The Benefits of Jumping Rope (Part I)

Quick Tips

Over a year ago I whipped up an article that cautioned jump rope training, and it’s been one of my most popular posts on this blog.  You can find it here.

The issue with that post, is that I painted a picture that jumping rope is a harmful activity.

It’s not, but the title and tone of the post was deceptive.  In the end, I wanted it to be a cautionary tale.

It’s worth considering that jumping rope might not be the best option for you, depending on past injuries and other contraindications (which I cannot predict because I don’t know you).

The fact is that I really love jump rope training and I think that you should also.

Personally I jump rope almost daily, either as part of a warm-up or as part of the workout.

The jump rope is an incredible piece of equipment to leverage during the warm up.  5-10 minutes of jumping rope prior to a hard training session is ideal.

For the space restricted or climate restricted person (Winter in the North), I feel that jumping rope is an incredible solution to get you upright and moving.  We’ve beaten the “sit to much” campaign into the ground, but getting back on your feet while training a great goal.

Once beyond the initial learning curve, jumping rope transitions from a self-regulating/self torture activity into a highly engaging activity, that can be quite fun.

Here are a few of those undeniable benefits…

Functional Cardio

Does all cardiovascular conditioning need to take place on your feet?  Absolutely not.  However, it’s undeniable that life happens standing.  It’s also undeniable that we sit too much throughout the day.  Jumping rope puts you on your feet in an upright position where you are charged with the simple task of dodging the ropes as it turns.  It sounds easy and it might be for the first few turns, but jumping rope is a skill that elicits a cardio training effect similar to running.

In order to turn the rope faster, you’ll have to pay closer attention to your technique and posture, which needs to be on point as the jumps per minute increase.

Vertical conditioning tactics has great transfer into everyday life.  Improving your ability to deal with fatigue in a functional manner will serve you very well.

***  I’m aware of the studies saying that jumping rope for 10 minutes is like running for 30 minutes.  Studies like this are great for exercise physiologists and for selling fitness magazines, but in my opinion, they encourage people to do less.  Don’t cut corners on your workouts, do the work.  I’ve jumped rope for 10 minutes straight plenty of times and I can tell you that it gets boring and repetitive real quick.  I’ve also tracked my heart rate pretty aggressively during these jump sessions and I’ve never seen my heart reach a BPM as high as when I’m running.  Maybe it’s a personal problem.

Small Space Cardio Solution

If you live in a location where Winter cages you like an animal during 4-5 months per year, you can appreciate the fact that jumping rope can keep you fit without having to be outside or needing open space to move around.  If your ceilings are high enough and the floor you’re jumping on can tolerate it, jumping rope is a cash money conditioning activity.

The Winter’s in Wisconsin are relentless, so it’s nice to be able to mix in a potent conditioning session without having to stomp around outside in the slush.  Treadmills, stationary bikes and other new age cardio equipment are decent alternatives for elevating heart rate in a pinch, but there is nothing like moving your body as it was meant to on real ground.

Variations 

If you’ve only jumped rope using the standard two-foot jump, you’re missing out.  Go back and mix in some variations.  Standard two-foot jumping has it’s place, but even a full minute of two foot jumping is boring.  Switch it up.  Try going single leg for a few rotations, running with low knees, running with high knees, side to side, front to back, 180 degree rotations, double-unders, boxer hops, etc.

Jumping rope becomes interesting and quite taxing when you start to mix in improvised variations.

It takes skill to jump rope, and any time you can expose your body to a new skill, you’re better for it.

Low Cost Cardio Alternative

A speedy trip to your local sporting good store and $5-$10 buys you a pass into the jump rope game.

If you’re tight on cash, jump ropes are fantastic alternative.  If you’re thinking about buying a treadmill or an elliptical, buy a jump rope instead and roll that money into more versatile gym equipment instead.

Just be aware that there are major differences in jump rope design and the material their constructed from.  As with anything, you’ll get what you pay for.  I’m not saying it’s mandatory to drop $40 on a piece of rope with handles, but having a jump rope that spins freely at the handle-rope junction is nice, and I’d suggest purchasing cable rope to increase it’s lifespan.

I’ve broken a bunch of shitty quality ropes jumping and it’s frustrating when it happens and potentially harmful to your body, pets or personal belongings.

Rogue Fitness has great ropes for cheap, check out their selection.

It’s brilliant that “high end” jump ropes are selling for $40+, considering they are probably manufactured somewhere in China for less than $5. Not a bad profit there. Alibaba, here I come.

Active Rest

Jumping rope as a filler exercise in the middle of a workout is fantastic.

Here is how you would position jumping rope as a “filler exercise” :

Squat x10

Jump Rope x50 rotations

Push-Up x10

Jump Rope x50 rotations

Chin-Up x10

Jump Rope x50 rotations

Lunges x10 Right/Left

Jump Rope x50 rotations

… rinse and repeat for rounds and/or time.

Look at that!  Equipment needed?… your body and a jump rope.  Simplicity.

A workout like the one above is resourceful, barebones fitness at it’s best.  50 rotations of the jump rope might not seem like a lot at first, but remember that the fatigue is accumulating as you complete the work.  The bodyweight exercises provide a sub-maximal muscular challenge while jumping rope serves as a temporary break from that muscular effort.

Jumping rope as active rest in between resistance based exercises really highlights the self-limiting idea.  As technique and posture wear down with fatigue, your jump cadence will also slow or force a rest altogether.  The rope gives you instant feedback on your technique and fatigue.

It takes tremendous discipline to tame your thoughts, breath and posture when your heart rate is raging at 85%-90% of max BPM.  You’ll know what I’m talking once you’re in the storm.

The wrap up…

Jumping rope is a bad ass training method.  I support it 100%.  Boxers, martial artists and athletes have jumped rope for ages to develop high level conditioning that transfers.

Just remember that a jump rope is a tool.  It’s a small piece of a much larger puzzle.  It’s provides an inexpensive, yet effective vehicle for cardiovascular conditioning that is uniquely different than other traditional cardio activities like running or biking.  Not better, not worse, just different.

Also consider that there are rarely dangerous training methods.  I think my days of prefacing all of my writing with words of caution are behind me.  Fitness protocols and tactics become dangerous when they fall into the wrong hands or they are abused with negligence.  Take an honest assessment if there is anything out of whack with your body that should be considered before you start jumping.

Exercise common sense and you all of the positive effects of jumping rope…

Cheers to jumping rope…

Kyle

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