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Jump Rope 101
How to Choose, Use and Lose with a Jump Rope Program

Put the fun back into your cardio!
Put the fun back into your cardio!

Exercise bikes cost hundreds, some even thousands of dollars. Treadmills, ellipticals and rowing machines also cost big money. But there's one piece of cardio equipment you can buy for less than $20. It's lightweight, extremely portable and you can use it in a space as small as 8 square feet.

It's a simple jump rope. For an upper and lower body aerobic workout, a jump rope is one of the most effective and inexpensive pieces of cardio equipment you can own.

Depending on how fast you jump and your skill level, you can expect to burn as much as 10 to 15 calories every minute. Besides burning fat, it also helps improve agility, balance, coordination, endurance, power, rhythm and timing.

Pick the Right Rope

If you want to try a jump rope workout, here's what to look for in a rope and how to use it.

The type of rope you want to exercise with is called a speed rope. It's a plastic jump rope without the beads. I try and avoid cloth ropes because they tend to be more flimsy. Some of the leather ones are nice, but they take too long to break in.

Get a model that's adjustable so you can size it properly. If you're planning on going all out, look for one with a swivel between the cord and the handle. The swivel allows you to turn the rope faster.

As you get more experienced, weighted ropes are an option to help you burn more calories. Look for models where the weight is in the rope. When weight is in the handles it can strain the wrists, elbows and shoulders. You should avoid weighted ropes if you're a beginner or are working out primarily to develop agility.

Once you've chosen a particular rope, you have to make sure it's the right length. Let it hang down to the ground. Put one foot in the middle of the rope, then lift the handles to your chest. The handles should be about 6 inches below the collarbone. If they go past your armpits it's too long. Remember the shorter the rope is, the faster it can turn.

Practice Proper Form

After you have the perfect rope, your next goal is to have perfect form. It's all a matter of small adjustments. When you jump, you don't have to jump high, just high enough for the rope to move cleanly under your feet. About 1 or 2 inches off the ground is great. The balls of your feet are the only parts that should touch the floor. Remember to keep your knees slightly bent.

Hold your core tight and make sure your shoulders are relaxed. The most common cheat is not controlling your elbows. Tuck them in and keep them slightly bent throughout the exercise. Your palms should be facing forward. When you spin the rope, the movement should be coming from your wrists and forearms, not your shoulders.

If you want to go faster, simply increase the tightness of the circles your wrists are making. It takes a little practice, but watching yourself in front of a mirror can help.

Good surfaces to jump on include low pile carpet, wood or rubberized floors. It's best to avoid concrete or stone because the constant impacts may cause shin splints or other injuries.

Beginners will often jump twice or double bounce between rotations. It's a cheat that allows calf muscles and the core a bit of rest between jumps. You want to avoid double bouncing unless you have a low level of fitness or are just starting a jump rope workout. As you get more advanced, you want to jump just once (known as the double foot jump) for each rotation of the rope while keeping your core and abs tight.

Once you start feeling confident with the basics, you can move on to some of the more difficult maneuvers and build a simple workout routine.

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beginning any diet or exercise program.

11/16/2008