Barbells and Jump Rope go together like Little John and Robin Hood.
One will make you muscular and strong. The other will make you quick and lean
And being muscular, lean, strong and quick is a recipe for success when it comes to reaching both your aesthetic and performance goals.
So how do you combine barbell and jump rope training?
One of the best systems of training with a jump rope is Hyperformance Jump Rope. This is the system developed by Buddy Lee. (Full disclosure I am a Buddy Lee certified trainer.)
One of the best systems of training with a barbell comes from the sport of Powerlifting. And the 5/3/1 program developed by Jim Wendler is of the great programs that is simple and works well for almost everybody. In fact, this protocol was inspired by one of the protocols in Jim’s book titled “5/3/1,” referred to as “North of V@&.”
Jim (like many powerlifters) often writes with crude language. Consider this your warning before reading any of his articles or books.
If you are not easily offended then 5/3/1 is an excellent book and better program. It is actually so simple that you can follow it without reading the book or the article. I will provide all the info you need here.
His protocol involves a jump rope warm up, the 5/3/1 Powerlifting program and conditioning. For the conditioning he recommends hill sprints.
But the problem with this conditioning is it is really inconvenient. I have never seen a gym with a hill inside for sprints. And who is going to stop by their local hill on their way home from the gym?
And this is completely unnecessary because there are jump rope conditioning programs that are just as intense as running hills. If you don’t believe me then you should check out this video of Buddy Lee doing a jump rope sprint.
Now you can get your conditioning in as soon as you finish your last lift of the day. And jumping rope doesn’t take any more space than you need to deadlift. Perfect for training at the gym or in your garage.
Equipment: Olympic barbell, plates, bench, squat rack, jump rope
Weekly training time: 2 - 5+ hours
Weekly training days: 2 - 4 days
Your training days will all look like this:
Block 1: Jump rope warm up and/or skill work (5 - 15 mins)
Block 2: Barbell lifts using the 5/3/1 program (20 - 60 mins)
Block 3: Conditioning with the jump rope (5 - 15 mins)
Setting Up Your Week
Your weekly schedule depends on how you set up Block 2 – your barbell lifts.
You will notice that the amount of time this takes has a huge range. The main determinant is how many of the main lifts you want to do in a day. Each main lift will take 20-30 minutes, every workout. You will either do one or two main lifts depending on the schedule you build.
Your barbell lifts are the back squat, bench press, deadlift and military press. If you want to learn more about these lifts then you should check out this article I wrote on them.
Additionally, you can add assistance exercises if you want to work on weak points, but this is completely optional. I had great success on this program with no assistance exercises using both four day (one exercise each day) and two day (two exercises each day) routines.
The number of training days determines how you break up your week. This is easiest when you choose to train on either 2 days a week or 4 days a week.
2 Day Split
Day One – Squat, Bench
Day Two – Deadlift, Military Press
You can swap the order around a little but make sure that you are doing your lower body movement first and that you follow it with an upper body movement.
Ideally you should have a two day break and a three day break in your training week. But if necessary you could have a one day break and then a 4 day break.
4 Day Split
Day One – Squat
Day Two – Bench
Day Three – Deadlift
Day Four – Military Press
Again you could really do any order but it is important to alternate between upper body dominant and lower body dominant exercises.
3 Day Split
Four doesn’t divide into three evenly. Sorry that's just the way the math works.
You have 3 options for making it work:
1 – Cut an exercise from the program
2 – Pick two exercises for one training day
3 – Use a rolling schedule
Option 1 – Don’t be lazy and cut an exercise because it is hard or you can’t do it right. If deadlift (or squatting) hurts your back see a good physical therapist and find a coach and address the issue. If you aren’t willing to do this then this is not the protocol for you. If you are going to cut one, the logical exercise to cut is the bench press. This is because it is the least functional and needs a specialized piece of equipment that the others don’t. The exception is if you are planning on competing in a Powerlifting competition.
But if competition is your goal you should know that incorporating vertical presses (like the Military Press) will help keep your shoulders healthy, and probably drive up your bench.
Option 2 can work great. Follow the rule of not combining the two lower body lifts or the two upper body lifts on combination day.
Option 3 is also fine, but it bothers many people's sense of order. Now you will have to track the workout number instead of doing the same rep numbers all week. This will make more sense by the time you finish this article.
Monday – Squat (5)
Wednesday – Bench (5)
Friday – Deadlift (5)
Monday – Military Press (5)
Wednesday – Squat (3)
Friday – Bench (3)
Monday – Deadlift (3)
Wednesday – Military Press (3)
Friday – Squat (1)
Monday – Bench (1)
Wednesday – Deadlift (1)
Friday – Military Press (1)
Week 5 repeats the order of the exercises for 3 deload days, but you still haven’t finished a full cycle. It will finish after your Monday workout on week 6.
This can get confusing but if you keep good records (or use an app) it is possible.
How Much Weight Do You Lift
Honestly you don’t need to read this section. 5/3/1 is such a popular program that there are many apps (Play Store, App Store) and spreadsheets available that do the math for you.
All you need to do is to find your 1 rep max and insert it and you can mindlessly follow the program and get great results.
A very important principle of the program is to use 90% of your 1 RM (see RM formula below) as the basis for all the rest of your percentages. Most apps will do this by default. This ensures that you start the program under capacity, which will allow you to end the program over capacity.
90% of your 1 RM will now be referred to as your Training Max (TM).
Each exercise has 3 warm up sets followed by 3 working sets.
The warm up sets are as follows:
Set 1: 40% of TM x 5 reps
Set 2: 50% of TM x 5 reps
Set 3: 60% of TM x 3 reps
Then you go into the working sets, the intensity will slowly increase each week for 3 weeks, and then you will get a “deload” week to recover.
The sets look as follows:
Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
65% x 5 70% x 3 75% x 5 40% x 5
75% x 5 80% x 3 85% x 3 50% x 5
85% x 5+ 90% x 3+ 95% x 1+ 60% x 5
Remember to always calculate using your TM. If you don’t want to do the math then use an app or a spreadsheet (scroll back up for the links).
After week 4 you add no more than 5 lbs to your TM for the upper body lifts and no more than 10 lbs to your TM for your lower body lifts and repeat the cycle.
IMPORTANT: You should notice that the last set of weeks 1–3 has a “+,” this denotes that it is an all out set to technical failure.
Remember technical failure isn’t the same as absolute failure – it means you can no longer maintain proper form during the lift.
You should have a “goal,” but don’t sacrifice technique to hit the goal. Injuring yourself will ruin the program.
Consider the rep count for these sets as a minimum not a maximum. If you can’t hit the minimum then it is time to take a step back and build back up. If you used 90% of your 1 RM for your TM this should not happen for at least 5-7 cycles.
To back off and restart progress calculate a new TM based off of your highest estimated 1 RM. Again if you are using an app it will automatically do this for you.
There are many ways to calculate this but the one Jim recommends is:
Weight x Reps x .0333 + Weight = Estimated 1 RM
To be a broken record if this is all confusing to you, pay 6 bucks for the app which will automatically do all this for you. That’s what I did and what I recommend.
One final note: don't try to get fancy and use supersets to save time. Do all of your sets of one exercise (with plenty of rest between sets) and then move on to the next exercise.
If you have more questions feel free to email me at David@MagenFitness.com.
Once you have Block 2 figured out all you need to do is sandwich it between the two jump rope blocks. The first of which is the warm up and/or skill work.
The main factor that should be driving your decision here is your competency with a jump rope and time available.
If you don’t have basic jump rope capacity then you should do skill work which will be practicing your Bounce Step and Alternating Foot Step for at least 5 minutes until you can meet the capacity standards.
If you have basic jump rope capacity (meaning you can do 140 consecutive jumps of the basic bounce step and alternating foot step) then you should at a minimum do a warm up. The minimum is 5 minutes of 4 jumps of each alternating.
But you can now add skill work to add new skills to your repertoire. If you need to keep the warm up to 5 minutes you can cut the 5 minutes in half and spend the first 2.5 minutes doing 4 reps of the bounce step and alternating foot hop and then follow it with 2.5 minutes of practicing additional jump rope skills.
If you are serious about your training you should really expand the timeframe. Keep the 5 minutes of your 2 fundamental skills and spend 5-10 minutes learning new ones.
The next skills to learn after the bounce step and alternating foot hop are:
–The High Step
–The Side Straddle
–The Front Straddle
–The Side Jump
–The Bell Jump
For more information on the jump rope skills check out Buddy Lee's book or contact a certified instructor (once again full disclosure I am one).
After you are done with your lifting it is time for conditioning. But if you haven’t developed your jump rope skills (at a minimum the alternating foot step) then you don’t have the skill level to condition with the jump rope and trying to do so will just mean lots of catches and frustration.
Until you develop this you should just spend some more time practicing your two basic skills, the bounce step and alternating foot hop. It shouldn’t take more than a few weeks to develop the alternating foot step and high step to the point where you can condition.
The easiest jump rope sprint program to follow is 30 seconds of alternating foot step as fast as you can followed by 30 seconds of rest for 5 rounds. To make this work you should be jumping at least 220 RPM (meaning get at least 110 jumps in that 30 seconds).
You can take this protocol up a level by doing it for 60 seconds and then resting 60 seconds. Or using the high step instead of the alternating foot jump.
There are more advanced (and easier) sprint programs in Buddy's book. Any of them work will with this protocol.
If you can do at least 30 double unders in 30 seconds you can also incorporate this skill into a power program. For example a basic one is:
8 reps of alternate footsteps followed by 4 consecutive double unders. Repeat for 30 sec. Rest for 30 seconds. Then repeat the cycle 5 times.
Once again if you don’t have the skills developed this program will be useless. If you are always catching the rope you won’t be able to get your heart rate up. Take the time to develop the skill before jumping (pun intended) into an advanced conditioning program.
Many people are afraid that lifting heavy weights will make them bulky, slow and unathletic.
But lifting heavy weights doesn’t make you fat, eating too many calories makes you fat. And if done properly weight training (even powerlifting) will make you stronger and leaner.
And while it won’t necessarily make you quick or athletic, adding in some jump rope training will give you the entire package. And make you leaner and meaner.
Combining barbells and jump rope is an excellent way to mix two great modalities and fill the gaps that each one has.
If you have any questions feel free to send me an email.
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