By Tony Gracia, Head Coach and Co-Founder at Industrial Strength.
This series of articles will highlight fifteen of my favorite exercises that I think are awesome and do not get the appreciation they deserve. The first week of installments focused on major lower body strength developers, the second week on upper body strength movements, the third week on unilateral lower body strength exercises, and this week will emphasize various functional strength and athletic development exercises.
UNDERRATED EXERCISE #11 = Jump Rope
Jumping rope is one of the simplest and most effective ways to improve your athleticism. It has been a staple in many fitness programs for ages, especially boxing and other combat sports. In competitive athletics if something does not work they do away with it, and at the same time if something has stuck around for a long time it is probably for good reason.
I started to consistently train jump rope about a year and a half ago to help my footwork in Jiu Jitsu. I had noticed that during takedown exchanges I was fatiguing earlier than I thought I should have been based on my aerobic fitness, and noticed specifically that I was becoming flat footed and slow (making me a sitting duck for someone with a good takedown game). So I decided to start jumping rope with the idea that it would carry over to that scenario and keep me lighter on my feet. The first time I did a session with my rope it was a massive piece of humble pie! Even jumping for 2-minutes was really hard and gave me a massive burn in my calves. Slowly I worked my way up to 3-minutes on, 1-minute off, for three rounds as my daily warm up before lifting (I still do this most days). Best of all, I noticed a dramatic improvement in how it has affected my Jiu Jitsu – I feel like I never run into issues of getting tired and flat footed like I used to.
Even if you are not a Jiu Jitsu competitor I strongly encourage you to include at least a little jump rope into your training. If all you currently do is traditional strength training, odds are you are spending almost all your time lifting from a flat foot and driving through your heel. However, almost all athletic endeavors happen from the toes / balls of the feet, and like most things that ability to perform well in that environment is use it or lose it. While including a few minutes of jump rope in your training probably will not turn you into an elite athlete, it will at least keep you in shape to use your entire kinetic chain all the way down to your toes should the situation call for it.
HOW TO DO THEM
- For most people I recommend a speed rope (rather than a heavy rope). There are many good options from the various fitness websites, so shop around and find one that works for you
- I also recommend minimalist shoes – the idea is to get your feet strong by making your muscles do the jumping … if your shoe is very “responsive” i.e. has a lot of rebound to it, the shoe might be doing more of the jumping than you are
- Note – if you are not used to minimalist shoes and/or barefoot training you should ease in slowly … it is easy to overdo it, so error on the side of caution
- Also, if you are new to jump rope in general be sure to build slowly … you risk running into some plantar fasciitis or other lower extremity problems if you do too much too soon
- I like adding small amounts of variety to how I do them, with some ideas being
- Barely unlocked knees with fairly stiff legs, making the feet and calves do most of the work
- Intentionally softening the knees and using them to both absorb the landing and also drive into the next jump
- Low jumps with a fast cadence
- Higher jumps with a slower cadence
- Jumping in various angles, such as straight up and down, front-to-back, and side-to-side
- Most of the time I jump with both feet, but I will also throw a little bit in there jumping one leg at a time