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You’re A Dope If You Don’t Jump Rope

brucejumpingJumping rope is an underrated and overlooked exercise.

It’s an “ancient practice,” that has been a part of combative training for centuries… Boxing, kickboxing, martial arts and wrestling have all incorporated it.

Jumping rope is simple, but it’s not easy.

Many people are put off of jumping rope because there is a learning curve involved.  It can be frustrating to trip and stumble repeatedly while trying to get the hang of it.  But that’s an even better reason to do it!

I have jumped rope on an off throughout my 40-year involvement in martial arts and self-defense training. I’ve always enjoyed it but, like many others, I got sidetracked by other forms of conditioning that seemed more novel or exciting.

Nowadays, from “my more mature vantage point in life,” I’m rediscovering the athletic, “anti-aging,” and self-defense benefits of jumping rope and thought I’d share them with you.

Unless you have some kind of medical condition preventing you from doing so, I invite you to consider adding a jump rope to your “training toolbox.”

Jumping Rope and Self-Defense Training

The qualities developed from jumping rope are perfectly suited to self-defense training.

Fighters need to be nimble, explosive and light on their feet. They need balance, coordination, conditioning and resilience. Properly done, jumping rope will provide those qualities.

I’m not saying that jumping rope is the end-all-and-be-all of self-defense training, but it will be an asset to whatever training regimen that you might already have in place.

Cheap and Portable

The jump rope fits perfectly into my “travel light/train anywhere philosophy.

If you think about it, adding rope jumping to your workouts is a no-brainer.

You can pick up a half-decent jump rope for as little as $10 bucks.  You can take it anywhere you go.  You can use it just about anywhere providing you have a high enough ceiling, a square metre of free space and a flat, solid surface to jump on.

muhammad ali skippingJumping Rope Is A Self-Correcting Exercise

Most exercises can be performed incorrectly, reinforcing bad patterns of movement, negating much of the health and conditioning benefits and increasing the potential for injury.

Jumping rope is NOT one of those exercises.

Jumping rope is a self-correcting exercise. It’s hard to do it wrong.

The rope is your teacher. It forces you to adopt correct technique and posture or it will snag on your foot and force you to start over.

Getting to a point where you can maintain a steady cadence will “automatically” improve your posture, coordination and movement patterns.

Jumping Rope Is An Excellent Supplement To Other Training

I’m not suggesting you discontinue other activities and jump rope instead.  Use the rope as a supplement to enhance your conditioning and performance.

“Athletes in sports such as ice hockey, cross-country running, Olympic-style weight lifting, and alpine skiing also benefit from the quick footwork involved in jumping rope. The stamina displayed by elite boxers and wrestlers have long stood as a testament to the effectiveness of jumping rope.”  Gray Cook author of “Athletic Body In Motion.”

Jumping Rope Is More Efficient Than Other Forms Of Cardio Conditioning

Jumping rope produces more health benefit in less time than other forms of exercise. For example, it is said that 10 minutes of jumping rope will yield as much benefit as 30 minutes of running, with less potential for injury.

Quoting Gray Cook from an article he wrote on the subject:

“It takes less training time to jump rope than to run for the same benefits. Because jumping rope requires greater technique, it incorporates more muscles, both the muscles that move and those that hold the body stable. Jumping rope requires a greater expenditure of energy. Turning the rope increases the level of intensity.”

Anti-Aging Benefits of Jumping Rope

Jumping rope is an excellent activity for those of us approaching or surpassing middle age.  Like it or not… as we age, certain cognitive, athletic and hormonal qualities begin to fade.

Here’s a list of anti-aging benefits associated to this training:

Maintains and improves brain function (learning, memory, problem solving and mood)

Burns fat and improves cardio vascular health

Improves bone density

Improves coordination, timing, balance and reflexes

Tones and strengthens muscles throughout the body

Improves posture and quality of movement

Strengthens your immune system

Jumping Rope Makes You Tougher And More Powerful

Bruce Lee, undoubtedly one of the most influential martial artists who ever lived, is quoted as saying:

“The more relaxed the muscles are, the more energy can flow through the body. Using muscular tension to try to ‘do’ the punch or attempting to use brute force to knock someone over will only work to opposite effect.”

Optimal fighting performance and power generation is attained by integrating and coordinating relaxation and tension.  If you are too relaxed you are weak and vulnerable… If you are too tense, you are slow, awkward and tire quickly.  The focus of martial arts training is to attain the perfect balance between the two.

Jumping rope can help you achieve that balance.  I can’t help but to quote Mr. Cook one last time in that regard:

“Jumping rope toughens the body. It proves that quickness comes from staying relaxed in the extremities while keeping the spine erect and the abdominals drawn in and reinforces this pattern in your body. Pulling in the abs does not require holding the breath or tightening the stomach as if anticipating a blow to the gut. However, the more the trunk is held in the appropriate position and the more the extremities are relaxed, the quicker and more powerful movements will become.”

How To Incorporate Jump Rope Training

As a Warm Up Or Cool Down

Five to ten minutes of jumping rope is a great way to warm up for a vigorous workout. This increases your body temperature and heart rate, loosens and lubricates your joints and “prepares you for battle.” This will enhance your performance and reduce the potential for injury.

At the end of a workout, jumping at low intensity will help flush the lactic acid from your muscles (reducing muscle soreness) and gradually bring your heart rate down to normal.

Jumping Rope As The Workout

Jumping rope can be the workout itself.  By alternating bursts of high-intensity jumping with periods of recovery, you’re going to get an awesome cardio workout.  Jumping rope, especially when incorporating the more intense and challenging variations that it offers, is perfect for interval training.

Active Recovery

Low intensity jumping can be used as “active recovery” between intense bouts of exercise.

When performing intense exercises and intervals such as kettlebell snatches, sprints or all out blitzes on the heavy bag, you can use low intensity skipping to recover and catch your breath while allowing your muscles and breathing to recover before the next round.

This allows you to keep moving during the recovery process increasing the benefits of your workouts.

Another variation is to incorporate a minute or two of low intensity skipping between exercises in a circuit.  Perform an exercise, lets say pushups, then skip for a couple minutes, then do some pull ups, and skip, then some squats and skip… and so on.

Jump Rope To Energize Throughout The Day

There is a growing body of evidence that exercise does not have to be completed in one, continuous training session. It can be broken up throughout the day and still be beneficial.

Jumping rope allows you to incorporate “mini-workouts” throughout the day not only to improve your fitness but also to boost your energy, clear your mind and improve your mood.

It’s a great way to break up sedentary activities like sitting at the computer, a long drive or any type of intense thinking.  It will allow you to disengage mentally and then return to the activity with more focus and a fresher perspective.

Give It A Try.  What have you got to lose?

There’s my case for jumping rope. I invite you to give it a try and determine for yourself whether jumping rope has merit.

To give you some ideas, I came across this video clip demonstrating several different rope jumping variations.  Let the rope be your teacher… All you have to do is start “playing” with it and your body will do the rest.

Give it a go and let me know how you make out.


About Randy LaHaie

I’m the founder of “Protective Strategies,” a training and consulting company providing self-defense and combative fitness solutions to law enforcement, high-risk professionals and private citizens since 1994. I am a retired police officer, court-declared expert in use-of-force and critical incident performance, and a life-long student of self-defense and combative fitness. “My Thing” is to help people incorporate functional and minimalist workout strategies to improve their health, fitness and personal safety.

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  • Ryan

    Very interesting read randy. Gonna give this one a try, especially between kettle bell.

    • Glad you found some value to the post Ryan… Combining KB’s with skipping is a great idea. I do it often… using the kettlebell work as my high intensity interval with heavy swings, snatches, clean and press… and then 30 seconds to a minute of active recovery with the rope… Makes for a good workout. Good luck.

  • Daniel

    Great article Randy, most guys in the gym tend to skip (pun intended) jumping rope and then they wonder why their foot work sucks. I have found that jumping rope before doing footwork always keeps me light on the feet.

    • Thanks for your input Daniel… As you know, jumping rope will develop strength and “springiness” in the legs and encourage primary contact being made on the balls of the feet… perfect for explosive shifting and footwork. I like your idea of “cuing up” for your footwork drills by skipping first. Good idea.

  • Gil


    I’ve tried many other “newfangled” conditioning methods and I always end up comin back to the rope. In fact, my “roadwork” is skipping, in addition to including it in my boxing routine. Can’t ask for a simpler and portable piece of equipment

    • Great to hear Gil. I’m glad we’re on the same page. I’m sure you agree that in most cases… simpler is better… Good luck with your training and thanks for your comments.

  • Me

    I did not realize how close jumping rope and martial arts were to each other. Although i can understand why since it helps to build coordination.I am a runner and i have noticed improvements in my running posture and speed since i picked up jump rope as an exercise. I recently acquired plantar fasciitis, and used jump rope in place of my running. I cured my PF and now i still jump rope because of all the benefits thanks for the info!

  • Normal Andy

    That’s the best article on jumping rope I have ever read-Thanks!

    Just to add that it has rehabilitated my torn up knees ( from soccer) and my flat feet ( weak ankles from childhood)
    An incredible exercise.

  • bernapril20

    Great Article!

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