safe), in which a 15' rope is scaled with anywhere from 4 to 6 strong pulls.

http://media.crossfit.com/cf-video/rope_climb.wmv
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Old 08-12-2008, 11:41 AM   #2
Joe Cavazos
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Re: A suggestion for rope climb substitution

These are really good points, and such considerations might make the Tommy V WOD do-able for those of us without climbing ropes. Under the current 1 foot = 1 Towel Pull-up standard, this WOD involves 405 Towel Pull-ups broken up by 45 Thrusters.
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Last edited by Joe Cavazos : 08-12-2008 at 11:44 AM.
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Old 08-12-2008, 12:40 PM   #3
Karin Jonczak
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Re: A suggestion for rope climb substitution

I don't believe that towel PU's are a one to one substitute...at least NOT if you climb the rope with your legs.

I prefer, and just my opinion, to do jumping towel PUs as a substitute. I would do 5 for a 15' climb.

Just my 2 cents...

Karin
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Old 08-12-2008, 01:46 PM   #4
Arturo Garcia
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Re: A suggestion for rope climb substitution

It makes me feel a bit better to read this, because yesterday I did the WOD that included 3 trips of 15' rope climb for 5 rounds... I did 15 towell pull-ups in each round, and I decided to do them deadhang (might have raised knees on the way up, but no initial swing), and I had to do them in sets of 3!! They are tiring. I alternated which hand was up/down every 3 reps... my towel was little so there were only a couple of inches (2 or 3) between my fists for the pullups. The total of 75 was much more doable than the total of 225 that was supossed to be the sub (ouch!).. I also scaled the weight of the hang squat clean a ton and still only managed to do the five rounds in 26:00 .. I'm glad I scaled the heck out of it ... the thought of 225 total pull-ups while gripping a towel (it was a first ever) was very, very scary.

Like you say, I don't think a person climbing a 15' rope takes as long, or struggles as much, as someone doing 15 towel pullups. But I've read that subs are supossed to be harder than the rx'd exercise to push people to actually perform the rx'd ones!!
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Old 08-12-2008, 03:20 PM   #5
Blair Robert Lowe
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Re: A suggestion for rope climb substitution

It can take about 15 hand grabs up a rope where you are climbing without the help of your legs. These hand grabs are also not an outstretched ROM as in long ascent/descents. There are probably people out there who can do it in 7 from the floor because each ascent uses a better ROM than say the last time I did these.

4-6 only make sense with feet helping unless you have an awesome ROM and long damn arms. There is probably a bit of punishment in there like the MU sub, too.
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Old 08-13-2008, 10:58 AM   #6
Brian Bedell
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Re: A suggestion for rope climb substitution

My personal solution for rope climbs is that "I'm 40, I ain't never climbed a rope before and I don't see myself having to climb a rope in the future, I aint doin' it" If this is my only crossfit foul, then fine, I take a mulligan on rope climbing, the sub is crazy. I did 15 dead hang pullups with negatives as a sub for the 3 x 15 foot climbs. And I don't care! lol
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Old 08-13-2008, 12:55 PM   #7
Warren C Ellison
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Re: A suggestion for rope climb substitution

Very valid points on the rope climb, but what abuot the fear of heights that many/most people have. The couple of rope climbs I had where cut short due to the fear of failing down to the ground and breaking my neck due to being tired. Fear factors in more to me than grip. My 4 cents.

I know, I know, what color is your purse Sally...I've heard it before. However, like the commercial says, "Children change everything". Perspective change...that's all. I'll take a pass on the rope climb as well. Good to know towels will sub.
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Old 08-15-2008, 01:22 PM   #8
Jared Ashley
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Re: A suggestion for rope climb substitution

Latham, I mostly agree with you.

The problem is that "towel pullups" is not an accurate name for what is usually being subbed. There are threads in the past that have taken up this debate, and what is being called a "towel pullup" is really more of a towel see-saw... you hang from the towel and pull down alternately with your right and left arms while your body remains fairly stationary. With this sub, 15:1 is probably fair, but IMO this sub has very little similarity to climbing a rope.

A TRUE towel pullup (where you hang from a towel with one arm higher than the other and pull your body up) is much, much harder, and 15:1 is insane. 10:1 true towel pullups might be an appropriate sub for a NO-LEGS ascent, and either 10:1 jumping towel pullups or 5:1 towel pullups is probably a good sub for an ascent where legs are allowed.
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Old 08-16-2008, 03:13 AM   #9
Giles Clarke
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Re: A suggestion for rope climb substitution

I feel a lot better after reading these posts.
I just did the Tommy V WOD two days ago and I am still healing. Being a hero workout I was bound, set and determined to do it as Rx's (even if it took me 3 hours). I had always thought towel pull ups were straight pull ups, gripping a towel strung over the bar. The 15:1 conversion seemed insane but I stubbornly persevered. The only towel I had was the 1ft hand-towel my gym hands out and after the first 3 “ascents” of 15 it was so compressed from my grip that I had to keep unrolling it and re-hanging it after every three pull ups. After roughly 75 pull ups the towel (along with my grip) was shot and I had to resort to regular pull ups. It got to the point that I was actually looking forward to the 115# thrusters as a “break”.
At around pull up # 250 my hands finally called it quits. My palms looked waxen from the repeated pressure and the calluses under my middle fingers had actually torn and folded under themselves. I completed the workout, but had to taper the pulls. I had never “failed” a WOD before and I was really disappointed in myself for it.
I’m glad to see that I should have read the fine print a bit better and I could have saved myself a lot of pain in the process. When these new calluses heal over they’ll serve as a reminder that: when in doubt, check the boards!
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Old 08-17-2008, 10:37 PM   #10
John Biddle
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Re: A suggestion for rope climb substitution

Jared, many thanks for your post. I don't know whether what you say has any official sanction, but it makes plenty of sense. The concept of doing 405 towel pull-ups (in the sense of a pull-up done while gripping a towel draped over the bar) is frankly so absurdly beyond what is possible for the vast majority of people (or at least that's my guess) that it just couldn't be right. I'm guessing even 405 bar pullups would probably take most CF-ers a long long time - 90 minutes plus say, if indeed they could do that many without injury.

In any case, aren't rope climbs generally done using feet? I'd also have thought that few people could do many while just using their arms - and safety aspects (exhausted people losing their grip at the top of the rope) would come into play more.
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