I love indoor cycling as much as the next SoulCycler, and I also enjoy running (well, to a point). But in order to maintain my several-times-a-week cardio regimen, I've had to branch out. To get my heart rate up when I'm just not feeling another run or another indoor cycling class, I either dance or jump rope. Some people just aren't dancers, I know, but if you're in a cardio rut, I can't recommend jumping rope enough. It's loved by Victoria's Secret models and pro boxers alike, and it doesn't require you take a fancy class or work one-on-one with a trainer. Plus it's a way more versatile tool than you might think.
Still not convinced? Mark Jenkins, a celebrity trainer who has worked with Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, and Brandy, considers the jump rope one of the staples of his workout method. Here, he breaks down five reasons it's worth adding to your fitness regimen.
It works for all fitness levels
Whether you work out six days a week or never, the jump rope never stops being challenging. If you're new to it, Jenkins suggests starting out with five minutes, then adding one to two minutes every session. "Or you can just keep your allotted time frame and see if you can pick up the number of jumps you can do within that time frame. There are a lot of ways to make it exciting," Jenkins says. Rather than counting himself, Jenkins uses the new Smart Rope ($90), available on StarShop, which has an LED display that shows you how many reps you've done in mid-air and links to an app that keeps track of progress in jump counts, calories burned, and workout times.
It keeps your heart rate up
Jenkins suggests using jumping rope as a form of active rest between strength-training sets–something especially useful if you're at the gym doing consecutive seated exercises. "I use it with my clients to keep their heart rate elevated between sets so they continue to burn fat and build muscle at the same time," he says. Typically, he'll have clients do 100 skips at a time, as fast as possible.
It's the quickest, most effective form of cardio
"Just doing five minutes, depending on how fast you jump, can be equivalent to running a half mile to a mile," Jenkins claims. It's a good low-impact alternative to pounding the pavement.
It makes you focus to get more out of your workout
"What I like about jumping rope is that, because it's a rope, you have to think about what you're doing," Jenkins says. "It doesn't become mindless, like riding a bike does or doing the treadmill. You actually have to think about your timing, development, and your reflexes at the same time as working your heart rate."
It's extremely versatile
Aside from being extremely portable, there is a surprising variety of exercises you can do with a jump rope to work different parts of your body. Jenkins says to target your thighs, you can do lunge jumps or squat jumps; if you want to work out your abs, kick your knees above the belly button. Or you can work on calves and arms by doing quicker double unders (rotating the rope under your body twice in one jump). Additionally, jumping rope can balance your body's strength when you do single-legged exercises–right away you feel which side is weaker and can form a training plan around that.
Try this starter jump rope workout (it's quick! 7 to 9 minutes,max) from Jenkins:
1. Start with 60 seconds of regular skipping.
2. Alternate between 30 second "bursts," kicking the knees above the belly button, and standard jumping for 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Cool down with another 60 seconds of skipping.
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