While the term “jump rope” often conjures up images of kids playing on the blacktop during recess, the schoolyard staple is having something of a renaissance in fitness circles. Long considered a toy or relegated to film montages of the punishing training boxers undergo to be ready for a major bout, jumping rope is now finding an eager audience among many fitness-oriented folks.
“When people think of cardio, they think of running, biking, rowing, swimming and ellipticals,” says Dave Hunt, founder and CEO of Crossrope, which is based in Raleigh, North Carolina. The company makes weighted jumping rope systems and work outs to go with them. “Oftentimes, jumping rope doesn’t even really come up,” he says.
But for decades, it’s been the go-to cardio workout that boxers and other elite athletes have turned to to get a quick hit of high-intensity training. “People either remember jump rope as being a kids’ activity on the playground or ironically enough, they say, ‘oh, that’s way too hardcore for me. That’s what boxers and MMA fighters do.'”
But Hunt and other jumping enthusiasts are trying to change that perception and bring weighted jump ropes into the fitness and weight loss conversation in a big way by creating workouts and fitness communities that can help you get lean, fit and strong with a relatively inexpensive piece of fitness equipment that can go just about anywhere you do.
Benefits of Jumping Rope
Jumping rope can be a great way to achieve a number of fitness goals including:
Weighted jump ropes come in a range of types, styles and weights, that start at 1/4 pound and go up to 5 or more pounds. When you’re first starting out, it’s best to begin at the lighter end of the spectrum and build up gradually to heavier ropes to prevent injury.
No matter which type of jump rope you choose, you’re in for a hefty workout that can torch a lot of calories quickly. This is great if you’re looking to shed some pounds or just improve your overall cardiovascular fitness. And while jumping any kind of rope offers health benefits, a weighted jump rope may provide more results faster than just a standard rope, says D.R. Ebner, a physical therapist with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
According to the Compendium of Physical Activities, a 195-pound person jumping with an unweighted rope can burn more than 1,000 calories in an hour. Compare that to 800 calories for rowing and 700 for cycling, and you’ve got an efficient way of burning calories if you’re looking for weight loss.
Adding weight to the rope can boost the number of calories burned. Though there isn’t much formal research into how weighted jump ropes can help you shed weight, Ebner says that anecdotally he’s seen many people reach their weight loss goals by improving their diet and using a weighted jump rope to exercise.
Cardiovascular Fitness Gains
Jumping rope can be such a boon for cardiovascular fitness that the American Heart Association has a “Jump Rope for Heart” program for kids that’s designed to get them moving more for heart health. Jumping rope is a total-body workout that’s good for the heart because it makes it work. The heart is a muscle, and as with other muscles, it gets stronger with use.
When jumping rope, your heart rate will elevate quickly because your body has to overcome gravity on each jump. Over time, this increased load leads to adaptive improvements in cardiovascular fitness. After a few weeks or months of consistent jumping, you may notice that your resting heart rate is lower, a sign that your cardio fitness has improved and your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to meet the demands of baseline functioning.
Strength and Stamina Gains
“Some of the benefits of using a weighted jump rope compared to a traditional jump rope is that the weight forces you to use a little bit more of your body muscles to control it. You’re forced to control the momentum of it, which can be more challenging,” Ebner explains. This gives your muscles a workout that can result in big strength and stamina gains.
In particular, when using a weighted jump rope, “you’re adding on one to two pounds to your own body weight. Anytime you add more weight onto the body, it’s going to make the task more challenging,” which can lead to bigger strength gains, Ebner notes. “You have to work a little bit harder” to complete each jump, and that can add up to more calories burned and faster strength and conditioning gains.
Portability and Affordability
A jump rope is also portable and that makes it a good option for people who travel or who don’t have space at home to store a large piece of workout equipment like an elliptical trainer, treadmill, exercise bike or rowing machine. They also cost less than a treadmill or rowing machine. Weighted jump ropes are suitable for a range of budgets, with the least expensive ones averaging in the $15 to $20 range and more sophisticated or heavier options costing $200 or more.
“I enjoy all sorts of fitness and lifting weights and things of that nature,” Hunt says, “but jumping rope was something that I kept gravitating toward.”He founded Crossrope in 2012. As a former naval aviator, Hunt was constantly traveling. “The mobility and portability meant that jumping rope became more and more a central facet of my workouts because I could bring it places when I couldn’t be in the gym.”
While jumping rope can provide an intense workout that builds strength and stamina in short order, it may not be the best workout option for everyone. If you have heart issues, check with your doctor before you undertake this or any other type of fitness program. The heart pumps hard when you’re jumping rope, and you need to be sure your cardiovascular system is able to meet the demands placed on it when jumping.
Ebner adds that while most healthy adults can usually tolerate the jumping motion, if you have hip, knee, ankle or foot problems, you probably want to start out carefully and ramp up slowly. Check with your doctor or physical therapist before adopting any exercise routine that puts a lot of demands on the problematic body part.
By its very nature, jumping rope is weight bearing and high impact. You’re literally jumping up and down, and for some, that might not be the most comfortable motion or could put strain on the back or lower body in ways that might not be comfortable. Good technique can help, as can increasing your time gradually.
However, Hunt notes that the impact of jumping rope isn’t as high as you might think. “It’s certainly higher impact than swimming or biking, but it’s not higher impact than running or jogging, because you’re balancing the weight and impact of gravity across both feet. When you’re running and jogging, the entire weight of your body comes down on one hip, one knee, one ankle at a time as you’re going back and forth.”
He adds that there are people in the community who are “in their 70s and have had hip replacements who are jumping and they’re doing just fine.” Certainly, check with your doctor first, but jump rope might be an option for some who wouldn’t otherwise think of it.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Weighted Jump Rope Workout
— Select a safe place. While jump ropes are highly portable and can be used most anywhere, make sure you’ve got an appropriately large, flat and stable area in which to jump. Make sure there’s enough clearance above you as well as in front and behind for the rope as it swings. Look for level ground, and consider adding a cushioning mat to help take some of the impact out of each landing.
— Develop good technique. It’s important that you learn and adopt good technique while using a jump rope to help reduce the chances of injury. Keep your shoulders down, your back straight and pay attention to where you’re placing your feet so as to reduce the risk of rolling an ankle or falling while working out. Hunt says it can take a few tries to find your rhythm if you’re a beginner, but for many folks, a weighted rope might actually be easier to get the hang of than a traditional plastic or vinyl rope. “The weighted rope provides more feedback” to the jumper, he says, and the extra weight provides more momentum to the rope, making for more consistent timing of each swing.
— Ramp up slowly. It’s easy to jump in with both feet straight away and try to do too much in the beginning when you’re adopting a new fitness routine. But this is a great way to get injured or get turned off from an exercise. “People can get really excited,” Hunt says, “but it takes a little while to develop the technique that’s going to be less stressful on the body. It takes a little while for the soft and connective tissues and muscles to adapt” to a new workout, he says. You have to give your body time to adjust so that you don’t get hurt.
— Stay consistent. “I think the biggest thing with any kind of exercise routine is that if you enjoy it, you’ll get into a routine and that’ll be good. If you like doing heavy reps more than regular jumping, then that’s going to keep you on a good routine,” Ebner explains. A consistent workout schedule is key for achieving any and all fitness goals you may have.
— Mix it up. Ebner recommends aiming for a mix of workout types including cardio, strength and high-intensity interval training. You can vary your jumping sessions to be steady-state cardio — jumping for 20 or 30 minutes straight — or a HIIT workout that gets your heart rate up fast and is over quickly. “You can also add in body weight exercises,” such as pushups, burpees or squats, “to make a sort of circuit,” he adds. A mix of all these types of workouts can help you build optimal fitness and shed weight fast.
— Connect with others. The best piece of fitness equipment you can buy is the one you’ll use most often, and for many of us, that means finding one you can engage in with other people. Crossrope, for example, hosts a thriving online community of nearly 100,000 jumpers who can connect, share tips and inspire each other to keep going. Many people find that the accountability of working out with others keeps them on track, so look for a partner or connect with a community that can help you stick with your goals and find more joy in working out. And have fun reliving elementary school recess.
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