Use a Jump Rope for an Inexpensive and Portable Workout

Jumping Rope is a Fast Portable Way to Build Fitness

Hispanic woman jumping rope during workout
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A jump rope can be one of the most cost-effective ways to add high-intensity cardiovascular fitness to your workout routine. If you want an inexpensive and efficient workout, the jump rope might be the ultimate "must have" piece of fitness equipment. When done properly, jumping rope can improve cardiovascular fitness, improve balance and agility, increase muscular strength and endurance, and burn calories.

You can use a jump rope during your interval training sessions to keep your heart rate elevated and give your muscles a rest in between weight lifting intervals. You can easily bring a jump rope with you when you're traveling. Try combining its use with simple bodyweight exercises and you have a dependable and portable exercise routine anywhere you end go.

3 Benefits of Jump Roping

You may think the jump rope is simply a childhood toy, but jumping rope is a medium-impact exercise with many benefits:

  • Improves Balance, Agility, and Coordination
    • Jump rope workouts were originally done in boxing gyms. Boxers still use rope jumping to build stamina and foot speed. The various foot movement patterns they use demand coordination, agility, and quick reflexes. Some of these variations include one leg jumping and double unders (for each jump, you spin the rope around twice) to add difficulty.
  • High-Calorie Burner
    • Depending on your skill level and your jumping rate, you can burn from anywhere 10 to 15 calories a minute by jumping rope. Faster rope jumpers can burn calories at a rate similar to running.
  • Builds Fitness Fast
    • Rope jumping can be demanding and is a great addition to an interval training or cross-training routine. Consider adding rope jumping for 30 to 90 seconds in between other exercise sets. One idea is to use rope jumping after each weight lifting set or another circuit exercise. This creates an efficient whole-body workout that incorporates both cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength in one session.

Precautions for Jumping Rope

If you have high blood pressure, rope jumping may not be the best exercise choice for you. The downward arm position may reduce the blood flow back to the heart which may further increase blood pressure. However, studies have shown that rope jumping at a moderate intensity was beneficial for subjects who were pre-hypertensive. Either way, if you have hypertension and/or a heart condition, discuss the potential risks of using a jump rope with your doctor before you start to exercise.

Rope Jumping: Getting Started

Think you're ready to give it a go? Here, the basics of what you need to know and do:

1. Choose a Jump Rope

Jump ropes are available in all sorts of materials and with a variety of high-tech handles. Some of these materials help jump ropes turn faster with a smooth motion; some options even have a swivel action between the cords and handles. The rope you buy should be comfortable to hold and have a smooth spin.

Weighted jump ropes may help develop upper body muscle tone and endurance. These ropes are not really for beginners, and they aren't necessary for those who want an agility workout, either. If you do buy a weighted rope, be sure the weight is in the rope rather than the handles to avoid straining your wrists, elbows, and/or shoulders.

Size your jump rope by standing on the center of the rope and pulling the handles up along your sides. For beginners, the handles should just reach your armpits. As you become more skilled and fit, you may shorten your jump rope. A shorter rope will turn faster, forcing you to jump more.

2. Jump Rope Technique

As with any exercise, using proper technique helps ensure a more safe and effective workout.

  • Good jumping form includes keeping your shoulders relaxed and elbows in and slightly bent.
  • You should have very few upper body movements.
  • Most of the turning power and motion should come from your wrists, not your arms.
  • While jumping, keep your knees slightly bent. Bounce softly up and down on the toes. Your feet should leave the floor just enough to allow the rope to pass under.
  • Land softly on the balls of the feet to avoid knee injuries.
  • Don't jump high or land hard.
  • Use a jumping surface that is smooth, free of obstacles and forgiving. Wood, a sports court, or a rubberized mat are best. Never jump on concrete.
  • Have patience and start slowly.

3. Warm Up Before Jumping Rope

Before you begin jump roping, do a gentle, 5 to 10-minute warm-up. This can include walking or jogging in place, or even slow tempo rope jumping.

4. Gradually Increase Time and Intensity

Jumping rope can be a relatively intense, high-level exercise. Be sure to start slowly and increase gradually. You might try about three 30-second sets at the end of your usual workout for the first week. Depending upon your current fitness level, you may feel nothing or some slight soreness in the calf muscles. This can help you determine how much to do on your next jump rope session. Gradually increase the number of sets you perform—or the duration for which you perform them—over several weeks until you work up to about ten minutes of continuous rope jumping.

Stretching After Jumping Rope

A good cool down and stretching session after jumping rope is helpful to gradually reduce your heart rate and relax your muscles.

Jump Rope Sample Workouts

Rope jumping is a sport, and there are a wide variety of variations of workouts. Here are some of the more popular combinations:

  • Double foot jump — This is the basic jump. Both feet take off from the ground slightly and land together.
  • Alternate foot jump — This uses a skipping type of step, and you land more prominently on one foot after each rope spin.
  • Running step — A slight jog is incorporated while jumping over the rope.
  • High step — A moderate pace with a high knee lift will increase intensity.
  • Cross step — While in the air during the jump phase, cross your lower legs and land with legs crossed. Continue to switch with each jump.
  • Side-to-side — Alternate landing areas from left to right.

If you're interested in a list and descriptions of sports-specific training jumps, try former Olympic wrestler and jump rope expert Buddy Lee's training techniques, which can be found on The Jump Rope Institute's website. A book of these techniques, Buddy Lee's Jump Rope Training, is also available.

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