"Many people think it's just lower body and cardio, but you have to keep your core, shoulders, and arms engaged while you swing the rope around you," says Keegan Draper, NASM-CPT, and fitness specialist at Mindbody, a virtual workout platform. "It helps to improve coordination as well." Plus, jump ropes are pretty affordable and easy to take with you on the go. In other words, with a rope, the world is your gym.
Ready to shake up your cardio routine? Grab your jump rope and try these nine rope exercises, plus learn tips on how to avoid injury. And if you don't have a rope yet, there are recommendations for that too.
The best rope exercises for a full-body workout
1. Basic jump
Start with the basic jump to target the legs, core, and shoulders. In case you've forgotten how to jump rope (hey, it's been a long time since grade school for some of us), here are Draper’s instructions: "With the rope in your hands, arms at your side, and hands away from your body, swing the rope from behind your heels over your head and down in front of you and jump over the rope."
2. Hop on one foot
Once you've got the basic jump down, kick it up a notch by hopping on one foot. "This will improve your balance, coordination, ankle strength, and hone in on your calf muscles," says Brianna Bernard, a personal trainer, nutrition coach, and Isopure nutrition products ambassador. Simply jump and land on the same foot while keeping your other foot off the ground for the entire set.
3. Double under
The double-under jump rope exercise is the same as the basic jump but way harder. "This is quite possibly the highest intensity, advanced jump rope exercise there is," Bernard says. "Jumpers must complete two rope rotations for every jump, which requires a quick flick of the wrist and upper body strength, as well as rhythmic timing, to align the rope landing with each jump execution."
4. Jump rope jacks
Shake things up and work your outer hip and inner thigh with jump rope jacks. "While swinging normally, alternate a narrow leg and hop out to a wider leg with each swing," Draper says. "Don't go too wide until you've developed confidence." Baby steps (er jumps), people.
5. Half twist
To give your obliques some love, Draper recommends a half-twist jump. "When jumping, twist 90 degrees in the hips with each jump from the center to left to center to the right," he says.
6. Side under swing
The side-under swing style of jumping rope improves coordination and strengthens the core and shoulders. "This is a tricky one where you will start with a basic jump, but every other jump you will rotate your shoulders and swing the rope next to your body then back under to center, then the other side," Draper says. "It's a three jump move." Again, practice makes perfect.
7. Crisscross jump
Give your upper body a workout by throwing in a few crisscross jumps. "With every jump, athletes will cross their arms over their chest, and in a lateral raise type motion, bring their arms back to a neutral state," says Bernard. "This movement engages your upper body with every rotation."
8. Hop front to back
The hop front to back is a long jump simulation. "It will further engage your quads [with the forward jump] and hamstrings [with the backward jump]," says Bernard. To try it, find a line on the floor and then hop forward and backward with every jump and rope rotation.
9. High knee jumps
High knee jumps are exactly as they sound, and they are no joke. "Alternating landing feet as you jump, raise each knee up to your belly button or chest-height with each rotation of the rope," Bernard says. "This will increase the intensity of a standard alternating foot jump and engage your hip flexor and abdominal muscles."
How long should you do rope exercises
When it comes to rope exercises, Draper says there really isn’t an ideal number of sets to do. Besides, once you get really good at it, it would get pretty difficult to count. Instead, he recommends measuring your rope exercises by time. “Adding 10-15 minutes of jump rope training a day would be a great way to meet your cardio recommendations for the week,” he says.
Tips for proper form and avoiding injuries
Like with all types of workouts, ensuring you're performing all the rope exercises correctly is essential for avoiding injuries. "Jumping rope is still an exercise that puts stress on your ankles, knees, hips, and back," Draper says. To help keep you safe, check out these rope exercise tips below.
- Stay on your toes: "It's crucial to stay on your toes when jumping," Draper says. "If you strike your heels or abruptly stop between each jump, the jarring motion can cause pain and injury."
- Watch your landing: "When you land after each jump, stay on your toes and bend in the knees and hips as needed to absorb the shock, then jump up," Draper says.
- Use a proper rope size: The rope itself also plays a role in avoiding injury. Draper recommends stepping in the middle of the rope and raising up the handles to get a perfect size. They should come up to your armpit.
The best trainer-recommended skipping ropes
Bernard's go-to rope recommendation is this one by Survival and Cross. It's affordable, lightweight, and you can adjust it to fit your height.
Shop now: Survival and Cross Jump Rope, $16
If you're looking for a variety of jump ropes in different weights and lengths, Draper recommends checking out Crossrope. They have high quality handles and feature clips that allow you to change out your rope. They're a bit more of an investment, but worth it if you plan on incorporating rope exercises into your routine. We suggest starting with this quarter-pound weighted rope.
Shop now: Crossrope 1/4 LB Jump Rope, $19
If you fancy yourself more of an intermediate or advanced jumper (and are into CrossFit or other high-intensity workouts), try this rope. It's a top pick for Draper for its affordability, lightweight feel, durability, and ability to spin very quickly.
Shop now: WODNation Speed Rope, $16
On the other hand, if you're a newbie jumper and just want something super simple to get you started, Draper suggests this budget-friendly, adjustable, and foam-gripped rope. Nothing fancy, but it will get the job done.
Shop now: XYLSports jump rope, $9
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