With TikTok elevating jump rope tricksters to influencer status and CrossFit primarily programming double unders and crossovers, many exercisers are forgetting just how fun and beneficial old school jump roping — also known as single unders — can be in or as a workout.
Here, learn how to jump rope with good form, plus five tips for graduating from junior jumper to single-under senior.
The Health and Fitness Benefits of Jumping Rope
"Jumping rope offers many of the same health benefits as running," says CrossFit Level 1 coach David Newman, CF-L1, founder and CEO of Rx Smart Gear, the go-to rope brand of many jump rope enthusiasts.
For starters, because jumping rope gets your heart rate up really quickly, it can improve cardiovascular endurance and capacity, he says. (Need proof? See how gassed you are after 50 consecutive hops).
Beyond the cardiovascular benefits, jumping rope has strength benefits, too. It's a full-body exercise that works your shoulders, grip muscles, forearms, calves, quads and hamstrings, Newman says. More specifically, "regular jump roping can boost muscular endurance in your lower body," he says, which can support your running, cycling, walking or hiking goals.
Further, jumping rope can increase speed and agility, improve coordination and increase power, Newman says. So, if you're looking to become more effective on the soccer field or lift heavier on the platform, jumping rope can help you get there.
Research backs these benefits up: One October 2019 study in the Research Journal of Pharmacy and Technology found 12 weeks of jumping rope was linked to an improved VO2 max (a marker of fitness level) in college-aged men. And a January 2015 study in the American Journal of Health Promotion suggests jumping rope can support bone density in premenopausal people, making it an optimal add-in for anyone with osteopenia, which is the stage before osteoporosis.
Not for nothing, another benefit of jumping rope is that it requires no more than a rope and a little space. Meaning, it's accessible to everyone — including those who don't have the means for a gym membership or transportation to get to one.
How to Jump Rope With Proper Form
- Stand with your feet together, holding one end of the jump rope in each hand with the rope behind you. (Pretend you're jumping with an imaginary rope if you don't have one.)
- Keeping your elbows close to your sides, swing the rope with your wrists up over your head and allow it to fall toward your feet.
- Jump up with both feet before the rope hits your feet and repeat.
Jumping with good form requires many of the same mechanics as sitting with good form. Really! You want your midline engaged, shoulders back and down, back straight and eyes forward.
"Start with the rope behind your socks, one handle lightly in each hand, palms facing out, arms straight and hands at about pocket height," Newman says. To rotate the cord around your body, flick your wrists as if you're shaking a maraca. "You don't want to move your arms too drastically — if your arms flail, you'll fail," he says.
The jump you use to get over the rope is not a tuck jump. Instead, you have to press through the balls of your feet to levitate straight up 1 to 2 inches into the air. You only need to jump as high as the rope is thick, Newman explains, and the rope is pretty darn thin. "Jump higher than that and you're wasting energy," he says, which is not ideal if you're jumping for time or reps.
The trickiest part is figuring out when to jump. "You'll need to build up your own internal understanding of how long it takes to move the rope around your body," Newman says. Jump too early and you'll land on top of the jump, but jump too late and you'll trip. In general, you should initiate the jump when the rope passes your shins, he says.
5 Tips to Get Better at Jumping Rope
1. Make Sure Your Rope Is the Right Length
Nothing interferes with sound single unders quite like a too-long or too-short rope. So, before you start practicing your form, find your Goldilocks rope.
Most rope websites, like RxSmartGear, have online guides that make it easy to pick the right cable length based on your height.
If you already have a rope, however, you can check whether or not it's the right size by halving it with one foot. Pull the handles up to your chest so there's an equal amount of rope on either side. If the end of the cable should come to about nipple height. But as a general rule, your height plus 3 feet equals your ideal rope length, according to Rx Smart Gear's size guide.
A Guide for Choosing a Jump Rope Length
Jump Rope Length
2. Choose the Right Material
If you're new to jump rope, Newman recommends skipping thin, sleek for now because they're too light.
"When you're first starting out, you want a rope that is weighty enough to feel as you spin it around your body," he says. You don't, however, want a weighted or resistance rope, which are advanced pieces of equipment for more experienced jumpers.
"Start with a rope that's 3 or 4 ounces in weight, then you can go lighter or heavier when you're more experienced," Newman says.
3. Fix Your Hand Positioning
Jumping rope is something many of us have been doing since we had recess. Still, Newman recommends taking inventory of your positioning.
"Proper hand placement is essential for jumping rope as efficiently and comfortably as possible," he says.
So where should your hands go? By your side, at about shoulder-width apart. One trick for testing your positioning is to grab onto a broomstick, PVC pipe or barbell.
"Think about where your hands would be if you were holding a broomstick horizontal to the ground with your hands about hip-width apart," he says. Now, flip your hands around so your palms are facing forward. "If you're wearing pants with pockets, the stick will typically be right around the opening of their pockets," he says.
At this level, your hands are at the center of your body. When you rotate the rope, the result is the cord is the same distance above your head as it is below your feet with each rotation, Newman explains. If the rope is not at the center of your body, you'll either trip over it. Or, you'll have to work harder to get it all the way around.
4. Learn a Toe Catch
This might surprise you, but Newman says the first step to learning jump rope involves no jumping at all. Instead, it's to learn something called the toe catch.
"Try a toe catch with your feet together, handles in your hands at hip-height and the rope behind you," he says. Then, without letting your feet leave the ground, rotate the rope around you one time. "To rotate the rope, think about pulling a jacket open really fast," he says.
This cue helps you flick your wrists to bring the rope around your body, rather than using your shoulders and traps to do so. After the rope rotates to the front, lift your toes and catch the rope under your foot, making sure your hands finish in the aforementioned broomstick position, he says.
"Doing toe catches forces people to freeze and really make sure that their hands are in the proper position, '' he says. "When you can consistently do five to eight toe catches in a row, you know you have the proper hand and rope positioning to execute an actual single under with good form."
5. Add a Jump (or Two)
You have to learn to crawl before you can walk. So, once you know how to do a toe catch, you can learn to do a single under plus a toe catch, Newman says. The first time the rope rotates in front of your body, jump over it. The second time, catch the rope with your toes. Once you can execute this flawlessly for five reps, Newman gives you the green light to try doing multiple single unders unbroken.