When people start out on a search for a jump rope, its oftentimes purposed for one of two uses. The most common use is children’s games and entertainment. Jump ropes are found in every school gymnasium in America. For the fitness enthusiast, most ropes are purchased with a cardiovascular workout in mind, but this simple tool offers so much more. This rope with two handles helps develop coordination, enhance cardiovascular endurance, it’s a solid resource to develop both upper and lower-body fast twitch fibers, and it provides healthy enjoyment for adults and children alike.
What’s the difference?
Because jump ropes offer a large variety of activity, manufacturers and suppliers now offer different styles of jump ropes at different quality levels. Varying quality leads to varying production costs, which ultimately leads to greatly varying costs to the consumer. Jump ropes can be found online ranging anywhere from $1 to $160.
Style and Material
The most common jump ropes are fabric and plastic ropes. These ropes tend to be the most cost friendly ropes, falling in the $5 range, and the weight is kid and beginner friendly. Leather ropes are common in the boxing and MMA world, and steel cable speed ropes provide speed and a ton of it. These ropes are quickly gaining popularity as CrossFit training has grown in popularity. If you want an all-encompassing jump rope, I would recommend the weighted jump rope. The weight of the jump rope is easily adjustable by simply adding or removing the weight bearings from the handle.
What’s to be gained?
Fast Twitch vs. Slow Twitch
Before we go in-depth about the many benefits of jump roping, lets take a second gain a better understanding about the differences between fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. People have two different kinds of muscle fibers: slow twitch (type I) and fast twitch (type II). Fast twitch fibers provide more explosive, quick movements and tend to fatigue quicker. Examples of movements that activate both the moderate fast twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers include swinging a golf club and jumping. If you are looking to body build and gain muscle mass, your fast twitch muscle fibers will be exercised. Slow twitch muscle fibers have more endurance and are used during aerobic movements and exercises such as swimming and jogging.
When you think of developing coordination for a sporting event, the “Rocky” movies come to mind. Our minds naturally migrate towards the more physical, high impact sports such as boxing and football. We tend to think of the sports that require linear speed. As a college baseball pitching coach and an avid golfer, I have learned the importance of balance and coordination in the more rotational sports. My pitchers went through a jump rope routine daily and it, along with yoga, was incorporated into their strength programs. Many pitching coaches use ladders and stability balls to develop coordination, but the jump rope is simple and unique. It’s unique in the fact that it’s a self-corrector. If I lose coordination on an agility ladder, I may not ever notice.
With the jump rope, if you lose coordination, the jump rope stops. Jump ropes are also unique in the fact that they require total body coordination. Most training tools only require upper OR lower body coordination. The Pittsburgh Pirates Latin American Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, Kiyoshi Momose, once said “While strength and conditioning coaches are continually looking for the next cutting edge piece of equipment to give their athletes an advantage over their opponents, most already have a small, inexpensive, old fashioned, simple and effective, training device tucked away in the corner of the weight room or in the bottom of their traveling equipment box – the jump rope.” We, as humans, are always searching for the great, new “innovative” gimmick. As proven by the jump rope, the old-fashioned approach is tried and true.
Every sport requires some level of cardiovascular endurance. Even on the golf course, where I ride in a cart for 18 holes between shots, I feel somewhat “winded” by the end of a round on a hot day. Athletes of all skill level need aerobic endurance to compete. Jump roping may be the best cardiovascular conditioner available. Many cardiovascular exercises put high levels of stress on joints. Distance running is especially harmful to the joints. Many committed distance runners end up with hip and knee problems. Biking is much safer than jogging, but it takes exponentially more time to receive a thorough workout. If done with proper technique, jump roping provides a safe, aerobic conditioning in a short period of time. A cooper institute aerobic test found that doing a 10-minute jump rope routine is equal to a 30-minute jog. According to chart from healthylee.com, the only exercise that is more rigorous in terms of cardiovascular development is kickboxing/karate. But even with kickboxing, a structured environment is required. It is difficult to kickbox at home unless you have a specific area set up for this kind of exercise. Jump roping is the safest, most cost effective, and least time-consuming aerobic exercise available.
Fast Twitch Training
Unless you’re specifically looking, most articles that are written regarding jump ropes highlight the cardiovascular benefits. But as mentioned earlier, these small, inexpensive tools are an all-encompassing gym. Using a speed ropes works many muscle groups and their respective fast twitch fibers, including: the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, ankles, shoulders forearms, and wrist and hand muscles. Using high intensity interval training, or the HIIT program, explosive muscles can be developed throughout the body. Skip rope for 30 to 60 seconds at a high intensity pace and then rest for the same length of time. Repeat these 5 to 10 times daily and you will have a high impact, fast twitch focused full body workout in 10 to 20 minutes a day.
Jump Ropes: A Child's Toy
America is facing a major crisis with childhood obesity. 18.5% of children ages 19 and younger are obese in the US. This number rises to 20.6% for children ages 12 to 19. Many people across the country are taking great strides to fight this predicament. Former first lady, Michelle Obama, took this cause on her shoulders and fought for advances such as better nutrition in school cafeteria. I believe this to be a great start in this fight and I am a firm believer in the idea that you should never substitute exercise for proper nutrition, but exercise cannot be omitted. Outdoor physical activities are great solutions, but they are not always practical. Climates in different regions across the country make it difficult for outdoor play throughout large portions of the year. Jump ropes are a good alternative. It is a fun option that can be used with friends or solo. They can be used indoors or out. Also, as we discussed earlier, jump roping provides about three times the cardiovascular exercise and burnt calories as jogging, so great gains can be made for our youth in very short periods of time.
The Forgotten benefit
One other thing that makes jumping rope an effective workout and adds an extra layer of motivation and excitement is the many variations that can be used to skip rope. These variations create “muscle confusion” which keeps your body from plateauing. Yes, yes I know that muscles cannot actually become confused and that term falls into the same category as “muscle memory”, but variety workouts have proved successful and they are more fun. “Muscle confusion” is probably better stated as challenging muscles in different ways and hitting different, smaller muscles within a group.