Best Battle Rope Material
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.
Manila ropes are sometimes called “manila hemp” ropes. This is a misnomer. It’s not hemp at all. It’s fibrous like hemp, and people get confused. See further below for hemp ropes.
The downside to manila? The shedding. Oh man, the shedding. Your cat has nothing on this rope. Plan on regular sweeping.
That’s ok, you say, I’ll just use it outside.
Not where it’s wet, you won’t. Manila is a natural fiber and will rot if you give it a chance. This stuff all comes from the Philippines, where they have these banana trees called abaca, and the leaves are harvested for their fantastic fibers that seem to only be used in rope. It’s actually also used for a few other things like all-natural tea bags.
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 DACRON AND OTHER POLYESTER ROPES
Poly ropes usually are poly dacron, also called polydac, and some polypropylene mixed in. The mix varies between manufacturers. It’s a synthetic rope, and they’re all closer to each other than they are to manila.
On the downside, technically it’s like 15% lighter than manila, making it easier. That shouldn’t really matter much for a conditioning workout. Only in strength workouts that involve a weight closer to your max, usually with barbell work, does the exact weight make much of a difference. Plus, some poly ropes have a heavy duty nylon sheath over them, adding to the weight to even things out.
Be warned that a good polydacron rope may also be too stiff when it arrives. Don’t return it. You have to give it a couple good workouts to loosen it up.
It doesn’t shed like manila does, which makes it a good conditioning rope. And it’s slightly 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.
Although it doesn’t shed like manila, polydacron can still suffer fraying from abrasion.