Updated: June 4, 2015
Jumping Rope for Fitness - Why Jump Rope?If you're looking to add something new to your fitness routine, or just trying to get into better shape and looking for a good aerobic exercise, doing some jump rope work might be just for you. We've all seen kids playing jump rope in the schoolyard, but believe me, it's not just for kids. In fact, jumping rope is one of the best calorie burning exercises around. Depending on how high you jump and how fast you jump, you can burn 500-1000 calories per hour -- that is, if you could actually jump for 60 minutes. Most people start with interval jumping, where they slowly build up their endurance -- they jump rope for 2 or 3 minutes, then rest for a minute (or mix in some other exercise, like push-ups), jump for 2-3 minutes, etc. One big benefit of skipping rope vs. running is that jump rope is a low-impact activity. If you are doing it right, your feet will barely leave the ground as the rope scrapes under along the floor, and you will land soft on your toes and the balls of your feet, not on your heels -- your knees and other joints will thank you! Another benefit to jump roping is the fact that you can do it anywhere -- if you travel a lot, its easy to throw a jump rope into your suitcase and do it in your hotel room on the road. In this guide we will take a look at what gear you need to get started with jump roping, how much it costs, what kind of workouts and exercise routines you can try, and where you can get jump rope workout and training videos if you want them.
Buying a Jump RopeAs you probably expect, jump ropes don't cost a lot of money and don't come with a whole lot of options. Jump ropes come in several styles, from nylon rope to plastic beads to leather to thin and quick speed jump ropes. Most people, myself included, are happiest using a beaded jump rope. These kind of jump ropes have a nice weight to them, make a satisfying slap sound when they hit the floor, and offer a minimum of problems when it comes to tangling and twisting. How much does a good jump rope cost? You can expect to pay $8 to $20 for a jump rope. How long should a jump rope be? Make sure you get the right size rope or adjust it if necessary. When you step on the bottom of the rope and lift the handles up, they should reach about to your armpits -- this allows ample clearance when you start jumping without a lot of excess slack in the rope. All sporting goods stores sell jump ropes. View the best-selling jump ropes here. They carry Harbinger Speed Jump Ropes (adjustable 9' PVC) for just $7, Harbinger beaded ropes for $12, the Valeo Digital Jump Rope for $15 (keeps track of your jumps), the Everlast weighted jump rope for $13, Valeo Speed Rope for just $6 (10ft, solid rubber), and kids plastic and beaded jump ropes starting at just $2-$4. Speed ropes are usually thinner and have special ball bearings in the handle for super-fast swivel and rotation. One note of caution, if you buy a rubber jump rope, you may want to be careful using it on cement or other abrasive surfaces as they can get worn down and eventually break.
JumpSnap - The Ropeless Jump RopeWhen you stop to think about it, if you are jumping rope correctly, you never really come in contact with the rope -- in fact, if the rope suddenly disappeared and you just kept skipping and twirling your wrists, you probably wouldn't miss the "rope" part at all. And if you are older or are worried about tripping over the rope, or have a low ceiling that might get in the way of jumping rope, you might wish you could do away with the rope as well. And wouldn't you know it, someone has thought of that and made a "ropeless" jump rope called JumpSnap. This is an electronic gizmo that counts your jumps, keeps track of time, tells you how many calories you have burned, etc. It looks kind of like 2 electric tooth brushes or little bowling pins (the handles you hold), with a big blue bead dangling from a short (few inches) rope at the end of each handle -- but they are not connected in any way, you just hold one in each hand. When you swing your wrists in normal jump rope fashion, the little bead thing has a weight and motion similar to what a regular jump rope would feel like as it moves, so it really does feel like you are skipping rope when you do it. They come in blue or pink and cost about $60. They also sell DVD jump rope video workouts (a beginner Pilates jump rope combo lesson is included with purchase) for $10 to $39.
Jump Rope WorkoutsWhen you work out with a jump rope, you should wear a good pair of shoes like cross-trainers that help stabilize and support your feet. Even though jumping rope is low impact compared to something like running, your feet still take all the wear and tear and good shoes really help. You also want to jump on a padded surface like a rug or mat -- something that gives a little shock absorption compared to a cement playground. You can buy special jump rope mats, but any kind of cushioned mat or pad will help. You don't want anything really squishy like a sofa pillow - just something that has a little give to it. If you do a search for "jump rope workouts" you can find a variety of suggested exercises to do. In general, your goal is to keep your heart rate up jump as much as you can -- the trick is keeping it interesting so you don't get to bored and mixing it up a little since most people can't just jump for 20-30 minutes straight. One variation is to jump for 2-3 minutes, then do some other exercise for a minute in between, like sit-ups, push-ups, lunges, pull-ups, etc. then jump for 2-3 more minutes, then another exercise, etc. until you get to 20-30 minutes total. As your endurance builds up, you might be able to jump rope for 3-5 minutes at a time with some other exercise mixed in between sets. In fact, as a beginner jump roper, you might have trouble going for 1 minute straight, and that is OK. Do what works for you and build up slowly -- no one becomes a world-class athlete overnight, it takes time, sweat, and practice. Some other jump rope workouts offer things like jumping your feet back and forth with each jump, as if you are slalom skiing (kind of pogoing left and right as you jump). Others involve criss-crossing your arms, which can be tough for beginners. Be sure to do some warm ups and cool down before jumping rope. You can check out this website that has some jump rope workout videos you can play online - everything from speed jumping to a demo of the JumpSnap (above). Check out YouTube.com as well - they have many different jump rope clips showing different moves and techniques to get you thinking and motivated.
For another series of jump rope DVD workouts, check out RopeSport. At $15 each, they offer videos (featuring that hunk Eric Nies from the first MTV Real World) for beginners all the way up to extreme. They carry these DVDs at Amazon (see link above) as well if you are a customer there already, makes it easy. They also sell jump ropes, ranging from $9 for a children's beaded rope to $19 for a premium 4-in-1 jump rope.