One often overlooked way to train cardiovascular endurance is by using a skipping rope. For some reason, people often forget about the benefits of jumping rope while growing up. It's a staple of boxers' training as it's a great exercise to work on coordination, footwork, agility, quickness, and endurance.
Another fun aspect of jumping rope is that there are many techniques to develop so that your workouts always stay challenging and fun. Well, until you snap yourself with the rope, but that's just part of the learning curve. Also, a skipping rope is pretty much the cheapest fitness tool you'll find. They're usually available for 5 to 10 dollars, and can last you a lifetime. To top it off, its minimal size makes it easy to carry around everywhere. In short, there is no reason you shouldn't have a skipping rope at your disposal.
When looking for a rope, you need to make sure it is the right length for you. To find this out, put a foot in the center of the rope and lift the handles so that you fully extend the rope. The handles shouldn't go past your armpits, a little below your armpits is perfect.
Learn to Skip Rope
If you're like me, skipping rope kind of passed you by when you were in school. In our case, we need to learn skipping rope as adults, and that can be a pain in the ass, trust me, I've done it. Nonetheless, just keep trying and you will eventually get it.
If you've never skipped rope in your entire life, it's a good idea at first to try and imitate the motion of skipping rope without a rope. Keep your elbows close to your side and imagine yourself skipping rope using your wrists and forearms. You should jump about 1 to 2 inches off the floor, just enough so that the rope can slip under your feet. Also, only the balls of your feet should be touching the ground.
Make sure that your first workouts are aimed at learning the proper technique. When your technique is better, you'll have more than enough time to work on your conditioning.
As you start feeling more comfortable visualizing yourself and practicing the movements of jumping rope rope, incorporate the rope and practice small time intervals, making sure you can continually jump rope without tripping on it. For example, jump rope for 10 or 20 seconds so that you don't tire yourself. Concentrate fully on technique, making sure you're not jumping too hard. Repeat the intervals 5 to 10 times in a row.
I wouldn't recommend skipping rope if you have flat feet as the constant impact of jumping could possibly hurt you. If you have any type of problems with your feet arch, make sure to consult a doctor beforehand. Also, to limit impact, it's a good idea to wear good cushioned shoes, and to practice on a shock absorbent surface such as a gym mat or wood floor. Tennis courts and boxing rings are also great alternatives.
This week, work on technique, and next week, you should be ready to start working out with the skipping rope.
The Double Under
This is probably the most common technique that people learn after learning how to skip rope. To perform a double under, you basically need to make two turns of the turn for every one jump. You still jump with your feet together, both at a time. When first learning how to do double unders, it is better to practice them by themselves, one try at a time. Once you become more efficient at it, jump rope normally and try to do a double under every ten seconds or so. Once you become even more used to this technique, you should be able to do double unders and resume jumping rope normally without tripping or taking breaks in between.
Jumping Rope Workouts
The most obvious way to train with a jump rope is to do timed intervals. As boxers do to simulate the effort and strain of a round in the ring, use a timer and skip rope for periods of time ranging from one to three minutes. If you want, you can incorporate double unders once in a while, but always focus on your technique. Soon enough, you should become good enough so that you're able to skip rope for one complete interval without tripping.
Mix It Up With Interval Training
A simple way to boost up your skipping rope workouts is to incorporate interval training. As opposed to 2 or 3 minutes intervals, practice doing twenty seconds interval followed by a ten second rest. Make sure you go at full speed during these intervals, you'll have to push yourself fully to really feel the benefits of interval training.
A 10-Minute Cardio Workout
Here is a quick 10-minute cardio skipping rope workout to improve cardiovascular endurance and agility. Try to do it by taking as fewer breaks as possible. If you absolutely have to take a rest, make sure you do it in between rounds, and stop the timer so that you go through the ten rounds. You'll notice that there aren't too many different techniques in this workout, it's made this way so that you first concentrate on doing the basic moves correctly. As you start feeling more comfortable, have a look at some of the different techniques showed in the video at the end.
1st minute: Figure eight
Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold the rope handles together with your two hands. Now, stay in place and trace a figure eight pattern, moving from left shoulder to right hip, then right shoulder to left hip.
2nd minute: Jump rope
For one minute, get into a comfortable pace and jump rope the usual way. You should be jumping about one or two inches off the floor with your feet together.
3rd minute: Figure eight
Repeat the first exercise.
4th minute: Double unders
Skip rope the typical way, and incorporate a double-under every 10 seconds.
5th minute: Brisk walk
Just walk in place for 1 minute at a good rhythm, make sure you're taking in big breaths.
6th minute: Run and skip rope
For 1 minute, skip rope while alternating you feet as if you were running.
7th minute: Jump rope
Go back to skipping rope the usual way.
8th minute: Brisk walk
Same as before, walk in place at a good place
9th minute: Double Unders
For this round, try and do as many double unders as you can in one minute.
10th minute: Jump rope
Jump rope the usual way.
One of the best thing about the skipping rope is that it forces you to work primarily on technique and balance as you push up the pace and get more and more tired. If your technique fails for even just a second, you'll snap yourself with the rope, and have to start back again. The same principle applies to boxing as you don't want your technique to suffer in the later rounds as you become more and more tired.
With that said, you don't need to be a boxer to practice jumping rope. It's a great exercise that will improve your cardio while keeping it fun and diverse.
As always, make sure to consult a doctor before attempting any of these exercises.