Hailing from a boxing background, I have always been a keen skipper. I would watch with fascination as the professional boxers did these amazing, skillful, tricks while jumping rope and wished I could learn to do the same.
Skipping has been used for generations as a fun, cheap, and effective conditioning exercise. Due to the fact your feet stay relatively close to the ground, skipping is also a moderately low impact exercise (contrary to popular belief) which tones and works the buttocks, thighs and calf muscles. Like any exercise that works lots of large muscles simultaneously, skipping is a great way to build cardiovascular fitness. Although an experienced rope jumper can make it appear very easy, skipping can be quite dynamic, especially when the technique is polished. It’s also a great way of improving mobility in the shoulders as well as working the upper arms and the back muscles.
There are also other benefits. It can help you increase your timing and agility skills if you play any other sports. It also allows you to learn the art of coordination between your upper and lower body, which is a skill many people lack nowadays.
This is why skipping is such an important part of a boxer’s training program; these skills are vital to help them fight better.
There is an incredible amount of versatility in skipping, you can pretty much do it anywhere, at any time and of course the only piece of equipment required is a skipping rope. This piece of equipment is so light it can travel with you in your pocket anywhere in the world. Therefore, it is the best form of workout for those who have to force exercise into their daily routine due to lack of time in their hectic lifestyles.
Choosing the rope
Ironically a light-weight jump rope is in fact a very poor choice of material. An ideal preference would be leather, rubber or heavy polyurethane ropes. The actual material doesn’t matter, but what does is the sufficient weight behind it allowing you to swing it freely through the air, particularly at higher speeds.
Some ropes have built in counters to count the number of ropes swings, it is useful but not essential. Rope length is very important if you’re short like me! You will end up rapping the extra length around your wrist, you don’t want to do this as it can prevent you from getting a good turn when skipping. Therefore, when choosing your rope (nowadays you can adjust the length once you have purchased it), stand on it with your feet close together, the handles should reach to just below your armpits, any shorter and this will make it difficult to skip.
The floor surface is important. A wooden floor would be a better option over a concrete floor as causes less impact on your joints. But the best choice of floor would be one that has a little give, so you can bounce off and reduce the impact transmitted in your joints. If the floor is hard, then try laying a matt down underneath you to reduce the impact.
The perfect skipping technique takes a while to master! I always tell my clients practice again and again. Practice is the only way you can make your skipping skills wonderful to the eye. There will be many mistakes that come along the way; the one annoying mistake for most people is the “rope sting.” This happens when the rope gets caught and hits you in the arm. Don’t let this dishearten you. Even an experienced skipper still has to concentrate with every jump, as each one is slightly different to the one before. This keeps your mind focused on the technique – unlike riding a stationary bike at the gym for example where the movement is very fixed, repetitive and also boring to say the least!
So, going back to basics could be your new winter exercise routine. Skipping is sometimes called one of the oldest, trouble-free and most effective ways of developing cardiovascular fitness known to man, or woman of course. And if you really need some more motivation, try listening to some “rocky” music to inspire you and get you in the groove of things.
Vahdaneh Vahid is a UK-based Personal Trainer who recently moved to Dubai. She has had an interest in fitness from a young age. Her motto is now "Train Don't Drain" and teaches her clients that a balanced understanding of their physical, mental and emotional wellness is key. She can be found on Twitter: @vvfitness