How to Jump Rope

Tamsen Butler
two women jumping rope in gym

Jumping rope for fitness helps improve cardiovascular capabilities along with agility and endurance. This full-body exercise can take practice to do effectively, but once you get the hang of it, it will likely become a favorite move to add to your fitness regimen.

Getting Started Jumping Rope

A jump rope with some weight to it will be easier to handle and manage than a light jump rope. A heavier rope moves in a more predictable fashion, making it easier to time your jumps. Jumping rope on gym floor or pavement will be easier than on carpet and will help your moves be more stable.

Rope Length Considerations

Find a jump rope appropriate to your height - they are not all the same length and most come in short, medium, and tall. Too short and you will have to jump higher or overextend your arms and too long will result in the rope smacking the ground each time, forcing you to drag the rope under your jump. On the other hand, a correct length for your rope should set the stage for the best jumping experience.

Jump Rope Steps

  1. Stand tall with a handle in each hand with an underhand grip on the handles. The rope is behind you. It is best to try jumping rope for the first time in front of a full-length mirror, if possible.
  2. Position your hands so they are even in height with one another. The elbows should be near your waist area, with your palms up, gripping the handles.
  3. Relax your shoulders and position your forearms outward.
  4. Keeping your feet close together and your legs straight (but with soft knees - don't lock them), use your wrists to compel the jump rope up and over. This is where the momentum for moving the rope comes from - the wrists. Don't rely on your full arms or shoulders to do the work for you, as this can result in less control or discomfort.
  5. As the rope arrives over your head and just about at the top of your body, use your wrists to help propel the rope faster toward your feet. This is the moment you start your jump.
  6. Jump straight up, pushing your body upward using the muscles of your calves. Your toes will be pointed in the jump.
  7. The rope will pass below your feet, which will land on the ground just afterward. Immediately start back at step #4 without pausing. Jumping rope should be a continuous motion without slowing the rope or having interim hops in between.
  8. It will feel like fast motion and requires cardiovascular endurance. It's important to not hold your breath throughout the jumping. If you get winded and have to stop, simply catch your breath and start again.

Common Problems

One of the biggest issues new jump ropers encounter is the significant effort it takes to jump smoothly - coordination, balance, and endurance are all required in order to jump rope smoothly and efficiently. Practice helps - if you feel clumsy or winded when first trying to jump rope, take solace in the idea that it will come easier as you practice more and your neuromuscular memory of the exercise settles in.

Bunny Hopping

Bunny hopping is when there is an added little hop in between each jump. While there is nothing innately wrong with this move if you're simply jumping rope for fun, if your goal is increased fitness, you will have to lose the bunny hop.

  1. Speed up the rope to reduce the opportunity for the bunny hop.
  2. Focus on your timing to be "jump-jump-jump-jump" as opposed to "jump-hop-jump-hop."
  3. If you're accustomed to the bunny hop, your first time jumping correctly will likely feel frantic and challenging, but once you get the timing down, it will likely feel exhilarating.

Tripping Over the Rope

If you find yourself tripping over the rope, it may be that the rope's sizing isn't appropriate for your height. Experiment with different lengths to find the right one for you.

  1. Ensure you're putting enough momentum forth so the rope has the power to make it all the way around.
  2. Adjust your hand placement to make the rope's swing is set to arrive just under your feet as you jump.
  3. Try jumping higher and with a little more power to avoid contact with the rope.
  4. Make sure you aren't bending your knees and bringing your feet up too high as this can make you get tangled in the rope.
  5. If your balance is the issue, try to focus your gaze on a fixed spot around 4-5 feet ahead of you.
  6. If your shoes have thick soles or a great deal of tread, this might hinder your jumping and get caught up in the rope; try some athletic shoes with less padding (but enough to offer support).

Hitting the Shins

If the rope keeps hitting your shins, the most likely culprit is a jump rope that is too short.

  1. Try jumping with a longer rope.
  2. Adjust your hand placement a little lower.
  3. Make sure your arms aren't swinging wildly - your wrists should be doing the work. If your arms are compelling the rope forward, the rope might slam into your shins instead under your feet.

Pain When Jumping

Jumping rope should get your heart pumping and make you out of breath, but it shouldn't hurt. If you have previous injuries, you'll want to speak with your physician or physical therapist about this high-impact exercise before giving it a try. Here are some tips to avoid pain when jumping rope:

  • Wear supportive shoes. If your shoes are old and worn out, they may not offer the impact absorption needed.
  • Land softly after you jump. Don't think of the landing as an end to the movement, but rather a continuation. It's not a stop.
  • Don't lock your knees - keep them soft throughout the movement.
  • Though your shoulders are at work while jumping rope, you should focus on not tensing up your shoulders and neck as this may cause strain.
  • If you encounter pain that doesn't go away after two or three days, make an appointment with your medical provider to rule out injury or start treatment for recovery.
  • A stitch in your side may be a result of poor cardiovascular capability and will likely happen less frequently as you get better at the exercise.

Tips for Kids and Absolute Beginners

People who are unaccustomed to jumping - or kids who are starting to learn jump rope - should first be made to feel comfortable with jumping before adding the rope to the action. Placing the rope on the ground and jumping over it forward and back at a rapid pace can be a good start.

Girl jumping rope on playground

Exertion Issues

The biggest issue with getting started jumping rope for beginning adults who aren't accustomed to exerting themselves is the effort it takes to accomplish the exercise. It will be easier to jump rope properly if you have the cardiovascular capacity to get through a challenging workout. Starting a cardio program will help in your jumping rope efforts.

The Acceptable Hop

The "bunny hop" is acceptable when first learning how to jump rope, particularly for children who may lack the coordination skills necessary to jump continuously. For those who are physically able to jump rope, progressing to the "jump-jump-jump-jump" pattern from the "jump-hop-jump-hop" pattern can be quite natural and quick.

A Challenging Exercise

Stick with jumping rope and the next thing you know, you might start trying some jump rope tricks. This challenging exercise can be fun and will help improve your fitness - not bad for an exercise you can do almost anywhere and with quite inexpensive equipment.

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How to Jump Rope