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While jumping rope might seem like a basic and relatively easy activity that many of us learn to do as young children, we soon come to realize that it holds some serious merit in the exercise sphere. Jumping rope not only can help increase your heart rate and facilitate weight loss, but it also can be a valued training tool used by some of the world’s professional athletes across all categories.
“Jumping rope requires a combination of short, explosive jumps over a rope that also requires continuous rhythm and timing to keep the rope going steadily,” explains Bill Daniels, CSCS, CPT, certified personal trainer and founder of Beyond Fitness . “The results you get from jumping rope can be vast, but usually you see an improvement in leg strength, cardiovascular endurance, weight loss and improved energy.”
Perhaps the best feature of this underrated form of cardio is that it can be performed by most people — from rookie exercisers to professional athletes alike. Due to the fact that it does require impact, those who are overweight or obese should proceed with caution, notes Rachel Straub, MS, CSCS, co-author of Weight Training Without Injury , because higher body mass index increases impact forces during landing, which increases the risk for injury.
“If your surface is cement, this makes matters worse. Therefore, a softer surface (such as grass) to decrease the level of shock absorption is advised,” she says.
If you struggle with basic balance exercises (such as standing on one leg), Straub also recommends proceeding with caution if you decide to jump rope.
“If you have limited strength and flexibility in your calves, this will make it harder for you to jump rope properly,” she says. “If your cardiovascular fitness is poor, you will have a tendency to tire too quickly, which also increases risk for injury.”
As basic as jumping rope might seem, it offers some serious health and fitness benefits. Here’s a look at some of the key workout benefits to jumping rope.
One of the most appreciated benefits of jumping rope is the fact that it can burn a ton of calories in a short amount of time. To burn the most calories, however, Straub points out that you need to be able to jump rope without tiring too quickly — therefore, successful calorie burning requires endurance, which skipping rope also helps improve.
“If you incorporate jumping rope into a well-rounded exercise program, you will benefit the most as improvements in cardiovascular fitness, balance, coordination and strength will lead to the ability to jump rope longer,” she adds.
One of the best ways to improve your heart health is by getting your heart rate up through physical exercise, according to the American Heart Association . Luckily, the humble jump rope is one of the most streamlined workouts that can help boost your heart rate.
“By elevating your heart rate, you improve the strength of your heart, and that leads to better health and lower risk of heart disease,” Daniels explains. “It can be a fun way to challenge yourself, too, when you try to do double-unders, which require more power and coordination.”
Speaking of coordination, another appreciated workout benefit to jumping rope is that it is an excellent way to improve your coordination. “To jump rope repetitively without stopping, you must learn to coordinate the action of your upper and lower body,” Straub says. “The inclusion of the rope itself enhances coordination requirements, as this increases demands on the arms and hands.”
Jumping rope improves strength throughout the entire body, including your core, shoulders and lower body (ankles, knees and hips), according to Straub. The impact from jumping also helps improve bone health. “If building strength via jump roping is a high priority, a weighted jump rope would be best. However, you should make sure you can jump rope successfully with a standard rope before adding weight,” she says.
If you’re looking to take advantage of the workout benefits of jumping rope , here are some ways to incorporate the activity into your fitness regimen.
As with most workouts, it’s a good idea to start slow when it comes to jump rope. “Many people will often go full speed right away only to find that it is far more challenging than they originally thought,” Daniels says. He recommends pacing yourself in the beginning by setting small goals, like jumping 20 times without missing or making it one full minute. “Just like any new exercise, you may be a little sore the next day, but over time, that will go away,” he says.
“If you stand on the center of the rope with one foot, you should be able to hold the handles in each hand right by your chest,” says Kyra Williams, NASM-certified online personal trainer and nutrition expert, CrossFit Level 2 trainer, and USA Weightlifting and USA Powerlifting coach. She recommends ensuring your rope is the right length by practicing. “If it’s too long, it will lag. If it’s too short, you will likely hit yourself,” she says.
You may not be able to go 30 minutes right away — and that’s OK. Daniels suggests doing whatever length of time you can and then adding a little bit more to each workout. “Before you know it, you will be jumping for as long as you want and will be amazed at how quickly you can improve,” he says.