Jump-ropes aren't just for kids. Adults are turning to this fun activity because it's a great workout that improves your timing, coordination, agility and cardiorespiratory endurance. Jumping rope is a total body exercise that involves nearly every major muscle group in your body — but it's still relatively gentle on your joints. Two more selling points: It's cheap and it's portable.
Tim Haft, founder of Punk Rope (punkrope.com), jump-rope-based classes offered at fitness studios throughout New York, shared some basic jump-rope exercises that'll whip you into shape.
Before you start: Sure, anyone can grab a jump-rope and start. But in order to make sure you don't get hurt, you need to have the correct rope-jumping posture. Keep your eyes focused straight ahead, not down. Your shoulders should be relaxed and your elbows should remain close to your ribs. Your feet should be parallel and close together, while your weight should be on the balls of your feet.
Jump without the rope
Why: In order to develop rhythm and timing, as well as proper jumping and landing mechanics, you should start by jumping without the rope.
Try it: Keeping your weight on the balls of your feet, push off from your toes. Stay vertical and make a conscious effort not to lean forward or backward. Avoid kicking your heels backward as you elevate, and keep your knees soft on takeoff and landing. Barely leave the ground when you jump — just go high enough to clear the imaginary rope. Land as softly and with as little sound as possible.
Swing the rope
Why: This develops your wrists' circumduction (ability to move in a circular movement).
Try it: Take both handles in one hand, and spin the rope forward by rotating your wrist. As you spin the rope, don't allow it to cross the midline of your body. The rope should strike the ground directly in front of the turning hand. Keep your elbows close to your ribs. Repeat with other hand.
Jump through the rope
Why: You're putting together the previous two skills and raising your heart rate.
Try it: The first turn of the rope should be initiated by your shoulders, and the following turns should be via your wrists. As you jump, your mantra should be: Turn first, jump second. Your jumps should be low and very soft. Try not to kick your heels back to make sure you clear the rope — this will make you tired very quickly, and may lead to sore ankles, hips and knees. The rope is only about 1/4-inch thick so jumping high is completely unnecessary.
Why: It gives you a break from jumping while strengthening your arm muscles.
Try it: Grab one handle with each hand. Your hands should be about hip-width apart and level with your belly button, and the tops of your thumbs should face upward. Your elbows are in close to your ribs. If you're right-handed, start by crossing your right hand over your left hand toward your left hip. At the same time, your left hand should move toward your right hip. (If you're left-handed, reverse the move.) The faster you move your hands, the more momentum you'll generate; the more momentum you generate, the more easily the rope will swing. Once you master this move, you can go straight from the side swing into a jump. To do this, wait until your right hand is in front of your left hip. Then, take your right hand up toward your head, across your body, and bring it toward your right hip. This rainbow motion will create a loop you can jump through to start jumping rope again. (You can watch Shana Brady, Punk Rope's director of training, demonstrate the move on YouTube.)
Why: It works different muscles in your legs while getting your heart rate up.
Try it: Start with the basic jump, but instead of landing on both feet, split your feet so that one foot moves forward and the other backward. On the next jump, switch the position of your feet. You should land relativelyflat-footed, with a slight bend in your knees. While you jump, imagine your feet are gliding over the ground, and keep your range of motion small at first.
Why: Strengthen your legs while getting a cardio workout.
Try it: From the waist down, the side straddle looks just like a jumping jack. As the rope passes under your feet, move your feet apart. When the rope approaches on the second turn, move your feet back together. This is a two-step jump, so don't try to move your feet apart and back together again in a single jump. Keep your range of motion small at first, especially if you have any knee issues, and don't let your knees collapse in. Your kneecaps should stay aligned with your second and third toes.