The Best Cardio Training You Aren't Doing

Feb 23, 2011 at 18:26
by James Wilson  
Jumping rope is a great cardio exercise for mountain bikers because it builds lower leg power and endurance and forces you to maintain good posture in the process.While some groups do appreciate it (boxers and MMA fighters for instance) most people don't realize just how great a tool it really is. Since you can get a jump rope for less than $10 (although I recommend spending a bit more if you can) it is something you can easily add into your routine tomorrow.

The first benefit is the lower leg specific power and endurance it builds. I get a lot of questions about how to deal with calf cramps and fatigue and nothing beats the jump rope for addressing those issues. It also builds trail flow as it works on foot speed and coordination, an important part of lower body athleticism.

The other benefit is that jumping rope forces you to stand up straight and maintain a tall spine. This is extremely important for mountain bikers as it combats the caved chest/ forward sloping shoulder syndrome so common in our ranks. In fact, this is the #1 reason that jumping rope feels so awkward at first – most riders simply don't know how to achieve and move with a tall spine and instead collapse, which throws the whole movement off balance.

By choosing an activity that forces you to learn proper posture and then maintain it as you fatigue you'll be able to build cardio while avoiding overuse injuries common in riders who don't get off the bike. Plus, since the tall spine posture is important for stand up pedaling you'll be reinforcing proper movement for that all important task. When you look at all the benefits of jumping rope the real question becomes why wouldn’t you use it?

When getting started with jumping rope I recommend starting with a regular double leg jump. Remember that double jumping between turns of the rope is fine when you're 5, but you want to work on being able to jump rope like a big kid. We've all seen someone who knows how to turn a rope and that's what you want to look like – fluid, fast and effortless.

When you can bang out 100 jumps with ease then it is time to move on to some other techniques. I like to run through the following sequence as a warm up before going into my foam rolling and stretching prior to a strength training session.

- Double Leg X 100 jumps
- Single Leg X 50 jumps each leg
- Alternating Legs X 100 jumps
- Split Stance X 50 jumps each way

I'll do 100 total jumps for each technique (50 each for the Single Leg and Split Stance variations). You may find that you need to start at 50 total jumps and build from there, but when you can get to the point that you can run through this whole routine without stopping you'll feel a big difference on the trail.

Watch this video to see me demonstrate proper jump rope form and how to apply it to these different techniques.

Views: 13,974    Faves: 109    Comments: 4

As I've mentioned before I also like to use the jump rope for cardio training. They work great for intervals ranging from 30-90 seconds and you can count your jumps during each interval. This lets you see if you're slowing down in later rounds and acts as a great source of feedback on how your cardio is improving.

Hopefully you're starting to see why that simple piece of rope or plastic that has probably been sitting in your closet for a few years deserves to get dusted off. The truth is that the jump rope delivers better trail specific results than any of the fancy pieces of cardio training equipment sitting in your local gym.

James Wilson is the owner MTB Strength Training Systems, the world's only company dedicated to developing strength and conditioning programs for the unique demands of mountain biking. James owns a training facility in Grand Junction, CO and is the strength coach for the Yeti World Cup Team. Visit his blog to sign up for your free mini-course 10 Steps to Instantly Improve Your Riding, plus a bonus bodyweight workout.


  • + 46
 couldn't get a chick to do this one???
  • - 2
 Get a gf
  • - 1
 great addition to my P90 programe

question: I used to box and did jump rope all the time and after so much time, and in the case aiming for endurance, Instead of double jumps or what you recommended I find myself starting the 'jump rope dance' just to switch it up. Very similar to the switching foot technique you demonstrated, some say its a sloppy form of jumping. Is that a bad habit or a viable alternative?
  • + 10
 I think I'm going to go get a jump rope now....
  • + 5
 Bought a jump rope this morning! Too bad I work as a truckdriver and my right foot is messed upp because of that. Driving for a long time (avarge 10 hours+) several times a week isn't healthy for your foots..
  • + 25
 get cruise control
  • - 28
flag nouser (Mar 2, 2011 at 6:19) (Below Threshold)
 can't get cruise on a manual
  • + 1
 yes you can. i'm getting it fitted to my van in a couple weeks, and my old man has had a couple manuals with it fitted.. it just cuts out easier than on an auto, cos it can't change the gear to keep up to speed
  • + 1
 I have cruise on my manual 6-speed STi. Not sure if cruise is allowed by law in Semi Trucks however..
  • + 11
 you can get a brick ) and put it on pedal ))
  • + 1
 and you can die trying
  • + 9
 you can die with a smile on your face knowing youll die with healthy feet though
  • + 2
 My boss tells me cruise control is to expensive.. :C
  • + 1
 bummer! tell him to take it out of his own pay
  • + 1
 btw, maxeponken...its feet. good vid, need to myself a skipping rope now Smile
  • + 3
 Great article - I was looking for info like that a year ago, but every article I found treated jumping-rope like an obvious thing. This one helps to understand that issue better, thanks Big Grin
  • + 2
 "You're not a mountain biker, You're a human being that rides mountain bikes." well said.
  • + 1
 So until this profound statement, people just assumed they stopped existing as human beings when they got on a bike?
  • + 1
 riding a bike with a straight back is actually potentially dangerous. I used to motocross and had a friend of mine ride through a whoop section with an straight, tensed back. bad idea. if your spine is slightly curved over, it will be safer on your back, allowing it to absorb more of the impact opposed to a straight, rigid back. and how are you supposed to have your head over the bars, with a straight back without looking like a retard with your ass out to lunch? thought this might help.
  • + 1
 i have a feeling his straight back tip may be directed more to XC, climbing, etc., but i agree with you for sure, i don't think i'd attempt a straight spine in DH ... great cardio workout nonetheless and i am going to add it in ... weird never thought of it before this ...
  • + 2
 I believe his point was not to start riding with a straight back, the exercise helps to counter act the effects of spending a lot of time on a bike with a curved spine. This movement will help to force you back into a proper posture if you have a tendency to roll your spine and shoulders when not on a bike and strengthen your back
  • + 3
 Oh man, I had never rope skipped before because I thought I could not coordinate... Thanks to this article I finally did!!! Thanks James, great advise!
  • + 3
 Stick with it, you'll really feel the benefits of it. There's a reason why it's such a standard bit of training for boxers. Salute
  • + 2
 F yeah, such a good workout. Boxers are in fantastic cardiovascular shape (as well as being strong as hell).
  • + 2
 it'll take a bit to really get into a rhythm and be able to go for minutes on end w/o hitting your feet, but stick with it. eventually gets almost meditative.
  • + 1
 jumping rope is such a damn good workout. used to do 5x5 min rounds before thai workouts, need to get back into it. i prefer a heavier rope myself as you get a bit of forearm work with it (plus i think the ropes that are literally rope are hard to get into a rhytym with). look for a thai style rope or even use an old piece of garden hose cut off if you want something with slight weight.
  • + 1
 at a lot of athletic stores u can actually buy weighted ropes, i dont really notice a difference in them from a normal rope but different people have different preference
  • + 1
 Yeah, I can't get into jumping w/ lighter ropes. Same w/ the leather and ball bearing ones - mostly because they are short and I usually hit myself too much with them!
  • + 4
 Great bit of info, especially good to do during the winter seasons when I don't ride as much as the summer.
  • + 2
 Thanks a ton for the advice man! Can't wait to get back on my feet after I recover from surgery so that I can get back in shape. I will definitely be using this to do so. Thanks again!
  • + 2
 Huh...if only my knees weren't dead and didn't sound like cement mixers, I'd consider this! Guess its back to long walks and cross country skiing during the crap months!
  • + 4
 start swimming in the off-season. zero impact on your knees and great for endurance and lung capacity.
  • + 1
 I was thinking that, but there's no where cheap near my house. it's all "membership this" and "a large fee that", nothing like a cheap $50 pass for the whole winter season.
  • + 4
 A microphone would cast you 20$ as well Wink
  • + 4
 Oh, can't do this mate, it's too much work. cough, cough.
  • + 3
 is jumping rope a cool way to say skipping?
  • + 2
 essentially yes lol
  • + 1
 I bought a rope actually two weeks ago. But I live on the top floor in my apt. and I got complains because of the noise. I don't have the velvet touch thats the problem.
  • + 3
 And at last 100x Dobble Unders
  • + 3
 Great cardio to use for a warm up for work out routine
  • + 1
 I agree with you. Good warm up but only for people with healthy feet. I don't even try to jump... fused foot. Sometimes it even hurts when I am landing on my bike...
  • + 1
 anyone do Crossfit in the winter? I've been doing it for almost a year, and really notice the difference.
  • + 1
 Gave this a whirl today as a warm up and it was rad. Warmed up my hamstrings and works great with dynamic stretching.
  • + 1
 I've been jumping rope ever since that Yves larock "rise up" song came out Razz
  • + 0
 WOW some of you guys make way to many excuses! Don't plan on becoming a better rider unless you start doing some sort of training off the bike.
  • + 1
 Great write up/Video! I am definitely going to start doing this.

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