Most guys, when you mention a jump rope, will envision two things: the little girls doing double-Dutch in grade school…and the scene in Rocky, where Rocky is jump-roping like mad, his visage steely-eyed and his body rock-hard. For the sake of exercise, let’s think more Rocky and less double-Dutch. The jump rope, long relegated to recess by the majority of sports and exercise trainers, has undergone a Renaissance. What’s the deal with jumping rope–why is it such an awesome workout, what benefits does it have for us Urban Daddies in need of some whipping in shape, and how is it best done?
Jump Rope Benefits
Boxing trainers have long known the secret: jumping rope is a fantastic cardio and strength workout that also improves speed, concentration, and agility. Now, track and field has embraced jumping rope with open arms, just for those reasons, plus the extra benefit in that it has been demonstrated that jumping rope increases running speed. Now, not everyone is a runner, but anything that improves all those areas and also builds strength is worth looking into. You can jump rope inside on a rainy day and get the same physical workout as a jog in the park; you can do it in front of the TV, too. Kids absolutely love it, because it’s fun, so it is a great workout opportunity for the whole family.
Choosing a jump rope for a good workout is all about finding the right length for you. A really tall guy can’t jump with the same length of rope as a shorter one, so always buy a rope that suits your anatomy. To discern the correct jump rope length, put one foot in the center of the rope and grip the handles, holding them up evenly. If the rope is the correct length the handles should reach the chin or shoulders. The rope itself should also be a few centimeters thick, to make sure it swings smoothly.
The Jump Technique
In order to develop the proper jumping technique, take it slow at first. Get comfortable with twirling the rope at a speed of one revolution per stride—but make sure you don’t make the little hitch/hop that many people make. The revolution of the rope should be smooth and uninterrupted. Jumps should only cover a small vertical distance from the jumping surface, barely high enough for your rope to pass beneath you. Jumping too high wastes energy.
Arms and Hands Placement
Be economical with your arms, hands, and wrists. Flailing around wastes energy and interrupts your rhythm. Try to keep your arms as still as possible while turning the rope using small wrist circles. Start the rope swinging with your wrists, not your whole arm, and your elbows should stay close to your body, as if anchored there.
Try a basic routine to strengthen your technique. Your jumps should be done on the balls of your feet, with your knees slightly bent. A two-foot bounce, where you land on the balls of both feet simultaneously, is a good basic jump. When you have that mastered, try the one-foot bounce, where you keep one foot off the ground while repeatedly jumping the rope with the other. This jump needs better balance and also does put more strain on the jumping foot and ankle, so be careful. The alternate foot step is where you prepare to actually move forward while jumping rope: you switch feet upon each rope revolution. This is a less strenuous workout, since the body’s weight is shuttled back and forth between the two feet.
Step and Jog Combinations
Once you have those mastered, try moving forward and adding jumping rope to your jogging routine. It is a step beyond jogging, requiring a three-dimensional consciousness and sense of rhythm that is different from jogging alone. Go slowly at first, focus on your breathing and staying relaxed. Most runners that practice and focus find they can eventually jump and jog/run as fast as they might without the rope. Make sure to time your jumps just before your rope strikes the ground.
As you become more confident and skilled with the jump rope, you can add more speed. This will increase the cardio and strength benefits of jumping rope, but be careful not to overdo it. One way of getting a great workout with a jump rope is by changing your speed throughout.
So get yourself a rope and start jumping. Cue the Rocky music—you’re on your way to better health, strength, speed, and agility!