EYC Podcast #24 – Kas
Developing Jump Rope Technique
Like calisthenics, I do my best to take a structured, progressive approach to jump rope. Just like there are many things I wish I had done earlier in my calisthenics training, there are things in my jump rope training that I wish I took advantage of early on. The goal of this episode is to discuss shadow jumping as a technique to develop your rope skills if you are a beginner jumper. I’ll also get into some discussion on stretching for when you get those intense routines in, and are looking to aid your recovery.
In the beginning, I approached learning to jump with a sort of brute force that I think brought on a lot of unnecessary frustrations. That’s not to say developing the skill won’t have its frustrations, it definitely will, but I could have approached it in a more progressive, strategic way, and had a deeper understanding of what I was doing. My mindset was, well, if I just keep jumping I’ll get better at it, and I’ll go from there. I didn’t really understand how to develop technique, or even what the right technique was, and I certainly didn’t listen to my body so I could take into account things like where it was in space relative to the rope, or how I could best use rhythm. This approach got me to where I am today, so I’m grateful, but I’ve learned a lot since then, and I want to share some of that with you.
Early on, it’s very important to develop good habits regarding technique, and to focus on getting a feel for how your body reacts to jumping. A great way to do that is through shadow jumping, which has three areas of development.
Three Stages of Shadow Jumping:
First Stage: The goal is to simulate jumping, but without the rope. During this, you want to ensure that you are maintaining proper technique, (which I’ve discussed in podcast episodes 14, and 22) meaning you want to ensure that you are still maintaining a simulated grip of the handles, jumping on the balls of the feet, and keeping an upright position throughout. The closer you can simulate proper technique, the better off you will be in the long run. This is also a really good way to train yourself to decrease the height in which you jump. Ideally you aren’t jumping more than an inch off of the ground. In the early stages, you may find that you are swinging from the arms instead of the wrists, your jump height is inconsistent, or much higher than it needs to be, and these are often due to training with a rope without having a good grasp on mechanics, and rhythm. Shadow jumping will help you get used to being light on your feet, and you’ll begin to improve in these areas. This is also a great way to introduce counting rhythm into your jumping. Depending on how skilled you are with rhythm, this may take some getting used to, however I found it very useful to introduce a four count into my jumping. For example, I would synchronize each jump with the beat 1-2-3-4, and adjust the speed as necessary. It will help develop your consistency and co-ordination so when you do introduce the rope, you’ll have a foundation to build on.
Second Stage: The second stage involves building off of what you’ve established in the first phase, but now with both handles of the rope in one hand. While the goal of the first phase is to develop your technique and feel for jumping, this stage is about marrying that up with the timing of the rope. The rope being only in one hand will still prevent catching, but will train you to follow the rhythm of it as if you were swinging normally. Similar to the first stage, you want to mimic proper technique as closely as possible, and you’ll also want to make sure to alternate hands throughout your training. Oddly enough, while I didn’t know to incorporate this early in my training, I use this phase a great deal now when warming up, or practicing direction changes, so the value of these phases does not diminish the better you get. You can implement them at all levels, and reap the benefits.
Third Stage: The third stage is where you put everything that you have developed in the first two phases together in order to swing the rope in an even arc over the body. In the beginning, you aren’t actually jumping over the rope. From the ready position, which involves having a handle in each hand, with the arms outstretched in front of you and the rope resting behind the knees, you are swinging the rope back with the arms kept close to the body, and using a quick turn of the wrists to bring the rope over the body. Let the rope hit the front of your feet, then step over it and repeat. It is useful to practice this in front of a mirror in order to ensure you are creating an even arc with the rope. The key is to begin slow, and once you get comfortable with the mechanics, begin to jump over the rope. This stage would have been valuable to my progress if I had applied it because there was a period that my right hand was slightly lower than my left while jumping, so it was creating an uneven arc which was causing a lot of catches. If I had used this stage of shadow jumping in front of the mirror, I would have noticed it much earlier. As your mechanics improve, you can begin counting the amount of consecutive jumps. So for example, you can start with one clean jump, then when you are comfortable with that, progress to two, then three and so on. Before you know it, you’ll be able to keep a consecutive rhythm going. It is sometimes useful to break progression down into small chunks. In this case, I would work toward 10 clean repetitions, then work for 25, 50, 75, and so on. The main thing to keep in mind is don’t sacrifice technique for repetitions.
Some other things to notice throughout each of the stages are the important role the wrists play, the benefits of maintaining an upright position, and the required synergy between the whole body. The wrists are crucial in jump rope technique, and play a large role in efficiency of movement, and rope speed. A lot of beginners turn the rope using the shoulders, or elbows, with large, sweeping movements. This is not only highly inefficient, but will also severely limit endurance and speed. The earlier you can develop the habit of keeping the size of the turns in your wrists small, about an inch, the more efficient your technique will become. Similarly, it is important to remain upright, while looking straight ahead during jumping. Not doing so will create imbalances, and inefficiencies in movement. Furthermore, an upright position allows you to distribute the force of landing evenly throughout the body, which will increase ease of jumping, and endurance. A few ways to notice if you aren’t maintaining an upright position is if you find you are moving in different directions while jumping, finishing in a different spot than you started, or if soreness in the lower back, or neck occurs due to leaning forward.
One thing that I noticed I did a lot early in my jumping career, and I still catch myself doing now and then, is not keeping my focus straight ahead. I generally maintain an upright position, but at times I look at the floor which can put undue stress on my neck. More importantly, not looking straight ahead is conducive to a slight lean forward, which you may not notice right away, but will become apparent over time through the ways I mentioned earlier. This is one reason why I can’t stress enough how valuable it is to jump in front of a mirror. It will encourage you to keep looking forward, and allows you to really pay attention to your technique. I make sure that at least 50% of my jumping is done in front of the mirror so I can micromanage my technique.
Finally, it is important to notice how your body is working together to create successful jumps. This overall synergy is very important in maintaining technique, and efficient movement. This will become more and more important when jumping for endurance. Noticing the synergy is also important for developing proprioception which is instrumental for techniques that require quickness, changes in rope speed or direction, arc, or power jumps like the double, or triple under.
To close off, I want to talk a bit about stretching and warm-ups. Now, both are something that I fervently include before and after my routines, but that wasn’t the case until somewhat recently. I can definitely say this was a case of learning the hard way. My enthusiasm for jump rope is quite high, which caused me to overdue it at one point. To make matters worse, I wasn’t warming up properly, or stretching to aid in recovery, so I was laid up for a little while recovering from IT band and piriformus pain, calf soreness, among other things. Because of this, I would encourage you to get a light warmup in, along with some stretches before beginning your rope routine, between sets, and even afterward. Great stretches I use all the time are the wall calf stretch, heel drop, forward bend, seated figure 4, knee hug, runner’s lunge, and many more. It may not be apparent at first, but the upper body will get a good workout as well, especially the shoulders, so don’t forget to give the upper body some attention. Regarding warming-up, phase one and two of shadow jumping are great ways to do that, and they keep things in the realm of jump rope, which will best simulate how you will be using the muscle groups in the work to come. Overall, what I want to stress is not avoiding proper warm-ups, and stretches because it may come back to bite you, like it did me. It’s worth that extra 15 minutes a session to avoid the weeks I missed recovering.
You can find a demonstration video of the three phases of shadow jumping on the Facebook page, as well as the website, if you want to see them in action. Acquiring any new skill takes a lot of practice and patience, and jump rope is no exception, so don’t give up.