A Comparison of Jump Rope Conditioning Techniques

Jump Rope Workout Routine

Perhaps I am dating myself, but I began jump rope training in the 1980s and have essentially done so ever since. Yet after all these years, the jump rope remains one of my preferred conditioning tools. Not only is the rope a convenient and effective conditioner, it is useful at developing attributes such as coordination and agility. It is with good reason that combat athletes have relied heavily on rope skipping for countless generations. Plain and simple, it works.

Don’t Limit Yourself

Unfortunately, in recent years, I have seen many trainers alter their approach to jump rope training. Rather than programming jump rope workout routines based on time (ex. rounds), they have shifted towards workouts that are based on a single turning style. Double unders have become the most popular choice. I’m sure we have all seen a workout that included 50 double unders for time.

Now before I continue, let me be clear that double unders are an effective turning style. I am not suggesting otherwise. I have performed thousands of double unders and teach several variations within my jump rope DVD. Therefore, I am not here to dismiss double unders, but to instead remind athletes that there are other beneficial turning styles as well.

To highlight this point, I created the brief video below.

Within the clip, you will see a comparison between sprinting in place and performing double unders. From a pure conditioning standpoint, sprinting in place at top speed with high knees is much more challenging. An efficient rope skipper can actually perform double unders continuously in a relaxed state. The same cannot be said of an all out sprint.

Yet oddly enough, when I receive questions about jump rope workout routines, I would guess that 9 out of 10 are based solely on double unders. It is rare that a week passes without receiving at least one jump rope question. For instance, I am often asked what rope is best for double unders (i.e. what rope makes them easiest). I also get questions about how to perform double unders. Meanwhile, I can’t recall the last time I was asked about sprinting in place with the rope.

In terms of popularity, double unders are light years ahead. Popularity does not always equate to effectiveness however. As a conditioning exercise, much more work is performed when you are sprinting in place. Sure, it isn’t as easy to count reps, which minimizes the potential of “x reps for time” workouts, but that too is irrelevant in regards to effectiveness.

In summary, I encourage you to include variety within your jump rope workout routines. Do not limit yourself to a single turning style. Sprinting in place with the rope is easy to learn and highly effective. Flashier techniques may attract more attention but are rarely more effective.

Sample Routine

As for sample routines, one that I have performed for several years includes the following.

  • 5 minutes continuous skipping (freestyle) – rest 60 seconds
  • 5 x 60 seconds (sprint in place) – rest 30 seconds between intervals
  • 5 x 30 seconds (sprint in place) – rest 15 seconds between intervals

This type of jump rope workout is short, yet intense. I have used it as a brief conditioning workout as well as a finisher. During other rope sessions, I will perform more continuous work (ex. timed rounds) where I integrate a variety of turning styles and speeds. This varied approach has allowed me to continually enjoy and benefit from the rope after all these years.

Final Thoughts

It’s always useful to have a conditioning exercise that is fun, effective, and can be performed almost anywhere. Jump rope training certainly fulfills each of these requirements. I bring a rope with me wherever I go. If it wasn’t effective, I would have left it behind a long time ago. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like I will ever outgrow the jump rope in this lifetime. I hope to be skipping for as long as I’m kicking.

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“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” – Leonardo da Vinci

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13 comments:

  1. Used to love watching Duran and Tyson skip rope back in the day. Tyson was the only heavyweight, at least that I’ve seen, that could skip as good as the lighter weight guys like Duran. Tyson looked pretty good with the rope, especially when you compare him next to clips of other heavyweights like Ali, Norton, Holmes or Frazier skipping rope.

  2. Searching for jump rope videos back in the day was actually what made me discover rosstraining.com in the first place. I never really learned any fancy techniques, though. Perhaps things would have been different if I had been a boxer. However, I did teach myself to juggle, and I’m pretty sure it was Ross who motivated me to do that in one of his articles.

    By the way, I like the lyrics in that rap song.

  3. Sadly the focus on double-unders seems to be another example of an exercise suffering from the Crossfit effect. I believe that Crossfit has many positive dimensions, but I continue to see it cause people to get lost looking at a single tree in the forest. Sure double-unders are an example of a jump rope technique, but as you highlighted they are far from the be-all end-all and am glad you continue to highlight other techniques to explore.

  4. Ross, you are truly amazing. Rope skipping is a great way to condition the body and also true poetry to watch, especially the way you do it. Great Skill you have.

  5. I haven’t jumped rope in years, but I never found double unders all that difficult. I would imagine squat jumps/hops are probably pretty difficult and are probably much harder on the ticker than double unders.

  6. As an amateur boxer, I’d like to ask for your opinion on light vs. heavy ropes.
    Also your opinion on standing upright vs. slightly crouched.

    Thanks in advance, your thoughts and insights are much appreciated!

  7. Ross,
    I jump rope almost every time I workout. I use it to stretch, I hold it over my head and loosen up my shoulders, I do snatch drops and use the rope, rather than a barbell to maove quickly between that and DUs, and I also almost always alternate with DUs and running in place. I agree with everything you said about running in place being a better conditioning tool, but I like DUs as well. They are good for keeping up when you’re tired. I mean it’s easy to kind of slow down a bit when you run, but not as much with DUs. I use them both and find them to be a great tool for conditioning, timing, and coordination. I like to use them when tired. I do ladders like 5-10-15-50-45-40-5 but you only count the reps if done unbroken. Do 5-50-5 for time… fun workout. I like to do heavy DL for sets of 3-5 and alternate with 50 DUs, for time, etc. Mixing it all up is the key to keep it fresh, fun and challenging. Keep you posts coming. Great to read your stuff. I speak to my kids often that consistency is the key. If they improve a little bit for many years the results will not fade away and the gains will be tremendous. Find what you love and keep on doing that. try different things. Enjoy the ride. It all can’t be a grind, but the grind is part of development for sure.
    best,
    Anton

  8. Thanks for this! I tried the routine you outlined above and realised I have a lot of work to do 🙂 to stick to Leon’s metaphor, if your rope skills are poetry, mine are a six-year old’s first draft of a holiday letter. Stay hungry.

  9. Hi Ross! I, too, always have a jump rope with me. My daughter is a Crossfitter, and does only doubleunders. I, on the other hand, enjoy the full range of possibilities that the rope affords and can jump for an hour with no difficulty. I include doubleunders in my workout, though, even a double cross.

  10. Cheers for popping this up. I use my rope mainly for alternate footwork drills to keep the old legs lively. I do a few minutes per drill and kick it up with light footwork, sprinting, movement, turning and the like. 5 x 3 min rounds and I’m usually reaching for a phone to dial an ambulance hahaha.

    Gonna have to get your DVD on skipping I think. Could do with more variety.

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