Skipping with a jump rope is one of the best cardio exercises out there. This simple exercise burns lots of calories and tremendously improves your agility, but you have to learn to do it properly. There are plenty of other advantages to jumping rope as well – one of which is that it’s incredibly cheap and it can be done just about anywhere. The only downside is the learning curve to get started. However it is not as hard as it looks when you follow a well structured plan.
How to Skip Rope, Step By Step
The most effective way of learning a skill like rope jumping has been shown to be what is termed a “progressive strategy”. The term progressive strategy sound complicated but in reality simply involves doing a single element of a jump rope rep until you are comfortable doing it, then adding the next step until you can do and entire rep. Once you are comfortable with this, do two jump rope reps and then stop again. Continue gradually adding reps until you are comfortable with the basics of skipping.
This is, in principle, similar to the way Mr Miyagi taught Daniel-San in The Karate Kid – wash-on, wash-off to get the basic moves, then join them together.
As you progress through your progressive strategy make sure you focus on good form by keeping the following in mind:
Jump on the balls of your feet
The first and foremost rule for jumping rope effectively is to never let your heels touch the ground. You should only jumping on the balls of your feet and try to make the landing as soft as possible. Your calves will get a good workout and they should feel stronger in no time.
This is such an important part of skipping that we suggest you start by simply getting the feel for jumping on your toes at a steady pace without trying to do any other skipping motion. Remember you want to build up the individual elements and this is just the first, so while you might feel a little silly just bouncing on the spot with the rope hanging by your side, it will help you make much faster progress later.
Jumping Too High is a No-No
If you aren’t a super-fit skier or basketball player and you want to be able to skip for any longer than 30 seconds, the trick is don’t jump too high. It’s a common mistake among beginners. The jump rope is about an eighth of inch thick, so you’ll be fine keeping your jump to only an inch or so off the floor.
The key to achieving this is to relax and not worry about tripping up the rope, just focus on making small, steady jumps. You won’t burn yourself up after a few seconds this way, and you will be able to learn far faster.
Hand and Arm Positioning
Your hand positioning might require slight variations depending upon the length of your rope and your personal preference, but usually your hands will naturally site at the same height as your waistline and about a foot away from your sides, with a slight bend, your elbows tucked in. From this position you should be able to comfortably spin the rope.
It’s all about the Wrists
Once you have the jump down, it is time to get your rope involved. The most common problem newbies have is using their arms and shoulders to generate momentum for the rope. You shouldn’t be moving your shoulders at all and your arms should not move much more than describing the outline of a ball – all the real work is done in the wrists.
Now pick up your rope and put both handles in one hand – you might want to start with your dominant hand. Keep your elbows into the ribs and make circles with that rope to the side of your body making sure you do not cross the midline so the rope should hit the floor to the side of your body over and over again. You should mimic the action with your off-hand too so it does not feel left out.
Focus on just moving your wrists in a tight circular motion and your momentum will take care of the rest. Swinging your arms wildly will only throw you off balance and make the movement much more difficult than it needs to be.
Once you feel comfortable, swap the rope to the other hand (bonus marks if you can do it in a smooth action and you don’t stop swinging the rope!)
Getting Your Timing Right
Now you have the jump and the rotation it is all about getting the timing right. The basic mantra of jump rope is to turn first and jump second. This gets your jumps into the natural rhythm of the rope reducing the number of times you catch your foot and have to restart.
To get this timing right, take the rope in both hands and step through it so the rope is behind your feet. Now spin the rope over your head and just lift your toes to catch it under your them. Step through and repeat this a few times and you should find yourself naturally lifting your toes then your heels. This should give you the timing you need to turn, then jump as the rope comes round.
Gradually speed this up until you are only briefly pausing then, instead of lifting your toes, start to add in the jump you practiced earlier.
Last, but by no means least…
The more relaxed you are, the better your rhythm and form will be, Relax your shoulders and slip into the “turn, jump” rhythm. I often find that saying this to myself at a steady pace for a minute or two before starting to skip can really help finding your skipping mojo!
Going through this progressive strategy will help you build the small movements that, when fluidly strung together, ensure to avoid developing the common habits like double hopping (jumping twice in every revolution) and rocking onto your heels. If you find yourself clipping your shoes and having to restart too often, take it back a step and just do a few skips then stop and start again.
The Video Version
For those of you that like to see the steps in action, take a look at this video
As you improve and string together more jumps you will naturally find your rhythm. Finding your rhythm is what makes jump rope fun and easy, it’s kind of like finding that right feel while you swim or the right cadence when you run or cycle. Finding your rhythm is what will make it feel easy.
Pushing yourself to complete certain challenges and jump rope as fast as you can will typically see you losing form and rhythm and finding the whole thing frustrating. So rather than trying to do a certain number of revolutions in a limited time, focus instead on hitting a consistent beat.
Even with the best strategy in place, the real secret to mastering the rope is all about practice. Jumping rope is fairly easy and you should be able to jump rope fairly consistently after a few sessions. Keep practicing every day and as you improve you are also sure to see lots of changes with your body, some of which will include quicker hand and foot movement, fat loss and increase in stamina.
Choosing a Perfect Rope
There are many varieties of jump ropes available, but as a beginner, you should start with a heavier rope that will not be too fast and will provide some sensory feedback to aid your rhythm and timing. Remember that the most expensive jump rope isn’t always the best one for you. Preferences vary from one person to another, based on skill, fitness levels and goals – go for the one you feel most comfortable with, whether it’s a £10 jump rope or a more expensive one.
The faster ropes become more fun as you get better as they allow you to jump at higher speed and attempt tricks like double-unders (allowing the rope to pass under your feet twice for each jump) but these fast, whippy ropes hurt like hell when they hit you, so leave buying one of those until later….but when you do, do remember to take a look at ours!!
Choosing the length of the jumping rope is where most beginners get it wrong. It goes without saying that the perfect length of the rope for you will depend on your height, but also your skill level – the better you get, the shorter you will want the rope generally. To size yours place it under your feet and pull it up, adjusting so that each side is the same length. If the handles are somewhere around your sternum, it’s a good place to start.
Most ropes have adjustment, so try it out slightly longer and shorter until you find the perfect size for you. Only then think about cutting off the excess rope.
Getting Started With A Jump Rope Is Not That Hard
As you have seen, although it can be a little frustrating to start with, if you break down the skipping motion into its component parts and practice them individually you will find it far easier to get your skipping down than trying to go straight into it. After a few sessions you should be pretty competent and you will soon see the benefits of one of the toughest cardio torture devices and can start adding tricks to your repertoire….but that is another article!