Rope training has gotten popular with Crossfit. Basically there are two applications for what is basically the same rope. One is as a climbing rope, where it’s got a clamp attached to one end. The other is as a conditioning rope, where the middle of the rope is looped around a pole or beam 25ft away and you grip both ends of the rope to do the rolling.

First, a quick decision for you if you just want to know what to get and don’t want a full education on rope materials.

The Best Choice for Climbing

Get manila if you can stand a little bit of shedding from abrasion. There’s no beating a 1.5″ manila rope. Otherwise if shedding is too bothersome, get unmanila, a synthetic alternative.

The Best Choice for Conditioning

Go with poly. The ends will have polyethylene boots that you grip, at least if you buy the rope from us, and the rope is abrasion resistant. A 50′ long, 1.5″ thick rope is common, and 2″ thick is a heavier rope for strong guys.

And the Details… The Tradeoffs Between Rope Materials

If you want to be sure you’re making the right choice, read on.


Good old fashioned manila rope is made from abaca plant leaves. Because it’s the only type of rope that is a natural fiber, it absorbs moisture from sweaty palms. That, combined with the fact that it has a rough texture, means it makes for the best grip.

One possible downside to manila is it can shed a bit, requiring some sweeping if you do it indoors, but that’s really only an issue if you use it for conditioning exercises (ie: it’s being slammed around a lot). When it’s hooked up as a climbing rope, that’s not really an issue.

The other issue with manila is all natural fibers can eventually rot, especially if it is exposed to rain, because it absorbs moisture (and that’s why it gives you such a good grip – it absorbs the moisture from your hands).  But realistically rotting can take years, and you’ll be able to tell when it’s looking questionable. Consider that manila ropes are still used for years at a time on boats. They are still in widespread use for a reason.


Poly ropes usually are PolyPlus but might be PolyDac, either of which are a mix of polypropylene and other materials, or it might be just plain polypropylene. The point is it’s a synthetic rope, and all those are pretty similar for our purposes. It doesn’t shed like manila does, which makes it a good conditioning rope. And it’s a little lighter than manila so won’t give as heavy a workout for conditioning exercises, but the weight difference is only like 10%.

As a climbing rope, it’s more slippery than manila, partly because of the slick texture and partly because it doesn’t absorb moisture from your hands.


Unmanila is interesting. It’s a cross between manila and poly. It’s actually entirely synthetic but is made to look and feel like manila.

It’s a lot lighter than manila, so it’s not a great choice for conditioning exercises.

But for climbing it’s great. It’s like a poly rope but with a better grip.

Also see Muscle Rope’s Battle Rope Buying Guide and Redefining Strength’s instructional article on rope climbing.