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2016-03-10

Jump Rope for Runners

Let’s talk about using jump rope drill for runners and why it should be part of your training program. I will list the benefits and then we can discuss them in more detail.

  1. Entry level plyometric drill
  2. Strengthen bone and connective tissue of feet
  3. Develop fast twitch fibers of calves and Posterior Kinetic Chain
  4. Burn tons of calories in very short time

With these drills it is best to start slow and easy-maybe 30 sec. bouts for 2-3 rounds and build up. If you can jump rope on soft surface that is better than concrete . Plyometric drills are sneaky. You may not feel as physically tired as other types of workouts, but your nervous system is getting a bigger workout than simple running or strength building activities and you will be a bit sluggish the next day. So do not plan on speed work after jump rope drills until you have built up a substantial base.  AND pay attention to how you feel afterwards, muscle soreness can be easily alleviated with a rolling pin, if you start to develop anything more serious than take time to heal and check in with your Coach.

1. Entry Level Plyometric Drill

Jumping rope by its very nature is a plyometric drill and unfortunately because it is so common, it is easily overlooked as a valuable training tool. If you look at it from the coaching perspective, it is hard to not include it for these reasons:

  1. Cheap-lots cheaper than buying lots of plyometric boxes for drop jumps
  2. Safer- this is huge! No need to teach proper landing technique as with other drills.
  3. Portability- you can jump rope at track/gym/outdoors/etc.
  4. Low impact-compared to box jumps this is a million times nicer.
  5. Strengthen bone and connective tissue of feet.

The repetitive impact from jump rope will stimulate increased bone and connective tissue strengthening per Wolf’s Law much the same way as running lots of miles will do the same thing. The big difference is that you can control lots more of the variables like type of surface and consistent foot strike. Since many runners will be “bitten” by shin splints, stress fractures and the dreaded Plantar Fascitis, this is a great preventative measure. I would consider this reason alone to enough to add it to my training program.

2. Develop fast twitch fibers of calves and Posterior Kinetic Chain

Again, the very nature of jumping rope is fast twitch muscle develop. Compared to other drills like sprints this is so much easier and safer. The fast twitch development is important so that the beginning runner will be able to push off with power at the moment when full stance transitions to push off phase. Very few other drill will teach the athlete how to develop that rapid force.  Besides being essential for a strong propulsion, having strong fast twitch muscles in calves is a great protection against sprained ankles and extremely useful for trail runners who have to be able to maneuver rapidly on technical trails. For trail runners, I like to add in variations of the “Ali shuffle” to the standard jump rope program to develop better agility skills.

3. Burn tons of calories in short amount of time

This is more for those using jump rope as a general conditioning program. If you review the literature, you will find that jump rope is consistently in the top 5 activities for calories per hour burned. Yes, even better than basic jogging.  So if I want to keep my client in “red zone”, I will throw in jump rope before other activities.

Two other thoughts: One, should have a little inset on some drills, length of time, and how to progress for workouts and when should do (e.g. before or after run, on off days, every day, etc.).  Two, no matter how safe it is, every drill has risks and those should mentioned or should note how to prevent. I guess I am thinking calf and shin issues. Need to think of audience which may be pretty broad with wide range of fitness level depending on publication targeting.