Jan 29, 2015
Jump To It

For many athletes, jumping rope can help improve their fitness level, quickness, and agility. It can also help them find a better mind-body connection.

When it comes to strength and conditioning, athletes and coaches are continually looking for the next cutting edge piece of equipment to give them an advantage over their opponents. But what about a small, old fashioned implement? It’s easy to overlook some of the most simple, yet very effective, training devices available–and the jump rope is a classic example.

Jumping rope is making a resurgence in weightrooms everywhere. Whether used as a warmup or as a part of a team’s conditioning program, there is a place for the activity in every training regimen.

In this article, three top strength coaches share how they use jump rope routines with their athletes. All three know that jumping rope is a great activity for improving any athlete’s conditioning level, but there are some sport-specific benefits as well.

For wrestlers at the University of Illinois, jumping rope has resulted in improved quickness and agility. The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams at Texas A&M University use jump ropes in preparation for plyometric work. And the many ice hockey players who have worked with Myrland Sports Training have learned to use jump rope routines to train both their bodies and their minds.

All three coaches also agree that a jump rope is a very convenient piece of equipment. For a gear-heavy sport like hockey, it’s easy to slip a rope into a training bag. And since the exercise requires little space, a jump rope routine can be done almost anywhere.

However, as with any exercise task, the coaches warn that safety comes first. Proper footwear and floor surfaces are important. And starting with short and simple routines before progressing to longer routines that include more advanced moves is also a good idea.


By Jim Zielinski

Jim Zielinski, CSCS, MSCC, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of Illinois. He can be reached at: [email protected].

In order to succeed in wrestling at an elite level, a lot is required: a great conditioning level, strength, power, acceleration, coordination, balance, good reflexes, and perhaps most importantly, quickness and agility. Being faster and more agile than an opponent results in more escapes, more takedowns, and more pins.

This is part of the reason why jumping rope has never gone out of style here at the University of Illinois. It’s an old favorite that helps our wrestlers improve in all areas of the sport, but is especially helpful when it comes to being quick and agile on their feet.

A plyometric exercise, jumping rope improves the stretch reflex of the muscles. The faster a muscle can contract after lengthening, the greater the power will come from the muscle. With greater power output, athletes become quicker and more agile.

For all of our jump rope workouts, we emphasize spending as little time on the ground as possible between jumps. “Hit and go” is the terminology I use. Our athletes are told to stay on the balls of their feet, and when doing any lateral movement, to keep most of their weight on the instep of their foot and big toe without rolling their ankles. When doing a routine that involves jumping from one area to another, we tell them not to think about how much distance they are covering, but to concentrate on jumping as quickly as possible.

Thinking about where your feet have to move takes a lot of concentration. I can tell right away if an athlete doesn’t have the proper mindset before a workout just by watching how their feet are moving. Are they slow and heavy on most of the surface of their feet, or fast and light on the balls of their feet?

If they are not concentrating and performing the work efficiently, I have a few different motivational techniques I use to get them to focus. I might make the workout longer, force them to carry on a conversation with me while they’re jumping, or have them start the entire workout over.

Our most rigorous jump rope routines occur in the off-season. The team jumps rope three times a week for 15 to 20 minutes before their lifting sessions. We vary the workouts so that the athletes must adapt both physically and physiologically. It’s a great way to “shock” or surprise the body and mind.

The following routine is a team favorite that we incorporate into our training regimen once a week. It’s based on a four-quadrant layout, which we mark on the weightroom floor with two three-foot strips of court tape in a cross formation. The upper left-hand corner is labeled quadrant one, the upper right number two, the lower right number three, and the lower left number four. The entire routine shouldn’t take more than 12 minutes for an athlete to complete:

1. Regular jumps in place x50 2. Side to side jumps (quadrant four to three) x50 3. Up and back jumps (quadrant four to one) x50 4. Boxer shuffle in place (two jumps on right foot, two jumps on left foot) x50 5. Up and back jumps on one foot (quadrant four to one) x25 each foot 6. Side to side on one foot (quadrant four to three) x25 each foot 7. Triangle jumps (quadrant one to two to four, then two to one to three) x50 8. Four square (quadrant one to three to two to four) x50 9. Alternating double jumps with single jumps in place x50 10. Continuous double jumps in place x50 11. Bonus: As many regular jumps in place as possible in 30 seconds (our record is 116)

During the season, we back off quite a bit and keep the workouts simple. With all of the mat work the wrestlers are doing at this time of year, jumping rope helps keep them fresh and can assist in recovery. The team jumps rope twice a week for five to 10 minutes, switching between double- and single-leg hops, as a warmup before their weight lifting sessions.

In addition to the sport specific benefits, jumping rope prior to a lifting session is a great way to get the athletes’ heart rates up and muscles warm before lifting. And for wrestlers who must monitor their weight and keep on top of their conditioning, jumping rope is a great calorie-burner. The activity can achieve a “burn rate” of up to 1,000 calories per hour, or approximately 0.1 calories per jump. That means jumping rope for 10 minutes is roughly equivalent, calorie-wise, to running an eight-minute mile.


By Paul Sealey

Paul Sealey, MS, SCCC, is an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at Texas A&M University, where he works with the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams and the women’s soccer squad. He can be reached at: [email protected].

For the past decade, jump rope routines have been a part of the Texas A&M University men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams’ dry-land training on a year-round basis. For swimmers, explosiveness is especially important because races are often won off the starting blocks and in the turns.

However, training explosiveness is not easy to do, and can be unsafe if precautions are not taken. One of the most important steps to take is establishing a foundation of strong feet, ankles, and shins prior to beginning any big plyometric movements or exercises. Jumping rope is perfect for building this base.

And because our swimmers jump rope on a year-round basis, we can implement more advanced plyometric movements and exercises at optimal times during the season. For the swimming and diving teams, that’s January and early February when they are preparing for the conference and NCAA championships. If we’ve been jumping rope since the beginning of the school year, we’re primed to do our most advanced plyometric work then.

Early in the season when the coaching staff is looking for general fitness conditioning and I’m looking to establish a basic strength foundation before beginning plyometric work, the teams perform 15- to 20-minute routines of various jumping drills one to two times a week–45 seconds on, 15 seconds off, and repeat until time is up. This usually equates to 16 to 24 sets of 40 jumps.

I try to mix up the jumping drills we use so the athletes don’t get bored. They may include running in place, jacks, ski hops, or two jumps on the left foot then two jumps on the right foot.

As the season progresses, we put more focus on the intensity, or speed, of the drills. In addition to the usual routine, the teams add four to eight sets of 20 to 30 jumps as fast as possible. I’ve found that an effective way to maximize the intensity here is to turn the sets into a competition. The athletes who finish a set fastest get to sit out the next set, and the slowest have to do extra abdominal training.


By Steve Myrland

Steve Myrland, CSCS, is the Owner and Manager of Myrland Sports Training and the Director of Coaching for Train-To-Play, a sports performance training and education facility for athletes of all levels located in Middleton, Wisc. He is also a former strength and conditioning coach at the University of Wisconsin and can be reached at: [email protected].

Jumping rope is a full-body exercise that requires not only the upper and lower body to work together with the core, but also for the mind to be present and involved. Mastering the mind-body connection is a benefit for any athlete, but in ice hockey, a high-speed sport in which athletes are competing for timed shifts of varying length, it’s especially important to be “on” both physically and mentally.

Obviously, good hockey players are strong and powerful athletes. But another frequently cited descriptor of great players is that they have “soft hands” and “soft feet,” indicating suppleness in their ability to make a play that requires a precise angling of the stick or the skate blade combined with the exact level of “stiffness” required to either receive or accurately redirect a hard rubber puck moving at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour.

Skipping rope can mirror many of these finely graded physical demands because good rope work is an “intensely relaxed” exercise. The wrists, forearms, shoulders, and core must deliver enough speed to the rope to accommodate the rhythm and tempo of the foot strikes on the ground, demanding the fine-tuned response of the central nervous system. But there is also a simultaneous need to relax the body in order to move efficiently.

A jump rope routine connects and combines various senses, systems, and segments of the body, challenging eye-hand-foot coordination, eliciting positive neural responses, and affecting the training adaptations that skill-inclusive work fosters. For example, changing tempo with a rope is not a simple thing to do. It requires skill, coordination, and control to match the acceleration or deceleration of the upper and lower body. It requires a level of mindfulness with regard to intent and precision. And of course, mindful training is always more compelling–and more fun–than mindless training. Trick jumps like double-jumps, crossovers, and side skips help keep the activity fresh and mentally challenging.

When implementing a jump rope program with hockey players, it’s important that they learn to do the activity correctly and efficiently. This means learning to strike the ground quickly, softly, quietly, and gently. Skilled rope jumping is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and rhythmically appealing to the ear. It is a light, dance-like interface of body, air, and earth. The rope should not slap the ground with each rotation, but rather pass silently between the feet and the ground.

Jumping rope should also always be done with an eye toward quality over quantity. Players should be encouraged to count their misses–each time the rope stops–and strive to eliminate them completely. The benefit of taking this approach is the learned ability to preserve joints, bones, and connective tissue by moderating the percussive forces of repetitive impact.

For hockey players, jumping rope has lots of applications. It can be used as a warmup and/or cool-down tool, and the right routine can mimic the interval demands of the game. A jump rope can also fit nicely into a general circuit training program as a station done for time (30 to 45 seconds) or repetition (100 jumps).

The beauty of the jump rope is its versatility and availability. Athletes don’t have to use it every day, but since it is no trouble to carry, it is a comfort just knowing it is always there if you need it. I once heard Vern Gambetta say about training tools, “Simplicity yields complexity.” The humble jump rope offers elegant proof of the wisdom in that statement. It is a must-have survival tool for today’s hockey players. No gear bag should be without one.


Strength and conditioning coaches are often working under tight time constraints. Therefore, I am constantly looking to be as efficient as possible with our teams’ warmups. I have found that a short jump rope routine is helping our Texas A&M University women’s soccer squad warm up before team workouts.

There are several reasons jumping rope makes for a great warmup. It increases core temperature, excites and wakes up the central nervous system, increases blood flow to the lower body, and even improves footwork and coordination if a variety of jumps are used.

Warmup routines are also the perfect time to implement some prehabilitation work. For example, ankle sprains are common in soccer, but jumping rope with a lot of lateral movements strengthens the ankle joint and develops the proprioceptors for better ankle stability.

Here is a typical jump rope warmup for our women’s soccer team. Afterwards, the team moves into dynamic movements before starting its workout for the day.

Regular jumps x40 Ski hops front to back x40 Running in place x40 Lateral ski hop x40 Jumping jacks x40 Two left foot/two right foot x40 Alternating feet front/back x40 As fast as possible x40 20 left foot/20 right foot 10 high and slow/10 low and fast x2

–Paul Sealey

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