Jumping Rope: How Fencers can Use this Old School Method to Improve their Game

There are high-tech ways to get in shape as a fencer, and there are low-tech ways to get in shape as a fencer. Though we tend to think that jumping rope is something for children to do on the playground, in reality, it’s a great way to train inexpensively and anywhere you are.

Why is jumping rope good for fencers?

When you jump rope, you’re bouncing up and down on the balls of your feet (or, as it is often said, on your toes), which is not dissimilar from how we want to put our weight towards the balls of our feet on the strip. The movement that you’re practicing when you jump rope is complementary to the movement that you want to improve on the strip. The whole notion of “being light on your feet” is exactly what we want to foster as fencers, and jumping rope does this beautifully. Overall, jumping rope is one of the most popular exercise tools for millions of athletes in any sport and one of my favorite suggestions to fencers.

Overall, this is a fantastic tool for fencers. Jump ropes are great for:

  • Improved coordination
  • Footwork agility
  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Better balance
  • Posture, core, and leg strength
  • Improved speed
  • Developing focus

These are all aspects of physical fitness that are good for fencers, and as such it’s a good idea to leverage this tool as a way to get better in our sport. As a bonus, jumping rope can be done just about anywhere with obviously very little equipment. Even the more advanced jump ropes are inexpensive and tend to last users a long time. It’s a fantastic thing to pack for competition, as a jump rope doesn’t take up much room and can be used just about anywhere, including in a tightly packed competition venue when all you have is a few square feet for your pre-competition warmup.

How to get started

Using a jump rope can admittedly be a bit intimidating at first. This is a method of cardio that involves a good amount of coordination and agility, which is one big reason why it’s so valuable! That being said, it can be a bit challenging to get started. It is important to emphasize, that before going for a jump rope you should first talk to your coach and hear her suggestions, comments, or concerns. As with everything training-related your coach is in the best position to talk about your exercise program.

Jumping rope is self-correcting. This means that if you make a mistake, you have to fix it in order to keep going. It’s hard to continue to jump rope if you’re not doing it right! Good form is basically baked into the exercise. 

There are some caveats there. To ensure you have good form, you want to choose a jump rope that is sized properly for you. If you lay a rope on the ground and stand in the middle of it, the ends of the handles should come up to your armpits. This means the end of the rope, not the tip of the handle. Lots of jump ropes can be adjusted to fit, and making sure that your jump rope is at the right length will keep you from getting caught on it and potentially injuring yourself. 

There are also different types of jump ropes. Speed jump ropes and weighted jump ropes are a little more advanced, but they offer benefits for cardio, weight training, and coordination. Beginners should start off with a basic jump rope, which are lighter than weighted ropes and thicker than speed jump ropes. Basic jump ropes are great for beginners to start off with as novices often find the activity challenging to get used to. Unless a jump rope is marked otherwise, it’s probably a basic jump rope. 

Safety when skipping rope

Though jumping rope is a fairly safe exercise, there is always the possibility that you’ll end up with an injury with any kind of workout method. Mitigating your chances of getting hurt is important as you want to be available for your fencing training and events.

The biggest concern with safety when you’re jumping rope is the surface. Avoid concrete when doing this exercise, as the impact on the ankles and knees when jumping on this kind of rigid material can be tough. It is important to generally avoid slippery surfaces when jumping rope. Avoid wet grass if you are outdoors and slick carpet if you practice indoors. Outside, asphalt or grass are preferable. A sturdy exercise mat or sport surface floors are both good options if you’re inside, but refrain from jumping rope on slippery surfaces wearing only socks. Proper footwear is imperative to maintaining your form and preventing injuries.

On a similar note, you should always wear tennis shoes when you jump rope. Not only will this make sure that your toes stay out of the way, it will also keep the soles of your feet in good shape. Tennis shoes even offer support around the sides of the feet, helping to prevent injuries like twisted ankles, arch pain, calf strain, and turf toe.

When you’re jumping, don’t try to go super high. The goal is to keep your jumps low and your knees bent. This can really help to prevent injuries, and it’s better for your coordination and cardio as well. 

Finally, always make sure you stretch before and after a jump rope session. Dynamic stretching will help to warm up your muscles, and it will also lengthen your muscles as well. Stretching before and after an exercise as intensive as jump rope can prevent many injuries that beginners, and especially advanced users, typically face.

Speaking of stretching…

Beginning your training

As a beginner, it is crucial to start your training with good form. We talk about this all of the time with fencing, as bad form that you repeat can become ingrained in your body and is difficult to undo. It’s the same with jumping rope, with the exception that you’re doing the exercise many times over in succession, making it all the more important. 

Before you begin your first workout, here is some advice on how your body should look:

  • Face forward
  • Keep back straight
  • Pull shoulders back
  • Ensure feet are close together

When you start the exercise, here is a list of things to keep in mind:

  • Spin rope with wrists
  • Land on the balls of your feet
  • Inhale on jump
  • Exhale on landing

It is important to note that you do not need to inhale and exhale on every jump or landing. Take deep breaths when you inhale and exhale when you feel comfortable upon landing your jump. As every experienced fencer knows, breathing control is critical to maintaining your pace and prevents you from getting worn out too quickly.

Four jump rope workouts for fencers to try 

These four exercises are great for fencers (and jump ropers) in each and every stage of their training. There are more jump rope exercises that an athlete can incorporate, but it is best for fencers to stick to the fundamentals to avoid injuries. If you are experiencing difficulty with these exercises, do them at your own pace until you feel comfortable enough in your training. 

1 – Forward Jump

It’s hard to go wrong with this classic method of jumping rope. For this exercise, simply swing the rope forward on each jump! As a novice, this is the best workout to start off with as it contains all the fundamentals you need to learn the ropes (pun intended).

2 – Backward Jump

Like the forward jump but backwards! This exercise is a little trickier and relies on the athlete’s repetitive experience with the forward jump. Be extra careful when training with this method, especially if it is your first time trying it out.

3 – Side Swing Jump

While it looks complicated, side swing jumps are a great exercise for beginners. Holding the handles closely together, swing your rope forward and over each shoulder, skipping as you alternate. Once you establish a rhythm, add a forward jump after you side swing the rope over both of your shoulders. This is a great exercise to start off with as you do not need to add the forward jump to get a workout in. This method is useful, not only for learning jump rope, but building coordination and timing–essential training elements for fencers.

4 – Single Leg Jump

While it may not sound tricky, jumping rope with a single leg is harder than it looks. Even if you are an experienced jump roper with proper form, this exercise puts additional strain on your leg muscles and requires much more cardio. Be sure to alternate each leg between exercises to avoid cramping and one-sided muscle growth.

Go at your own pace, but jumping is fun!

If you find these exercises to be fairly easy, switch it up! You can alternate between forward jumps to single leg jumps and mix and match just about every jump rope exercise there is if you want to challenge yourself! Get together with fencing teammates and jump rope together if you want a sense of community when you work out. 

Remember, you are not jumping rope to become a better jump roper though you will inevitably improve. The goal of these exercises is to improve aspects of your fencing ability while making you a more dynamic athlete. The jump rope is another tool in your fencing arsenal–use it wisely and have fun!