When I started skipping rope during lockdown a few months ago I was looking for a fast, easy and cheap cardio workout I could do without leaving the house. Sure, I hadn’t jumped rope since I was a child but wasn’t it like riding a bike?
Not quite. Not only was I a lot less co-ordinated than I remember while at school, but I couldn’t do more than 10 jumps at a time. Not 10 minutes—10 actual jumps. It was embarrassing, but also the wake-up call I needed to start taking my health more seriously.
After skipping almost daily for a few months I can now do 10 rounds of 60 seconds each, with a short break in between. That might not sound like much, but for someone who couldn’t climb a single flight of stairs without being out of breath, it’s close to miraculous. And I continue to get better.
It’s easy to incorporate jumping rope into a wider workout too, says personal trainer Julia Buckley. “For most people’s goals, jump rope training works best alongside other moves. You wouldn’t want to make it the only exercise you do, but it’s a great thing to include in workouts. I use it in HIIT workouts a lot, where I’ll alternate jump rope intervals with exercises using weights or body weight strength.”
Here are five reasons you should schedule a few minutes to skip rope every day.
1. It’s not just cardio
I knew skipping would boost my heart rate but I didn’t realise it was also great for my core. Being in the air puts a beneficial strain on every muscle in the body, says the British Rope Skipping Association. You’re not only using the obvious muscles in your arms and legs, but if you do it properly, you’re also engaging your abdominals to keep your body stable. All that while burning up to 1,400 calories per hour.
2. It’s cheap and accessible
You don’t need expensive or hard-to-find equipment—just a rope, supportive shoes and possibly a mat.
Ropes are widely available online for next to nothing. I use an adjustable one made from coated steel wire with ergonomic foam handles. It turns easily and is super light, ideal for beginners.
While jumping barefoot can strengthen the muscles in your feet, unless you’re already very fit it’s generally wise to wear cushioned trainers to absorb impact. I wear Nike Flyknits, and I find them supportive enough while still being breathable, light and “bouncy”.
As for the best surface—it’s somewhat personal, but avoid concrete or asphalt. “A springy surface such as a mat can help make a softer landing, but you’ll find most mats bunch up or move around when skipping so cushioned shoes on a bare floor usually work best,” says Buckley. I prefer to jump on grass but if I’m inside I do use a large foam mat—not a yoga mat but one made up of interlocking square tiles, similar to the kind babies crawl on—which I place on carpet so it doesn’t slip.
3. It’s fast
Even if you only have 30 seconds to spare between Zoom calls, you can still squeeze in a few quick rope revolutions. Just don’t let yourself get too out of breath before logging on to deliver that presentation.
4. It’s portable
Maybe not so relevant now, but when we can travel again it will be super easy to pack a skipping rope in your luggage. Throw in some resistance bands and you have everything you need for a complete hotel room, poolside or beach workout.
5. It will make you happier
As someone who loathes running and group classes, I’ve always struggled to find effective cardio that won’t leave me feeling completely murderous. But there’s something about skipping rope that’s just… joyful, beyond the endorphin rush (although there is plenty of that too, along with dopamine and serotonin to complete the feel-good trio). Maybe it’s the flashback to childhood, or the feeling of being airborne and carefree for a millisecond, but skipping rope makes me happy in a way that running never did. It’s just a great way to start the day. Your joints will probably also be happier than they would if you were running.
10-minute jump rope workout by Julia Buckley
“Here we’re alternating skipping with strengthening moves for an amazing full-body blast to torch calories and sculpt muscle. Set an interval timer for alternating 40/10-second intervals. Do each exercise for 40 seconds and take 10 seconds rest in between. Beginners can just alternate high knees and basic bounce if the other variations are too advanced. If you don’t have any weights you can use a band or improvise with bottles of water for the strength moves.”
40 seconds of jump rope (high knees)
40 seconds of side raise
40 seconds of jump rope (basic bounce)
40 seconds of bicep curls
40 seconds of jump rope (scissor legs)
40 seconds of shoulder press
40 seconds of jump rope (side-to-side jump)
40 seconds of upright row
40 seconds of jump rope (4 basic bounce, double under or high jump)
40 seconds of bent over row
40 seconds of jump rope (2 basic bounce, double under or high jump)
40 seconds of tricep kickback
See more of Julia Buckley’s workouts at juliabuckleyfitness.com