EYC Podcast #33 – Jump Rope Training Strategies
What’s up guys this is Kas with EYC and today I want to talk about one of my favourite subjects, jump rope. Today’s episode is going to be about some training strategies that I recommend experimenting with because they just might help you out a little bit. There are a ton of different strategies I’ve picked up over the years of training, but what I hope to do is make this type of episode a reoccurring theme, so I will only touch on a selection per episode. When I first started training jump rope I had absolutely no clue what I was doing, and it was pretty much only the fact that I really enjoyed doing it, even though I sucked, that kept me going. It was only after a lot of time, mistakes, and effort that these strategies became apparent, so I hope to save you some time and frustration by sharing them here. The strategies I will be discussing today are understanding rope attributes, and the importance of optimizing repetitions.
In the initial stages of training, it’s unlikely that the type of rope you are using will be of much significance to you, even though I think it is the time when it is the most significant in terms of how it affects your training. A lot of the time the rope you end up using is whatever is close by, or what the gym you go to has. This can be a problem because often the rope is not customized to your height, or what you are looking to get out of your training. My goal here is not to go over every type of rope because I dedicated episode #27 of the podcast to that, but I do want to go over some different strategies that I think are important when approaching your training from a beginner level.
As a beginner, you want to minimize the amount of variables that you have to deal with because the main goal is to learn how to jump, and that includes without a rope. I know this whole section is about the importance of understanding rope types, but if you are just starting out, I highly encourage you to jump without a rope for part of your training. However, I will leave it at that because I’ve spoken plenty about Shadow Jumping in previous works. Some of the common variables in general that you want to minimize as a beginner are, weight of the rope, rotation speed, amount of tricks, and handle length. Now, that doesn’t mean you eliminate these variables completely, but keep in mind that it will be useful because your goal at the moment should only be to develop your technique, conditioning, and become accustomed to jumping with a rope. I want to expand on the variables that I just mentioned above. First, the weight of the rope is an important one because it will affect how you rotate the rope, and how long you can rotate it. Heavier ropes tend to have slower rotation, and greater the stress on the upper body which will limit the amount of repetitions. Rope is all about quality repetitions. The more quality you can get in, the better, and more efficient you will be. This is not only important for skill development, but also for your conditioning. This is why I recommend using a lighter rope like a PVC liquorice one. One thing to keep in mind is steel cable ropes can be lighter than PVC, however I do not recommend them for beginners. They are much less flexible, are meant for high speeds, and are quite painful if they hit you. You will be making a lot of mistakes as a beginner so it can be dangerous. A lighter rope will allow you to be a little more comfortable, sustain jumps for a longer period of time because of the reduced stress on the upper body, and give you better control of the rope overall.
The second variable is rotation speed. As I mentioned previously, your main concern at this point is developing solid technique, and conditioning. Because of this, it can be counterproductive to try and go too fast, or too slow. Both require a good grasp on technique, rhythm, and proprioception. Find a speed that is comfortable, one you can manage, and go with it. As you improve, you will be able to manipulate your speed more readily. For now, try and maintain a consistent speed that allows you to perform as many quality repetitions as you can. One thing that helped me in regards to finding a sustainable speed was counting a rhythm out loud. Not only did it help me maintain that rhythm once I found it, but it helped to also ensure that I wasn’t going too fast because if I was, I wouldn’t be able to recite the rhythm clearly and consistently, and it also drew my focus away from performing solid repetitions. It’s similar to the idea of being able to maintain a conversation during a jog. If you aren’t able to, it can be useful to slow down a little. Let the rhythm come naturally to you, don’t force it, and it should translate nicely to your rope speed. In the early stages, don’t worry so much about achieving breakneck speeds. That will come with time, if that is what you want out of the rope in the long run. Without extensive training on technique, efficiency, footwork, and conditioning, your speed will be hampered in the long run.
The third variable is tricks. Tricks are one of my favourite aspects of jump rope, and it was fairly difficult for me to temper this early in my training. Tricks introduce new variables that rely on what aren’t variables any longer. What I mean by that is, each trick relies heavily on fundamental movements that have already been established. This is why it is highly unlikely that you can go from learning single jumps and skip right to 360 Crossovers as an example. There are many different aspects of the 360 Crossover that the single jump doesn’t come close to preparing you for, but at the same token, you can’t get to the 360 Crossover without the single jump. Appreciate that it is a process, and wherever you are in that process, try to enjoy it. As a beginner, focus on the fundamentals, and look to progress in a controlled and constructive manner. I’ve discussed concepts on how to do this is my other rope podcasts so be sure to check those out for more insight. It comes down to not introducing too many variables at once. It doesn’t mean don’t challenge yourself, it means do so in a way that will help you build confidence, not tear it down.
The final variable that I want to discuss today is handle length. Different handle lengths will have a subtle, but significant affect on your training, and it’s important to understand what that is. For the average rope that a beginner will come across, handle length is pretty standard at 5-6 inches. This is a great multi-purpose length that will not only help you achieve higher speeds, but it is also decent for cross-body tricks. Longer handle ropes will introduce greater stress on the forearms and grip strength, and are very well suited for training that is going to involve a greater number of tricks, especially cross-body. The shortest handled ropes are typically used with steel cable ropes, or ones that are tailored to speed, where grip is realized fully on the length of the handle for the highest level of control. With all of this in mind, as a beginner, I would recommend using a rope with handles tailored more for cross-training such as the 5-6 inch ones described earlier. Since speed, upper body conditioning, and tricks are not the focus at this point, using more all-around handles is desirable. That being said, pay attention to the feel of the rope, and what you want to get out of it. If in the end all you want to do is train with a long handled rope, by all means, start with it. If all you have is a heavy rope, and can’t get your hands on anything else, use it. The important thing is to understand what you are in for so you can bring more awareness to your training, and get more out of it. I would also recommend sticking with one rope as you develop your skills. Constantly changing ropes will force you to adapt to new variables that you are very likely not prepared for, and it will slow your development. Remaining consistent will keep the playing field level so you can develop the fundamentals. As you become more proficient with jumping in general, you can begin to challenge yourself in new ways.
The second overall topic I want to discuss is optimizing repetitions. There are many aspects to this concept, but what I want to focus on today is the importance of understanding HOW you are performing the repetitions, and the drawbacks in not having this understanding. Like any skill, jump rope competence is the product of dedication, and smart, targeted practice. This dedication and practice involves many, many repetitions that are necessary to build the foundation of skill. This being the case, the quality of these repetitions will ultimately determine how strong your foundation is as you progress. This is where the smart, and targeted comes in. All of this repetition is very valuable to the process, however it is something that needs to be managed closely because not understanding how you are performing the repetitions can create inefficiencies, and foster bad habits that may not be a hinderance in the short term, but will very likely be in the long term. A good example that I went through early on in my training was the tendency to look down while I was jumping. This was a very hard habit to break because I’d been training for almost a year before I really dedicated myself to correcting it. In that year, I can’t tell you how many repetitions I performed, but the point is that the longer we go without a keen awareness of how we are doing things, the more ingrained patterns like this can become. When we are aware, we can then apply the knowledge we’ve gained to optimize our training. Reaching the point where you realize a change needs to be made can be a painful one. There is always a more advanced technique that will bring your weaknesses to the forefront. These weaknesses can be skills you haven’t developed yet, bad habits, or corrections you never made. You then have to choose which path you are going to take. Short term, or long term thinking. I always say, regression is not a bad thing if it is for the sake of progression. Think long term.
I’ve been of the philosophy, including in my calisthenics training, that it is the quality of my repetitions that I should be focusing on, not the quantity. Sure, we can use it as a gauge of our competence, and it can be useful depending on your goals, however quality can often be foregone in lieu of quantity. There will always be periods where the quality of repetitions is poor, especially when you are a beginner. It’s unavoidable. But what’s important is approaching it with the mindset of vigilance, and constant improvement. This will foster an awareness of what you are doing wrong so it can be improved upon. So, how do we do this? First, you have to have a knowledge of what to strive for. This is where understanding proper technique is crucial. Secondly, you need to find a way to monitor your training, ideally in real-time. Some ways to do this are have someone else who is knowledgeable in jump rope watch, and offer feedback. Another is to video record your routines, and then review them after the fact. Another way, which is my favourite, is to jump in front of a mirror. The mirror is such a valuable tool in jump rope training because it allows you to monitor your jumping as it is happening so adjustments can be made on the fly. Being able to monitor yourself is what allows you to ensure that you are optimizing each rep. If you aren’t, you are at least aware of it, and can take appropriate action. Another benefit is you can see how you are making mistakes. As they occur, remain in the position you land in, and take note of what you see. Ask yourself questions like, are my hands where they should be? Where are my feet? What stopped me from jumping over the rope? Did the rope stop in front of me, behind me, or is it between my legs? Where was a I looking? Questions like these can go a long way in improving the quality of your reps. A third point I would offer is ensuring you know what your goals for your training are. If all you want to do is be able to perform standard jumps for light or moderate aerobic training, these points are still valuable, however not as much as for someone who is looking to develop their trick game, or master power jumping for example. This is because as techniques and tricks become more difficult, greater efficiency and mechanical skill is required to perform them. This in turn demands highly developed conditioning and technique. This is why being able to scrutinize your training is so important. If you have a clear understanding of your goals, you can define what is necessary to train more effectively. In a nutshell, you have to know what to look for, then actually be able to look for it.
For these purposes, it can be useful to approach your training in a way that counts repetitions. While using time is another excellent way to train, it is very suited to endurance, and is conducive to a shift of focus toward lasting that amount of time, as opposed to lasting that amount of time, while optimizing technique, although that would most certainly be the ideal. Technique can also diminish as time goes on, so the priority has to be determined by the practitioner. Counting reps not only sharpens your focus on how you are performing them, but it is a great way to measure and track progress. Because we want to preserve technique as best as possible, it can be valuable to set a rep goal, rest, then get to it again. This way we aren’t exhausting ourselves by perhaps jumping for longer than necessary and compromising conditioning, and in turn the quality of the rep. This can be achieved using rep counts and time, and is really dependant on the practitioner. I found in my training that using rep counts really helped. It could also have been because it helped me follow a nice rhythm, but that is another conversation. I encourage you to note not only the rep goals that you achieve, but also the point at which you feel your technique begins to dwindle. These two will likely not be the same. If they are, that can be a signal that you need to progress. When technique is compromised, inefficiencies start to pile up. With greater inefficiency comes a higher need to compensate. This compensation then demands more of your conditioning. Knowing when this occurs will give you a good picture of how effective your training is. If you find the majority of your set is comprised of sloppier technique, then more attention should be paid to mechanics. If you are able to maintain solid technique however it is only for short periods of time and you crash and burn in the spiral that is inefficiencies and compensations, then work on conditioning. Both are heavily intertwined so it is tough to separate them, but the key is to train with both in mind.
That’s it for today’s episode guys. Be sure to check out some of the other rope episodes – 14, 27, 30, 31, among others. Also don’t forget to check out the vlogs. They are valuable tidbits of information so you can get something good out of them in a short period of time.