Rope Jumping: Floating Like A Butterfly

If you didn't learn how to jump rope when you were a kid, you had a deprived childhood. And if you don't do it once in a while now, you have a deprived adulthood as well. Jumping rope is one of this TOJ's favorite exercises because it has so many physical benefits and can be enjoyed by people of all ages, anywhere, anytime. And it's cheap and safe.

The physical benefits are as good as they get, whether you jump aerobically or anaerobically. It gives you a top cardio workout; involves the total body; stimulates strong bones because you are pushing directly against gravity; promotes timing and coordination; and it has about half the impact of running because you land on the ball of your foot instead of your heel so it's easier on you joints and spine.

The real reward of rope jumping does to the complex of muscles, tendons and ligaments in the foot, ankle and lower leg. The rapid mini-jumps required by rope jumping stimulate tremendous muscle elasticity and balance. The mini-shocks of landing strengthen the entire suspension and stabilization system that supports the rest of your body. All power from your body -- whether running, pumping iron, swinging a bat, throwing a ball -- originates from your feet. It's no coincidence it's a standard practice in a prize fighter's workout.

Rope jumping is an intense, vigorous activity, and ranks among the highest calorie burning exercises of them all. Consider that a 155 lb. person jumping a rope at a moderate rate (100+ jumps/min.) burns 844 calories per hour. A runner of the same size moving at at 10 min. per mile pace burns 704 calories per hour. You burn these calories jumping just an inch off the surface.

I workout with a jump rope at least once a week. Sometimes I just jump continuously for 20-25 minutes. I jump forwards and backwards on both feet, side to side with both feet (like skiing), alternating two jumps more heavily on the right foot then two more heavily on the left, and switching one foot forward and one foot back. I'll follow this with light upper body weight lifting or calisthenics.

Most times I do an interval workout using a heart rate monitor. I jump for two minutes, then rest for one minute. The interval is performed with equal weight on both feet. In the two minutes, I skip steadily faster over the first minute and a half, then as fast as I can for the last half minute. I aim to get my pulse up to at least 80% max (calculate 220 minus your age times .8) the last few seconds. During the one minute rest period, I expect my pulse to drop 30 or more beats, which is a good indication of a decent level of fitness and ability to recover; the more and faster it drops, the better. When your pulse no longer drops less than 30 beats during the one minute rest period and remains elevated is a sign you are fatigued and it's time to stop. You can get a great workout doing just 6 to 10 intervals, and that's perfect if you are pressed for time.

If you haven't jumped rope lately, ease into it. Just do a few minutes a day at a slow pace until you get the hang of it and strengthen your feet and ankles. A good warm up is to stretch your calf by keeping your foot flat on the floor and pushing your knee forward (works good leaning against a wall) and also putting your feet should width apart and springing very lightly with the balls of your feet never leaving the ground. Also rotate both your arms, forward and backwards 10x in a windmill motion, then just shake your hands with your wrists loose. You'll be ready to go.

Invest in a decent rope made of plastic/vinyl. As exercise gear goes, they're inexpensive. Avoid cotton rope (too light) or leather (wears away at the handle). Get the right size by standing on the middle of the rope with one foot and see if the handles just reach your armpits. A pair of cross training shoes, well padded in the forefoot, are nice to have too, though not absolutely necessary.
You can jump on any surface, but it's best to have a little flex like you get on a wooden deck or with a thin practice mat or carpet scrap on a hard surface, especially concrete.

I'm not sure why so many people stop rope jumping when they grow up. You wonder if it's because they associate it with kid's games and fun and a long time ago when they had incredible physical energy, before kids, jobs, and pot guts. Don't be fooled. You can do it at any age. Just pick up a rope and start jumping. It'll take a few weeks, but you'll discover the energy is still there.

I used to marvel watching Muhammad Ali in his prime. A large, powerful man, he moved with such grace and agility, round, after round. To prepare, he spent a lot of time rope jumping. That's how he was able to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

No comments: