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The Case for Jumping Rope

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Many have dismissed jumping rope as too simple to be considered a viable exercise option, probably due to today's flashy fitness equipment market. Sure, you realize it's portable and versatile, and you can use it without the need for a training partner. But people who never learned to jump rope or have a tough time with the technique are embarrassed because of their poor form and constant mistakes. This is precisely what makes jumping rope so great.

Jumping rope is barely possible with poor technique. Everyone will make mistakes and be interrupted by a rope that catches on your foot. The rope is the coach. Jumping rope is a "self-limiting exercise" because you're only limited in your ability to do it by lack of technique. In other words, truly poor technique will prevent you from performing the exercise, so bad movement patterns can't be reinforced.

It's possible to perform sprints, shuttles, and agility work with poor form as long as times are adequate. Other forms of popular endurance work such as jogging, cycling, and rowing can also allow poor form without you ever realizing it. Of course, running, wind sprints, cycling, and rowing can also burn calories and improve stamina, but possibly by sacrificing technique, hurting reaction times, and altering ready position. Jumping rope, on the other hand, reinforces three basic movement patterns—the squat, hurdle step, and lunge—all while providing a calorie-burning, stamina-boosting workout.

Another benefit: You can perform variations to help balance out your left and right sides. This is not possible in running or sprinting because both sides of your body must work equally to propel you forward. It's easy to focus on a weak side while skipping rope. For instance, you can skip rope with a split stance (both feet side by side or slightly apart), or in a hurdler's step stance (on one leg with your other leg bent 90 degrees at your hip and knee), or a scissors stance (one foot in front, the other behind).

Still not sure if it's worth your time? Consider the benefits for your athletic performance. For swimmers, cyclists, and other athletes who may feel jumping rope is not sport specific or functional, it's still an excellent way to cross-train. Athletes in sports such as ice hockey, cross-country running, Olympic-style weight lifting, and alpine skiing also benefit from the quick footwork involved in jumping rope. The stamina displayed by elite boxers and wrestlers has long stood as a testament to the effectiveness of jumping rope.

Distance runners, dancers, martial artists and athletes in paddle sports may feel that jumping rope is not the best choice for improving stamina. Although jumping rope may not seem sport specific, it is extremely posture specific. It improves the ability to maintain a long spine and actually has far less impact than sprinting or jogging.

No matter your sport or skill level, jumping rope is an excellent training tool to reinforce good movement patterns and help you develop speed, agility and a power foundation for sports performance.

Gray Cook is a practicing physical therapist and creator of the Functional Movement Screen. Learn more at GrayCook.com.

Tags: Agility, Cardio, Leisure Time, Jump Rope, Weekend, Conditioning, Reaction

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