Jumping rope is mostly associated with fighters and kids on a playground. However, it offers a multitude of benefits – like contributing to a healthy heart – to any person interested in their overall fitness and athletic prowess.
There is, actually, a sort of triad of physical fitness and athleticism:
- Cardiovascular and respiratory endurance represented by the ability to capture and deliver large quantities of oxygenated blood (and remove metabolic wastes) throughout the body over extended periods
- Musculoskeletal strength represented by bone density, muscle mass, and power
- Neuromuscular linkage represented by coordination, quickness, and agility
Benefits of Jumping Rope
It’s generally understood that jumping rope improves footwork – a positive impact on one’s neuromuscular linkage. Jumping rope develops the competency to avoid tripping and losing one’s balance while the body is in high-speed motion.
It is perhaps less well understood that jumping rope also improves cardiovascular (i.e., heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries) and respiratory (i.e., lungs) endurance. Moreover, it offers endurance gains while being gentler on the body’s most sensitive joints. Jumping rope in basic execution, as opposed to running, distributes impact with the ground onto the balls of the forefeet simultaneously. Running, in all cases, more forcefully distributes impact with the ground to one foot at a time, and in many cases, onto the heel.
It is also not appreciated by many folks that jumping rope even has some musculoskeletal benefit!
Choosing the Right Equipment for a Speed Workout
Right off the bat, it’s pretty obvious that jumping rope is an inclusive activity. For as little as $8, a jump rope can be purchased, and for as little as $35, a “top of the line” rope can be purchased. Whether you spend $8 or $35, this simple piece of equipment is handy, portable, and unobtrusive enough to go pretty much wherever your travels take you; take it to the track, tennis courts, or boxing ring.
For heart-oriented activity, the best equipment choice is a lightweight speed rope made of vinyl or plastic and finished with plastic beads, as opposed to a weighted leather rope. Such a rope lends itself to faster jumping paces and higher spinning speeds while the beads help the rope to hold shape and the jumper to maintain control while striking the ground’s surface; a distorted rope – like one full of kinks after being carelessly tossed uncoiled into the gym bag – will give you more problems.
Whatever rope you decide to use, it remains important that it’s the proper length for your height. Ideally, the ends of the rope should, with the jumper standing on the middle of the rope, extend up to the armpits. Ropes that are too long can be cut to a better length. The shorter the rope, the faster its speed; but, a rope too short will be harder for the feet and head to avoid.
Ropes are, of course, portable. However, there are surfaces better suited to jumping rope than others to which you could take your rope. The surface should be level, clear of obstructions, and somewhat flexible or shock absorbent: wood-floored gymnasiums, rubber-coated tracks, and clay tennis courts are prime choices.
Concrete and asphalt are less than ideal jumping surfaces; they’re too hard and, if rough, they scrape and scuff your rope. If you do find yourself on a hard surface, try to wear a pair of sneakers with cushion – like cross trainers.
Developing Basic Skills
Before you can start jumping at high-speed for extended periods to ramp up your heart rate, you might need to develop the skill to repeatedly jump and clear a rope without tripping.
Start with a basic jump. The basic jump calls for both feet leaving and reconnecting with the ground at the same time. With each basic jump, the rope makes one pass beneath the feet.
Set yourself a target. For instance, you say, “I’m going to do basic jumps for 30 seconds, rest for 5 seconds, and then do another set.” One might choose to 10 sets in the timed fashion.
Alternatively, you might say to yourself, “I’m going to do basic jumps until I get tired, rest until I’m ready to restart, and then do more basic jumps. I’ll stop when I have a hard time avoiding trips on the rope.”
Conditioning the Heart and Lungs
When you’ve got the basic jump nailed, you can move toward a more structured endurance workout for the heart. You could try doing intervals, i.e., segments of greater hustle with segments of lesser hustle that condition the heart and lungs for intervals of higher cardiovascular and respiratory demand. Boxers jump rope in intervals to mimic rounds in a match. For example:
A double under jump requires two passes of the rope beneath the feet per jump; so, one will have to jump higher and/or spin the rope faster. As you become better conditioned, it may be possible for you to mimic “going the distance” and doing 12 rounds! This will be a tremendous workout for your heart and lungs.
Another interval option would be to eliminate the rest periods and simply alternate basic jumping speed from spinning the rope as fast as possible to half of that and so on.
How fast you are able to go and how long will depend on both your cardiovascular and respiratory condition as well as your skill with the rope. While your endurance may slowly and steadily improve by simply jumping for a longer amount of time, to improve your work rate (i.e., how many calories you burn in a given time) will probably require improving your jumping skill through attempting other jumps, such as alternating and crisscrossing.
Alternate jumps require alternating the foot that pushes off from the ground. It is closer to running or skipping. Alternating basically doubles the jumps from a basic jump. A criss-cross jump is a basic jump with each hand crossing to the other side of the body with each jump.
While you may not be destined for a fight in the ring, your heart and knees nevertheless will appreciate your decision, over the long term, to jump rope.