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The Fastest Way to Get in Shape

Jumping rope isn’t just kid stuff — it’s also one of the most effective and efficient aerobic workouts you can do. Here are some tips on getting the most out of this fun fitness routine, from Escape Your Shape: How to Work Out Smarter, Not Harder by Edward J. Jackowski, Ph.D.

Jumping rope is the only exercise that streamlines your entire body. That’s right, it’s for anyone trying to shed excess weight or mass. I’ve seen thousands of clients over the past 20 years incorporate jumping rope into their workouts with amazing results. Remember that no one picks up a rope and jumps for 5 minutes straight right off the bat. It will take time to build your endurance, but you can do it. I’ve seen it myself with clients who could barely complete 10 revolutions to begin with; today they can keep it up for 30 minutes at a stretch!

Jumping rope will burn a substantial amount of calories in a relatively short period of time — more than 23 calories per minute! Compare that to stationary biking at 10 MPH; which burns only 6 calories per minute, or brisk walking (4 MPH); which burns only 7 calories per minute. If your fitness goals include losing weight, be sure to include jumping rope in your off day routine.

Jumping rope burns fat throughout your entire body and works both your upper and lower bodies simultaneously. The result is that you’ll have better muscle tone and definition all over. In addition, it has a positive effect on your performance in whatever sports or activities you enjoy. Specifically you’ll be able to move faster and with better coordination, balance and agility. Need I say more? Okay, jumping rope frees you from expensive equipment, gyms and trainers. And it’s totally portable so you can work out just about anywhere.

Whether you jump rope alone or in a class, it’s always challenging. You’ll never become bored or outgrow it. It’s fun and, best of all, incredibly motivating because you’ll see noticeable improvement in the way you look and feel right from the start. I never feel more energized, accomplished or fit than when I finish a jump rope routine. Once you start, you won’t want to stop, either!

Start off on the right foot by properly equipping yourself with the following:

A JUMP ROPE. You’ll want to start out with a speed rope. When you need to increase the intensity of your workload, you may advance to a peg rope, unless it’s contraindicated for your body type. Avoid cloth ropes, which don’t have the same heft. They tend to tangle and their lighter weight means you just can’t build the same momentum.

A word about length: To be sure your jump rope is the correct length for you, grip the rope by the handles, hold the center of the rope to the floor with one foot, and pull the handles up toward your shoulders. The ends of the handles should just about reach your armpits. If you need to shorten the rope, you can tie a knot in the rope near the point where the rope meets the handle. Don’t tie knots in the center of the rope — they’ll only trip you up.

CROSS TRAINERS. While jumping rope isn’t as high impact as running or jogging, you still need a pair of good shoes that will cushion the balls of your feet. Don’t forget socks!

A FORGIVING SURFACE. Make sure to jump on a surface that gives, like wood floors with a good subflooring, a dual-impact mat, or short grass.

WATER. Keep a bottle on hand so you can take small sips throughout your workout. You’ll sweat a lot, and you don’t want to dehydrate.

With the correct grip, hold the handles out in front of you with the rope behind you draped below the calves. Keeping your feet together, your hands move down and to your sides. As you rotate your forearms forward, down and around in a circular motion, the rope comes up behind you and over your head. As the rope moves toward the floor in front of you (it should strike the floor between 6 to 12 inches in front of your feet), jump about 1 inch while you maintain the circular motion of your forearms. Then, as the rope passes under your feet, gently land on the balls of your feet. It is the continuous circular movement of your forearms that keeps the rope moving down under your feet and then up over your head again and again.

Your palms should be facing slightly upward, your elbows should be 3 to 6 inches from your sides, and your hands should be slightly in front of you, about level with your hips. Keep your hands moving continuously in compact forward circular motions, so that the rope keeps turning. Don’t worry or give up if you can jump only a few times before you miss. Nobody picks up a rope and jumps perfectly right off the bat! When you miss, just start again. Remember, it is the number of cumulative jumps that count. A few jumps will turn into 10, then 20, and soon you’ll start counting minutes.

With time you’ll master the goals you first set out for yourself both physically and psychologically.

DURATION. When you can easily turn that rope 100 times, you should increase the duration of your routine, but do it gradually. Try jumping 125, then 150, then 200 revolutions before you start counting minutes.

FOOTWORK. Practicing different footwork is another way to increase the intensity of your jump rope intervals and works other muscles in your legs. Try the following step variations for 20 jumps, returning to the basic jump for 20 jumps in between. As you master each of these, you’ll want to increase the number of jumps for each in intervals of 5 (25, 30, 40, up to 100):

  1. Shift your weight to one foot and then the other — as you become comfortable with this pattern, it may become your basic jump. That is, you’ll return to it between intervals of other footwork.
  2. Run in place.
  3. Alternate jumping with your feet spread apart and then together (as you would do a jumping jack).
  4. Alternate kicking one leg out to the side, then the other.
  5. Lift one knee, then the other.
  6. Jump with your feet together from side to side, as if you’re skiing and making quick sharp turns.

If you become fatigued or short of breath, don’t stop moving. Instead, switch to active-rest moves such as side benders. When you catch your breath, pick up the rope again.

If you are having trouble with jumping rope, check yourself against the following guidelines:

  • Keep your hands at your sides, just slightly in front of your hips at waist height.
  • Stand up straight with knees slightly bent. Don’t hunch your shoulders or bend over at the waist.
  • Don’t look down at your feet or lower your head.
  • Don’t snap your wrists — move your forearms, wrists and hands as a unit. Keep the wrists firm but flexible. Don’t over rotate or swivel your hands.
  • Practice in front of a mirror if you are having trouble on a particular move.
  • If you find yourself double jumping (jumping twice for each revolution of the rope), slow down. Practice jumping at a slower, steady speed before you pick up the pace.
  • Jump so that your feet come off the surface no more than an inch or so.
  • Establish a rhythm and coordinate the pace of your feet with your hands. Let your hands lead, and your feet will follow.

Edward J. Jackowski, Ph.D., author of Escape Your Shape: How to Work Out Smarter, Not Harder (Copyright © 2001 by Edward J. Jackowski, Ph.D.), is the CEO and founder of Exude Inc. ( based in New York City. It is the nation’s largest motivational and one-on-one fitness company.




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