Is the Main Board rope swing an instant pass/fail?


Sadly I failed my first attempt at Main Board this August. The principle reason cited was an 'exceptionally poor performance' on the assault course. I was suprised as I thought the assault course was not so important - evidently I was wrong.

In a nutshell, I'm around 5'9" and weigh 13 stone - mainly 'slow-twitch fibre'

I'm good at long distance running and lifting things - and passed all elements of the PFT - but am about as agile as.. Well.. Some kind of metaphor involving Ann Widecombe's performance on Strictly Come Dancing.

Before you ask, I feel I really did give this the 'aggression'. I focused, gave it aggression and plenty of yelling/grunting.

Rope Swing: Fail (3 attempts
High Jump: Pass (first time)
Long Jump: Fail (3 attempts)
Cage Slide: Pass (2nd attempt)
Wooden Steps: Pass
Rope Climb: Fail (was just getting feet up when the bell went

The rope swing I was nowhere near getting. I was nearly landing by the time I got to the rope! The long jump I was literally a couple of inches behind though. So it seems long jump practise would help both - I'm trying to find an athletics club.

Curiously enough, I was sent to the Wall by the Lt. Colonel supervising (after the time was over) and went straight over it no problems! I've struggled on six-foot walls before, but this time I ran at it and suddenly had my arms over. A hard pull and a grunt and I was over.

I hoped this was a 'make-or-break' and I'd therefore passed, but this seems not to be the case.. Nonetheless, I was delighted at this small achievement.

So I'm currently on a bit of a break from training (just running/pushups) whilst I sort out a new job and get a new gym. When I get going, I believe it will be lots of skipping and step aerobics.

However, I saw an old school-friend in town recently who is in his first term at RMAS. I told him about my report - and he referred to the rope-swing as the 'confidence test'. I asked what he meant and he could not remember any more.

It made me think of the old window test, which (apparently) was an instant fail if you couldn't make it through.

Is this the case with the rope swing? My problem was simply that I was barely reaching the rope. My jump was nowhere near far enough. More experience gripping ropes would be good too..

So, any ideas on the significance of that rope swing? Also - any tips on agility?!

Looking at your results mate, it isn't just the rope swing that failed you. Look howmany attempts on other items you had....

An atheltics club could help out, but I would also suggest some upper body work and losing some of your podge. It is just slowing you down.

Work at it, go back, smash it. Good luck.

Your mucker at RMAS may be referring to the 'confidence test' as what they look at to see if you have the confidence to run balls out at a piece of string, grab it and swing across a gap. Or do you 'pull up' shy of the take off point.
Thanks for the tips Frog.

Clarity over what, specifically, they found to be most unacceptable about my performance is appreciated. I have heard of people on ARRSE talking of getting 'half-way-round' and still passing though, so am a little confused..

The long jump I'm sure I can make with some practise - I was close! Turning this into a first-time-clear would save a lot of time, compared to taking three attempts (each with a runup). The rope climb I feel can be cleared next-time too, as I got the technique sorted right at the end. More strength should certainly help here, too.

The rope swing is the only obstacle I feel is far from being able to do, currently..

Otherwise the report is fairly positive (I can dig quotes out if it helps). Aptitude was above average, current affairs was 'outstanding'. Plan ex was 'below average', but I handled grilling well - and command tasks were not bad.

Conclusion, 'We have to refuse a commission to this highly articulate, enthusiastic and personable individual due to concerns that his agility was below the standard even RMAS could improve upon.'

RE: Your physique tips; My BF is around 15%, which isn't bad by civillian standards - although it still represents nearly two stone! Getting a stone off this can't help but make jumping easier I admit..

I've done quite a lot of strength training, but my legs are still proportionately larger than my arms. (Calves@17" whilst Biceps@14"). Hence, whilst most advocate not lifting for the Army, I feel that I need to in order to help me carry my own weight better. I certainly feel the lifting I've done helped me get over the wall - and therefore agree with you that I should do more. Particularly my back.

The new gym has cables, which I'm looking forward to becoming acquainted with. Surely better than the ancient Ib weights in my local rowing club!

Any more tips/critique from anyone are much appreciated,

Yelling and grunting might just make you sound like a tw*t. I failed the rope swing twice and still passed-it was the scholarship board though. I have pretty much the same dimensions as you but I did a lot better than you in the assault course. If you can get over the wall then you should be able to do the rest of it. The cage-slide is just a wall but you have more to grab on to. Obviously I can't judge because I wasn't there but it sounds like either you didn't put enough effort in or that you are quite seriously malco-ordinated.

Your report sounds as though it was just your agility, however don't give them any excuse to fail you and ensure your next attempt at main board improves upon all the factors involved.

As someone with a physical training background assuming your MSFT was not a drama I would suggest getting into circuits sessions at your new gym. Muscle circumference particularly of the biceps does not tell you how fit for purpose you are. Indeed your upper body strength would be better measured by chest and back size/ strength as opposed to girth of what is primarily a supporting muscle rather than a prime mover in compound exercise.

As a lifter whom is unable to do a rope climb it would naturally appear that you are too heavy for your height. Indeed for RMAS I am 5'11 and have dropped from 15 stone to under 13 stone so as you rightly mentioned look at getting rid of excess weight.

Military fitness would appear to be much more about entire body movements and co-ordination, leading to primarily lean muscle regardless of fast or slow twitch fibre type. Look into pull ups, jump squats and power lifting such as cleans and snatches for compound exercises. If you are insistent on free weights look at introducing an aerobic element at the beginning of any session in order to add that extra muscle fatigue prior to lifting and you should look at lighter weights with more superset type exercises.

If you're not a sportsman and you're serious about joining the Army maybe consider joining a sporting club to improve agility. Otherwise I'd think carefully about how soon you want to book your second main board in - make it count!

Good luck.

However, I saw an old school-friend in town recently who is in his first term at RMAS. I told him about my report - and he referred to the rope-swing as the 'confidence test'.

More experience gripping ropes would be good too..

On the rope swing I lept like a mad man and I grabbed the rope but still caught the barrier.
The DS just shouted "good lad keep going!"
when we where all telling war stories and shooting the shit afterwards, I was told by the SSgt that if they see any hesitation or self preservation from the candidate it will definatly go against you. The reasoning he gave was if you hesitate jumping off a 4ft platform what will you be like in combat?

My advice to anyone going to MB- don't think too much-

I spent so much "wasted" time preparing for so many things in such detail that I now realise was not necessary.
If you have a point during discussions, do no think about how you can interject, just say it as your chance will be gone before you know it.
Don't think about the phys, the jumps, will I hurt myself? you will suprise yourself with what you can actually do.

Also- if you want more experience gripping ropes then join the ruddy navy!
You need explosive power for the obstacle course so circuits involving plyometrics (box jumps, burpees etc) with body weight exercises like pullups and dips will improve explosive power as well as endurance. Best way to train for an obstacle course though is by doing obstacle courses.
Best way to train for an obstacle course though is by doing obstacle courses.
I was thinking about that- I know you can join clubs or go to various centres which have access to climbing walls; but are there outdoor centres where you might be able to have a go round some obstacle courses? They don't have to be the same as AOSB but some practice in hurling yourself round things could only be useful. Provided you don't break anything.
I was thinking about that- I know you can join clubs or go to various centres which have access to climbing walls; but are there outdoor centres where you might be able to have a go round some obstacle courses? They don't have to be the same as AOSB but some practice in hurling yourself round things could only be useful. Provided you don't break anything.
How about a monkey like run/jump/swing round a kiddy park? Just make sure the said kiddies are not there.

The best way to cure your lack of agility is to participate in court games such as tennis, volleyball, squash or badminton.
The short bursts of speed and requirement to continually move, stop and change direction whilst your upper and lower body operate independently of each other, can't help but improve your hand-eye/eye-foot coordination.
They're also good calorie burners and an excellent way to meet fit women.
Whats not to like?
Might I suggest as a good all round gym program, if you are struggling with the phys, from the Royal Marines website. Think it is called fit to join, but the circuit example is a very good starting point, and of course if you are struggling/coasting with certain exercises you can amend the reps.
Out of interest, how did you do at Briefing? How long was the gap betwen Briefing and MB? Were you given a fitness deferral and if so, could this have been a factor? Hard luck btw!
Hey, apologies for the delay, my inbox got on top of me but I have some time away from work to attend to it!

In conclusion, it does seem my hesitation to 'psyche myself up' for the rope swing and long jump could have been interpreted as fear, or the curious reference to 'poor stamina' mentioned. So I will certainly be throwing myself at every obstacle this September..

Since first posting, I have gone from just under 13 stone to 14 stone (5' 9") through gym work and big eating. Now, this in isolation would clearly be detrimental to my efforts for the assault course, but hear my plan out:

- Spend Winter bulking up, lifting heavy and pullups (most of the way through this stage)
- Spring, start thai boxing again (already started) and gradually introduce running/cardio/explosive elements
- Early summer, heavy cardio/explosive training and aim to shed down to 12 - 12.5 stone.

The idea being to go for a late summer Main Board both lean and more agile, but having retained much of the upper-body strength I have developed (and will continue to develop). I will be doing four days lifting throughout this year, but introducing a lot more cardio in the mornings and cutting carb intakes. Of course, I am randomly bashing out sets of 30 pushups throughout the day (except now, because I am injured!)

For some reason I decided stopping Muay Thai would be good for my first attempt at Main Board, but it seems obvious now I have started training again, that this was the source of any agility I did have. It certainly develops your leg flexibility/power..

That said, I've already got either a bruised or cracked rib from someone's knee and currently cannot bench or do pushups! So I'll take the sparring easy..

As ever, tips (and the inevitable criticisms) are welcome.

And Wager, I was given a cat 2 (6 months) for agility at briefing! I thought the substantial improvement in running/bodyweight exercises alone would suffice, but clearly more specialised work is needed!
And Wager, I was given a cat 2 (6 months) for agility at briefing! I thought the substantial improvement in running/bodyweight exercises alone would suffice, but clearly more specialised work is needed!
So you knew your agility was weak but still got to the board unprepared?

It took me 4 attempts to get up the rope climb (I didn't get the technique right until the end) so when it comes to assault course anguish, I'm perfectly experienced. That said, I'd suggest that you need to lose a bit of weight (I liked your assertion that it is slow twitch muscle - you'll find that bulk is formed by fast twitch muscle, slow twitch doesn't bulk up anywhere near as much. Watch Olympic marathon runners for more details) and that 13 stone just makes life harder on you when you're trying to scramble over / through stuff.

As for finding the rope swing hard - you didn't really describe what you found hard. Myself, I failed once because I held onto the rope too long, swung back and crippled the barrier. (on an aside, I just glanced down at the advert at the bottom of the page and got offered a high ropes course). The solution to my problem is to focus on what it feels like in the gut as a guide to when to let go. If your issue is not throwing yourself into it hard enough, I'd have thought that there is no physical preparation that can be done - you just need to get some 'Roid Rage flowing through you.

Long jump I never really had issues with (being 6'5 apparently has its benefits - I just step over the damn thing) but the uber-short girls in my briefing group were advised to get coaching on it, and in general I'd suggest working on your glutes.

But hey, given the utter flap which was my assault course I'm probably not the best source of information. Whatever, do what you will. Can't remember his name, but the chappie up above with the rather dashing 'tash looked like he knew what he was talking about.
I think the hesitation part of the assault course is crucial.

At my mb:
Rope swing: fail
Long jump: fail
Wall: fail
3 steps: pass (but I don't really know the point of this obstacle)
Time ends and the staff let me try the box tube thing which i passed.
I didn't even get to attempt any other obstacles.

All in all a shocking performance but I passed first time. We had been doing command tasks all afternoon so I can only think that my agility on these were what was used as evidence to forget about the assault course. I definitely feel I didn't hesitate and was always at the front to get involved in the command tasks.

I don't know whether this helps.Good luck all
Thanks for both replies – I’ll reply to you both separately.

Telec: I knew my agility was weak, but thought it would have improved enough. The fact I made it over the 8 foot wall (when previously I couldn’t do a 6 foot wall) hopefully testifies some improvement, but clearly something else wasn’t right – or I’d have passed.

On the rope climb, I did precisely the same as you. Despite helpful hints from the DS that we should hold, jump and stick our feet up, I tried doing a proper rope climb. Only after 3-4 failed attempts did I try his way – and my feet were making contact with the top as the proverbial buzzer went!

I’m interested in your assertion about size generally representing fast-twitch. What about power-lifters and other big, powerful men that cannot sprint or jump well? Either way, I think my strength/upper body investment is sensible (I could feel the strength I had developed even back in September kicking in as I pulled myself over the wall) – but the time for running again draws near!

I have a decent after-work routine of weightlifting/boxing and occasional military fitness classes. When I start my new job and get a routine, I feel an early-morning, pre-breakfast run followed by lunges and burpees would be a good compliment – and will start on that cutting/cardio/explosive legs.

Regarding the rope swing, it was literally grabbing the rope I struggled with. I was not far from the ground by the time I reached the rope, so it was the one obstacle that felt really far from possible at the time. Long jump was irritatingly close, so I am DEFINITELY taking some classes for this over summer.
Paulored: Your information is particularly interesting, perhaps frustrating – and hopefully enlightening. How useful it would be to sit down with my DS and literally ask him the score, but I suppose that’s not how it works for any of us!

So it sounds like I actually did a little better than you on the assault course, so – via process of deduction – it must be the pauses I took? If so, it is frustrating to think I might be at Sandhurst now if I’d just continued throwing myself...That said, maybe second attempt is what I’m meant to take to get to Sandhurst.

It is frustrating seeing the main wave of people I have met on fam visits and a schoolfriend entering this and the previous Sandhurst intake on their Facebook albums – I’ve just got to keep the faith and work hard this year.

Regardless, I will be at Main Board this year fitter, stronger, wiser and with some better experience in the workplace behind me. I just hope this information helps achieve that specific performance they are looking for.

It does sound like, rather than just an objective pass/fail assessment, throwing oneself at the obstacles without pause may well be a key factor in the DS’ assessment, so this will be meditated into me beforehand!
Hey P-Ride, I just recently did my Briefing and everything went just fine, except the assault course. When we had a look around it before starting I thought it looked no probs at all, but when it came to it, I failed all 3 attempts at hurdles, long jump and rope swing. Rope swing I have no excuse for and it has highlighted a need to improve my upper body strength, but at 5ft 4", I put everything I had into the jumps and just couldn't do it. I was given a 2-3 and so now am going to be literally jumping everywhere for the next 3 months, but wondered how much can a short arse like me really improve something like jumping. I was pants at it at school and so am really worried I am not going to be able to make the improvements needed, particularly on the long jump as I was about a foot short!!!
Seeing your post I wondered since your initial post, how much have you improved your jumping and how have you done it??

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

P-ride - somebody referred to the best way of getting good at obstacle courses as being to practice on obstacle courses. Have you heard of parkour or freerunning (the more competitive form)? Why not see if there's a local club or group?

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