Jump Rope Manifesto: Complete Guide to Skipping Rope
Not too long ago, I put up a simple little video on my YouTube channel.
It was just me showcasing a bunch of different skipping variations with a nice tune bumpin’ in the background.
Well, in less than 7 months, the video has been viewed over 70 thousand times! (I still can’t believe so many people want to watch me skip…kinda cool!) And it seems like they genuinely liked it because the video has over 650 likes.
But more important than anything, the video has sparked some interest. Hundreds of comments and questions were posted under the video (see here) with people looking to get started with skipping. Mission accomplished.
I noticed, however, that a lot of the same questions kept coming up. A lot of people didn’t know where to get started. So, with all this wisdom brewing up in my head (separate from the ego), I thought it would only make sense to put together an in-depth post to answer every single question (and then some) that was asked. Due to its level of detail, the post is a little lengthy (sorry), but it’s jam-packed with useful information. You’ll find everything you need to know about skipping rope.
I have appropriately named it the Jump Rope Manifesto.
I hope you guys find it useful.
Let’s get started…
The Benefits of Skipping Rope
I spoke before about how effective skipping can be. Think about it – with only one simple (and cheap) tool and just a little bit of space, you have absolutely everything you need to construct a very powerful workout.
In terms of bang for your buck, skipping is an extremely efficient form of training. Your entire body is engaged from repetition to repetition. You are engaging your calves, hamstrings, core, shoulders and arms while simultaneously strengthening your most vital organ – your heart.
When jumping rope, you are improving your balance, coordination, and overall sense of awareness. You are training your speed, agility, and explosiveness. You are developing mental toughness and the ability to focus even when under stress. You are building a skill set and developing a fitness level that will transfer well into any and all activities you choose to pursue in life.
The benefits of skipping rope are endless and are completely worth the effort of learning how to use this powerful tool.
Is Skipping Rope Better than Running?
This was a question that came up frequently and it’s a difficult one to answer because it depends on a number of factors.
Number one would be your intensity. Skipping at a high intensity will yield better results on average than jogging at a light, consistent pace. But skipping will never out-do sprint training.
Second would be your preference. A lot of people hate running. They’re bored of it. So they don’t do it. Skipping is a great alternative for cardiovascular exercise and if you add some variation to your movements it can keep you motivated to a greater degree.
My suggestion would be to alternate between the two. That way you will get all the benefits and you’ll never be bored.
Should I Jump Rope with Ankle Weights?
I get this question a lot.
I think too many people have this misconception that jumping rope with ankle weights is more efficient than regular skipping.
The truth is that jumping rope on its own has incredible benefits. You can get everything you need from this tool without having to strap on extra weight to your legs.
I don’t have a lot of experience with ankle weights. I’ve tried them a couple of times, didn’t like them and ended up scrapping them for good. Some jumpers claim that ankle weights can cause issues with the joints, while others say they’ve become lighter on their feet.
My recommendation is to avoid any and all ‘extra weights’ (ankle weights, weighted vests, etc.) until you become proficient with jumping rope. If you really want to make things challenging, start using heavy ropes.
Do you do a warm up before skipping?
Short answer is yes.
But, generally speaking, skipping is my warm up. I typically spend 3-5 minutes jumping rope at a very light pace. Nothing too intense or too explosive. I focus on a few minutes of light skipping where I alternate between different variations (see below).
This is the same typical warm up I’d use for all of my training.
Can I Lose Weight by Skipping Rope?
This was probably the most common question asked on my channel. People want to know whether you can lose weight with by only using a jump rope.
The short answer is yes.
But there’s more to it than that. You see, one of the well known benefits of skipping rope is its calorie-burning effects, as I’ve mentioned in my previous post. Researches say that one hour of skipping rope (at a moderate pace) can help you burn over 1,000 calories. That comes out to roughly 20 calories per minute!
But whether you ‘lose weight’ or not is not determined by your training, but by your nutrition strategy. After all, you can’t out-train a bad diet.
So can you lose weight? Absolutely. But would I recommend you only skip? Probably not. Although you would still get results, they would not parallel to the results you would get if you combined your skipping routine with an effective weight training routine and a well-polished eating plan. But I’ll save those details for a future post.
Getting Started with Skipping Rope
The fact of the matter is that skipping rope takes time to learn. It takes practice. It requires great overall coordination and timing. On top of that it demands excellent cardiovascular fitness and mental focus.
With that being said, when you’re first starting out, you want to make things as easy as you can for yourself. This includes fitting yourself with the right style and length of rope.
Types of Skipping Ropes
One of the common questions I’ve been asked is what type of rope I use. Here’s the thing. Jump ropes are like candy bars (bad comparison, I know). They come in all shapes, sizes, colours, and lengths. There is an unlimited range of choices.
Here is a list of some of the most common types of skipping ropes you’ll see:
- Fabric Jump Rope – also known as ‘braided’ or ‘cotton’ jump ropes, these are the simplest of the bunch. They are super cheap and are usually made of either cotton or nylon cords, which are then braided (giving them their name). These ropes rotate very slowly as they create a lot of drag. They may or may not come with handles. This is for the ultimate beginner. Be aware that you will outgrow this type of rope very quickly.
- Beaded Jump Rope – these ropes are made of plastic beads that are strung on a piece of thin nylon. These are very common in competitions due to their high visibility and beautiful array of patterns that are created when they turn at fast speeds. These ropes are also super cheap and last long on rough surfaces. They have a very loud clanking sound when they hit the ground so they can be useful for improving your timing (I’ll explain later). If you’re looking for this type of rope, make sure the handles are of high quality.
- Leather Jump Rope – these are classic ropes that have been used by boxers for generations. They are not for beginners. The ‘rope’ is basically a strip of leather attached to either plastic or wooden handles. They are heavier than fabric jump ropes and they turn faster than both fabric and beaded ropes. A few drawbacks: if you mess up, be ready for pain (just imagine getting whipped by leather-ouch!); if it gets wet, it will shrink (change length essentially); they are prone to twisting. This rope is awesome but it’s definitely more for advanced skippers.
- Plastic (Speed) Jump Rope – also known as speed ropes, these ropes are very popular. They’re typically made of PVC and are very light and inexpensive. They keep their shape very well and don’t tend to twist up. The thickness of the rope can vary, but they are all pretty long lasting (unless you keep them in the sun often). You can pick up very good speed with these ropes which, in combination with their low price, makes them very popular.
- Weighted Jump Rope – weighted ropes are designed to give you a better upper body workout. From my experience, they’re really effective for building grip strength. Weighted ropes come in two types: either the handles are weighted or the rope itself is weighted. Most weighted ropes have a thick plastic-coated cable and can weigh up to 5lbs. A word of warning: if you mess up, you’ll get a beating. These ropes are only recommended for advanced skippers and are the most expensive of the bunch.
- Wire Jump Rope – also known as cable jump ropes, these are designed for pure speed enthusiasts. The rope is a piece of wire and you can generate some crazy speed with thing. It’s the most durable rope and also the most painful. They are not very expensive but are only recommended for hardcore jumpers.
You can see that there are many types to choose from. I own a number of these, but that’s because I love this stuff!
If you’re a beginner, you don’t need anything more than a simple plastic (PVC) speed rope to get started. You can get this rope for super cheap from any general fitness store. I would avoid fabric and beaded jump ropes as most beginners quickly outgrow them.
As you get better and you want to invest in a higher quality rope, you can look into something like the Buddy Lee Jump Rope.
I currently use a jump rope system called the CrossRope. It’s an interchangeable system of jump ropes that allows me to work with both speed and heavy ropes. If you’re interested in learning more about these, I put together a nice review of the jump rope system.
When choosing your rope, there’s one thing that you really need to pay attention to…
The Design of the Handle
The handle itself can be of varying lengths, thicknesses, weights and shapes. Which one you choose really depends on your personal preference.
For example, long handles are better for freestyle skipping (utilizing a lot of arm movements), thicker handles provide better grip, weighted handles engage the forearms more, and different shapes cater to easier handling. It all comes down to preference. If you can, try out a few different styles and see what works for you.
The most important thing to look at is how the handle is connected to the rope. You want to choose a rope that allows the cable to spin freely within the handles as you skip. If the cable cannot spin freely, it will start to twist up and make life extremely difficult.
There are many designs out there. The most common design comes with cheaper plastic ropes and is a simple washer connected to the end of the rope that can spin freely inside the handle. These work well but do not last very long if the rope is used frequently.
Some ropes use simple triangular hooks. These are common for cloth ropes connected to wooden handles. However, I have seen them on other ropes. I would avoid cloth ropes in general, but the hook system seems to work well.
A lot of modern ropes now utilize ball bearings for the connection. These ball bearings are typically built inside the handle (making them slightly heavier), although some utilize a ball bearing and swivel system. Ball bearings, in general, create smooth rotations of the rope as you skip. Some people think ball bearing designs are garbage because they tend to stick, but I haven’t had any problems with them. They last much longer than the simple washer connection, but they do come at a higher price.
My recommendations: with advancements in technology, there are a lot of unique innovations in this area. If you’re just starting out, a simple plastic skipping rope with a decent washer system is good enough. However, as you get better and skip for longer periods at a time, you’ll want to move to a ball bearing system (or other higher quality connection).
Picking the Right Length of Rope
This is also another very common question that came up. How do you pick the right size of rope for your body?
Finding the right length of rope is very important. If the rope is too long or too short, you’ll be forced to change up your mechanics to avoid constantly tripping yourself up. Ropes that are too short force you to keep your arms too low and allow very little room for error. Ropes that are too long make skipping difficult because the rope hits the ground too far in front of your body causing it to catch your heels.
Both situations suck, so to minimize frustration and improve your skipping efficiency, it’s imperative that you find a rope that is the perfect length for you.
Here are some general guidelines for rope sizing (reference):
Note that these are just general guidelines. The final length of your rope will usually depend on where you hold your rope as you skip. You’ll probably want to start with the rope size recommended in the chart, then try it out and make necessary modifications.
I like to use the follow steps to ensure that I have the right length of rope:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart,
- Put the rope underneath one foot and pull the handles up to your chest,
- The ends of the rope (not the handles) should be roughly at the level of your nipples/base of your chest.
Here’s a video that quickly outlines this process:
You can see that it’s easy to make simple modifications to your rope if it’s too long.
As you become more proficient with jumping rope, you can play around with different lengths of rope. For example, I like to use shorter ropes when I’m doing double unders because I can turn the rope faster. But, naturally, this provides very little room for error.
Choose your Surface Wisely
If you’ve ever played tennis before, you’ll know that you need to adjust your game depending on the surface that you play on. Same thing goes when you’re skipping rope. You’ll have to adjust your mechanics a bit depending on your surface of choice. Different surfaces will cause the rope to bounce and slide differently, so if you don’t make the proper adjustments, you’ll make more mistakes. Also, harder surfaces will have a greater impact on your joints than softer surfaces. These are all things you have to take into consideration.
The best surface to skip rope on is a wooden floor (such as in a gymnasium). They’re soft enough for your joints and offer great bounce for your rope if you’re interested in picking up momentum and even pulling off a few multiple unders.
If a gymnasium is not at your disposal, look for gyms that have rubber padding. These are also great for your joints and offer good bounce for your rope. If you got some money to spare, you can get your own rubber padding and build a little section at home that you can skip on [here’s an example].
Carpets are also great for your joints, but they are much bouncier so you’ll have to get up a little higher on each jump to avoid the rope catching your heels.
The one surface I would avoid at all costs is concrete. It’s very hard on your joints and it will tear your rope into pieces. Plus it’s hardness will result in greater buildup of fatigue, meaning you won’t be able to skip for long periods.
Proper Jump Rope Technique
There is a right way and a wrong way to jump rope. Here are some short guidelines to follow to help keep you on track:
- Jump on the balls of your feet
- Keep your knees slightly bent
- Keep your jumps to 1/4 to 1/2 inch off the ground
- Keep your elbows close to your sides
- Use your wrists to turn the rope, not your arms
- Keep your head straight and looking forward
- Keep your upper body relaxed, not tense
- Focus on keeping your shoulder blades retracted
- Control your breathing
These are the basic guidelines you need to follow and they are very dependent on you choosing the right length of rope. When you first start off, you’ll have the tendency to jump really high, kick your heels back and make huge swings with your arms. That’s fine. But you’ll want to work your way towards smaller hops and less arm movement. Note that as you get better, some of these guidelines do get broken for specific variations. But it’s very important that you master the basic jump rope technique before you move onto anything else.
How to Improve Your Timing
With skipping, timing is everything. Your brain is required to make extremely quick calculations to to recognize the skipping rope’s distance, direction, speed, and position. All of this comes down to timing.
The one thing that makes skipping so difficult is that there is a lot of work that is required up front to master the technique and build up the necessary timing and coordination. When you have poor technique, or poor timing and coordination, you tend to trip up a lot. And for those who have tried skipping before, you’ll know how frustrating (and sometimes painful) this can be. This is what causes a lot of people to quit.
But I have a little trick that can help you overcome that.
Start off by holding both handles in one hand, with the rope to your side. Begin swinging the rope on that one side (kind of like a helicopter). Make sure you let the rope hit the ground on each revolution so that you can hear the rope making contact (remember how I said the beaded ropes work well for this).
Now, the objective is to try to hop every single time the rope makes contact with the ground.
At first, it will seem like the most awkward thing in the world. But, the reason why it works is that you can’t trip up. By listening to the rope hitting the ground and trying to time your hops to match, you’ll slowly begin to improve your timing, coordination and overall feel for the skipping rope without having to deal with the frustrations of tripping up.
If you’re new to skipping, start off with this slowly. You don’t need to swing the rope quickly, just at a pace you can match with your hops. Then pick up the pace as you progress. Once you feel like you got the timing down, try proper skipping. You should feel a big difference.
Adding Variation (once you get good)
This is invariably where most of you started as this is exactly what the original video is all about. This is what made me famous! (just kidding)
Once you get fairly good at skipping, you’ll want to add some variation to keep things fresh. Adding variation to your routine eliminates the boredom that comes with repetitive movements. It keeps skipping fun and challenging.
Here’s the video I made that highlights 23 skipping rope exercises you can incorporate into your routine. (Note: if it doesn’t load, please refresh the page and it will magically appear)
Choose two or three of these variations and start implementing them into your routine.
A Simple Skipping Workout
The beautiful thing about skipping is that you’re only limited by your creativity. As I mentioned earlier, all that you need is a rope and a little bit of space and you have everything at your disposal for putting together a great workout.
Just to give you an example, I’ve put together a simple little skipping workout to show you exactly what I’m talking about. This is as simple as it gets (it’s simple in theory, tough to actually do). Watch the video below.
Note: if it doesn’t load, please refresh the page and it will magically appear.
As you can see, the workout itself is short but intense. You can utilize any of the jump rope variations I showed earlier to construct numerous workouts like this.
As you get better, you can mix up your jump rope training with other forms of training like kettlebells, bodyweight exercises, etc. The possibilities are endless. For example, here’s a video of a CrossFit workout I did called “Annie”.
Note: if it doesn’t load, please refresh the page and it will appear.
I’ve recently put together a full-blown jump rope training program to teach you how to become a jump rope master and build a better body in the process.
If you’re interested, check out:
Man, that’s a lot of skipping information to consume. But I hope you can see just how effective this simple little tool can be.
If you haven’t picked up a skipping rope yet, it’s time to add this baby to your toolbox. It’s cheap, it’s portable, it’s reliable, and, most importantly…
I hope you guys found the Jump Rope Manifesto useful. My goal was to give you everything you needed (information wise) to get started with skipping. If you found this useful, please do me a favor and share it with others. I would really appreciate it!
What are your thoughts on skipping rope? Is it part of your routine? Will it become a part of your routine now that you see how easy and effective it can be? Share your wonderful comments below!