Jumping rope is not just child’s play. Many athletes, including boxers, train with a jump rope, and it can be a great way for casual exercisers to stay in tiptop shape, too. All it requires is a good pair of shoes and a simple, inexpensive piece of equipment (usually under $15).
There are many variations: For example, you can jump with your feet together, or alternate legs (known as the “boxer’s shuffle”). You can jump one-legged or skip from one foot to the other. If you’re a skier and want to prepare for ski season, you can angle your jumps from side to side to simulate skiing motion. Ideally, you want to jump as rapidly as possible, but you can also vary fast with slow jumping as a kind of interval training.
Jumping rope strengthens the heart along with a range of upper-and lower-body muscles, including those of the calves, quads, hamstrings, buttocks, chest and shoulders. It can improve coordination and proprioception (the ability to orient yourself in space without visual or inner-ear cues), which may lessen the risk of falls. This weight-bearing exercise is also one of the best for bones—several studies have found improvements in bone mineral density from jumping or skipping.Jumping rope also burns a lot of calories—about 10 to 12 calories a minute at moderate speed for a 150-pound person.
Learning the ropes
Even if you’re fit, jumping rope can be a challenge, and it may take some practice to develop your technique. The activity is lower in impact than running, but check with your health care provider or a physical therapist first if you have any musculoskeletal condition.
- Get the rope that’s right for you. Ropes vary in length, weight, materials and types of handles. You don’t need weighted handles, but a weighted rope can build more upper-body strength.
- To check the length, stand on the rope’s midpoint and pull the handles up alongside your body. They should reach just up to your armpits. Some ropes are adjustable.
- Hold the handles lightly and turn the rope by pivoting your wrists, not your whole arms. When you jump, keep your elbows relaxed and close to your sides and your knees slightly bent.
- You don’t have to jump high—about an inch or two off the ground is enough. Land gently on the balls of your feet, then bring your heels down to help absorb the impact.
- Start slowly and gradually increase the speed as you get used to the motion. You may want to initially do double jumps—that is, jump twice for every spin of the rope.
- Work up to two minutes of rapid jumping, and eventually five minutes. You can include 30-second rest periods for every 30 seconds of jumping until you can jump more continuously. Alternatively, you can count your jumps, aiming for, say, 200 jumps a session.
- For more instruction, you can find jump rope workout videos online (for example, on YouTube.com) and supplies at such websites as Jumprope.com.