This article was provided by Coaches Network
If an athlete needs to be stronger, faster, or more agile, have them work with a jump rope. While some coaches might think that jumping rope should be relegated to elementary school gym class, the reality is that this simple exercise is a cost effective way to help every athlete excel.
According to an article for the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) by Tim Meyer, CSCS, the benefits of jumping rope are not purely physical. Instead, athletes are also working on neuromuscular patterns, body awareness, and coordination. While jumping, your brain has to communicate with your arms and legs to refrain from getting entangled and becoming injured.
“Once you integrate more complex jump rope patterns, you further increase the level of effectiveness of the exercise,” writes Meyer. “These issues are highly overlooked in the athletic development of young athletes, yet they are critical to their success.”
Jumping rope can also strengthen muscles in the feet, ankles, and knees. This creates stability for joints in the legs, which Meyers explains is important to sport specific movements such as sprinting, cutting, jumping, and landing. By strengthening these muscles, athletes are less likely to become injured. Jumping rope also helps prevent injury by teaching athletes how to properly jump.
“Consistently landing from a jump incorrectly is a surefire way to get injured,” writes Meyer. “Jumping rope properly teaches the athlete how to land and absorb impact with ‘soft knees’ and by landing on the toes before transferring pressure to the balls of the feet.”
Beyond injury prevention, jumping rope can also be used to develop both speed and strength, as it is a plyometric activity. While jumping, Meyers writes that athletes strengthen their Achilles tendon and train their calf muscles to absorb force and use it to move quickly into another jump.
In an article for Stack.com, John M. Cissik, President of Human Performance Services, LLC, echoes the sentiment that using this simple instrument can greatly benefit your athletes’ strength and power.
“Jumping rope, especially when you move into more advanced exercises will increase your athleticism and foot speed,” he writes. “This is important for every athlete regardless of the sport.”
The more intricate the movement with the jump rope, the more your athlete will benefit. In his blog, Cissik offers a progression into some of the more advanced exercises that can be added to an athlete’s workout.
1. Up and Down
Cissik suggests that athletes should master the regular motions of jumping rope before learning more complex movements. First, he says to make sure the rope is the correct length—it should go to your armpits.
“Once you have the length for the rope, stand up and hold a rope handle in each hand. Your hands should be at your sides, roughly at hip level,” writes Cissik. “Keep your knees soft, but perform the exercise using your ankles (this is not a jump from your knees!) Begin with the rope behind your body. Rotate it so that it moves behind you, over you and in front of you. As it approaches the ground, hop up using your ankles so that the rope travels under your feet. Repeat this motion, attempting to establish a rhythm.”
2. Side to Side
Once you get used to the regular movement of jumping rope, and can do so for 30-60 seconds, you are ready to move on to more complex exercises. The first progression is movement from side to side.
“Now, instead of jumping up and down you will jump from one side to the other as the rope rotates in front of the body,” he writes. “You are still jumping over the rope, but this is occurring as you move from side to side. Again, this should be an efficient movement from your ankles.”
3. Forward and Backward
As with the previous movement, Cissik suggests not moving on until you can jump from side to side for 30-60 seconds. For this next exercise, hop forward and backward over the rope.
4. On One Foot
Once you have mastered the above exercises, you can do any of them on one foot. For this, Cissik suggests moving through the same progression, simply picking one foot off of the ground. He also recommends beginning with a low volume of 5-10 repetitions on each foot.
These exercises can be implemented into any workout plan that is targeting the conditioning of your athlete. However, Cissik explains that athletes can also jump rope for five minutes or so as a warm up.
“The rope will increase heart rate, get blood moving throughout the body, warm the joints, burn calories and develop the foot speed/athletic qualities that we want,” he writes. “This is a great way to start the warm-up before moving to mobility drills, technique drills or light sets. I think this is especially appropriate before athletic practices; for example, five minutes of jumping rope before beginning basketball practice.”