Fitness Articles

Jumping Rope for Fitness

Change Your Body on the Cheap with This 3-Week Plan!

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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:
  • It’s inexpensive. You probably have a jump rope somewhere in your house already. Otherwise, most ropes cost less than $10, while higher-quality ropes are around $20 and top-of-the-line models (made with the best materials) will set you back just $25.
  • You can do it practically anywhere. A jumping surface like hardwood, rubberized flooring, or very thin carpet is preferred, but any hard surface works fine. Outside, inside, at the gym—anything goes.
  • It burns a lot of calories in a short amount of time. It is estimated that 10 minutes of jumping rope (at 120 turns per minute) has the same benefit as jogging for 30 minutes. Those are great numbers for people short on time.
  • It’s compact. A jump rope makes a great addition (or start) to your home gym. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a piece of equipment that takes up a lot of space. A jump rope can fit nicely in a drawer—just don’t forget it’s there!
  • You’ll notice improvements. Jumping rope helps build agility, speed, balance, and coordination, while improving your overall fitness level.
  • You can do it with your family. Because jumping rope is a fun activity that almost anyone can do, it’s also an easy way to get your whole family exercising with you. Try making a game out of it. How many jumps can you do in a minute? How many jumps can you do without stopping or messing up? What kind of cool tricks can you do while keeping the rope turning?
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:
  • Increase your speed. Aim for 180 turns per minute (3 jumps per second).
  • Switch directions. Instead of turning the rope from back to front, switch its direction (forward to back) for more challenge.
  • Crossovers. Cross the rope and your arms in front of your body as you jump through the rope.
  • Scissor jumps. Turn the rope as you normally would, but scissor your legs forward and back (like skiing back and forth) to clear the rope.
  • High stepping. Turn the rope as you normally would, but clear the rope with a high knee run (bringing one knee up high at a time).
  • Jump straddles. Turn the rope as you normally would, but clear the rope with a jumping jack motion with your legs (straddle legs apart then together).
  • Freestyle it! Get creative—invent your own jump!
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.

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Member Comments

  • When I was a kid, jumping rope was my best hobby! I loved double dutch! I was great at it! Now I can't even jump twice in a row without messing up! I have had 3 babies, 2 of which were over 9 lbs...I have to fix THAT area before I can jump or skip without accidents!!!
  • Thank you for the great training program! One of the things I really liked about this article is that you said how to get the right size rope for our height. That's really important! If your rope is too small, then you won't be good at jumping rope at all.

  • I am not clear on how jumping rope can be considered high impact since you only rise at most 1 inch from the surface you are jumping rope on. It will only be high impact if you lock your knees when landing, As for it being hinh impact because both feet are off of the ground the same occurs when running but proper running technique landing on the ball of the landing foot with the knee bent and under your centre of mass mitigates the impact. Landing with the knees slightly flexed when jumping rope also mitigates the minimal impact. Find a video of a boxer jumping rope, they are actually skipping rope with the feet barely clearing the floor.
  • I just started jumping recently. I am still just trying not to have so many trip ups... last time i jumped Ford was President!

    It is such a great workout I can't believe there is not more people here talking about it here.
  • I agree with CarolJ35 - The War Rooms movie is great and the jump rope competition is very inspiring - probably my favorite part of the movie.
  • This is great, but i have low impact knees - affected by years of flat feet. I used to love jumping rope but jumping is no longer one of my skills/abilities. I recommend it to anyone who can do it.
  • Jumping rope would be considered high impact aerobics since both feet are off the floor at the same time. Very hard on the knees and the back. I won't be jumping rope any time soon.
  • I never knew jumping rope was done in competition until today when I saw the movie "War Rooms". Excellent movie and I was introduced to the competition of jumping rope!
  • RENEE20155
    Waaoooww! I'm glad this topic came up @ jumping Rope! I love jumping Rope...i have been lazy with the weightloss regime but jumping rope bails me out like 'a miracle'. I do 500jumps(100x5set
    s) in 7 mins.. trained my body to do that...so much so, if I didn't jump rope in a day, I would feel so heavy!! I also noticed that if I walked for 1hr 30 mins I don't feel fulfilled until I jumped rope. The only snag is..everything tends to reduce in size especially my boobs.. suggestions? ....RENEE
  • I am starting jump rope challenges for 30 days. Will see what happen.
  • I used to do this in high school to supplement strength training (weights and calesthentics) don't think I could do it anymore :(
  • My bladder does not co-operate with jumping rope
  • I LOVE jumping rope. I've been jumping every day for about four years now. It's great for proprioception. It's great for balance. It's great for eye-hand co-ordination. For a time I jumped rope wearing a blindfold. To keep impact low, jump with your two feet together and just lift them off the floor an inch, just enough to clear the rope. I jump rope barefoot. I miss much less often than with shoes on. Remember to never heel strike. All the jumping takes place in the ball of the foot. Have fun.
  • I don't know, is it just me or does jumping rope for 10 minutes straight sound awfully boring? That's a long time when you think about it. I'd rather get cardio benefits from something like Zumba or even just a walk around the neighborhood (where I have interesting things to look at).
  • PURPOSEPOWER95
    I have not jumped rope since I was a girl. ROFL. not trying to die now. But I may consider a mini trampoline soon..we shall see. I loved jumping rope as a girl...brings back fun memories

About The Author

Jason Anderson Jason Anderson
Jason loves to see people realize the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. He is a certified personal trainer and enjoys running races--from 5Ks to 50K ultramarathons. See all of Jason's articles.