Vail Daily column: Jumping rope is great preseason ski training |

Vail Daily column: Jumping rope is great preseason ski training

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

Ski conditioning can be very intense. After all, why wouldn’t you push yourself to prepare for a sport that can be quite rigorous? A colleague of mine, J.C. Santana, owner of the Institute of Human Performance in Boca Raton, Florida, once said, “Bleed in the gym so you don’t bleed on the field.” Skiing is a dynamic sport that can make you bleed so to speak, and it puts stress on your joints — particularly if you’re skiing bumps, getting air or aggressively skiing higher edge angles on hard snow.

The problem is that we need great elasticity and power in our muscles to ski with quickness, and many of us are getting older. Traditional ski conditioning exercises like box jumps, sprints and other bounding plyometric exercises that develop the requisite power can beat us up. Let’s look at a specific solution for the aging skier today. Enter the jump rope.

An EFFECTIVE exercise

Jumping rope at first glance would seem dangerous because of the repeated, quick bouncing against the ground. It also appears awkward, and many overlook this great exercise because it’s too difficult to perform correctly. The coordinated effort that classifies this movement as awkward is the greatest reason why it is so safe and effective. Jumping rope has built-in protective mechanisms that ultimately protect you from yourself. Specifically, if you don’t have the proper technique to perform multiple skips, you will ultimately trip on the rope forcing yourself to take breaks.

Gray Cook said it more eloquently. “Jumping rope is barely possible with poor form or poor technique. Everyone will make consistent mistakes and be interrupted by a rope that catches on a foot. The rope is the coach. Jumping rope is what I call a self-limiting exercise. Participants are limited in their ability to perform the exercise by lack of technique.

“In other words, truly poor technique will prevent the participant from performing the exercise, so bad movement patterns cannot be reinforced. This is the most important reason for jumping rope. It is possible to perform sprints, shuttles, and agility work with poor form as long as times are adequate. Other forms of popular endurance work such as jogging, cycling, and rowing can also allow poor form without supervision and coaching. Poor form can be reinforced without the athlete ever realizing it.”


Assuming a trainee can jump rope efficiently, what are the benefits? First of all, jumping rope builds incredible speed and foot quickness. This is essential for good skiing. Jumping rope is potentially safer than other traditional work capacity exercises like running. Running with a heel strike places great impact forces on the body. Given the amount of knee injuries I’ve witnessed as a result of poor running skills, jumping rope is a better choice that places the trainee in an upright posture that engages the core muscles to increase spinal stiffness, while loading the calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes via jumping on the balls of the feet.


The most obvious benefit of jumping rope as your preseason conditioning is convenience. A jump rope is the prototypical traveling fitness companion. You can virtually skip rope anywhere, anytime.

Lastly, jumping rope places a tremendous demand on the metabolic system. There is a reason boxers have jumped rope for decades; this exercise builds incredible stamina, burns a tremendous amount of energy and toughens the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.


For newbies, I recommend starting off easy and practicing for five minutes every day. Learn the basics of foot speed, try to avoid double skipping and practice good timing.

Once you’ve acquired technical competence, start off with 60 seconds of jumping, followed by 60 seconds of rest, for 10 total minutes, three days per week. Add two minutes each week, working up to 20 total minutes.

Once you’ve hit the threshold of 20 minutes, (10 total working minutes) increase the interval to two or three minutes of jumping with 30-60 seconds of rest, for 10-20 total minutes.

You can also incorporate double-unders, which is two full rotations of the rope for each single jump, practice skipping on one foot, alternating longer work sets, incorporate jumping while moving the rope as fast as possible, etc. It’s very easy to get creative with jumping rope.

As you consider the necessity of foot speed, stamina and total work capacity as you prepare for ski season, look no further than the traditional jump rope. Your joints will thank you, you’ll have better fitness and it won’t cost you a full gym membership either. Have a great week!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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