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Jump rope for cross-training: how to get started

Rope-skipping is a great alternative to more traditional cross-training methods for runners

Perhaps you’ve heard that skipping (aka jumping rope) can be an effective cross-training tool for runners, because it lets you build aerobic fitness while using many of the same muscle groups as running (calves, quads, core and glutes, plus potentially your shoulders, triceps and biceps, especially if you use a weighted rope) but with less stress on your muscles and joints. It also offers low-level plyometric benefits. Maybe you tried it and found it wasn’t quite as effortless as when you were a kid at recess. Like anything else, learning to jump rope as a cross-training activity can take some effort to master. But considering you can take a skipping rope anywhere and all you need is a patch of pavement or some empty floor space, it’s worth mastering.

RELATED: Skipping: Why it’s a runner’s secret weapon

As with anything else, there are apps to help you with jump rope workouts, and there is expensive weighted ropes that might make your rope-jumping more efficient and enjoyable. You can even take classes with other jump-ropers. But you don’t need those things to get started. Just buy an inexpensive jump rope at any sporting goods store, find a piece of pavement or floor (and, if training indoors, a ceiling high enough) to accommodate your rope, and start skipping. Expect to feel a little soreness in your upper back the day after your first few workouts–the action of holding and turning the rope engages muscles you don’t use in running, though the goal is to use your wrists only.

How long should my rope be?

Hold the rope by its handles and let it hang to the ground. When you step on it with one foot and pull the handles taut, the ends of the rope (not including the handles) should reach approximately to your armpit. (A few inches above or below is fine.) If your rope is too long, you can shorten it by tying a knot near the handle.


Skip tips

For maximum efficiency, try to jump as low as possible. Your feet should barely come off the floor each time the rope comes around.

Try to keep your hands in line with your hips, rather than in front of them. They should be about six inches from your hips. Keep your shoulders and elbows relaxed, rotating the rope with your wrists only.

Don’t plan on skipping for an hour the first time you try it. Start with a 10-minute session, since it will feel awkward and unfamiliar at first, even for people with a high level of fitness. Experiment with how fast you jump, jumping with feet together or alternating steps, and possibly with music at different beat rates. Use a timer app (such as Tabata) to time intervals. The blog posts on the Crossrope.com site have some great tips, drills and workouts for your jump rope workout.

Sample workout

This workout combines skipping with core strength exercises. For a high-intensity workout, get your heartrate up by skipping fast (80 to 120 skips per minute), and for more of an aerobic workout, keep the intensity moderate.

60 seconds to two minutes skipping
30-60 seconds plank
60 seconds to two minutes skipping
30-60 seconds mountain climbers

Repeat three times.

As with any other workout, an adequate warmup and cooldown are recommended. Start and end with some light aerobic activity, like a fast walk around the block.