Jump Rope Training

By Ross Enamait - Published in 2005

Also, check out Part II (from 2007)

You could walk into any boxing gym in the country and I am willing to bet that you will hear a few familiar sounds. Young fighters will thump away at the heavy bags. Others will create rhythmic sounds on the speed bag. A bell will ring every few minutes, indicating the beginning and end of a new round. Amidst these sounds, you can also expect to hear a fast skipping noise. The skipping noise will come from the spinning motion of several jump ropes. Jumping rope (also referred to as rope skipping) is a staple in a boxer’s conditioning program. If you are involved in the sport, you can expect to spend some time with the rope.

Jump rope training will enhance:

  • Coordination
  • Agility
  • Quickness
  • Footwork
  • Endurance

In addition to the obvious physical benefits, jumping rope is fun. There are always new footwork patterns that you can develop and practice.

But wait, it gets better…

You can purchase a quality jump rope for $5 or less. In the video clip below, you will see me spinning a rope that I bought for $3.75. You will not find a more effective conditioning tool for less than $5. To top it off, you can easily pack a jump rope with you no matter where you travel.

Unfortunately, despite the obvious benefits, most athletes outside of the boxing gym are unfamiliar with jump rope training. Many strength and conditioning coaches have replaced the jump rope with more elaborate and expensive training tools. I have seen entire seminars dedicated to footwork and agility. Coaches charge hundreds of dollars to teach many techniques which could instead be developed with a $5 rope.

The jump rope is a tried and true method for improving conditioning and coordination. If you have never jumped rope before, you can expect a challenge. The rope can be very frustrating to a beginner. You will not become proficient with the rope overnight. It takes time and practice. It has been said before that practice is the mother of all skills. These words definitely apply to jump rope training.

Many athletes attempt the rope, get frustrated, and quickly find alternative conditioning tools. Do not allow your frustration to interfere with your development as an athlete.

Getting Started

First, you need to purchase a quality rope. I recommend a light weight plastic speed rope. In my opinion, these ropes are more effective than heavier leather ropes and weighted ropes. The speed rope will allow you to maintain a much faster spinning pace. You can find a quality rope at most sporting good stores or through any boxing equipment supplier.

After locating a rope, you must determine the ideal length. Common rope lengths range from 8 to 10 feet. Most ropes that you find on store shelves will be 9 feet. A 9-foot rope will be long enough for most athletes who are 6 feet tall or shorter. Athletes over 6 feet tall may require a 10-foot rope.

Typically, you may need to adjust your rope. I often snip 2 or 3 inches off a 9-foot rope to increase its speed (per my height). One way to determine the ideal length is to step one foot in the middle of the rope. The handles should reach up to approximately armpit height. You may get lucky and not require any adjustments to the rope. We all have unique body types however, so you must determine the ideal length for your rope. I simply caution you against trimming too much from the rope. After you cut the rope, you cannot go back and fix it. Trim one inch at a time and test each length.

Lastly, I recommend hanging your rope from a hook when you are finished using it. This will prevent the rope from becoming tangled. If you jumble the rope in your gym bag, it may develop kinks which will impede spinning speed.

Jumping Surface

After you find a good rope, you need to find a place to use it. I recommend jumping rope on a shock absorbent surface such as a wood floor, gym mat, outdoor track, or tennis court. If you train at a boxing gym, you may wish to jump rope inside the ring. The ring surface is very forgiving to the ankles and feet.

You can also purchase an interlocking foam mat that lies on top of your floor surface. These mats are useful if your gym has a concrete floor. The interlocking foam forms a temporary jumping surface. Try to avoid jumping rope on unforgiving surfaces such as concrete flooring.

In addition to a shock absorbing surface, you should wear a quality pair or cross-training shoes when skipping rope. I do not recommend wearing your boxing or wrestling shoes when jumping rope. Such shoes do not provide very much cushion for the feet. Stick with quality cross-trainers when using the rope.

Skill First, Then Conditioning

When first jumping rope, it is important that you become proficient with the rope before using it as a conditioning tool. If you have never jumped rope before, you can expect some initial frustration. You must first view your rope sessions as skill workouts. You need to develop skill with the rope, and then add it to your conditioning arsenal. If you try to use the rope for conditioning before developing skill with the rope, you are setting yourself up for failure and frustration.

Start with frequent, yet short jump rope sessions. For example, start with 20-second intervals on the rope. Just try to skip for 20 seconds without tripping on the rope. Keep the intervals brief, and stop before fatigue mounts. View these sessions as skill based workouts. You are learning a new skill (rope skipping). The body is much more capable of learning when it is fresh, not fatigued.

Perform these skill emphasis sessions regularly. Frequent practice is recommended. Eventually, you will move past 20 seconds, and begin working with 1, 2, and 3-minute rounds. Many boxers will skip rope for several rounds during each training session. 30 to 60 seconds of rest will separate each round.

For example:

  • 6 x 3 minutes jump rope
  • Rest 60 seconds between rounds

Rope Skipping Styles

Jumping rope is as challenging as you make it. There are endless jumping patterns and styles. I’ve heard some trainers describe the jump rope as boring. Anyone who describes the rope as boring does not know how to jump rope. There is always a new skill that you can learn to keep the conditioning session enjoyable and challenging.

Running in place with the rope is one of the easiest rope skipping patterns to learn. You will remain stationary, lifting the knees high with each turn of the rope. You will essentially be running in place with high knees, with the addition of a fast spinning rope. This style of rope work is easy to learn, and excellent for conditioning.

Double unders are another popular skipping pattern. To perform a double under, you will make two turns of the rope for every one jump. Keep the feet together, jumping with both feet at the same time. This style of skipping is more difficult to learn. Do not attempt double unders until you become proficient with the running in place variation. Eventually, you can begin performing one or two double unders, at the conclusion of a running in place sequence. For example, spin the rope 10 times while running in place, and then finish with 1 or 2 double unders. Stop and repeat this sequence several times. The next step is to perform a double under without losing control of the rope. Rather than stopping after the double under, you will continue by transitioning back to running in place with the rope (without stopping). In time, you will develop the ability to perform several consecutive double unders.

To add to the coordination requirements of rope skipping, you can begin working with criss-cross patterns. You can perform a criss-cross while performing double unders or with the traditional running in place style of rope work. To perform a criss-cross, you will cross the arms at the elbows on the downward swing of the rope. Jump through the loop of the rope that is formed in front of your body. Uncross the arms on the next downward swing. Continue to criss-cross the rope in this alternating fashion.

The criss-cross offers one way to interrupt the monotony of continuous rope skipping. You can integrate a criss-cross to spice up the rope session. You will eventually develop the skill to quickly integrate criss-crosses with high-speed rope turning.

These jump rope styles are just three of countless variations. I encourage you to develop new jumping styles (ex. one leg double unders). Continue to challenge yourself with new rope skipping patterns. Do not limit yourself to the same style of rope work (ex. running in place). Mix it up to promote improvements in coordination and agility.

One way to incorporate variety is by traveling frontward, backward, and side-to-side. For example, run in place with the rope while traveling around the perimeter of a square. Move forward, sideways (right), backward, and then sideways (left), ending back at the starting point. By incorporating frontward, backward, and lateral movement, you will improve footwork and agility, while simultaneously improving endurance.

Below, you can see how I incorporate running in place, double unders, and the criss-cross into one session: