by Billy Cuthrell
Long thought of as a training tool for boxers or a playground staple at most elementary schools, jumping rope can be used by anyone who wants a terrific cardio workout. Even when done at a moderate pace, it has been shown to burn more calories in five minutes than a moderate to fast-paced one-mile jog. And it’s awesome for drummers as well.
Not only is jumping rope a great compact and portable exercise tool to use for a pre-show warm up or to burn off calories and build endurance, it’s also an amazingly effective way to work on your timing. I’ve had clients come in who have not used a jump rope in twenty-five years, and when the rope gets caught up in their feet, they blame their coordination. But it’s not their coordination that’s lacking as much as it is their timing. That’s when I turn on the metronome and have them try to jump rope in time to the beat.
There are many types of ropes on the market, but all you really need is a sturdy version that spins easily, has decent weight, and is the right length for your height. Here are some basic jump-rope timing exercises for you to try.
We’ll start off with single jumps where the rope spins around your body once in a full rotation. Think of every time that the rope taps the floor under your feet as your downbeats (1, 2, 3, 4). If your metronome subdivides, set it to 8th notes. The upbeats (“&”) will click at the time the rope is above your head. Set your metronome at 75 beats per minute or lower to start. The goal is to go for as many unbroken rotations as possible. If you can jump for two minutes without losing rhythm, then speed up the metronome by ten or fifteen beats.
As you jump, your feet should stay together. Push yourself off the floor with your toes and remain on the balls of your feet. This position also works wonders for your bass drum playing, as it develops endurance and speed in your calves.
Be careful not to bring your legs too high by bending at the knees. That will throw off your timing. As you get better, you can run in place, alternate feet, or do high knees, or a combination of all three.
You need a firm grasp of single unders before moving to doubles. As the name implies, in double unders the rope will pass under your feet twice per jump. I’ve found that if you set your tempo a little slower to start, you can get into a comfortable triplet feel. If possible, set your metronome to click triplets, and start at 80 beats per minute or slower.
Think of when you jump as the downbeats (1, 2, 3, 4), and think of the two rotations as the second and third parts of a triplet (1-trip-let, 2-trip-let, 3-trip-let, 4-trip-let). The goal here is to get as many double unders in a row as you can. Timing is really at the heart of this workout.