The abdominal muscles work together to absorb shock and stabliize your upper body.
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Jumping rope isn't just for kids. Professional boxers, elite runners and amateur dancers use jumping rope to develop better coordination, speed and cardiovascular endurance. Although you may feel your legs are doing most of the work, your abdominal region supports and stabilizes your torso throughout the workout. Different parts of your abs play different roles in keeping your posture tall to prevent you from losing your balance and hunching forward.
Most people initially think of abs as the famous "six-pack" that lies in the front of your belly. However, your abdominal region consists of several stabilizers and movers that play vital roles in movement and sports performance. Stabilizers lay deeper toward your organs and include the transversus abdominis and internal obliques. These muscles work with the deep spinal muscles to protect your internal organs and spine from injury when you move. Movers, including your six-pack and external obliques, generate force to move your torso in different directions. Even though you're not flexing or twisting your torso while jumping rope, your stabilizers are hard at work to keep you upright. Because they function on a reflex base, you don't have to think about them or hold your abs tight. Just focus on your rhythm and footwork and your stabilizers will take care of themselves.
Besides flexing your torso, your rectus abdominis also acts as a shock absorber to reduce jarring in your internal organs and spine when you land on your feet, says low-back specialist Dr. Stuart McGill. Since your muscle fibers run up and down your entire torso, they shorten slightly when you land and lengthen when you jump straight up. In fact, a study published at the Department of Life Sciences at the University of Tokyo demonstrated that the rectus femoris and external obliques are the first abdominal muscles to fire 100 milliseconds before the feet land on the floor. Throughout the landing sequence, your abdominal muscles work with your legs and hips to lessen the impact of landing.
Just Keep Breathing
To maintain your rhythm and coordination, you must sustain a breathing pattern that will let you jump for many minutes without early fatigue or muscle cramps. Your diaphragm, which is a large, deep abdominal muscle that lies beneath your lungs, constantly expands and shrinks like a balloon as you breath. When you jump rope, use abdominal breathing instead of breathing with your chest. There is no single way for everyone to breath properly during exercise and rest periods. Physical therapist Gray Cook recommends that you experiment with your breathing and see which type -- slow and deep or smooth and relaxed -- works best for you.
Create Your Own Combo
Regardless of which exercise you perform, all jump-rope variations will get your abs toned and functional without doing any traditional ab exercises, like sit-ups and planks. Cook suggests that you start with the bounce step where you hop with your feet together at a rate of one hop per second or two hops per second. Once you master the bounce step, play with different exercises, such as the single-leg hop, scissor hop, lateral hop, bell hop and jogging hop. Challenge yourself by either increasing your duration or reducing your rest periods.