A Great Cardiovascular Workout: Just Add a Jump Rope

By Cathleen Kronemer, J Personal Trainer

“One banana, two banana, three banana, four…”

We all recall the rhyming chants we used to shout while jumping rope as children. We’d rush through our lunchbox meals at school and then dash out to the playground for jump rope games during recess. I spent hours on this sort of activity as a child, often trying to jump one hundred times in a row without missing. Little did we know that as we were trying to set our own personal skipping records, our cardiovascular systems were getting a real boost.

Today, as adults, the simple jump rope can still be a powerful tool in your bag of workout tricks. Easy to pack and requiring no instructions whatsoever, the jump rope can travel anywhere with you, providing easy access to a cardio workout. A high-quality rope can usually be purchased for less than $10 at any sporting goods store.

The benefits of jump rope training extend far beyond a trip down memory lane. A session of rope- jumping can provide coordination, agility and endurance. According to Roger Crozier, a Physical Education teacher and competitive jump-rope team coach in San Antonio, Texas, the real key is to make sure jumping form is correct. “When you walk or run, you impact your heel. With rope jumping you stay high on your toes and use your body’s natural shock absorbers. Beginners usually jump higher than necessary. With practice, you shouldn’t come more than one inch off the floor.”

Another key benefit of jumping rope is that of building body spatial awareness. Coordinating the efforts of the arms and feet requires a tremendous number of neurons to connect within the brain. As such, developing jump-roping skills can enable an athlete to transfer such gains across the board to just about any physical endeavor.

Before embarking on a jump-roping marathon, it is wise to ensure that the proper length of rope is being utilized. Hold a jump rope handle in each hand and let the rope dangle to the floor. Step on the rope and raise the handles up with your hands as high as they will go. Now, evaluate the length of the rope: if the handles reach your shoulders, the rope is the perfect length for your body. A jump rope with handles that fall below your shoulders is too short and will interfere with your precision while jumping. One that extends 12 inches or more above your shoulders may be too long and cause you to misstep while you are jumping.

According to the National Institutes of Health, jumping rope burns close to 800 calories per hour, which is more than any other popular exercise except running. The faster you jump the more calories you burn. Once the basic two-foot style has been mastered, there are several other moves that can be incorporated to spice up your workout:

Figure Eight – This move involves bringing the rope out and swinging it from side to side without jumping through it. Also called “rope turns,” this technique allows the jumper to keep his feet on the ground, but also to get a feel of the rope and the motion. This move is best used if the heart rate is up, allowing the jumper to stay in motion without necessarily jumping up and down.

Slalom – Instead of jumping vertically up and down, this move involves shifting feet in the air from side to side, as if downhill skiing. The athlete can also keep the rope in his hands and jump from side to side to get a feel for the motion before jumping through the rope.

Straddle – This move mimics the jumping-jack exercise, except with a jump rope. This is more advanced and can be learned by swinging the rope at one’s side before jumping through it.

Slow Jump – Cutting repetitions in half and elongating the motion makes this is a great training move since it might be more challenging than jumping at a normal pace.

Probably the greatest asset of a jump rope workout is its efficiency. One can achieve a beneficial cardiovascular workout in about 15 minutes’ time. In addition, jumping rope is a lot of fun! Putting on some music with a high-energy beat can turn this physical activity into a mini-party! As you can see, there are virtually no more excuses for not having fun while toning your body. So, grab a rope and start moving — you are just a hop, skip and jump away from better health.