We’ve got two main associations with the best jump rope workouts: kids having a blast doing tricks on the playground, and epic training montages in boxing movies. The lesson here seems clear: jumping rope is both extremely fun and crushingly good cardio. The fun part seems self-evident, and the American Council on Exercise says a session of alternating feet and double-unders increases bone density and burns more calories than running an 8:30/mile pace—and you don't even need to leave your back yard.
What's more, unlike other home gym equipment that have become hard to find during the coronavirus pandemic, like kettlebells and dumbbells, jump ropes are widely available and inexpensive. Should that ever change, you can also just use, you know, any old rope. But we’d recommend picking up a modern speed rope. They’re made of thin coated metal, which is easier to whip around. Bearings in the handle make much higher speeds possible, and adjustable lengths make it easy to dial in to your height so the cable will neither drag on the ground excessively or threaten to clip your toes on every rep. We won’t promise instant double-unders, but it makes it a lot easier.
SR-3 Bushing Speed Rope, $18 at Rogue
Now, just jumping rope every day can get a little boring. So we tapped into a subculture that knows a thing or two about the best jump rope workouts: CrossFit fanatics. Jump ropes are a foundational tool at any CrossFit box, and these athletes have mastered putting themselves through the ringer by skipping rope.
First, you’ve got to master the basics. “Keep your elbows near your sides at all times,” suggests Brent Fikowski, Canadian-based 4-time CrossFit Games competitor. “Listen to the rope and make sure it contacts the ground about 6 inches in front of your toes with every spin. That will reduce the likelihood of tripping on the rope accidentally.”
Once you’re getting consistent reps, move on to one of our four best jump rope workouts. When you’re finished, you’ll never look at those kids on the playground the same way again.
1. Cardio and Core
From: Austin Malleolo, Reebok Trainer and 8-time CrossFit Games competitor
Do: 5 rounds of 75 double-unders (or 150 singles) and 50 knee tuck-ups.
Double-under: No matter how impressive gym routine or marathon PR, the double-under is going to be a skill that takes time. Put simply, the movement requires you to jump once, while skipping the rope twice before landing again. “If you have proficiency in the double-unders you can stick with the 75 reps and this should take you about 45 seconds,” says Malleolo. “If you're not proficient at double-unders you can do 150 reps, which will take a little longer but will make you feel the right stimulus working on the jump.”
Knee tuck-up: Start in a high plank position. Jump the knees in, tucking in toward the chest, then jump back to start for one rep. “To make this movement harder, bring your knees up higher to your chest,” says Malleolo. “If you want to make it a little easier bring your knees up a little less.”
2. A 12-Minute Circuit
Do: A 12-Minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible). “Challenge yourself by limiting the amount of time spent transitioning from one exercise to the next," says Fikowski. "If done correctly, by the end you'll be out of breath and your legs will be on fire.”
- 40 Jump rope skips
- 30 Bodyweight squats
- 20-second wall sit
- 10 push-ups
Bodyweight squat: Start with your feet slightly wider than hip-width distance. Sit your glutes back low, putting the weight in your heels, until your thighs are at or below parallel to the ground. Press back to stand for one rep.
Wall sit: Sit yourself down with your back flush against a wall until your torso and quads create a 90-degree angle.
Push-up: Start in a high plank position. Keeping the elbows close to the body, lower down toward the floor. Press back through your whole hand to return to start for one rep.
3. The Annie
By: Ben Smith, 2015 ‘Fittest Man on Earth’ and 11-time CrossFit Games competitor.
Do: Alternating sets of double-unders and sit ups, for time. Start with 50 of each, then 40, counting down by 10 until you finish.
This is a classic benchmark workout called “Annie,” after a legendary trainer, that combines the skill of double-unders and plenty of core work with the sit-ups. If double-unders aren’t in your tool kit, Smith suggests substituting them with double the number of singles. “Try to mix up your jumping to make it challenging, like feet together, one foot, alternating steps,” he says. “For the sit-ups, anchor your feet under some dumbbells, your sofa, or anything you can to do your sit ups faster.”
4. A Double-Under Pyramid
Do: Bouts of unbroken double-unders, starting with 5 reps, with three burpees after each bout, increasing the double-unders by 5, up to 50 reps. So 5, 10, 15, and so on, then back down: 45, 40, 35…, with three burpees in between each double-under session. Every time you miss a jump do five push-ups.
“'Unbroken means that once you start your specific set you do them all without stopping for any reason,” says Smith. “This workout is the most challenging of them all—you’ve got to apply the skill to do double-unders while under intense fatigue.”
Burpee: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down and place your hands on the floor, and jump your feet back so that you're in a plank. Do one push-up. Jump your feet back to your hands, and from this crouched position, jump up as high as you can.