Boxers may hook, jab, and uppercut their way to a ripped core and bulging biceps, but what really keeps them in fighting shape is jumping rope. For less than $20–cheaper than most one-month gym membership rates–you can have everything you need to pump up the fat-burning effects on your body. What’s even better is that a jump rope is easy to travel with, meaning you have no reason not to get in a sweat session on your lunch hour, while out on a business trip, or even while getting some R&R time away from home.
Jumping rope may seem like just another cardio routine, but in reality, it’s a workout that has a lot of body benefits. It will strengthen both your upper and lower body. And while it will take some practice to master the techniques (and really, doesn’t just about everything?), in doing so you’ll improve your balance and coordination, while gaining some fancy footwork.
To get started, you just need a jump rope–adjusted so that when standing on the rope, the handles reach your armpits–an open, obstacle free area to jump, and athletic shoes. Be sure to jump on smooth, dry surfaces to avoid slipping or injuries.
Get a feel for the rhythm of the rope swings by holding both handles in on hand and spinning the rope next to you. Add some jumps in, as is if you were jumping over the rope when it sweeps across the floor. Once that feels comfortable, get the rope involved by jumping with two feet for every rope spin.
If you haven’t jumped rope since you were a kid on the playground, the up and down bouncing will get your heart rate up quickly. You might also be putting a lot of impact on your ankles, knees, and hips, but if you watch a boxer’s form, you’ll learn the importance of being light on your feet. You’ll also notice that boxers look as though they can jump rope for hours–and some do. If you’re feeling winded after a couple of spins, it simply means you need to both build up endurance as well as settle into a smooth pace. Think of jumping rope less like a sprint or fast run and more like an easy jog.
Boxers rely on their footwork to get around the ring quickly to avoid taking a hit. Jumping rope helps, but only if they switch up their style. Two-footed jumps are part of their routines, but they have a lot of other techniques they add as well. Start practicing the following in small doses. For example, do 20 complete spins of each with a 30-second rest in between. Or do it Tabata style, where you do a total of a four-minute workout, doing each exercise for 20 seconds with a 10-second break in between. (Tip: Do an online search for Tabata songs, which are set to tell you when to stop and go by the pace of the music. That way you won’t have to watch the clock.)
- Boxer Shuffle: If you’ve ever watched any of the Rocky movies, then you’re already familiar with this jump. This is a very common boxer move, where you alternate back and forth with your toe touching the ground as you jump with one foot, and then switching sides on the next spin.
- Running Man: Run in place while spinning and jumping over the rope. You can increase the leg workout by focusing on kicking your heels to your butt as you jump, or raising your knees high in front.
- In and Outs: Instead of jumping in place, open and close your legs as if you were doing jumping jacks without the arm movements.
- Scissors: This jump is similar to in and outs, except instead of bringing your feet together after jumping wide, you’ll cross one leg in front of the other. Jump out wide again, and then cross your legs with the opposite leg now in front.
- Front and Backs: Start with one leg slightly forward and the other leg slightly back. As you spin the rope, jump and alternate your feet so that the back foot is now in front and the front foot is now in back.
- Singles: Build mad leg strength and balance by doing all of your reps jumping on one leg and then repeating on the other side.
- Criss-Cross: The idea is to cross one arm over the other at the bottom of the spin so that you jump through the loop that is created, and then open your arms back to normal position for the next spin. You can do all of these with the same arm in front, or work on your coordination and alternate each time your cross.
- Double Unders: Go back to the two-footed jumps you started with, but this time spin the rope fast and jump a little higher to get the rope to go around two times for every single jump. Fast hands is the key. (Tip: When practicing, you might want to keep your legs covered as you’ll like whip yourself a few times with the rope.)
Practice these jump rope exercises as part of your workout or in smaller doses as a great warm up. And when you start getting really good, crank up the intensity by doing all of the above exercises, but with the rope spinning in the opposite direction.
What’s your favorite way to jump rope? Tell us in the comments.