If you haven’t jumped rope since grade school, you’re missing out. “I picked up a jump rope for the first time at the age of 42, and that was six years ago,” says Janine Delaney, former ballerina and self-described jump-rope queen. “I’m not a fan of running, and I promised myself that I would never force myself to do any exercise I didn’t enjoy,” she says. “I saw a wrestler at my gym skipping rope, and he just looked so cool.” Delaney says that she was initially embarrassed by her limited rope-skipping skills. That quickly changed. “I started practicing in the exercise room of my gym where no one could see me,” she tells HealthyWay. “Eventually, when I could skip a few minutes consecutively, I was brave enough to venture downstairs. Pretty soon I started getting carried away and trying out all new sorts of new tricks. It was fun, and my energy was through the roof.” Over the past several years, Delaney has developed a sizable social media presence, with over 989,000 followers on Instagram alone. She doesn’t just jump rope—she also uses resistance training and weights to meet her fitness goals—but she says that she relies on her rope for her warm-ups and cardio. “Jump-rope workouts tend to be very underrated,” says Tyler Spraul, certified strength and conditioning specialist and head trainer at Exercise.com. “Maybe it’s because it’s easy to see the jump rope as more of a kids’ toy than serious training equipment, but I don’t see a lot of people using them.” But really, this kids’ toy can be a fun, effective, and inexpensive workout tool for adults. Here’s a crash course in this oft-overlooked fitness technique.
Scientific Reasons to Skip: Why You Want to Start a Jump-Rope Workout
We get it; if you’re going to add a new type of exercise to your workout regimen, you need some solid scientific reasons to make the change. Fortunately, science has you covered:
- It’s great cardio. A 2017 study found that vigorous jump roping had advantages over stationary bike exercise (although we should note that the experiment group listened to uptempo dance music while working out—you’re certainly free to do the same).
- It’s good for your bones. Jumping rope is an impact exercise, and a 2006 study found that it improves bone mineral density in women. That’s huge, since even minor differences in bone density can greatly affect your chances of a serious injury.
- It’s practical. A high-quality jump rope also offers practical advantages over elliptical machines, stationary bikes, and other cardio tools. “Jump ropes are excellent tools for conditioning, and they are easy to take anywhere—even on road trips,” Spraul says. “You can adjust the difficulty [or] pace for all levels of experience, and even a beginner can usually pick up the technique and get in a good rhythm after just a few minutes. You can get a great workout in without needing much space at all, and it’s relatively low-impact, so you can use it as a warm-up and/or cool-down as well.”
We’ve got one other reason to start a jump-rope workout: It looks awesome. Pick up a few advanced techniques, and you’ll look like you’ve been doing this for years. Before you get there, though, you actually have to start.
How to Skip Rope: What the Experts Say About Starting a Rope-Skipping Routine
One of the great things about rope jumping is its simplicity. Pick up your rope, start jumping, and you probably won’t make any serious mistakes. With that said, we’ve got a few tips for getting the most out of your first jump-rope workout.
If you’re already exercising regularly, the easiest way to incorporate a jump rope is to start developing your stamina during your warm-up. “Jumping rope is the best way to warm up for any workout session,” Delaney says. “Start slow with 30-second reps and a 30-second rest in between. Once you can do this for a week or two, increase your jumping to one-minute sets, then five, and eventually try for 15 to 20 per workout. Yes, it’s achievable!” We’d like to emphasize the “start slow” thing. To research this article, we started a jump-rope routine, and we overdid it the first day; while we didn’t sustain any real injuries, our calves were incredibly sore after our first 15-minute session.
“Jump only a couple of inches off the ground,” Delaney suggests. “Higher is not better. It will fatigue you faster and does not add value.”
Don’t try to do too much too quickly.
“When you’re first starting out, don’t get caught up trying to do all the fancy double-unders and criss-crosses,” Spraul says. “Keep it simple, and try to add a small hop between rope passes so that you’re not jumping only when the rope is coming through. This will make it easier to get into a rhythm and build your streak of consecutive successful swings.”
Gradually add complexity.
When you’re starting out, focus on simply keeping the rope moving. To keep a steady rhythm, you can try working out to music. Over time, you can start adding in trick jumps and gradually increasing the length of your jump-rope intervals.
“You can adjust the times as needed to train for different goals,” Spraul says. “If you want to slowly ramp things down after a high-intensity workout, you can add a few minutes of jump rope in at the end as well. Just a few minutes at a slower pace can be a great way to allow your system to transition back to its resting state.”
Jump-Rope Workout Challenge: Stepping Up Your Cardio
While jumping rope is a good workout on its own, you’ll maximize your benefits by pulling in other exercises. If you’re ready for a serious challenge, we’ve got you covered. “I incorporate what I call ‘dynamic cardio days’ into my weekly workouts,” Delaney says. “These are cardio days that get my heart pumping. They’re fun, and I design them to incorporate multiple combinations of exercises, including jump rope.” Here’s Delaney’s recommendation for calorie-busting cardio:
- Start with one minute of jumping rope. Keep the pace moderate at first. You can throw in a few double-unders if you’ve got enough experience, but a steady pace is key.
- Continue with one minute of burpees. This will likely feel like the hardest part of the circuit. Focus on keeping your form perfect, and remember to breathe.
- Keep the circuit going with one minute of bear crawls and crab walks. If you have no idea what those exercises are, we’ve linked demonstration videos for each. Again, form is crucial.
- Rest, then restart the circuit. Shoot for three to four repetitions, and be ready for total exhaustion.
Don’t forget the cool-down; it’s certainly one of the most important parts of your workout. “Take advantage of the blood flow you achieve throughout your body when jumping, then finish off with some stretches,” Delaney says. “You will feel like a million dollars when you’re done.”
What type of jump rope should you buy?
You can get a simple jump rope for under $7, and if you’re just starting out, it’ll work just fine. We evaluated a few different ropes and found that most inexpensive ropes were made of PVC, cloth, or plastic beads that resemble uncooked macaroni noodles (you’ll likely remember those plastic-bead jump ropes from gym class in grade school). Of those, we had the most trouble with the PVC ropes, which tend to arrive with twists and bends in the line. With that said, those imperfections usually work themselves out of the jump rope over time, but they’re a bit of a bummer if you’re just starting out. If you’re willing to spend $20 or more, you can find a speed rope made from a high-quality, thin plastic or metal. The thinness allows the rope to move more quickly, so if you’re looking to eventually incorporate advanced techniques like double-unders, they’re a good choice. Just be careful—if you accidentally hit your thighs or ankles, you’ll feel it. Experienced jumpers can look for features like swivel-bearing handles, which further improve speed and reliability. Since jump ropes are relatively inexpensive, we’d recommend picking up a few different options to see which you prefer. Remember, if you’re not enjoying your workout, you probably won’t stick with it. Get a decent jump rope and a basic training plan, and you’ll be skipping with the best of them in no time.