Jumping Rope: Family Fitness Made Easy

Increasingly, physical education instructors, personal trainers, and coaches are seeing the value of regular rope jumping as a crosstraining activity. For both adults and children, jumping rope is low-cost, convenient, easy to master, and diversely beneficial to your health.

Jumping rope improves body composition, coordination, and balance. It also increases bone mineral density, strength, and aerobic capacity. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine gives “moderate, general rope jumping” a value of 10.0 METs, which makes it an extraordinarily good conditioning tool. And at 12.0 METs, jumping rope at a “fast” pace puts it among the highest calorie-burning activities in the Physical Activities Tracking Guide. Boxing and competitive football, by comparison, both receive values of 9.0 METs.

Unlike running, biking, or team sports, jumping rope is an activity that everyone in the family can do together, at individualized pace and exertion level, regardless of age or cardiovascular conditioning. And the variety of games that can be structured around jumping rope will ensure that your child comes early to the idea that a lifetime of fitness is fun.

Level 1-certified USA Track & Field coach Tim Haft is the founder of Punk Rope, Inc., a New York City-based “alternative fitness class,” as Tim puts it. The website states, “Punk Rope is a playful blend of recess and boot camp for people of all ages and fitness levels. Fun themes, creative drills, fitness games, rope jumping, and raise-the-roof music bring out the kid in all of us.” Haft says that Punk Rope classes incorporate approximately 15 minutes of rope jumping. At www.punkrope.com you’ll find instructional videos and sample workouts, many—but not all—of which are tailored to young children. There are lesson plans and instructional manuals available as well.

“I know that a number of running coaches encourage their troops to try rope jumping as a crosstraining modality, but unfortunately I think the percentage is fairly low.” Haft would like to see a lot more people made aware of the simple pleasures and outstanding benefits of rope jumping. And so since 2004, he has certified more than 750 Punk Rope instructors and trained numerous physical education teachers and after-school program coordinators. He offers an instructor correspondence course, and is always looking for new ways to spread the joy of fitness to young people. To continue the fight against obesity and sedentary living habits, last November Punk Rope launched Hopping for Health, a rope jumping program for children in grades K through 12.

To vary your jump rope workouts, try the jogging gate (pushing off with one foot only, alternating with each step) and the high-step variation of the jogging gate. To perform the high step, exaggerate each step so that you are bringing the foot up to the knee-level of the other leg. Another great conditioning exercise is the skier jump, which mimics the side-to-side motion of a downhill skier negotiating a slope with many moguls. Simply jump to the right or left of an imaginary midline.

As you become more comfortable jumping rope, try the frontal crossover jump, passing the rope over your head and then crossing your arms. And finally, try the jumper’s shuffle, a front-to-back variation of the jogging gate: hold both legs semi-rigid with one leg forward and the other back. Keeping a slight bend at the knees, on each turn of the rope, switch your leg position.

Of the five common errors people make when new to rope jumping, three involve improper arm position. To make sure your form is correct while jumping, always keep your elbows in close to your torso, do not rotate your arms, and keep the action wrist-based. Other errors include jumping too high and timing your jump at the same time as your wrist rotation—remember these actions occur in a one-two fashion, not together.

Tim Haft, personal corresp.

Punk Rope, Inc., http://punkrope.com

Lifeline Power Jump Rope Exercise Program, Madison, WI

ACSM Compendium of Physical Activities Tracking Guide, 2001

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