This Jump Rope Workout for Beginners Will Leave Your Entire Body Burning
Unless you were inspired by the Disney Channel to pick up double dutch (à la Jump In!) or have young kids of your own, you probably haven't touched a jump rope in at least a decade or two, back when the plastic-covered cables were the must-have accessory at recess.
But to certified personal trainer Kira Stokes, who recently launched her own jump rope workouts for beginners, intermediates, and pros on her KSFIT app, a jump rope isn't just a toy — it's a compact, budget-friendly piece of equipment that offers both mind and body benefits for folks of all fitness levels. "Jumping rope isn't just a straight cardiovascular workout," she explains. "It works your arms, shoulders, legs, and core. If you keep your core engaged, it's truly a full body workout."
Here, Stokes breaks down everything the unfamiliar should know about incorporating a jump rope into their fitness routine, including how to choose a rope, how to jump properly, and the health perks of all that hopping. To get you started, she's also sharing a jump rope workout for beginners that'll get your heart rate up and muscles quivering. (Related: Jennifer Garner Inspired Me to Start Working Out with a Jump Rope — Here's Why You Need One, Too)
The Health Benefits of Jump Rope Workouts for Beginners — and Beyond
It's an Efficient Cardiovascular Workout
Jumping rope has too many potential health perks to count, but Stokes says the biggest benefit is its ability to boost your cardiovascular endurance. "It's an efficient way to ensure you're getting your heart rate up to a level that's really going to benefit you cardiovascularly and in terms of impacting your VO2 max," she explains.
ICYDK, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults power through at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity weekly, and folks who stick to that moderate-intensity quota have significantly less risk of developing cardiovascular disease, according to the HHS. Jumping rope, specifically, falls into the "vigorous intensity" category, meaning it can be a major calorie burner. "What you would call a normal pace for jumping rope — or one that you should try to maintain — is clearing the rope 80 times in a minute," says Stokes. "[That pace] is like running an eight-minute mile." Hold that speed for 15 minutes, and you can burn 200 to 300 calories, she adds.
What's more, regularly jumping rope can increase your VO2 max, or the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can use during intense exercise, says Stokes. The more oxygen you can use during those seriously strenuous workouts, the more energy you can produce and the longer you can perform, according to the University of Virginia's School of Medicine. TL;DR: "The higher someone's VO2 max is, the more cardiovascular endurance they have," says Stokes.
It Improves Coordination
Stokes often hears newbies say they can't hop over the rope because they're uncoordinated, but the trainer says that's exactly why you should add a jump rope workout for beginners to your routine. "Jumping rope improves your coordination," she says. "It's almost like your mind has to talk to your muscles to move in conjunction with one another...Your feet have to jump in time with your wrists, rotating to create that [swinging] motion."
And improving your coordination can have benefits outside of the gym, too. "[As] you become more coordinated and more agile, you're less likely to get injured," says Stokes. "If you're coordinated, maybe you're not going to fall down if you're tripping over things." (These cone drills can also help you increase your agility.)
It Pairs Well with Interval Training
Luckily for the folks who get bored to tears while doing cardio for long periods, jumping rope can be spread throughout your workout. "The beautiful thing about jumping rope is that it's not like stepping on an elliptical, where you have to do it for 45 minutes in steady-state cardio and you're just spinning your wheels," says Stokes. "With jumping rope, you can also incorporate it into your strength training so that it becomes more of a cardiovascular challenge." If you're tackling a circuit workout with three rounds of three different bodyweight or dumbbell exercises, for example, try jumping rope for three minutes in between each circuit, suggests Stokes.
It Improves Bone Density
While all that hopping may make it seem as though jumping rope is a high-impact activity, Stokes says that's not the case. "Jumping rope can and should be low impact if you're jumping correctly," she says. "If you're new to jumping rope, and you're jumping 10 inches off the ground with each jump, you just made jumping rope high impact. If you jump and you just clear the rope, which is all you need to do when you're jumping rope, it's low impact." And when all those hops and skips are done with minimal impact, it can actually strengthen your bones, she says. (This low-impact cardio workout will help get the job done, too.)
What to Look for In a Jump Rope
After you decide to add a jump rope workout for beginners into your routine — or at least learn how to properly hop — it's time to choose your rope. You'll want a rope that's adjustable, but the exact type — weighted or speed — you should use is a personal preference; some people believe a weighted jump rope is easier for newbies, as your rotations will be slower, but Stokes' clients have generally learned best on a speed rope, she says. That said, consider giving each variety a test run before you settle.
You'll also want to look for a rope that has ball bearings, which ensure smooth rotation and help you hold a steady jumping pace, says Stokes. Consider Stoke's own jump rope, the Stoked Jump Rope (Buy It, $17, kirastokes.com), which has an adjustable length, is equipped with sponge handles for ultimate comfort, and comes with a drawstring bag. You can also try the WOD Nation Speed Jump Rope (Buy It, $18, amazon.com), which is available in nine colors, or the DEGOL Skipping Rope (Buy It, $9, amazon.com), which is Amazon's best-selling jump rope.
Once you've snagged your rope, you'll need to adjust its length to your height. In general, if you step into your jump rope with one foot in the center, then pull it taut up to your underarms, the handles should be in line with your pits, says Stokes. If you're not able to measure IRL, you can also add three feet to your height to figure out the ideal rope length, she adds. Consider hopping with it for a minute or two at that length to ensure it feels neither too long nor too short, and when you're satisfied, use a cable cutter to remove the excess rope.
"Oftentimes, people jump with a rope that's too long, and their arms start to come way far away from their body, which puts more strain on the shoulders, and they get tired," says Stokes. "Their shoulders tire out before their legs or their cardiovascular endurance does, so it really does matter that you have a rope that fits, that is adjustable, and is adjusted properly to your height." (Need more options? Check out this guide to the best jump ropes on the market.)
How to Jump Rope Properly
In order to score those key health benefits, avoid injury, and generally have a more enjoyable experience while jumping rope, maintaining proper form is key. Step number one: Engage your entire body. "You really have to take a moment to engage from head to toe," says Stokes. "It's not just mindless movement — you're fully engaged and you're thinking about how you're jumping."
Your spine should be largely neutral, though you'll want to have a slight posterior pelvic tilt (re: a slight tuck to the tailbone), says Stokes. "Many people jump into their back, [so] you hear, "My knees hurt. My back hurts," she explains. "It's because they start to arch their back, stick their butt out, and stick their chest out as they're jumping." Maintaining that ever-so-subtle tilt, however, can help prevent those discouraging aches and pains.
Throughout your workout, your elbows should stay relatively close to the sides of your body, the movement required to twirl the rope should come from your wrist — not your elbows — and you should hop high enough just to clear the rope, says Stokes. Most importantly, try your best to avoid "double jumping" — or taking a second small hop once the rope passes under you. "You're jumping twice in a rotation of the rope, so you're using more energy than you need to," says Stokes. To help newbies stick to just one hop per rotation, Stokes recommends saying "jump" aloud while practicing. "When you hear that rope hit the ground, you say, 'jump,' and your body will follow," she says. "You might feel silly when you first start doing it, because you're in your freaking driveway going, 'jump, jump, jump, jump.' But that will get rid of your double-jump so quickly." (Wait, which is better: Jumping rope or running?)
After a few rounds of steady hopping, you might be tempted to try fancy footwork (think: shifting between feet, taking steps), but Stokes cautions against rushing to the tricks. Instead, she recommends nailing the standard, two-foot jumps first, getting to the point where you can consistently jump for at least two minutes, before you start adding variations. "It might be boring to jump with both feet, but it's no less taxing — it's not having less of an impact on your fitness to just do a basic jump," she says. (Related: This Jump Rope HIIT Workout Will Have You Sweating in Seconds)
How to Start Incorporating a Jump Rope Into Your Workout Routine
Jumping rope may look like child's play, but it's not an exercise that can be picked up overnight. That's why Stokes recommends going in with a positive attitude, being patient, and starting out with attempting to jump for 30 seconds straight. Try to do that five times, with a break in short between each set, and aim to complete this circuit the next five times you workout. Then, add 15 seconds to your sets (so you're jumping for 45 seconds straight each time), and repeat the process as you build up your coordination and cardiovascular fitness, she suggests. (Also read: How to Start Exercising Again After Taking a Break)
And perhaps most importantly, "laugh at yourself, and maybe go somewhere where no one's watching," says Stokes. "Just go to a place where you can whip yourself, you can trip over the rope, and you can throw it if you [don't] get it. Practice makes nearly perfect, but you have to put the time in."
Kira Stokes' Jump & Band Burn Jump Rope Workout for Beginners
Once you've nailed the basics of jumping rope and are able to hop for a few minutes at a time, put your skills — and newfound coordination — to the test with Stokes' Jump & Band Burn workout, which was shot before the trainer's Stoked Jump Rope launched. The roughly 20-minute jump rope workout for beginners features a mix of heart-pumping jump rope work and lower body exercises, specifically ones that target the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Though Stokes suggests changing up the types of jumps, such as alternating between feet and twisting the hips right and left, in the video, you don't have to stray from the standard two-foot jump if you aren't yet comfortable with the fancy footwork.
You'll need: A jump rope and set of light and medium loop resistance bands (aka booty bands).
How it works: Play the video below to follow along with the workout in real time, or follow the written instructions underneath.
Jump rope for 3 minutes, following Stokes' cues or simply jumping with both feet together. Then, use the resistance bands to complete 3 minutes of lower body moves (listed below). Repeat the lower body round once more.
- Banded Squat with Knee Press Out
- Banded Squat with Alternating Side Tap
- Banded Squat with Alternating Lateral Step
- Banded Ankle Squat with Alternating Tap Back
- Banded Ankle Jumping Jack
Jump rope for 3 minutes, following Stokes' cues or simply jumping with both feet together. Then, use the resistance bands to complete 3 minutes of lower body moves (listed below). Repeat the lower body round once more. Finish by jumping rope, as you see fit, for 3 minutes.
- Lateral Banded Walk
- Lateral Banded Walk with Side Tap
- Lateral Banded Walk with Star Jump
- Banded Squat to Lateral Leg Lift and Glute Kickback
- 4-Part Banded Squat to Knee Press Out (Round 1); Banded Ankle Squat with Alternating Tap Back (Round 2)
- Banded Squat Jump (Round 1); Banded Ankle Jumping Jacks (Round 2)