Remember the good ol’ days when you could hit the playground for a little double Dutch with your friends? You’d laugh, sing a few rhymes about how Cinderella was dressed in yellow, then you’d head back inside feeling exhilarated and a little exhausted. Exercise has never been as much fun.
Although you may not have access to a slew of classmates to help you swing and sing through a tough exercise routine, you can still grab a jump rope for less than $20 and organize your own workout.
It won’t’ be easy. Jumping rope is hard work, burning just about as many calories a minute as running. But it is a great workout, and it can be incredibly fun. Start by mastering the basic two-foot hop and the basic jog, then try the more challenging exercises outlined below.
The basic moves
Two-foot hop: Stand with your feet together, knees and hips slightly bent with the jump rope positioned behind your feet as you hold a handle in each hand. Swing the rope behind you so it rotates over your head and in front of your body. Hop into the air — you don’t have to jump high — as the rope nears your feet, passing it beneath you. Continue swinging the rope, hopping once with every turn.
Jog: Start in the same basic position with your feet together, knees and hips slightly bent, and the jump rope behind your feet. As you swing the rope behind you and over your head, lift your right foot as if starting to jog, and as the rope twists in front of you and nears your left foot, hop it into the air, switching foot position so your right foot touches down as soon as the rope passes under it and your left foot lifts into the air. With each turn of the rope, you’ll continue this jogging action, switching which foot is in contact with the ground.
The 10-minute jump rope circuit
After warming up, perform each exercise for 30 seconds, followed by a 30-second rest. Repeat the circuit three times for a 30-minute workout.
If performing just 30 seconds of each exercise starts to feel easy, increase your work time and decrease your rest time to make the workout harder. So, for instance, you could increase your work time to 45 seconds while decreasing your rest time to 15 seconds. Each circuit still lasts just 10 minutes, but with increased interval periods and decreased rest periods, the challenge increases substantially.
Start with a basic hop, turning the rope under both feet as you hop into the air, but with each turn of the rope, twist your hips and legs to one side, then the other, so your feet, knees and hips angle away from your midline every time they touch the ground.
Start with your feet together, and as you spin the rope under both your feet, hop your legs wide laterally, landing with your feet spread as if doing jumping jacks. With the next spin of the rope, bring your feet back to center, ultimately crossing your right foot in front of your left before touching down with your legs crossed. Continue this out-cross-out-cross action, alternating the front leg on each cross so the next time you cross your legs, your left foot crosses over your right foot.
It’s just like it sounds: Your legs perform a continuous scissoring action with each turn of the jump rope. Start with your feet together, and as you spin the rope under your feet for the first time, jump your legs up, and scissor them so your right foot lands in front of your body and your left foot lands behind. On the next jump, alternate your leg position, scissoring them so your left foot lands in front of your body and your right foot lands behind.
This is one of the more challenging jump rope exercises to master, but once you get it down, it’s a lot of fun. You’ll perform a two-foot hop throughout the move, maintaining a steady jumping pace.
Start with a slower-than-usual hopping pace to get the hang of the arm exercise. Once you’re performing a steady hop, you’ll add the crisscross. As the rope spins under your feet, then over your head, you’ll cross your arms in front of your body so your arms are crossed the next time you jump over the rope. Then, as soon as you jump over the rope with your arms crossed, you’ll quickly uncross your arms, returning to the normal arm position for the next hop. Continue the crisscross action so your arms are in a different position each time you clear the rope.
Backward jumps are awkward at first, but the movement itself is very basic. It’s just the same two-foot hop you’ve already mastered. The challenge comes with the direction of the rope spin. Instead of starting with the rope behind your feet and spinning it behind you, then over your head so it passes under your feet starting at the toe, you’ll start with the rope in front of your feet, turning the rope in the opposite direction so it rotates first in front of you, then over your head, ultimately passing under your feet starting at your heel. Because you can’t see the rope as it approaches your feet, it’s harder to master correct timing. To get the hang of it, slow your pace, and jump slightly higher in the air with each hop. As you grow accustomed to the movement, you’ll become faster and more efficient.
Jack legs are basically just jumping jacks performed with a jump rope. Start with your feet together, and as you spin the rope, jump both feet into the air, spreading them wide as the rope passes under your feet so they land in a lateral split stance. Immediately hop them back into the air, pulling them to center so the next time they touch down, they’re positioned together.
One-leg hops are exactly the same as two-leg hops, but they’re performed on a single leg. This requires extra balance and coordination (as well as serious calf strength), so rather than jumping for the full 30-second interval on a single leg, try performing five hops on one leg, then five hops on the other leg, switching legs every five hops for the duration of the interval.
Be extra careful about protecting your knees when doing one-leg hops. Keep your hops as low as you can, and land lightly on the ball of your foot with your knee and hips slightly bent. Keep your knee in line with your toes.
Lateral hops may look simple, but they’re actually quite tough. The movement is straightforward enough — you’re just performing a two-leg hop throughout the exercise — but the challenge comes with the extra height required of each jump to perform the lateral movement.
Start with your feet together and the rope behind you. As you spin the rope and hop into the air, jump your feet as far to the right as you comfortably can, keeping your torso relatively fixed in space so the movement is focused on your lower body. As soon as the balls of your feet touch down, again hop into the air, and jump your feet as far to the left as you comfortably can. Continue this lateral hopping motion for the duration of the exercise.
Butt kicks will feel like a bit of a cool down after doing lateral hops. Start with a basic jog, but every time you lift one leg from the ground, bend your knee, and kick your foot back as if trying to kick your own butt. Alternate feet with every spin of the rope.