Tag Archives: jumping rope

The best exercise ever: jumping rope.

Jumping rope prepares the body to interact with gravity and stress—making it the perfect precursor to running. It strengthens the connective tissue, solidifies the bones, develops the tendons, and teaches the muscles how to “talk” to each other through the stretch reflex.

Here’s how to do it right:

jump rope

Most people jump rope incorrectly: they use their calfs as the major pushoff muscles. But then, why is it so ubiquitous?

Because it is neurologically a lot simpler to use two muscles than to use a lot of them.

Most people’s bodies never learned to use all their muscles in dynamic activities: parents prefer to keep their kids inside throughout their critical periods (1-6 years of age). The parental risk aversion that translates to a reduction in dynamic play impoverishes the brain’s sensorimotor opportunities. Simply stated, the brain never learned how to use all of the muscles together—it didn’t have to.

So the brain chooses the quick way out: it only uses the calfs.

But the calf muscles were never “designed” to push off (in the sense that the arm muscles were never “designed” to support the body while running). Their function is to make sure that the foot remains at the correct angle in relation to the ground throughout the landing and propulsion of all leg-based activities. In other words, the calf muscles are designed to effectively transfer the force from the quads and the glutes into the ground, not as pushing muscles.

If we use them to push off, we overload them—but more importantly we use the entire leg and hip system in a way that it was never meant to be used. And what does this translate to?

Calf muscle tightness. 

To correct this, we need to train our muscles to interact correctly, and we need to make the brain realize that there is a way to use the most powerful muscles in the body, the quads and the glutes, as the main motors of propulsion. If we use the tiny calf muscles as our main pushing muscles, we will never become the fastest, most athletic version of ourselves.

The tales of forgotten subsystems, part I: The Fasciae

People typically think that becoming a stronger runner is all about training muscles, tendons and bones. It’s not.

It’s mainly about developing the connective tissue that holds them together.

Runners don’t dread getting injured by twisting their foot, or by becoming concussed, (even though those things do happen). Most “runner-specific” injuries are blown knees, torn ACLs, lower back pain, plantar fasciitis. All these injuries have one thing in common: they occur because the body was subjected to excess repetitive shock.

What do we typically say to this?

We say: let’s strengthen the muscles, tendons and bones (besides the usual “what did you expect? You went running”). But that advice is inaccurate, and largely useless.

That advice doesn’t take into account the existence of what is cumulatively one of the largest organs, whose main structural function besides connecting other tissues happens to be absorbing the mechanical stresses applied to the body.

Continue reading The tales of forgotten subsystems, part I: The Fasciae