Aside from being a great exercise on its own, the skills developed by jumping rope benefit almost any athletic endeavor.
Since I was in grade school, Jump Rope for Heart has promoted fitness in schools while also raising money for heart health research and education. But the benefits of jumping rope go far beyond the school ground.
A few weeks ago Elizabeth sent me a message on Facebook saying, “Hello! Could you make a recommendation for a jump rope workout? I have one arriving today and don't know where to start. I'm trying to incorporate higher intensity cardio into my workout. Thanks!”
I did, in fact, send Elizabeth a link to a jump rope workout that I really like but I did it with some hesitation. Jumping rope is pretty darn safe overall but, with any new workout modality, there are some risks involved, especially if you are just starting out or returning to it after a long hiatus.
Some common injuries that can occur with jumping rope are:
- Twisted ankle
- Ankle sprain
- Shin splints
- Calf strain
- Achilles tendon strain
- Plantar fasciopathy
- Patellar tendonitis
- Stress fractures
Now, I didn’t list those to scare you or put you off of jumping rope, I just wanted you to be aware that just because kids do this activity in the playground doesn’t mean it isn’t a killer workout that can certainly leave its mark.
The Jump Rope Basics
Start by selecting a rope that is the correct length for you by stepping on the center of the rope, with your feet together, and then pull the handles straight up. When you do this, the handles should reach roughly the height of your shoulders.
Start by standing with your feet hip width apart, torso tall and your elbows bent at about a 45-degree angle. To begin with, until you get into some fancier jumping moves, you’ll want your elbows close in near your body. Make sure to use your wrists to swing the rope instead of your arms. You’ll find that once the rope gets moving it is easy to keep it going with just a flick of the wrist.
To jump, simply push off from the balls of your feet and lift your feet just high enough to clear the rope and then land again with slightly bent knees to minimize the impact.
Beginners can start with about 30 seconds of consecutive jumping (or 50 repetitions) but limit yourself to three or four sets until you are certain your body can handle it. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between each set and use that time to shake out your ankles and legs before you get yourself mentally focused for the next set.
After a while, you can increase the length of your sets to 60 to 90 seconds of jumping (or 100 to 150 repetitions). Alternately, you can shorten your rest periods to 15 to 30 seconds. Either way, you will be increasing the workout.
At first, I would suggest only doing two jump rope workouts per week but you can eventually increase that to three or four per week, just make sure they are on nonconsecutive days so you have adequate time to recover.
After a few weeks, you can work your way up to about 20 minutes of jumping during those three or four jump workouts per week. Those jump sets can last two to five minutes in duration (or 200 to 500 repetitions) where you complete four of five sets per workout, resting 15 to 60 seconds between sets. Once you can handle that the fun begins!
Intermediate Jump Rope Workout
Here is a fun and relatively easy-to-remember-and-master workout that you can try when you are confident your calves, shins, and ankles can handle it. Do each of these variations for one minute separated by one minute of rest.
Basic: Swing the rope over your head, jump as it passes under your feet, and then land evenly on both feet.
Alternating Foot: Shift your weight onto your right foot and swing the rope over your head. Jump off your right foot as the rope passes under your feet and land on your right foot. Then switch to land on your left foot. Keep doing this, alternating back and forth, left to right for one minute.
Combo: Do the alternating foot version for five jumps on each foot and then do ten basic jumps.
High Knee: Similar to the alternating foot variation but now you raise each knee, up towards your chest, to a 90-degree angle with each jump.
Go Long: This is the big finish. Do any combination of the above that allows you to do a continuous jump interval of five minutes. If you have to take a break, make it brief and get back at it. Once you hit five minutes, you are done. Go stretch and foam roll (especially your calves and shins) and hit the showers!