Skipping: The Hidden Gem of Athletic Training and Performance
If there is literally one exercise that is missing from everyone’s program it’s without a doubt the skip pattern.A majority of athletes, coaches, and spectators look at any skip demonstration being practice with a guaranteed dumbfounded expression upon their face, but what they fail to see and recognize is the extreme fundamental value skipping progressions provide athletes and clients alike across a series of training domains.
But not all skipping variations are created equally.
Skips should be performed in succession and mastery of one category should precede the advancement into the next for movement patterning and coordination purposes, which drive performance in the flashy areas of athletic development.Moreover, skipping should be programmed as either a preliminary drill in a collective warm-up system such as The 6-Phase Dynamic Warm Up Sequence, or as a filler in between speed, agility, or power exercises, or finally as an active recovery method.
I’ll chime in here with my professional opinion and state that if you want to master skipping, I think an emphasis on programming it as an active recovery method in between intense training practices and competition is where it’s at.Here’s why…
First off, skipping is a high value selection since it provides such a low risk to reward ratio.Who the hell has ever gotten hurt skipping that you know of?Not to mention you get solid Central Nervous System (CNS) and muscular activation from the drill, along with honing our innate Cross Extensor Reflex (CER), and prime the kinetic chain for the predominant sprint pattern that is a primary movement in any athletic based drill.
But before we get into the more technical aspects of the science, application and execution of skipping, lets break skip exercises into 5 distinct categories from least to most advanced:
5 Skip Training Categories
Sexy as Fuck Skipping (SAFS)
Skipping For Pain and Injury Rehab
Rehab based skips are going to be few in number but they are important due to the fact that they let the athlete or client groove skip based footwork while providing a support.If you think about individuals with various ankle and knee injuries, a root cause of these injuries has been shown time and time again to be a motor control deficit, or lack of coordination.
It would be smart to establish impeccable footwork in a very safe and controlled environment before electing to move out into the open space unsupported, with potential weaknesses and so forth.It may sound like a contradiction since I said skipping is safe, but think ahead with the body in mind, patterning is huge and any gliches in proper activation and use of individual muscles and muscle synergies needs to be consider and can impact how you move, perform, and potentially remain healthy (i.e. bridge and hip extension testing).
Here are two of my favorite rehab skipping drills for returning clients back to training and/or performance injury free:
Wall or Rack Supported Skips-Singles
When it comes to skipping the rack supported single patterns are as simple as it can get.What’s great about this exercise is that it creates a very simple and focused environment to groove and master the foot pattern which many will struggle with if they are new to skipping.
Wall or Rack Supported Skips – Standard
The next obvious progression would be to include another subsequent leg action to mimic what is going to actually occur when the time comes to perform a standard skip action, but you are still relying on a support and omitting any arm involvement for the time being.
Skipping For Beginners
Beginner level skips are important because they help bridge the gap between a supported position to an unsupported position in a very easy to follow and perform fashion.The focus during this phase of skipping should be too keep the steps and frequency of skips very low at low speeds of movement for learning purposes.
For anyone looking at these drills shaking their heads or questioning their place, keep in mind that skipping is one of the most poorly performed drills for beginner level athletes and clients.Set the foundation with the boring stuff initially to unlock a more seamless transition and success with the more advanced variations.
Here’s two variations to get beginners started off on the right foot (pun intended):
Standard Low Frequency Skip
Next, is your standard skip performed at a lower frequency to help with motor learning and proper movement retention.
Ultra Slow Based Forward Skip
The ultra slow pattern is a great set-up move for an explosive countermovement and it focuses on anterior hip mobility and posterior muscle recruitment.
Intermediate Level Skipping Progressions
Intermediate levels skips involve a higher frequency, slightly more complicated footwork and coordination demands, along with different planes of motion.
Progressing beginners to intermediate challenges, start with these two variations:
High Frequency Lateral Skip
Lateral movement training is often neglected in most programs and there needs to be focus in this plane of motion.Throw in a high frequency skip pattern and you now have a solid recipe for enhanced coordination and movement skill to boot.
High Frequency Backwards Skip
In this variation you throw in the high frequency feature to enhance total body CNS activation along with building more spatial awareness with a backwards approach.
Advanced Skipping Variations
Now is where the skipping starts to become much more appealing to the performer or spectator.The advanced skips are a lot of fun and really start to get your body’s engine going so that you experience a potential heightened level of coordination and movement performance at the subsequent phase of training.
Oh the infamous A-Skip.No skipping based article would be complete without this time honored and highly effective variation.It combines hip mobility, psoas and glute co-activation, proper arm drive, sprint prep, and much more.
The crossover skip is a great way to include some rotational emphasis which is so common to sport to the skipping equation.
Sexy as Fuck Skipping Variations
The last category showcases some unique skip variations for more fun and builds upon the advanced skips.Although the skips may just look like they are for show, there is indeed some legitimate benefit from functional anatomy movement principle standpoint.Enjoy!
Low To High Skips
The last category of skipping just looks cool and provides a twist to skip training.With the low to high move you will learn to create more rhythm with you movement which is fundamental to any sporting endeavor.
Out To High Skips
With this final variation of skipping we combine the other side of hip rotation to the movement to balance things out.
About The Author
Travis Hansen has been involved in the field of Fitness for 15 years. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Fitness and Wellness, and holds 3 different training certifications from the ISSA, NASM, and NCSF. He was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Reno Bighorns of the NBADL for their 2010 season, and the UNR Golf Team in 2015. He was the former Director of The Reno Speed School, and the Speed Director and continuing educator for the International Sports Sciences Association. He has worked with thousands of athletes from almost all sports, ranging from the youth to professional ranks. He is an author of five books, and has written for popular fitness publications, such as Mens Journal, Mens Fitness, and Testosterone Nation. He was also selected to train the Chinese Olympic team in 2014.