When it comes to fitness, it’s easy to get stuck in your routine. You go to the same classes, use the same machines, run the same distance, etc. After a while you can hit a plateau or get burned out. That’s when you might want to give your workouts a jump-start — with a jump rope.
Turns out that one of your favorite childhood activities is one of the most effective workouts you can do. In fact, studies show that 10 minutes of jumping rope is roughly the equivalent of running an eight-minute mile — and it’s easier on your joints.
But here’s the real beauty of this exercise: Jumping rope doesn’t require special skills, fancy equipment, or a personal trainer to get you started. It’s something that anyone from a total beginner to a professional athlete can do with very little financial investment and minimal risk of injury. It’s great for people who travel — a jump rope fits in any bag — and for people who don’t care for the gym. And it’s fun. If you have children or grandchildren you can even make a game of getting fit.
Get the Right Jump Rope
The jump rope you choose is important. You don’t want the flimsy plastic kind you used as a kid. You want a sturdy rope in a medium or heavy weight. The heavier the weight, the harder it will be to swing the rope and the more muscles you will engage. XYLsports has a good, basic rope that’s adjustable in length for less than $8, but for something jazzier, Tangram Factory’s Smart Rope Pure tracks revolutions and calories burned and syncs with your iPhone or iPad.
To get the most out of your jump rope workout, make sure your rope is the correct length. Too long or too short and the exercise will be too hard to sustain. To find your perfect jump rope length, stand on the center of your rope and bring the handles to your armpits. There’s the length for you.
Once you have a proper-length jump rope, all you have to do is find some space and start jumping. It’s that simple.
Now Start Jumping
When you jump, land lightly on the balls of your feet. Feet should stay low to the ground; don’t try to jump too high. Avoid using your arms to turn the rope; use your wrists instead. Keep your hands slightly above your waist and rotate your wrists in a circular motion, leaving your arms and shoulders out of the exercise. With only a little practice, you will find your rhythm.
If you’re just beginning a fitness program, start by aiming for 50 revolutions in 30 seconds or 100 revolutions in 6o seconds. Do that 8 to 10 times, resting for 60 seconds between each period of jumping.
Jump rope on cardio day for a calorie-torching workout or use jumping rope as a warm-up on a strength-training day. Alternate body-weight exercises and jumping rope for balanced interval training. Experiment with speed and timed drills to change things up and build stamina. Once you’re feeling confident, add some of those fancy playground moves we all remember as kids.
Bonny Osterhage is co-founder and small-group trainer at BodyArchitecture Personal Training and Fitness in San Antonio, Texas.