Work Smarter, Not Harder
By: Peter NestlerYesterday I had a performance in Hayfork, CA. If you've never had the opportunity to drive through NorCal, it's quite an adventure, especially if you get off the interstate and drive along the mountain roads. The roads are quite windy and can become very steep at a moments notice. Most of the drive was spent at about 30 mph as I was pulling a loaded down trailer. One thing I found interesting is that I rarely touch the brake when driving downhill through the mountains, but I found myself stuck behind a guy that practically stood on his brake pedal through every downhill segment. What gives?
I remember as a child wondering why you need the 1-2 and 3 gears on an automatic, isn't the point of having an automatic no shifting? Someone had once told me that to control downhill speed while driving in the mountains, just downshift to first or second gear and let the engine do the work, so that's what I do. The vehicle in front of me will no doubt seriously reduce the life span of his brakes if he spends much time at all in the mountains. Not to mention the fact that he was physically doing a lot more work than I was, even though I was pulling a trailer and he had an empty car.
Exercise is very similar to this, if you do things incorrectly there's a good chance you'll reduce the life span of your parts. Even if there's no correlation to how long a body part works, you're still putting in a lot more effort than you need to. As an example, I was working with a jump rope team a couple days ago and I was helping one of the jumpers work on her T.J. Triple Cross. She was having a difficult time coming out of it in the air and it kept catching on her foot. Anytime you're learning a multiple under skill, or you're consistently missing on one part, it's always best to walk through it on the ground to make sure you have the motions down in single bounce so that you know where everything needs to go when you take it into the air. So I had her show me the steps. 1) Side Swing. 2) Toad on same side of body as side swing. 3) Bring arms out and return to regular jumping position...Hold it! Step 3 had a slight problem that needed to be addressed.
What I noticed was a common error that many people have when doing a toad. When coming out of the toad, the leg that is on the ground and has been supporting the body weight is kicked backward as they rock onto their front foot. This doesn't seem like too much of an issue when you're doing a toad on the ground by itself, but it does present an issue if you ever try to do a combination of skills or when you're adding it to a multiple under. The reason it's an issue is that your body weight and posture are in a very tough stance to go to any other skill. In the case of the T.J. that foot kicking back on the landing is catching the rope as it's way behind her and the rope is catching it. A proper toad would have you jumping off the supporting foot and landing on both feet at the same time. This puts you in a position to continue jumping and when done in the air, it minimizes the opportunities for the rope to catch you. The other side to this is that when done properly, you're using less energy than the other way, it's not a lot, but if you are overworking on every jump, you'll wear out a lot faster.
Take time to learn how to do skills properly and everything about what you do will be better. You'll be much more efficient and you'll look better doing the skills. If you're just getting started in jump rope or you've been doing it a while the best thing you can do is take the time to look at how a skill is supposed to be done and evaluate yourself in light of that. The best way that I've found to do this is a mirror. Whenever I can I like to jump rope in front of one and it has nothing to do with the amazing figure that stands in front of me. I want to make sure things are correct. I look at everything, hand, shoulder, foot, leg, arm, etc. placement. I check it out from the front, the back the side. I want to make sure that it looks correct and if there's anything I can change I fix it.
The biggest wake up call I had to this was the 1996 National Competition. My team had an amazing year and swept the tournament, I had been the only competitor that year to medal in all 9 events. We were really happy with our results, but I remember watching the tournament on ESPN and all I could remember was how awful I looked when doing speed. My left shoulder was a good 3 inches lower than my right one and it looked terrible! I immediately got out my rope, stood in front of the mirror and jumped. I was amazed that I had never seen it before, but sure enough, that's what I looked like. Ever since then I have been extremely conscious of how I look when jumping. I force myself to level my shoulders and constantly check to make sure they're correct.
Form and posture are very important when doing skills in rope skipping. It's not enough to just be able to make a trick, you need to make it look good. The secret to this is LOTS of practice, but you need to start with knowing how to do the skills correctly. Practice makes permanent, if you do something incorrectly and practice it that way, you'll always do it wrong. Learn correct to start with and you'll be way ahead in the long run.