It seems obvious that if we want to become faster runners, we should just run faster, right? Not necessarily, say some of the best runners and coaches in the world, who advise their elite athletes to build training plans around a slow-but-steady pace that falls within the category of aerobic exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine defines an aerobic exercise as “any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously and is rhythmic in nature.” If you’re anything like us, you probably thought that definition sounded a lot like jumping rope — and you would be right.
We know that jumping rope is an excellent form of aerobic exercise and one that provides an assortment of advantages. But is one of those advantages the ability to increase running speed? Read on to find out.
In this article we'll cover:
- What are the overall health benefits of jumping rope?
- How jumping rope helps runners get to the next level
- Jump rope moves for runners
What are the Overall Health Benefits of Jumping Rope?
Speed, strength, agility, and stamina are often the pillars of what makes a great athlete — and jumping rope can help you target each of those core attributes. That’s why all kinds of athletes, from weekend warriors trying to shed a few pounds to professionals at the top of their respective sports, incorporate jumping rope into their workout routines. Jumping rope burns an astounding number of calories, improves heart health, strengthens muscles, boosts bone density, and helps athletes develop proper footwork and agility.
How Jumping Rope Helps Runners Get to the Next Level
Now that you’re familiar with the ways jumping rope can promote overall health and wellness, let’s talk about what skipping-based exercise does for runners. You might be surprised to learn that there are some commonalities between the way the body moves while running and the way the body moves while jumping rope. For instance, both exercises involve a triple extension, an action that uses movement of the ankles, legs, and hips to produce maximum power.
Jumping rope helps runners strengthen those triple extension body parts used to generate power, but it also boosts our glutes, which play an essential role in a runner reaching top speeds. Runs also become smoother thanks to the repetition inherent in jumping rope, which ultimately decreases how much energy the body needs to expend to move at a faster clip.
While power may be the first thing you think of when it comes to running speed, there’s actually another “P” that’s equally as important: posture. Running at top speed requires proper form and the ability to lengthen your spine and remain long. Jumping rope will naturally help your body perform this way as it creates positive muscle memory.
Speaking of muscle memory, jumping rope also helps athletes reinforce the importance of landing on your toes. Running coaches and sports scientists believe running on your toes improves your speed because you’re on the ground for less time between strides. Unlike toe runners, heel strikers experience added pressure on their knees and shins — which can make the runner more susceptible to ailments like shin splints or IT band injuries.
But if you do ever get injured while running, jumping rope can help there, too. Most rehab facilities utilize jumping rope as part of the therapy process for runners recovering from injured joints, tendons, and ligaments in the posterior chain.
Jump Rope Moves for Runners
Jumping rope can be used by runners in a variety of ways. Just doing a simple jump for no more than 10 minutes is a good way for runners to both warm-up and cool down.
However, many runners also opt to integrate jumping rope into their strength programs for maximum benefit. Your best bet is to develop a circuit that feels right for you and considers your own biomechanical strengths and weaknesses.
One common drill that many runners perform is the single-foot hop. In this drill, you jump continuously on one foot before alternating after a specific length of time or number of hops. This drill is a great way to find better balance and more explosiveness in your legs.
Side-to-side jumps are another drill that runners love because it improves lateral quickness and agility. Once you get a little more comfortable, you can take on more advanced moves like double unders, the boxer step, travels, and mummy kicks, all of which are good for coordination and balance.
Ready to see how jumping rope can improve your runs? Check out our 5 Beginner Jump Rope Skills. You may also want to watch our video for the Top 5 Warm Up Stretches to ensure your legs are ready to roll before you pick up the rope.