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Jumping rope is an old-fashioned playground activity that you probably mastered during your single-digit years. However, it is also an enjoyable, challenging, and effective workout method that can help you blast calories, improve cardiovascular health, and build muscle simultaneously.
Meet the Expert
What Is Jump Roping?
You are probably well aware of what jump roping is: repeatedly swinging a rope while you hop over it. While it is all fun and games in the schoolyard, in terms of exercise, it can be used as a warm-up or a standalone workout, explains Timothy Lyman, director of training programs at Fleet Feet in Pittsburgh (ACE-CPT, NASM-PES). “Jumping rope is a great activity and can be as easy or as challenging as you want/need it to be!” he says.
Daniel Wiznia, MD, Yale Medicine orthopaedic surgeon specializing in knees and hips, explains that jumping rope is a great workout because you can exercise many different muscles simultaneously, namely the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and gastrocs, “and surprisingly, you will also be strengthening your bone and cartilage too,” he points out. “Jumping rope requires contraction of many muscle groups in the legs, thighs, and buttocks while jumping itself necessitates the ability to balance and coordinate a landing, training your fine motor control in the core, trunk, and upper extremities.”
Type of Exercise: Cardio
Fundamentally, jumping rope is an aerobic-based plyometric activity, says Lyman. “That means it is a cardiovascular workout (heart & lungs) that also targets/develops balance, mobility, flexibility and strengthens the lower body, especially the posterior tibial compartment and the foot/ankle,” he explains. And, the beauty of it is, it can be any workout you want it to be. “You can do 2-3 minutes nice and easy as a warm-up, use a 30-60 second more intense interval as part of circuit training, and you can even turn it into a full-body strength-training exercise by using a weighted jump rope,” he says. “It’s very easy to insert jumping rope into an existing exercise routine, and you can manipulate the variables, or how you perform the activity, to elicit any kind of desired result.”
Best For Calorie Burning
While jumping rope is beneficial for a variety of reasons, Wiznia maintains that the top reason to incorporate it into your workout is its ability to blast calories, “by increasing your heart rate and requiring many different muscle groups to fire,” he explains.
Benefits of Jump Roping
- It Can Help Improve Bone Health: Jump roping is great for bone health and preventing osteoporosis. “The impact loading provides a mechanical stimulus to encourage stronger bones,” Wiznia explains.
- It Trains Your Fast Twitch Muscles: Wiznia maintains that jump roping is great for your fast-twitch muscles—which are the skeletal muscles that help control your movement like jumping and sprinting—as “the aerobic exercise depends on short quick muscle contractions.”
- It Helps Improve Heart Health. There are cardiovascular benefits to jumping rope. “It is a very intensive exercise that requires strong ventricular contractions to supply oxygenated blood to the muscles,” Wiznia explains.
- You Can Do It Anytime, Anywhere: Lyman points out that jumping rope can be executed anytime, anywhere, as the only piece of equipment needed is a jump rope. This makes it a great option when you are traveling or don’t have access to other gym equipment.
- It Can Be Easily Adapted: Jump roping is the chameleon of exercise methods. “You can manipulate how you perform the workout to get different results,” Lyman says. “You can do steady-state cardio, HIIT, and SAQ training without needing any other piece of equipment!”
- It Is Great for Functional Movement: Lyman explains that perfecting the jump roping technique will help improve your overall function. “Learning to land and push off with stability and control is key for both performance-oriented athletes or people who just want to run around the backyard with their kids,” he says.
There are a few safety and injury considerations to keep in mind. “Jumping rope is a high impact exercise, and patients with hip or knee osteoarthritis may notice increased pain and swelling afterward,” says Wiznia. Additionally, patients with extra body weight may want to avoid jumping rope, as jumping can place excessive loads on the cartilage and ligaments, leading to early wear and pain, he continues.
Additionally, there are a few people who should avoid jumping rope completely. “Patients with lower back pain should avoid jumping rope because of the risk of injuring the vertebral discs,” he explains. Patients with foot and ankle pain, balance issues, or underlying cardiovascular issues should also stay away from it.
Jump Roping vs. Running
While no workout closely mirrors jump roping, it is often compared to jogging in terms of a cardiovascular workout. One study even compared the two, finding that doing just 10-minute-per-day jump roping exercises was more efficient in terms of cardiovascular health benefits than jogging 30 minutes per day.
What to Wear While Jump Roping
Getting dressed for jump roping is easy. “The main point of consideration is that whatever you are wearing should not interfere with your desired movement patterns,” says Lyman. And, you can do it with or without shoes. If you are accustomed to wearing shoes in the gym, Lyman says there is really no drawback to it as long as the shoes are flexible enough for you to “get on your toes” to keep good form. However, if you want to build additional foot strength, you can jump rope barefoot relatively safely, “but you’ll want to start very conservatively and build from there,” he says. “Don’t go from shoes to no shoes overnight!” Also, you might want to consider wearing a supportive sports bra, as there will be a lot of jumping involved.
Jump roping not only has the appeal of nostalgia, but packs a huge fitness punch. Additionally, you can do it anytime, anywhere and easily incorporate it into an already established workout routine.