Is there a greater dichotomy in fitness than the jump-rope? Think about it: Jumping rope is practiced mostly by fourth-grade girls and pro boxers, with few people in between getting on the double-dutch bus. But these two demographics perfectly illustrate why everyone should start jumping rope: It’s fun, and it’s a great workout.
“Jumping rope is the best supplement to a fitness regimen because it requires not only your full physical body but your mental focus, as well,” says Molly Metz, a jump-rope competitor, coach and president of jumpNrope Ltd. “It’s a very low-impact, high-intensity activity that will increase any average fitness enthusiast’s and professional athlete’s stamina, speed, cadence and overall fitness.”
Other forms of cardio such as running or stair climbing may help burn fat and build conditioning, but they don’t do much for developing other physical assets or improving sports performance (unless your sport is running or stair climbing). Jumping rope helps agility, balance and footwork, skills that are valuable in any number of sports and all parts of daily life.
The first part of incorporating a jump-rope into your workout regimen is buying the right rope. The most user-friendly models have a bearing system in the handle, instead of just a knot in the rope. Ideally, the length of the rope should be adjustable on the fly. As your form improves and becomes more efficient, the length of the rope will need to change. Lastly, ropes can vary in weight. Heavier ropes can help new jumpers get a better feel for the timing of jumping while they improve conditioning, and lighter ropes are better for speed and agility.
The Basics: If you have never picked up a rope before, Metz suggests beginning without one. Practice the bound, the short hop that originates from both feet jumping in tandem. Hold your arms out slightly to your sides, with your palms facing forward. Keep your knees slightly bent with only the balls of your feet making contact with the floor. Do not tuck your knees or bring your feet behind you, simply bounce straight up.
Once you progress to using a rope, work on jumping with both feet before starting to alternate feet. Jumping rope is a relatively relaxed exercise. It should not be an explosive jump but rather a compact skip. Keep a light but firm grip on the handles, and make sure you are not jumping too high. There should be no tension in your upper body. Keep your arms relaxed and your shoulders down, and generate the swing through your wrists. Your body will be moving up from the jump as your wrists move down, spinning the rope under your feet.
The Crossover: To get your true “Eye of the Tiger” on (the Rocky films being the best example of a movie-training montage featuring jump-rope, Metz says) as well as show off a bit, you must master the crossover. It not only looks cool but also helps shake out some of the fatigue that can build up in the shoulders when jumping. Begin by getting your rhythm with a basic double-foot or alternate-foot jump. As the rope comes over your head and begins traveling downward, cross your arms so that your hands end up by the opposite front pockets. The elbows should meet in the middle. The motion is very similar to giving yourself a hug, Metz says.
The Double-Under: CrossFit has helped repopularize the jump-rope as a fitness tool, and its athletes often incorporate double-unders (when the ropes passes beneath the feet twice for every jump) into their workouts. The double-under does not require a huge bound, Metz says. Just like the single-under, it is a small, efficient and compact move. To perform a double-under, simply concentrate on rotating the rope quicker rather than jumping higher. Begin by doing one double-under once every two to three single-unders until you can chain them together seamlessly.