Jump Roping for Beginners

By Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Jumping rope for fitness is also referred to as freestyle jump roping or rope skipping. Long used by boxers and other competitive athletes for agility/speed drills, jumping rope not only enhances coordination, but also builds incredible stamina. Additionally it is one of the most efficient whole body workouts around. "Most people usually think of jumping rope as being a lower extremity exercise, which it is, but what doesn't come to mind is that the constant turning of the rope is a great upper body workout at the same time," says Marty Winkler, President of RopeSport and author of the soon-to-be-released 'RopeSport: The Ultimate Jump Rope.' "Because you're using all your major muscles the fat-burning potential is just phenomenal... you can get a great workout in as little as 10 to 15 minutes so minute-for-minute you can't beat it!" Plus, long, lean muscles are usually the result of regular rope skipping workouts making it a great choice for people trying to lose weight.

Check out these expert tips before beginning your jump roping routine:

Select a surface with spring. You can rope skip anywhere but if given the choice between a steel floor and carpet, go for the carpet. Choosing an area with a little "give" will help minimize bodily impact. If you're worried about messing up your floors, you can always lay down an indoor jumping mat -- a 3'x 4' mat that provides extra cushioning for knees and ankles while protecting the floor underneath ($27.95 at www.RopeSport.com).

Wear sneakers. Never jump barefoot, especially if you're a beginner. "I don't know of any specific 'jump rope' sneaker but a quality aerobic shoe or cross- trainer should do the trick," says Winkler. Try to find a shoe with good padding on the ball of the foot and lateral movement support.

Pick a proper rope. Look for a "speed" cable rope or a plastic beaded rope that's adjustable in length. You want a brand with a little weight to it which minimizes twisting and tangling so you don't get frustrated. Ball bearings in the handles can also be helpful. A good starter rope will cost between $10-$20.

Size your jump rope. Someone 5-feet tall shouldn't be using the same size rope as someone 6-feet tall. Jumping with the proper length is very important because it allows the arms to be in the correct position and minimizes "missing" (i.e. tripping on the rope). In order to determine the best size for your rope, Winkler suggests holding the handles like ski poles and putting one foot (not two) on the center of the rope before pulling up. When correctly sized, the handles should come to the center of your chest but not past your armpits.

Use music for motivation. Music is highly motivating when jumping rope. Any style that makes you want to move is appropriate (think contemporary, rock, hip hop, country, heck...even classical if it's upbeat). The key is to pick something with about 120-125 beats per minute (BPMs) if you're a beginning jumper to help you keep a steady but reasonable pace!
Start small. Don't expect to jump for an hour the first time you grab a rope! "As a general rule I'd suggest starting out by jumping 3-4 times a week for 15-20 minutes and increasing frequency, duration and intensity as your skill level and stamina improves," says Winkler.

Jump Roping Technique

To make the most of your jump roping session, it's smart to pay attention to your form, which will not only reduce the risk of injury but also maximize the minutes you're actually able to jump (thus upping your calorie-burning potential). Consider taking a jump roping class if your gym offers one or viewing a technique DVD if possible. However, you can get started right now by keeping these technical points in mind:

Don't jump too high. Many people shy away from jump roping because they think it's too high-impact, but if done correctly, it's actually less joint-jarring than jogging. "You should only leave the floor about two inches max," says Winkler. "This is also the most energy efficient way to jump so you can keep going longer."

Land softly. Winkler suggests imagining you're skipping on a glass floor and if you come down too hard, you'll shatter the surface. Focus on gently landing on the ball of the foot. This will minimize impact.

Make small wrist circles. You can include a little forearm as well in order to turn the rope (think of a cranking motion) but keep your elbows tucked by your torso and your shoulders down and relaxed.

Mix -and -match your jumps. By learning several different jump varieties, you'll stay motivated, work different muscles and be able to jump longer. Start with a basic two- footed jump through the rope, then try running through it, or maybe pretend you're doing jumping jacks. The key is to keep switching it up.

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a certified fitness instructor and health and fitness writer whose work has appeared in Prevention, Women’s Health, Weight Watchers, and Fitness magazines.

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