Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning

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While strength and conditioning coaches are continually looking for the next cutting edge piece of equipment to give their athletes an advantage over their opponents, most already have a small, inexpensive, old fashioned, simple and effective, training device tucked away in the corner of the weight room or in the bottom of their traveling equipment box – the jump rope. Jump ropes have been around for decades and while they were originally used for warm-up and conditioning, current practice has shown them to be effective for 1) improving speed, agility, quickness, coordination; 2) helping reduce the risk of injury by increasing strength and ankle stability while working in a safe, controlled environment; and 3) increasing both aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Players can jump at a steady rate for 20-30 minutes to improve aerobic fitness or jump at a faster rate for shorter periods of time (interval training) to improve anaerobic fitness.

jr1While the jump rope is a very simple too, there are at least four steps that you should progress through to minimize the risk of injury and ensure that you are getting the most out of your program.

  • Step One (choose the rope): With the number of jump rope options available it can be hard for beginners to determine the best starting rope. Experience indicates that lighter ropes are much more difficult for beginners to learn on than heavier ropes. Avoid thin speed ropes and cotton ropes, both are really difficult to use. Choose a PVC rope that has a little weight so you can feel exactly where the rope is as it rotates around which will help you time your jump and learn proper rhythm
  • Step Two (determine rope length): Make sure that you fit the equipment, i.e., make sure that your rope is the right length for your height. To determine correct length step on the rope with one foot, put the handles together and pull them straight up to your shoulder. For beginners, the handles should come to your shoulder, but no higher than your shoulder. For experienced jumpers, the top of the handles should reach the armpit or below. Rope length is impacted by your jumping form. If you jump with your elbows far away from your ribs you will need a longer rope until you correct the problem. When in doubt, choose a rope that’s too long rather than one that is too short.
  • Step Three (Find a Place): After you find a rope, you need to find a safe place to jump.  It would be an ideal on a shock absorbent surface such as a wood floor, interlocking foam mat, or indoor/outdoor track etc.  Try to avoid jumping on very hard surfaces.
  • Step Four (learn the bounce step): Learn how to do the bounce step; it is the foundation for developing rhythm, form, coordination and speed. To execute the bounce step, stand with your feet together with the rope behind you. Swing the rope forward over your head, and as the rope approaches your feet, jump over it with both feet. Clear the floor by about two inches and land lightly on the balls of your feet. Jumping rope should be a low-impact activity, so stay close to the floor. Start at a steady pace of approximately one jump every second for one minute, i.e., 60 RPM. When this gets easier, increase the rate to two jumps per second, i.e., 120 RPM for one minute.  Increase the duration of your jump by 30 to 60 seconds per workout until you reach 5 minutes or try one or more of the advanced jumps listed below step three. Remember, jumps start and end on both feet; hops start and end on one foot.
  • Step Five (design the workout): Put together different combinations of jumps and hops (see jump and hop options below) to create a personalized routine for each player. For example, do 60 seconds of bounce steps followed by 20 seconds of high knee runs without rest between exercises. Rest for 30 seconds and do a paired set of 60-second, single-leg hops on each leg and 20 consecutive split-jumps. Spend as little time on the ground as possible between jumps and hops. Stay on the balls of the feet, and when doing any lateral movement, keep most of the body weight on the instep and big toe without letting the ankle role to either side. Focus on jumping as quickly as possible, not about how much distance you can cover when jumping or hopping forward and backward or side-to-side.

The jump rope is a versatile tool. Use it as a standalone tool or integrate it into other forms of training to achieve greater results. Jumping rope between sets of other exercises, such as resistance training, MD ball exercises or core work can increase the density of your training workout by making more effective use of rest time.

Jump and Hop Options

  • Bounce Step: Jump off and land on two feet.
  • Single Leg Hops: Hop off one foot for time or specific number of reps and then switch feet.
  • High Knee Run: Start by jogging forward and stepping over the rope with one foot at a time and gradually increase speed.
  • Boxer’s Skip (R, R, L, L): Jump two times to the right and two times to the left on both feet.
  • Split Jumps (scissors):  Start with one foot forward and one foot back and alternate moving the feet forward and backward on each jump.
  • Lateral Jumps (Side-to-Side Ski Jumps):  Jump (two feet) side-to-side on each revolution.
  • Lateral Hops (Side-to-Side Ski Hops): Hop on one foot side-to-side on each revolution. Hope for a designated duration or number of reps and repeat on the opposite foot.
  • Forward and Backward Jumps: Alternate jumping two feet forward and two feet backwards.
  • Forward and Backward Hops:  Alternate hopping on one foot forward and on the same foot backwards. Repeat on opposite foot.

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Kiyoshi Momose, CSCS, RSCC is the Latin American Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

 

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