If the last time you picked up a jump rope was in high school gym class, you're missing out on a workout that can really shed the pounds. If you can muster an hour of jumping rope, you'll have burned approximately 860 calories if you are a 160-pound person, or about the same as running 8 miles within a single hour. For exercise purposes, athletes typically use a "speed rope" cable that is fairly lightweight but comes in a few different weights.
Assess your current level of expertise. If you've never used a jump rope, consider yourself a total beginner, in which case using a rope with a little extra weight can help you get more coordinated and develop your dexterity. If you've been using jump ropes for a while or doing other workouts that incorporate fast jumping and the "double under" technique, you're at moderate or advanced level. In that case, a lighter, thinner rope may be in order, advises Chris Martin of the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters CrossFit gym.
Test out a few jump ropes at your local gym, or talk to a personal trainer who has a set of jump ropes of varying weights. While beginners should err on the slightly heavier side, you won't know your comfort level until you've tried them out. If you're a beginner, do a workout of basic jumping or "double unders" with a moderately heavy rope. Some jump rope manufacturers make an extra-heavy jump rope for strong lifters or serious bodybuilders -- which is probably not for you when you're just starting out. The exact weight of the jump ropes will vary depending on the manufacturer, but the cable section of typical starting cable rope may weigh about 3.4 ounces.
Move to a lighter-weight jump rope as you develop more dexterity and you're able to do more than a few double unders in a row. If you're working with a coach, she may recommend that you move around from light to heavy and back again to avoid the muscle adaptation that can cause you to hit a fitness plateau.
- If you want to add some resistance training to your workout, put a set of 1-pound wrist weights around your wrists, advises New England trainer Ross Enamait, who incorporates jump rope training into many of his workouts.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.