Fitness / Beginner Fitness

Learn to Jump Rope like a Boxer with Basic Skips

Get up on your toes and master the schoolyard game.

Boxers typically possess a fiery combination of strength, endurance, and coordination. This makes them among the most athletic people on Earth. Yet, their conditioning exercise of choice is one you played in elementary school. Jump rope is a dynamic, self-correcting workout that you can learn all on your own, provided you’re willing to be patient. Here to swing us into shape is Wexford, Pennsylvania Boxing Coach Joe Divosevic.

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Why Boxers Jump Rope

To train as a boxer is to exercise in the analog way of one’s forefathers. It involves no high-tech gear or gadgets, simply running, heavy bags, and jump ropes. “Go on YouTube and watch Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather Jr., [and] Roy Jones Jr.,” Divosevic says. “All the way back to Sugar Ray Robinson, there were athletes who incorporated jumping rope into their training plan.”

A plausible reason why early boxers picked up the jump rope is the pursuit of a perpetually athletic stance. “In boxing, you see that front-foot back-foot rhythm,” Divosevic says. “If you can find that athletic bounce, you’ll be set up in an athletic stance.” That said, jumping rope is no more specific to boxing than it is any other sport. Divosevic notes that a quarterback who needs to move in the pocket, for instance, could also benefit from the constant, coordinated foot movement involved in jumping rope. In fact, the narrow foot position isn’t at all indicative of a fighter’s stance, which is significantly wider.

Why You Should Jump Rope

First off, jumping rope is a killer aerobic workout. In a 155-pound person, skipping at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes burns about 372 calories, according to Harvard Medical School. Sub out the treadmill for the rope once or twice a week, especially if you’re focusing on form as a beginner. Your cardio will be done before you know it.

Aaptiv has several cardio options, from HIIT workouts to outdoor runs to indoor cycling. Try a class to see which one you like best!

One advantage to jumping rope over following the common cardio routes is coordination. “It’s the rhythm that you develop from jumping rope,” Divosevic says. “When I’m teaching someone to jump rope, I try to get them to relax and find a rhythm. Once you can do that it’s easier to jump rope.” Finding that rhythm and forging an athletic bounce over thousands of jumps not only improves fitness, but it also makes you more athletic.

Getting Started

The rope is literally all you need, but the type of rope you use can make a difference. There are beaded playground ropes (like the ones that you had in school), cloth ropes, wire and leather speed ropes, and weighted handle ropes. For beginners, Divosevic recommends a heavier rope, such as the beaded and cloth varieties. “I like to start with a rope that has a little more weight and feel to it so [that] the person can feel the turnover of the rope,” he says. “If you get something that’s too light, they really can’t feel that turn of the wrist and the rope coming over.” Feeling out that turn is essential to nailing the rhythm. Pass on the speed rope until you get the basic skips down.

Next, determine the length of the rope. Divosevic’s rule of thumb: Step on the rope with both feet shoulder-width apart and pull the handles straight up. They should arrive just under your armpits. However, people with disproportionately short and long arms may need to adjust accordingly.

Before you get started, make sure that your body is up for the repeated skipping. Lower-body soft tissue injuries, like patellar tendinitis and plantar fasciitis, may flare up with the impact. Heavier people may be at greater risk for such injuries while jumping rope.

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Learn the basic skips.

The Two-Foot Bounce

This is the most basic of skips, and the one that you picture when you imagine jumping rope. Make contact with the ground twice with each foot while the rope swings over you. It’s easier to start with two skips between jumps because you don’t need to be as accurate with the timing. Once you get that, try one hop per rope turnover. “It’s slow; you don’t have to bring the rope overhead fast,” Divosevic says. “Time the jump with that rope hitting the floor.”

If you’re struggling with the timing, try it without the rope. “When I see someone and they’re really choppy, I won’t even incorporate the rope,” Divosevic says. “I try to get the body into a rhythm, bouncing back and forth and timing their hands with the jump.” Once you feel the rhythm, try it with the rope again.

Now that you’ve mastered the traditional one-foot bounce, try shifting your weight between your right and left feet to add a secondary rhythmic component.

The Jogging Step

Jogging in place is the same rhythm as the two-foot bounce. You’re really just alternating which foot touches the ground. You can also incorporate one-foot hops, where you hop repetitiously on one foot. Alternate between one-foot hops and jogging in place to master the control of each leg individually.

The Double Under

The double under, a modified version of the two-foot bounce, means that you’re swinging the rope around twice for each jump. This either requires a faster swing or a higher jump, but a faster swing is easier. “You’re compensating with a quick turn of the rope in order to get it through a small space,” Divosevic says. “There’s two ways to do it, but people who are efficient are turning their wrist faster than they are getting more height.” You might add a bit of height to give yourself more time, though. Practice a springy jump that maximizes airtime and minimizes ground time (it might help to point your toes upward as your spring up).

The Hand Transfer

This move is the stepping stone for a multitude of more advanced jump rope tricks (here’s an extensive list, courtesy of the American Heart Association) because it teaches you to control each hand individually. Hold both handles in the right hand and swing the rope to the right of your body, then try to transfer it to your left hand and left side without losing the motion. Once you get the transfer down, you can start working on crossovers and side swing crosses to finally master this simple yet effective exercise.

Setting a strong foundation is necessary, no matter what form of exercise you choose. Get started today with Aaptiv’s beginner-level classes.

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