Jumping Rope: Childhood Game or Serious Workout?

Lauren Bedosky
by Lauren Bedosky
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Jumping Rope: Childhood Game or Serious Workout?

Whether it’s to go minimalist or go old school, some cardio junkies look to the jump rope in hopes of reaping cardiovascular benefits. So, we looked into whether jumping rope is actually an effective way to maintain your hard-earned cardiovascular fitness.

Chances are good it can help you maintain your cardiovascular fitness, but sports physiologist Mike Bracko, EdD, certified strength and conditioning specialist is doubtful it can help you improve your fitness. “There’s just not as much of a metabolic load with skipping, especially compared to running,” he says.

METABOLIC LOAD, INTENSITY, DURATION

Metabolic load refers to how many muscles you have to contract to complete a movement, as well as how hard you’re working. Running, for example, uses your legs, hips, ankles, core and arms, and therefore has a high metabolic load. Jumping rope, meanwhile, uses the muscles in your legs and core, but not as much upper body.

That said, the cardiovascular benefits you get from jumping rope may depend on how quickly you’re skipping, Bracko says. “The faster you skip, the faster your muscles are going to contract, and if your muscles are contracting faster, that means you’re going to burn more calories,” and build greater fitness to boot.

In fact, a 155-pound person can expect to burn roughly 372 calories jumping rope for 30 minutes, which is equal to running for 30 minutes at a pace of 6 miles per hour, according to estimates from Harvard Medical School.

As performance coach Brian Neale, a certified strength and conditioning coach, notes, cardio is cardio. “Anything that’s going to get your heart rate to a certain level, and sustain it at that level, is going to maintain your cardiovascular fitness at that level,” he says.

Granted, you probably won’t want to jump rope continuously for 20–30 minutes, as when you go for a run or a bike ride. However, rope jumping is a great option for moderate- and high-intensity cardio intervals, Bracko says. After all, jumping rope can raise your heart rate in little to no time — especially when you pick up the pace or try double-unders.

Bottom line: If your goal is to maintain your cardiovascular fitness, jumping rope is well-worth your time.

BEYOND CARDIO

Aside from the cardiovascular benefits, jumping rope also trains coordination, builds ankle stability and helps you become more comfortable moving on the balls of your feet, Neale says. These skills are especially beneficial for tennis and soccer players, as well as boxers.

For example, one study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine reveals young soccer players who incorporated a jump rope routine into their training saw greater improvements in balance and coordination than those who only practiced soccer drills.

But even if you’re not an athlete, jumping rope can offer many benefits — namely, increased bone mineral density. Research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, for example, shows college-aged women who performed just 10 vertical jumps three days per week for six months were able to build up the bones in their legs and lower spine; their jump-free peers saw no improvements.

3 JUMPROPE WORKOUTS TO TRY

Intrigued? Try one (or all) of the following jump rope workouts. None last longer than 15 minutes, but each helps you maintain fitness, burn calories, build coordination and strengthen your bones.

If you want a longer cardio session, you can do all three of these workouts in a row, Bracko says. Or, do each of these workouts on a separate day during the week.

As with any form of exercise, you need to stay consistent to reap benefits. “The frequency is what’s important,” Neale says. He recommends performing a cardio workout of some kind four days per week: “That tends to be optimal as far as the time-cost benefit.”

1

THE TABATA

For this Tabata set, alternate 20 seconds of quick jumps with 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds. This workout only lasts 4 minutes, but if you go quickly during the working intervals, you won’t want the workout to last any longer.

2

THE BANGSBO

Jump rope for 30 seconds at an intensity that’s roughly 30% of your maximum. “That means you’d be skipping really slow, almost too slow,” Bracko says. Once 30 seconds are up, you’ll increase the pace so you’re working at 60% of your maximum intensity for 20 seconds. (You should still be able to talk at this pace.) After 20 seconds, you’ll go as fast as possible for 10 seconds. Then, start over again at 30% intensity. You’ll continue this formula nonstop until you’ve reached 5 minutes.

3

THE TREMBLAY

Option 1: Skip for 30 seconds at an intensity of 60–70%, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat for a total of 10–15 rounds.

Option 2: Skip for 60 seconds at an intensity of 60–70%, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat for a total of 4–5 rounds

About the Author

Lauren Bedosky
Lauren Bedosky

Lauren is a freelance fitness writer who specializes in covering running and strength training topics. She writes for a variety of national publications, including Men’s HealthRunner’s WorldSHAPE and Women’s Running. She lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, with her husband and their three dogs.

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