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Jumping Rope for Fitness

Change Your Body on the Cheap with This 3-Week Plan!
  -- By Jason Anderson, Certified Personal Trainer
I believe that most people would say jumping rope is for play, not for exercise. After all, you jumped rope as a kid on the playground and you probably forgot about it entirely after fourth grade. And it certainly isn’t touted as a benefit of joining the newest fitness center. “Join our facility! We have an excellent variety of jump ropes!” I doubt you hear that. Even if it isn’t very common as a workout tool, jumping rope fits right in with other forms of aerobic exercise (running, swimming, cycling, etc.). And as a matter of fact, it may be one of the best forms of cardio exercise out there.

For years, top athletes have been using the rope to condition for their sports. Boxers probably come to mind. But with other well-known jumpers like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (basketball), Arnold Schwarzenegger (bodybuilding), Jerry Rice (football), or Michael Chang (tennis) joining in, jumping rope is certainly not for “girly men!”

So is jumping rope for you? Here are several reasons why you might want to give it a try: Before you get started, first make sure you have the right sized rope for you. When you step in the center of the rope, the handles should just reach your armpits. This chart will help you find the correct length rope for your height.

Your Height Rope Length
Under 5' 7'
5' to 5' 5" 8'
5' 6" to 6' 9'
Over 6' 10'

Now that you’ve got the perfect rope, it’s a good idea to spend a couple weeks perfecting your jumping technique—the basic bounce step. Remember that jumping rope is a skilled movement—it takes both coordination and timing to rope with each jump. Keep these pointers in mind:
  1. Hold handles with a firm grip, elbows close to sides.
  2. Make small circles with wrists while turning the rope.
  3. Keep torso relaxed, head lifted, and gaze ahead for balance.
  4. Jump only high enough to clear the rope, with light ankle-knee motion.
  5. During jumping, the rope should skim the surface lightly and your feet should not kick back behind you.
  6. Always land softly on the balls of your feet.
  7. Never sacrifice good jumping form for speed!
Introductory Jump Rope Program
Now that you’ve mastered technique, this three-week program will help you build endurance. Always warm up before you start jumping, either by marching or jogging in place, for about five minutes. Finish each workout with a 5-minute cool down, and be sure to stretch the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and shoulders.

Week 1: Practice the basic bounce step, using an interval (work-rest) training method. Try to jump and rest at a 1:2 ratio (rest twice as long as you jump, such as 15 seconds jumping and 30 seconds resting). Depending on how quickly you pick it up and how conditioned you are, start with around five to 25 consecutive jumps each work period. Then stop, rest, and start jumping again for a total of about three to five minutes. Aim for three practice sessions each week.

Week 2: As you gain confidence and ability, try to increase the number of consecutive jumps you can do before resting. Use the same interval training method, but this time at a 1:1 ratio (your rest time to be equal to your jump time, such as one minute jumping and one minute resting). Repeat your intervals for a total of five to six minutes. Aim for four sessions each week. By the end of week two, you should be able to jump for two to three minutes non-stop.

Week 3 and beyond: By now, you've got the hang of it! You should be able to jump for a few minutes straight without needing a break, keeping a pace around 120 turns per minute (two jumps per second). The goal over the next few weeks is to gradually increase your jumping time (while decreasing your resting time) until you can go for 10 minutes non-stop. Keep jumping rope a part of your workout routine about every other day.

Mastering technique: Now that you're fit to jump for several minutes, try some of the following speed and jumping techniques to keep challenging your body: Jumping rope is an intense, high-impact activity, so it's not something you'd want to do every day—even though it can be addicting! For more workout ideas and techniques, check out the SparkPeople's free 10-Minute Jump Rope Workout.