Aside from being a great exercise on its own, the skills developed by jumping rope benefit almost any athletic endeavor.
To keep you safe and uninjured, here are some general guidelines for those of you who are new to jumping rope or for those of you who haven’t done it since you were in braces or pigtails.
Surface and Location Matter
Stick to softer surfaces (wood, dirt, or rubber) these will protect your body and also make your rope last longer.
Hard surfaces (like concrete and asphalt) put more stress on your bones and joints than the softer surfaces do. If you can stick to softer surfaces (wood, dirt, or rubber) these will protect your body and also give the added benefit of making your rope last longer.
If you have no choice but to jump on hard surfaces, keep your volume and impact low and consider investing in a jump rope mat (or use an old yoga mat).
You will also want to find at least a four-by-six-foot area with at least 10 inches of space above your head. For this reason, I prefer to do my jump rope outside or in a large gym setting.
Shoes Also Matter
Especially when you are just starting out, choose shoes that have good stability, good arch support, and perhaps even some ankle support. Again, if you are jumping on hard surfaces, find some shoes with extra cushioning in the midsole (where the majority of your jumping takes place).
Once you have been jumping for a while or if you have already spent the time to make your feet nice and strong (for that check out the article on ways to get stronger feet), your footwear will not be as important but it is best to err on the side of caution until you know how your feet and legs will react.
Choose a Good Rope
Beginners may find a beaded jump rope handy because it holds its shape better and can be easier to control than a lightweight cloth or a vinyl rope. You can (and should) eventually move up to a weighted rope (which slows the swing motion down and gives you more time to power your jump) but start easy and progress at your own pace.
Warm Up First
For a detailed full body warm-up, you can check out the article What is the Best Way to Warm Up? But just like a rubber band, a muscle is more pliable when it is at a warmer temperature, so if you want to train your body to move through a greater range of motion, start with 5-10 minutes of light cardio and then move into a dynamic stretching warm-up routine.
Dynamic stretching (or ballistic stretching) is much more effective than static stretching in terms of adequately preparing your body for an exercise session. Studies have shown that dynamic stretching can also improve power, strength, and performance during a subsequent exercise session. So take some time and warm up thoroughly and correctly.
Increase Your Volume Slowly
Yes, I know I bring this up a lot but especially for beginners we often see that age-old issue of “too much, too soon.” Excitement often gets the best of us and we forget to pay attention to the volume (distance or duration) of our exercise. This can be a problem because it takes time for our bodies to adjust to new stresses, which includes the added load that all that jumping puts on our joints and muscles.
Pay attention to how long, how hard, and how often you are jumping and listen to your body. Just like a good running program or weight training regimen, you should start slowly and only increase your volume based on how your body adjusts, not on a prewritten plan or a momentarily excited whim.
Listen to Your Body
In any effective workout program, you will experience some pain (especially when you are making progress). That particular type of pain is actually a sign that your muscles are being challenged, which is necessary for growth.
Us exercise nerds use a term called “DOMS,” which is short for “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness,” which means soreness that peaks about 24-48 hours post-workout. DOMS that manifests in light muscle tenderness and stiff joints is completely normal, but DOMS that results in muscles that are very painful to the touch or sharp pains in the joints is not normal. So, if it hurts to sneeze, laugh, or wash your own hair a couple of days after a workout, then you need to pay more attention and ease off on the volume or intensity (or both).
It’s very important to be aware of your body and how it feels so you will know what your own limits are.
It’s very important to be aware of your body and how it feels so you will know what your own limits are. You do want to push yourself, but only to a beneficial point. Check out the article How to Tell If You’re Working Out Hard Enough for more info on that.
Stretch and Roll
Stretching or better yet spending some time on your foam roller will help minimize DOMs, improve your speed of recovery from the workouts, and maybe even reduce your chances of injury. If nothing else, it’s a great way to end a hard workout.
The Bottom Line
Jumping rope is a great way to boost your heart rate, create some spring in your legs, and of course burn some calories. According to Peter Schulman, MD, associate professor, Cardiology/Pulmonary Medicine, you'd have to run an eight-minute mile to work off more calories than you burn while jumping rope.
It's good for the heart, it strengthens both the upper and the lower body and it burns a lot of calories in a short amount of time. Sure, you are putting some very direct and heavy stress on your knees, ankles, and hips, but when done properly jumping rope is actually a lower-impact activity than running (and the force placed on the knees while running is as much as three times more than when walking).
The same as when you start any intense workout regime, you may want to check with your doctor especially if you have doubts about your body’s ability to handle the repeated impact. Like I mentioned earlier, shoes and surface are important to consider, and of course don’t forget that a good warm up, cool down, as well as stretching and foam rolling are also important. If you follow these guidelines and always listen to your body, you will be jumping your way to a fitter and springier you in no time.
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