10 Benefits of Jumping Rope for When You Need to Shake Up Your Cardio
There’s a lot to love about jumping rope—and many benefits of jumping rope that’ll make you want to add it to your routine. This old-school workout tool delivers a cheap, portable form of cardio and total-body strengthening. And it may help you get in an intense, sweaty workout without having to leave your home, which makes it a great choice during these pandemic times.
Beyond that, jumping rope can provide a host of serious athletic benefits, from coordination to explosive power to agility. And yet another big perk: It’s just plain fun.
Perhaps it’s no surprise then that jumping rope seems to be rising in popularity. Kollins Ezekh, a certified personal trainer and director of programming at Mayweather Fit Atlanta, tells SELF he’s definitely seen more clients express interest in jumping rope recently. He recommends the activity as a tool people can use to stay active—especially during this time when many people are still avoiding exercising indoors at gyms.
Convinced yet? Yeah, same. Before we get deeper into the benefits of jumping rope, here’s more that you should about this stellar type of exercise.
What is jumping rope?
Jumping rope is a form of exercise that involves swinging a rope around your body and jumping over it as it passes under your feet. It’s a form of cardiovascular training since the constant movement elevates your heart rate.
The basic concept of jumping rope is simple. But depending on your fitness goals, there are a lot of different ways you can use the jump rope, Maggie Mosbarger, certified personal trainer and instructor at Punk Rope and Beastanetics in New York City, tells SELF.
Some people, for example, jump rope at a fast pace as a way to train for speed and agility, while others focus on jump rope moves like the double-under (jumping up and swinging the rope under your feet twice before you land again) to develop explosive power. Still others use the jump rope as a creative outlet by experimenting with more unique, dancelike movements, Mosbarger explains. How you choose to wield the rope is, of course, totally up to you. And while jumping rope can be a great workout on its own, you can also use it as a warm-up or cooldown before weight training, or intersperse it with bodyweight exercises in an interval-style workout, says Mosbarger.
How can beginners start jumping rope?
You don’t need any baseline skills to jump rope. All you need is a properly sized rope, an appropriate surface, comfortable clothes, and a little beginner know-how on proper form.
Here’s how to ensure your rope is the right size: Grab a handle in each hand, step one foot into the middle of the rope, and pull the handles up to your chest so that they’re even with each other, says Mosbarger. If the tops of the handles reach your armpits, your rope is sized correctly. If they’re too short, you need a longer rope. If they’re too long, you can adjust the length by either fiddling with the latched device that sits inside the handle (many jump ropes have this, says Mosbarger), or by tying a sturdy knot underneath the handles on each side of the rope.
Avoid jumping rope on superhard surfaces like concrete or asphalt as those can be hard on your joints, says Ezekh. Supersoft surfaces, like grass and sand, are also not great as they don’t provide enough push back, he adds. (Plus, your rope would likely get tangled in grass and sand.) Mosbarger recommends jumping on top of a mat, if possible. You can buy a specialized jump rope mat, or simply use a thin yoga mat. Jumping on top of a mat helps soften the impact on your joints, explains Ezekh. You can also jump on top of wood or really any type of gym floor, adds Mosbarger.
As for attire, regular supportive sneakers are totally okay, says Mosbarger, and any clothing you have that’s comfortable and not too baggy (so that it doesn’t get caught on the rope) will work just fine, says Ezekh.
What does good jump rope form entail?
It should start with good posture—think shoulders down and back, chest up, back straight, and eyes looking straight ahead. Position your elbows at the midline of your body, about two inches away from your sides, with hands pointing straight out, says Mosbarger. Engage your abs, Christa DiPaolo, certified personal trainer in Miami and creator of Boxing and Bubbles at-home workouts, tells SELF. Then, with a handle in each hand, turn the rope using small circles with your wrists, says Ezekh. Keep a soft bend in your knees, stay on the balls of the feet, and only jump high enough to clear the rope—no more than an inch, says Ezekh. By keeping your jumps low to the ground, you’ll be able to jump both faster and longer, since you won’t be expending excess energy, explains DiPaolo.
On the footwork front, start with the basics, says DiPaolo. She recommends the basic bounce (both feet jump once with each rotation of the rope) or double basic bounce (basic bounce, plus a small jump in between each rotation). You could also do the boxer shuffle, which is essentially a small jog in place where you shift your weight side to side. From there, you can branch out to straddles (basically, jumping jacks minus the arm movement), and staggers (scissoring your legs forward and back), suggests Mosbarger.
Once you have the form nailed, focus on jumping to a steady rhythm. “That’s when the magic happens,” explains Ezekh. Listening to music and trying to jump in time with the beat can help you establish a good rhythm, he says. You can also pick a fast-paced song and try to jump along to it as a way to improve your speed, says Mosbarger.
One note, though: If you’re new to jump rope, be sure to ease into it, Benedict Nwachukwu, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon and specialist in hip, knee, and shoulder surgery at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, tells SELF. Otherwise, you could increase your risk of overuse injuries. He recommends starting with 30 seconds of jumping interspersed with similar time periods of rest. If you can tolerate that, gradually increase the length of the interval. Because jump rope is such a cardio-centric, high-impact activity, chat with your doctor first if you have known heart problems or a history of lower-body injury.
Do you need a weighted jump rope?
When shopping for jump ropes, you may notice some ropes advertised as weighted ropes. These are essentially just ropes that are heavier than average. A lightly weighted rope (think: a quarter-pound) can be helpful for beginners, says DiPaolo, as it allows you to better feel the rotation of the rope, which can help improve your rhythm and timing.
Heavily weighted ropes, on the other hand, are more appropriate for advanced jumpers, as they add more resistance to your training. “It is like using five-pound dumbbells in each hand while you jump rope,” explains Ezekh This extra weight would make jumping rope feel more difficult and be especially challenging for your shoulders, arms, and core.
Unless you’re an advanced exerciser specifically looking for an extra upper-body challenge, you should stick with either a lightly weighted rope or a non-weighted rope.
Consider the above your “how” to jump rope—now continue on for more information on why you should consider adding it to your routine.
Physical Benefits of Jumping Rope
1. Efficient cardio
If you’re looking for an effective cardio option, jumping rope is one of the best exercises you can do, says DiPaolo. “It gets your heart rate up really quickly,” she explains. That’s because it involves so many different muscle groups working together at once.
Jumping rope is a vigorous-intensity activity, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers one minute of vigorous-intensity activity about the same as two minutes of moderate-intensity activity (which includes things like walking fast or playing doubles tennis) in terms of health benefits (for instance, reduced risks of heart disease and diabetes). That means you can incorporate jump rope into your workout to get the same benefits as moderate-intensity activity in about half the time.
2. Total-body strengthening
Jumping rope is full-body strengthening. “It’s really head-to-toe engagement the entire time,” says Mosbarger. The movement especially targets your legs, says Ezekh (think: calves, quads, and hamstrings, as well as the muscles in your feet and ankles). And it also works your core, biceps, and shoulders, says DiPaolo. What’s really neat is that you don’t have to actively think about engaging all of these muscle groups at once while you jump—it tends to just happen naturally, says Mosbarger.
3. Boosts bone density
Jumping rope can help build bone density as a result of the impact of jumping, says Dr. Nwachukwu. Indeed, a small 2015 study of premenopausal women showed that jump rope can improve hip bone mineral density. This matters because bone density tends to decrease with age, explains Dr. Nwachukwu, which can lead to conditions including osteomalacia (pronounced softening of the bones) and osteoporosis, and predispose you to fractures. By building bone density through activities like jumping rope, you can reduce your risk of these issues, he says. If you already have osteoporosis, though, it’s best to ask your doctor first before starting exercise like jumping rope, since the high impact may be harmful to already weakened bones, the Mayo Clinic says.
4. Increases agility
Proper jump rope form involves moving from the balls of your feet, and that helps develop good footwork and agility, explains Ezekh. This benefit of jump rope translates especially well to sports where you have to change direction very quickly, says Ezekh. Think: boxing, basketball, and volleyball.
5. Improves coordination
Jumping rope requires a lot of coordination, says Mosbarger. Your hands, feet, and sometimes even eyes all need to work together to ensure you swing the rope properly, jump over it at the right time, and then repeat the pattern at a steady cadence. This high level of coordination may feel super challenging at first, but stick with it and you’ll see your baseline skills improve. As this happens, you’ll be able to tackle new footwork patterns and tricks with the rope, which can keep the activity feeling fresh and fun.
6. Trains power
Once you master basic jump rope technique, you can up the ante with moves like the double under. Doing a double under demands a more forceful, higher jump, which means practicing this move can be a good way to increase your explosive power, says Ezekh. That, in turn, can serve you well in sports like volleyball, where vertical jumps are really important, he says.
7. Enhances balance
Jumping rope can be an effective way to boost your balance. A small 2015 study of young soccer players concluded that jumping rope as part of a regular soccer program can be an additional method to improve balance (as well as motor coordination). As the study explains, when you jump rope, you have to re-establish your balance in between each jump, and you also need good balance in order to effectively jump up again. Other research finds that lower muscular power (which you can train by jumping) can correlate to better agility, and thus better balance. You can also do certain jump rope drills—like jumping on just the ball of one foot, or jumping from side to side—to further challenge your balance, says DiPaolo.
Mental Benefits of Jumping Rope
1. Can be meditative
Although it’s pretty intense, jumping rope can actually be a very meditative activity. “I always find my zone when I start jumping rope,” explains Mosbarger. “Once you hear the rhythm and get into your groove, you can get lost in that.”
She describes it as a form of active meditation that allows you to focus your entire attention on just keeping a steady rhythm—and nothing else. You can also play a mindfulness game with it, she adds, by closing your eyes, and taking 30 seconds to simply listen to the sound of your rope or other sounds and sensations in your surrounding environment.
2. Improves spatial awareness
Regularly jumping rope can improve your spatial awareness, says Ezekh. That’s because you constantly have to be aware of what’s in front, behind, and to the sides of you when you’re jumping rope—especially if you’re in a small space; otherwise, you could hit nearby objects with your rope. The improved spatial awareness you gain from jumping rope can “definitely make you a better athlete,” says Ezekh. “There’s a lot of scenarios where being aware of space and being able to be agile can be very beneficial.”
3. Is good, old-fashioned fun
Jumping rope, and the full-body coordination it requires, can be challenging at first. But with consistency, people tend to improve their skills quickly, says Mosbarger, and once that happens, “it can be a lot of fun,” says DiPaolo. Maybe it’ll make you feel like a carefree kid again. Perhaps you’ll find a lot of joy in learning new tricks. Or maybe you’ll fall in love with its meditative qualities. “I feel like everybody [who can] should try to jump rope and see how they like it,” says Ezekh, “because it might be something that they’ll really enjoy.”
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