5 Steps to Jump Rope Like a Pro
By: Peter NestlerRope skipping is one of the best cardio, fat-burning, leg-shaping, cross-training exercises there is. Almost every major sport utilizes it as an integral part of training due to its ability to enhance agility and foot speed. It will have you burning calories at a speed that can exceed 14 per minute, plus, its ultra portable, doesn't require any expensive equipment and can be done by a 4 year old. So why aren't more people doing it? I think the big reason revolves around a lack of confidence and a general misunderstanding of how to do it. Maybe you've picked up a rope and missed so many times that the biggest part of your workout was picking your ego off the floor. Or maybe you've just been intimidated by some hotshot at the gym. Never fear, there's no reason to miss out on the awesome benefits a rope can give if you follow these 5 simple steps to jumping rope like a pro.
- The Rope
Sounds simple enough, but you'd be amazed at how many people jump with ropes that are garbage. The right rope doesn't need to be expensive. There are great ropes available for as little as $2-$3. The main thing to look for is whether the rope turns freely inside the handle. If it gets caught up easily it will make jumping very difficult. Don't go for the ball bearing 'super rope', they're junk and not worth it. Try to avoid cloth ropes as well since they're usually too lightweight and don't rotate well. The best ropes are made of either straight plastic (commonly called a speed rope) or plastic beads. The other thing to check is the length. When you stand on the middle of the rope with both feet, the handles should reach to just under your arm pits. Jumping with a rope that is too short will trip you up faster than anything.
The most common mistakes people make when trying to jump rope are usually rooted in bad jumping form. If you're jumping properly, you should be on the balls of your feet (if you stand on your tip toes the 2-4 inch area still on the ground is the ball of the foot) and your knees should be slightly bent. While jumping, your heels should never touch the ground. Jumping flat footed is really bad on your knees and should be avoided, plus it wears you out fast. Don't lock your knees and remember to relax, jumping should become a very fluid motion in time.
- Start Simple
Everyone wants to jump in and impress their peers the first time out, but if you skimp on the fundamentals, you'll always look like an amateur. The most important skill to master is the single bounce. Every skill in rope skipping is built off of this, so when you fly through it without properly learning it, everything you do will look wrong. To properly execute the single bounce, you should only be jumping about 1/4 - 1/2 an inch off the ground (your rope is only so thick) and you should be landing softly on the balls of your feet. Your elbows should be near your side and the rope should be turned by your wrists, not your arms. A common thing for beginners to do is take really big jumps, kicking their heels up to their backside, their arms are making huge circles and they look rather ridiculous. It's ok to start like this, but take the time to lower your jump and bring your arms down before you try any other skills. It can't be stressed enough, learn this before you try anything else. It may take a while, but it's worth it in the end.
- Contact Zone
What type of surface are you jumping on? Sometimes you'll be missing constantly and it's not your fault, it's the contact zone. Carpet will make your rope bounce, there's no way around it, you have to jump higher than normal if you are on carpet. Each surface type has it's own characteristics and you should be aware of them before you get out there and strut your stuff. If you have a choice in surfaces, a suspended wood floor is the best for your joints, plus it can give you some extra bounce in case you want to hit a multiple under and get up really high. Since most of us live in the real world and don't have a choice in premium surfaces, your next best bet is to find a flat surface that has some give to it. Try to avoid concrete if possible since it will wear you out faster, it's not good for your knees and it will eat your rope up. Try a few jumps out on whatever your surface is and pay attention to how the rope bounces and slides across the floor. Once you've tried out a few different places, you'll start to notice similarities and the adjustments you'll need to make for each location.
- Practice Makes Permanent
Focus on the mechanics of each skill so that you're doing them properly from the get-go. Some skills may feel unnatural at first, but if you practice them properly, your body will input that into muscle memory and it will become second nature in no time. The longer you practice something with bad form, the longer it will take to unlearn that motion. Lots of jump rope skills will take time to master, take it slow and focus on the mechanics. If you don't know how to do something, watch/ask someone who does or pick up a video. There are a load of resources available online with plenty of teaching that's either free or very low cost. (make sure you're signed up for the videoKast).
From the beginning of his show to his very last jump, we all found Peter to be extremely positive, motivational and entertaining. There is still a buzz around the school and I now see more and more students using jump ropes at recess time and excited to show off their new tricks.
Kristen Gauthier | P. E. Teacher
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