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…So, getting into the different types of ropes. I’ll start off with the heaviest, then get lighter and lighter, and at the end offer a it of insight into ropes for advanced training.
Heavy or Weighted Handle Ropes – these ropes can be made of rubber, or heavy plastic. This effect can also be mimicked by using conventional material for the rope, but adding weight into the handles. These ropes add an upper body conditioning effect to jumping. They are not meant for speed, and 2 RPS is likely the max that will be achieved. If the handles are weighted and use a standard PVC rope, greater speeds can be achieved, however more and more stress is placed on the wrists, forearms, and shoulders, so caution is recommended. Similarly, I wouldn’t recommend a heavy rope for beginners because of this undue stress at a time when developing technique should be the main concern. A standard resistance training regiment would serve better in this purpose. I also wouldn’t recommend this rope if you are looking to improve quickness, or agility. It is best used by those that have a good grasp on technique, and simply want to add greater upper body resistance to their jumps.
Leather Rope – The leather rope has been a staple in the boxing world for a long time. While they do rotate more efficiently than heavy ropes, greater effort is still required as compared to a PVC rope for example. That being the case, greater speed can be achieved using a leather rope, however still does not match the likes of proper speed ropes. A leather rope will wear, and fray over time, so it will likely need to be replaced more frequently as compared to other ropes. It is recommended that they be used indoors. They also tend not to be adjustable, so it is important to buy a rope that is most suitable for your height. Overall, this rope is effective for conditioning purposes, and if moderate speed is the goal.
Beaded Rope – The beaded rope is one that you likely saw during the elementary school days, or kids using them in a local park. These ropes are constructed often with cheaper materials, although better ropes with beads can be used for performance purposes. This allows the crowd to see a bit better as it rotates. In its construction, there are plastic segments placed around the rope usually in alternating colours. This adds the durability necessary to withstand jumping outdoors, on rough surfaces like cement. Because of this added weight, beaded ropes are not build for high speed, or improving hand or foot quickness, although it can make rotations slightly easier. This can be useful for beginner jumpers. This rope is best used by beginners looking to learn the basic technique, although it must be noted that the plastic segments will degrade over time, especially if used outdoors, so it is important to replace the rope to prevent beads from rocketing off of the rope during jumps.
PVC Licorice Rope – This rope is very commonly seen in schools, or gyms, and uses plastic handles, with a PVC rope mounted inside. They come in various colours, and are more often than not non-adjustable. There really isn’t a standard for how thick the rope is, so some can come thicker than others, which will create more drag on rotation. These ropes are versatile, and can be used by beginners and intermediate level practitioners. Speed, and quickness can be developed, although not at the level of PVC speed ropes built for that purpose. Furthermore, the fact that the rope is mounted inside the handle will create friction, impeding maximum speed of the rope, it will make omnidirectional swinging more difficult thereby greater potential for tangles, and create further wear. The durability of these ropes is strong and can be used indoors, as well as outdoors, however rougher surfaces will cause greater wear. Overall, I would say this PVC rope is a great choice for beginners. They are light, durable, versatile, and can reach greater levels of speed than the ropes previously discussed. This gives the rope longevity, in that it can be used to progress for a longer period of time. One thing to keep in mind is these ropes are generally non-adjustable, so it is crucial to find a rope that is best suited to your height. Check out episode #14 of the podcast for some guidelines.
Cable Ropes – These ropes substitute any of the ones we’ve discussed so far, with a steel cable, either bare, or coated in nylon. These ropes are built for speed, and speed alone. They can achieve very high speeds, upwards of 4-5 RPS. These speeds aren’t necessarily higher than those of a thin PVC, however the thinness of the rope, the overall lightness of the handles and rope, are very conducive to high speed training. These benefits however may not outweigh the drawbacks, or perceived drawbacks of using a steel cable rope. Firstly, steel ropes have much less elasticity, limiting versatility. These ropes are not recommended for tricks, especially cross-body variations. It is recommended they only be used indoors because rough surfaces will tear the nylon, if applicable, and wear out the rope. Even if used indoors, the durability of the rope is often less than PVC ropes, making the need for replacement more frequent. Finally, steel ropes are prone to causing injury because of the nature of the rope, and the intensity of training. Because of this, I would not recommend them for beginners. I made the mistake of using a steel rope early in my training and suffered many painful moments because of it, often resulting in lashes that took days to heal. Having a strong technique, and a desire to improve speed, and power jumping should be a pre-requisite of using steel ropes.
Ropes for Advanced Level Training – There are certain attributes of a rope that need to be taken into consideration when choosing one for advanced level training. The first is the rope. Based on what I’ve discussed so far, a thin PVC rope is, I feel, the best choice. They are suitable for high speeds, and trick based training. They are light, durable, and create minimal drag on rotation. The second is the mounting system. The best ropes will have an external bearing mounting system, which drastically reduces friction, allows for omnidirectional movement of the rope, and makes for easy adjustment. These attributes allow for smooth movement in rope transitions, cross-body movements, and overall a smoother, and quicker rotation of the rope. External bearings also allow for the highest speeds that can develop elite level quickness, and agility. The third are the handles of the rope. In general, handles should be light, with some sort of grip allowing for better handling, even in the sweatiest of situations. Depending on ones goals, the size of the handle also has an effect. Speed ropes generally have a short, very light handle, that put less resistance on the wrists, forearms, and shoulders. This allows the practitioner to focus on speed, and endurance. Conversely, handles built for cross training, or cross body trick focus, will be longer, and slightly heavier. They are meant to be held lower on the handle which allows for greater distance when the arms cross the body, however this puts more stress on the wrists, forearms, and shoulders. Knowing this, it’s important to consider which scenario fits your goals best. Alternatively, like me, you can have all different types of ropes in your arsenal for when you want to change up your training. Just keep in mind, when switching ropes you will have to adapt to how that rope is meant to perform, so there will be a period of adjustment.
For myself, a rope with long handles, and a white PVC rope is my go-to. I tend to prefer trick based training, with a lot of cross-body variations, so this rope works best for my goals. I also enjoy the extra stress that a long handle puts on the wrists, and forearms, because it helps develop grip strength. I do however have multiple types of rope, so my training tends to be quite comprehensive…