Boxing and the outcome of a fight is not always determined by the big things you do in the gym, but sometimes it is the attention you give to the details that really make the difference. One of those details is the jump rope. Aside from the obvious cardiovascular benefits, jumping rope can improve your agility, quickness, leg strength and it has the same ability to raise your heart rate and keep it elevated as roadwork does. According to information provided by the Cooper Aerobic Institute, 10 minutes of jumping rope is the cardiovascular-equivalent to running for 30 minutes. In addition to the aerobic benefits, the jump rope also helps strengthen the calves, the ankles and muscles of the legs, all of which play a crucial part in footwork and movement in the ring.
Boxers have incorporated skipping rope into their workouts for centuries because it is one of the best stamina-building exercises you can perform in the gym. Hard-hitting heavyweight Sonny Liston was one fighter who became synonymous with skipping rope. He used to jump round after round to his favorite song, "Night Train" and switched back and forth between Jimmy Forrest's original 1952 version and James Brown's 1965 version. He even appeared on the Ed Sullivan show to demonstrate his prowess on the rope. Liston jumped with unusual grace and dexterity, the exact opposite of his stalking, physically imposing ring personae.
What skipping rope provides, that other lower body exercises do not, is that it is perfectly suited to the demands you meet in the ring, more than any other leg work you can do. For instance, when you are jogging or sprinting, which are both great for endurance, you are engaging the larger leg muscles. You need this type of training to build leg strength, but what you get from jumping rope is an intense focus on short, compact movements. It requires intense and explosive bursts of movement. When you compare the two…large powerful strides used for running versus quick, side-to-side movements, which one best describes how you move in the ring?
This type of training also helps you to get used to moving your feet instinctively and constantly for a full round. When you require yourself to stay on your toes, perpetually moving, for three minutes at a time, that’s when moving non-stop in the ring becomes second nature.
Jumping rope also helps to develop your lower body strength proportionately. Everyone has a dominant leg, just like your hands. You’re either right-handed or left-handed and the same holds true for your legs. One leg is always stronger and more coordinated, so by jumping rope regularly, requiring the same or similar amount of output from both legs, this helps you even-out the demands so that you are able to move in either direction with equal ability.
Many use the jump rope and approach it like it is just a warm-up or cool down, but it should have a regular place in your workout and become an integral exercise in your training routine. Like any other exercise, it should be approached with a sense of intensity. It’s not a piece of equipment to use casually and to methodically skip. Use it to set a fast and furious pace to your workout routine and get the full benefit from it. Approach it this way, with purpose, and the rope has its own distinct rhythmic that can improve your sense of timing and total body coordination. How many times have you heard a fighter say that he “just couldn’t get his timing down or couldn’t find his rhythm?” Engrain your own natural pace through regular use of the jump rope and you’ll never find yourself dancing to your opponents tune.
Boxing, at times, is about doing the little things - giving time to the details that your opponent isn’t paying attention to or is just not dedicated enough to spend some rounds on. The jump rope has become so commonplace in the gym that it can be easily overlooked or taken for granted. It is a simple piece of equipment, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it doesn’t hold the key to gaining some crucial advantages, ones that your opponent may choose to skip.
Using Your Jump Rope Properly:
- Measure the ideal length of jump rope for you by stepping on the center of it with both feet - The ends of the handles should reach your armpits.
- Pick a rope that is has some “weight” to it, but is not slow. A little density (and a good ball-bearing design) will add to the speed you can rotate it at.
- Only jump high enough to clear the rope (about ¼”) and rotate the rope quickly. This is not a leisurely exercise.
- Keep your knees bent and your legs moving constantly.
- Land on the balls of your feet and do not let your heels touch (except for variations on the basic skip).
- Use your wrists to rotate the rope, not your entire arm.
- Keep your elbows to your sides and close to your body. Do not let you forearms drift out and away or it will shorten the rotation and you’ll miss the skip.
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