Jump Rope for Mountain Biking

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 mentioned is the lower leg specific power and endurance it builds. A lot of mountain bikers ask 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 to 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 standing climbing you’ll be reinforcing proper movement for that specific 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 it is recommend that you start 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. Here is a jump rope sequence that you can use as a warm up before going into the rest of your mobility routine before a strength training session.

– Double Leg X 100

– Single Leg x 50 each leg

– Alternating Legs X 100

– Split Stance X 50 both ways

You may find that you need to cut the prescribed number of jumps in half and build up to the full routine. However, 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.

You can also 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.

For example, log as many jumps as you can in 30 seconds, rest for 60 seconds and then repeat 3 more times for a total of 4 rounds. Try to match or even beat the number of jumps you got in each subsequent round. When you can get through all 4 rounds without slowing down then add another round, eventually building up to 6 total rounds.

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 results than any of the fancy pieces of cardio training equipment sitting in your local gym. Give this warm up and cardio routine a shot and see why it deserves a place in your program.

-James Wilson-

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  1. ChrisQ says:

    All of those benefits sound really similar to barefoot running with good form. Would you agree?

    Have you been doing any barefoot running since reading “Born to Run”?

    Reply • October 7 at 1:58 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Very similar benefits. I see a lot of the same problems stemming from running and cycling and think that the whole Barefoot concept is very applicable. I have started trail running and do it in my Nike Frees.

      Reply • October 11 at 10:45 am
  2. electric says:

    engine, engine number 9
    running down the chicago line
    If the train should jump the track,
    do you want your money back?

    Bruce Lee once said that 10 minutes of jump rope was worth 30 minutes of running!

    Reply • October 7 at 9:17 pm
    • bikejames says:

      And how can we argue with Bruce Lee?

      Reply • October 11 at 10:46 am
  3. Dan says:

    Yesterday I did my first 4 rounds of 30secs on 90secs off. By the 3rd round I was just hanging on for dear life waiting for the timer to go off. After the 4th I was breathing so freaking hard, it was an AWESOME cardio work out. I also felt it in my forearms and outer shoulder muscles. Thanks for the tip on keeping a straight spine. I thought that really didn’t matter and that you just used what ever form it takes to get through it. I can see this really helping me with my sprints and overall endurance.

    Reply • October 8 at 7:53 am
  4. Joe Kim says:

    What? No double-unders?! My personal favorite when I feel like punishing myself.

    Reply • October 8 at 12:23 pm
    • bikejames says:

      I love those too and will add on as many double unders as I can at the end of the warm up sequence when I want to get crazy.

      Reply • October 11 at 9:55 am
  5. Chris says:

    how do you jump rope in a split stance? I feel like the rope would slow down a lot if it had to drag on the ground from your front foot all the way to your back foot.

    Reply • October 11 at 6:39 pm
    • bikejames says:

      You just have to split your feet about 8-12 inches to gain the advantage. Its not the same split stance as you would use with a split squat, you’re right that that would be too much and slow you down.

      Reply • October 12 at 7:48 am

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James Wilson
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James Wilson