Despite offering speed and agility training, plus a cardiorespiratory workout on par with running, the humble jump rope has been historically relegated to elementary school gym classes and movie training montages. People overlooked its portability and versatility, or used the wrong type of rope and (literally) got tripped up. But, thanks to the popularity of CrossFit and the HIIT, the rope is having a moment and it’s back in vogue as a valuable as a fitness tool — especially for parents too busy to go on long runs.
That’s why we reached out to Dave Hunt. The owner and creator of Crossrope, he never needed convincing of the jump rope’s workout potential. As a kid, he constantly tested how high, long, and fast he could jump. (He recently set a personal record of 639 consecutive double unders) As a Navy pilot, he packed his jump rope with him on deployments, and, as an entrepreneur, he’s designed a line of high-end jump ropes and teaches rope seminars across the country. To help you get the most reward from your rope, Hunt offered some insight on everything from rope-selection to workout-structuring. Hop to it.
How to Choose the Right Jump Rope
“[Jumping rope] is the only exercise I can think of where starting heavier is better for beginners than starting lighter,” says Hunt. A rope with some heft (Crossrope’s beginner rope is about a half pound) will generate more centrifugal force than a lightweight cord, allowing the jumper to detect the location of the rope while it’s in motion. This increased awareness makes it easier to learn timing and develop coordination.
You’ll also want a chunkier handle that you can hold with a “power grip” — the way you’d pick up a barbell or a dumbbell. And while sizing is important, Hunt says guys shouldn’t get too caught up in pinpointing an exact rope length. While some companies offer height-based size recommendations, he says to perform your own test: step on the middle of rope with one foot and pull the handles taut. They should come up to somewhere between chest- and shoulder-height.
Jumping Rope 101
Before incorporating tricks or increasing speed, you need to nail down jumping basics, which start with proper form. “Make sure you have an upright posture. Your shoulders should be pulled back, and you want your hands to be positioned in line with the plane of your body, somewhere from about six- to 12-inches wide of your hips on each side,” says Hunt. Avoid letting the hands drift out in front of your body, as that can cause the rope to bounce off the floor and hit your feet. The rotation of the handles should come from the wrist, not the elbows or shoulders.
For the lower body, it’s helpful to think of “bounding” versus “jumping,” as the feet only need to come off the ground one to two inches to clear the rope. Keep the feet together and bend the knees slightly. Avoid bucking the heels backward or bringing the knees up to the chest. With each jump, aim to land on the midsole section of the foot, not back on the heels or up on the toes.
If your basic jump is solid, you can up the ante by incorporating jumping variations, which require an increased level of coordination and, in some cases, a speedier rope rotation.
Alternate Foot Steps
Hunt recommends beginning your trick trying with the alternate foot step, as it’s a fairly easy to master and lends itself to faster jumping. Instead of jumping with both feet together, bound with one at a time, as if you’re running in place. The rope should pass under your feet as you shift your weight from one foot to the other.
Jump Rope Jacks
This variation uses a jumping jack-like motion. Start with the feet together and, on the first jump, step the feet slightly apart. On the following jump, bring them back together. Continue in this pattern with each rotation of the rope.
Double unders require the rope to pass under the feet two times for each jump. To do this, you need to bound a little higher and increase the rotational speed of the rope. Remember to maintain an upright posture, land with both feet together, and initiate the rope’s rotation with a fast flick of the wrists.
The side swing works the core and upper body, but since you’re not actually jumping over the rope, it requires far less coordination. Pull the hands together in front of your body and move the handles and rope in a figure-eight formation. You can jump or step from side to side. Or, if you’re using the side swing as an active rest, simply stand in place.
“If you’re structuring your own workout, it doesn’t need to be complex,” says Hunt. “It just needs to be something that is going to challenge you at the level you’re at and is easy to remember.” High intensity interval training (HIIT) staples, like Tabata (eight rounds of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest) or EMOM (a specified number of reps performed every minute on the minutes) can be a good place to start. Or use one of these templates.
15-Minute Interval Workout
Choose one jumping variation to use throughout the workout. As you improve, increase the difficulty by jumping faster or practicing a more advanced jumping skill, like double unders.
Accumulate 15 minutes of work by alternating between:
- One minute of moderate to high-intensity jumping
- 30 seconds of rest or active rest (e.g. side swings or slow jumping)
10-Minute Skill Workout
Once you’ve mastered the alternate foot step, jump rope jacks, and double unders, test your new skills and endurance with five rounds of:
- 20 seconds of basic jumping
- 20 seconds of alternate foot steps
- 20 seconds of jump rope jacks
- 20 seconds of double unders
- 40 seconds of rest