How to Maximize Your Jump Rope Workout

When you think about cardio equipment, treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes may come to mind. But curious to know one of the best tools you can use to get your heart pumping that doesn’t cost hundreds and that you can use anywhere? The jump rope.

This inexpensive, portable device can deliver a super efficient and fun workout in little time. Jumping rope actually works almost every body part. It recruits muscles in your calves, shoulders, forearms, quadriceps, glutes, and especially in your core. “Your whole body has to coordinate,” explains NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist Kaylee Woodard. “That brings in your core, or else you will be flopping around everywhere.”

Many athletes train with jump ropes because, on top of this improved coordination, jumping helps develop explosive power and strengthen the ankles, which may help reduce the risk of injury in the joint.

To help you experience all these benefits and get the most of your jump rope workouts, follow these tips from Woodard and her husband Nick. The two are multiple-time national and world jump rope champions, and they co-founded and co-own Learnin’ the Ropes, a youth jump rope program. If there’s anyone to learn how to jump rope from, it’s these two! (Check out their Instagram videos and try to stop your jaw from hitting the ground.)

How to Pick the Best Jump Rope for You

Not every jump rope is the same. Lightweight “speed” jump ropes are best for experienced jumpers who want to do skills like double-unders. If your goal is to master the basics, you could end up tangled and frustrated with that kind of rope. Instead, start with a beaded jump rope. “It’s one of the best things you can use because the weight of the beads helps you feel every revolution,” says Nick, who is also a personal trainer. “A lot of times, people just flick their wrists and don’t know what the rope is doing. A beaded jump rope gives you feedback.” He even uses beaded jump ropes to teach CrossFit students how to do double-unders.

Once you know what type of rope to use, to determine the proper length, hold the rope by the handles and stand in the middle of it. Pull the handles up by your sides. You want them to be right underneath your armpits. If a rope is too long, simply tie knots near the handles. You may also be able to adjust the length by opening the handles up; check the manufacturer directions.

Perfect Your Jump Rope Form

As with any exercise, to get the most benefit and also stay injury-free, you want to use proper form with a jump rope. “A lot of people think jump rope will kill your knees if you aren’t active or are a beginner. That’s not the case if you do it correctly,” Kaylee says. “You’re only jumping about an inch off the ground; it’s not that high of an impact.” According to Nick, proper form includes:

  • Staying relaxed in the shoulders
  • Focusing on turning mostly from your wrists and a little from your forearms
  • Jumping on the balls of your feet
  • Keeping your knees soft (you don’t want to lock them out)
  • Actively engaging your core the entire time
  • Keeping your eyes forward (not up or down)

How to Improve Your Jump Rope Skills

For anyone who loathes when a fitness instructor says to grab jump ropes, don’t despair. You can improve your jump rope ability. If you’re starting with the basics, Kaylee suggests putting both jump rope handles in one hand and practicing swinging the rope by your side; do this with each hand one at a time. “This will help you learn how to control and feel the rope,” she explains. “Then when you have a handle in each hand and start moving it, you will understand how it’s moving around your body.”

As you start jumping, it can be frustrating. “It’s not like running where you can just do it,” Nick says. “You have to build up coordination.” For any level jump roper, the Woodards recommend doing intervals. “We don’t jump for 30 minutes straight. We don’t even jump for five minutes just to jump for five minutes,” Nick explains. They only might jump consistently for that long if they’re training for a competition, where they need to jump for three minutes straight. (Jumping for slightly longer while training helps build up the endurance they’ll need for the big day.)

Nick suggests aiming to do six sets of 30 seconds of jump rope. So try to jump for 30 seconds. When that time is up, rest. Then try to jump for another 30 seconds. Do this for as many sets as you can, until you can do six sets. And even if you get tripped up and only jump for five or 10 seconds during your intervals, you’re getting good exercise.

“You are still burning calories because you’re putting forth continuous effort,” Kaylee explains. “You’re also accomplishing a workout and getting better at a new skill. That provides huge mental benefits.” Try to be patient with yourself (and the rope), and you will experience the endorphins—and that will keep you coming back for more. “Just have fun and try to jump,” Nick says.

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