Aug 9, 2018Learning the Ropes
Having quick feet and good coordination are essential skills for many sports. When athletes are mobile and able to quickly get their feet in the right positions while remaining balanced, they will set themselves up for success. According to Mike Gentry, Ed.D., MSCC, CSCS, Founder and President of High School Strength, one of the best tools for training these areas is the simple yet versatile jump rope.
Along with footwork drills that address position and sports-specific situations, jump rope exercises can give athletes the coordination and confidence they need to succeed. Gentry recommends incorporating these exercises into the start of any strength and conditioning session. He believes this is a quick and effective way to work to improve these important skills.
“If you take the opportunity to have your athletes work on their foot speed and coordination before every strength and conditioning session for five minutes, I will promise you that as a team you’ll be amazed at their athletic improvement,” he says. “The results of the time spent working on foot speed drills will also include better anaerobic fitness and increased self-confidence as your athlete’s skill level improves.”
Jumping rope starts with using a rope that is the proper length. You can determine this by having the athlete stand in the middle of the rope with both feet. The ends of the rope should reach the athlete’s armpits, and as long as it isn’t excessively long, they can role the ends of the rope around their hands to make it the proper length. Another aspect to keep in mind is the weight of the rope, as it should have enough weight to turn easily.
For beginners, Gentry recommends that you demonstrate the skill at a moderate speed with both feet. Be sure to emphasize minimal arm swing and jumping just high enough for the feet to clear the rope. Athletes should also be reminded that the rope should rotate forward. In order to get used to the rhythm of the exercise, athletes can take both ends of the rope in their dominant hand, turn the rope, and jump with both feet as the rope hits the floor. Once they have the timing down, they can take the ends of the rope in each hand and start to fully do the exercise.
After your athletes get the hang of it, there are a number of variations and progressions you can introduce. Gentry says to start by having them practice jumping rope with both feet for 2-3 sets of 10-15 seconds with 15-20 seconds rest between sets. End the first few sessions with a set of speed jumps with both feet for 10-15 seconds. Anytime an athlete makes a mistake, be positive and encourage them to get right back into the exercise.
Once athletes learn to jump with both feet, they can try jumping on one foot for 10 seconds then switching to the other foot for another 10 seconds. Gentry says to gradually introduce running in place or alternating feet or doing single-leg hops, steadily increasing the difficulty over time. Gentry typically has his teams do jump rope drills at the beginning of a workout after a dynamic warm-up. Athletes go for about a minute and a half without any breaks between exercises, and Gentry calls out a variation every 10-15 seconds.
When athletes become proficient in these stationary exercises, they can also start to learn some moving exercises. As long as they have plenty of room, they can start to do many of the drills they have already learned while moving forwards, backwards, and side to side. This is a great way to challenge them and help them improve their footwork and coordination even more.