Every athlete entering a box for the first time soon comes to realize that progress in CrossFit is reflected by performing more in less time. No matter how performance is measured, the goal is always to do more and to do it faster. This is often diametrically opposed to how non-CrossFitters measure progress. Take, for example, the weightlifter, who sees progress in the ability to put more weight on the bar and make successful lifts. And when it comes to rope jumping, the opposite is true again. As athletes become more efficient at rope jumping, they naturally progress to lighter, faster ropes.
But does that mean that athletes with good rope-jumping skills should put away their heavy ropes forever? Not at all. And nor should CrossFitters. There are two ways heavy-rope training benefits box-goers: via enhanced conditioning and in the mastering of double-unders.
Let’s Get Physical
In general, rope jumping is a cardiovascular exercise. It uses large major muscle groups in a rhythmical, continuous fashion while stressing the aerobic system for energy needs over the course of a relatively extended period of time. The problem is that, with aerobic activities, it’s often difficult to increase the intensity of training in order to improve performance. Certainly, you can increase speed of movement, grade of running/cycling or damper setting on a rower, but these methods have their limits (biomechanics and technique often change) and are not always possible.
Enter heavy-rope training. The use of a series of heavy ropes enables athletes to tailor their aerobic conditioning workout while not altering their biomechanics (such as jump height, etc.). Training with a variety of weighted ropes can add a dimension of intensity to an aerobic-training session that leads to cardiovascular endurance improvements.
The cardiovascular benefit of heavy-rope training is also evident when an athlete is struggling with double-unders. “It’s one thing to get through 50 unbroken double-unders when you’re fresh, but when you’re completely fatigued in the middle of a WOD, it’s a whole new challenge,” says Dave Hunt, president of CrossRope, which produces a full line of customizable jump ropes, including heavy ropes. “Heavy-rope double-under training will improve your work capacity and ability to crush double-unders even when fatigued.”
Double Down on Jumping
Once you “get” double-unders, you’ve got them — every CrossFitter has an “ah-ha!” moment when learning this often-frustrating exercise. Yet every CrossFitter who has double-unders will tell you the same thing: You have to “feel” the double-under rhythm. But you can’t feel the rhythm if you can’t feel the rope.
Lightweight ropes are wonderful for those athletes who have mastered the double-under but are not ideal for beginners. Heavy ropes provide feedback. That is, the centrifugal force from the weight of the rope enables the athlete to feel where the rope is in the jump cycle relative to his or her body.
“Not only does heavy-rope training improve timing and coordination, but it facilitates learning proper rotational mechanics,” Hunt points out. “That’s because jumpers can control rope speed while feeling how to generate rotation from the wrists instead of the elbows or shoulders. Proper wrist-rotation technique is essential to consistent, efficient double-unders.”
In other words, feedback from a rope makes it easier for a beginning or intermediate jumper to control his or her rope speed, improve timing and coordination, and feel technique differences when trying to improve jump-roping mechanics.