Jump rope training is most commonly recognized as a premiere training tool which accompanies every boxer’s training regime. Rope jumping has its roots traced back to the early 1600 AD era in the Middle East and China. The Dutch culture had used various methods of rope skipping as a form of exercise and play. Many of us, through our elementary school years, have witnessed the two rope method better known as “Double Dutch”, thus paying credit to the Dutch. In the early 1940s and 1950s, jump rope became tremendously popular, and many children in inner cities used jumping rope as a form of play. It only required a rope and anyone could play. From the late 1950s until the 1970s, however, jump rope history took a back seat to modern living devices like radio and television as it started to captivate the minds of your children.
In the 1970s, an increased interest in physical fitness and overall health emerged. Programs started promoting jump roping to keep kids from other unhealthy activities. Jump rope events were even organized to make it enjoyable and entertaining for kids.
The jump rope, in modern times, has been most popularized by its ties to the “sweet science.” It has almost become “typecast” to a fault of some of the most iconic professional fighters of all times who have demonstrated their flashy footwork skills and unmatched timing and coordination with the jump rope. Floyd Mayweather Jr., Mike Tyson, “Sugar” Ray Robinson, Roy Jones and Vinnie Pazienza are just a few pugilists from different weight divisions that have demonstrated an uncanny mastery of flashy footwork skills and unmatched timing and coordination with the jump rope. Yes, jumping rope is a valuable means of training for the sport of boxing, but it is no more beneficial, or specific to competitive boxing than it is for many other sporting events with which we participate.
As it relates to boxing, rope jumping has very little carry over with securing the athletic position associated with a boxer’s stance, nor does it reinforce the protective guard necessary to develop a solid defensive foundation, as the hands are busy cranking the rope from hip level far from the chin. Jumping rope reinforces a narrow foot position in respect to a traditional boxing stance. So why do fighters choose this form of exercise if it repeats bad habits? They do it, like all athletes should, because it helps to set a solid platform for which many other qualities specific to their sport can be developed.
I have discovered that rope skipping develops, more than anything else a calming harmony between rhythm and relaxation at high speeds. What other sporting event requires this type of harmony? Maybe sprinting? A relaxed muscle is a fast muscle, and although this does sound counterintuitive to the laymen, it is familiar territory for speed development coaches.
Boxing, in most weight classes, and in most cases is a highly rhythmic sport. If you watch a punch being thrown in slow motion, we capture the “jiggling” effect that is pronounced by the large back muscles and shoulders due to the quick contract then relax state of the working muscles. The observation is similar when we watch a sprinter’s cheeks and various muscle groups as they sprint toward the finish line of the 100M event. We are beginning to see the correlation here! Jumping rope helps to develop this attribute. Although most sports have a medley of qualities that need to be addressed for success, one of the biggest challenges is the development of rhythm and relaxation. This is where the jump rope really shines.
The jump rope is good (assuming correct technique) because it also provides a low impact “push off”and transfer of stored elastic energy via the lower leg’s muscle tendon complex(MTC), which is the result of the application of force that is driven across the toes and forefoot region. If the goal is to influence a greater plyometric effect, the rope can accommodate this by incorporating higher intensity double under and double under cross over variations. Rope jumping, not unlike sprinting, should follow a linear progression for learning. Begin with low impact, lower intensity drills prior to the upgrading of more advanced skills.
Breathing development is so underrated that it is often times never addressed as it relates to the foundational stages of general physical fitness and preparation for sport. Breathing is something we do involuntarily every day since the day of birth, but it’s the very first thing we forget when new skills are being learned. If you’re a coach, watch your athletes face the first time you address them with a new drill. The face tightens and breathing is interrupted.
It takes timing and coordination to jump the rope, but minimal effort is truly involved to clear a rope that is only a couple of centimeters in diameter. Once timing is achieved, the rope jumper controls the tempo and intensity. Therefore; participants of all shapes, sizes and abilities can develop some level of skill with the rope assuming proper cues are in place. The body loves rhythm and the jump rope yields rhythmic patterns which encourage relaxation and natural breathing.
The jump rope carries substance. The rope gives constant feedback. It provides a form of auto-regulation. If movements aren’t precise, you will hear, see and sometimes feel (ouch!) the result. You will not find many training tools that supply so much variety in a small confine (3’ x 5’) for fewer than five dollars!
In most sports there is a demand for rhythm. With some that rhythm is intermittent, but in any case, success depends on a smooth transition between coordinated movements. Whether you compete in football, basketball, tennis, soccer, baseball, swimming or gymnastics, your sports requires some degree of rhythm for success. Even if you don’t play a sport, your body becomes more efficient when it develops rhythm!
*Like all exercise prescriptions, the jump rope intensity and use should be modified and varied throughout the annual training plan to prevent injury and other unintended training effects.
* Some individuals may struggle with the jump rope at the onset. That’s ok. You can still begin to develop a rhythm and receive a boat load of benefit without even jumping through the rope.