Jumping rope is enjoying a resurgence in the fitness industry as pros turn to this exercise staple to scorch calories and increase stamina and cardiovascular endurance. This simple yet demanding exercise has myriad fitness benefits and shines as an easily portable exercise.
What the Experts Say
Fitness expert Buddy Lee believes in jumping rope for fitness so much that he developed a line of jump ropes used specifically for fitness as opposed to "play" jump ropes. Lee's next door neighbor introduced him to jumping rope for fitness when he was young. "My next door neighbor, role model and black belt in karate, Mr. Rainey, was jumping rope for his training, performing all these fancy arm crosses and side swings, much like boxers do. I got the attention of Mr. Rainey, and asked him, would he show me how to jump," said Lee.
Practice Makes Perfect
"At first it was hard on my feet, but I kept at it for hours until I became proficient. When I put that rope down at dusk, I had learned to be light on my feet and I had mastered the one basic jump," said Lee. "You must first truly master the basics before you move on to more advanced techniques." Learning to jump rope can take time and feel clumsy at first, but once you find your rhythm, you'll realize what a great, full-body cardiovascular exercise jumping rope can be.
Lee stresses a benefit of jumping rope that is often overlooked: coordination. "Two movements must be synchronized, with timing, rhythm and coordination! It requires a third of the time of most exercises to improve physical fitness. Improves balance, coordination, speed, quickness, agility, timing, rhythm, aerobic and anaerobic conditioning," said Lee.
A High Impact Exercise
"Jump rope is good for almost anyone. If you have problems with incontinence, it is a good idea to first build up the pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises," said Lee. "If you are obese, it is a good idea to first lose some weight through diet and walking, etc., otherwise it can be too much on the joints. A person who is already engaged in fitness can include jump rope as a complement to their already existing exercise program."
Full Body Benefits
The entire body is recruited when jumping rope. The muscles of the foot work right alongside the shoulder muscles (and everything in between) in order to complete a successful jump. Jumping rope also increases your heart rate quickly, allowing you to achieve your target heart rate to derive full benefits from your workout.
Jumping Rope for Conditioning
Lee recommends jumping rope "three to five times a week, or every time you exercise. One should engage in at least 30 min of moderate exercise five times per week, but preferably vigorous exercise unless a doctor advises differently. Jump rope is a good and safe choice." While most people can't sustain 30 minutes of jumping rope at one time, jump rope can be a fantastic warm-up or incorporated into a routine.
Jump Rope Training
In his book, Jump Rope Training, Buddy Lee provides a total system for fitness including warm ups, cool-downs and special considerations for injuries and injury prevention. If you haven't picked up a jump rope since grade school, you'll be surprised by how much there is to know.
Choosing the Right Rope
Not all jump ropes are equal. Fitness jump ropes should have a little weight to them and shouldn't get tangled at the handles. Note that ropes come in different sizes, so choose one according to your height for the best results.
Whether you're trying to get fancy with jump rope tricks or you simply want a challenging workout, your jumping technique can help you avoid injury. Try to keep your knees soft (don't lock them) and land softly each time. Though jumping rope is fairly high-impact, you can lessen the shock to your joints by not slamming harshly onto the ground with each jump. Think of the jump process as more of a continual movement as opposed to a jump-land-jump-land sequence.
Jump Into Fitness
It's likely you jumped rope as a child, and probably even enjoyed it - bring back that joy for movement as an adult. Pick up a jump rope and see how challenging this form of exercise can be and how beneficial jump rope training can be to your overall fitness.