Underrated gym equipment: Jump rope

This is the fourth in a series on underrated equipment in the gym. Today, we feature the jump rope.
Sometimes the simplest workout equipment can help people get some of the best results.
One great example of that is the jump rope. Most of us probably haven’t used a jump rope since our school days, but if you’re trying to get fit or stay that way, the jump rope is a great way to help do it.
Jumping rope can burn up to 1000 calories in an hour because it’s one of the most efficient exercises there is. It helps tone the entire body, developing long, lean muscles in all big muscle groups.
Using a jump rope also provides a great cardio workout, while at the same time building strength and coordination.
If you are worried about jumping rope being too hard on your body, it may be a lot more doable than you think. Several trainers I’ve talked to say running is actually considerably harder on the hips, knees and joints.
Jumping rope is a more controlled movement so the exertion is better cushioned. You land on the balls of your feet, with the calves and shins acting as shock absorbers. When jumping rope wear basketball shoes or supportive cross trainers if possible to provide better support than specialized running shoes.
Before beginning a new jump rope program, consult a doctor or trainer if you’ve been inactive. As with any new training method, start slowly and gradually train harder.
Jump-roping tips
If you choose to jump rope at the end of the workout then you should already be well-stretched. If jumping rope is all you plan on doing that day, or it will start your workout, then make sure to loosen up first.
Get a brisk walk in or light jog and then fully stretch out, paying special attention to your leg muscles.
Jumping jacks would be a good final tune-up to do before picking up the rope.
Jumping rope sounds pretty easy and it is once you get the hang of it.
But if you haven’t done it for a while, it can take some getting used to.
It takes a good deal of coordination, agility and stamina to jump for very long at first.
Make sure you do the basics right:
* Hold the rope handles in each hand and let the rope touch the back of your heels on the ground.
* Try some practice jumps, swinging the rope for full revolutions.
Once you get the hang of it, try jumping rope for no more than five minutes a day. You don’t want to get too sore early on.
* After several weeks, if the jumping rope is going OK, then bump up your time to 10-minute sessions.
* It’s OK to mix in short rest moves, such as turning the rope to a side flip without jumping and then start jumping again.
Another tip is don’t jump too high – this is an endurance workout. Turn the rope with your wrists doing the work not your arms.
* Get some fast-paced music going. This will really help.
After a few weeks of the longer sessions, you should be ready to really go after it for 15 minutes or more. You may even be mixing in occasional double jumps – rotating the rope twice before your feet hit the floor – between a leap.
Now that you’re re-acquainted with the long-lost jump rope, try to find an old jump rope in your closet or garage, or go to a fitness store and purchase one.
If you’re in pretty good shape already, you could consider also buying a heavy jump rope to build even more strength and stamina. The jump rope is an inexpensive, totally portable piece of fitness equipment that’s as underrated as it gets when it comes to exercising.

At Home Fitness consultant Aaron Dorksen’s blog deals with a variety of fitness topics, ranging from workout tips, motivational ideas and feature stories on how exercise impacts people’s lives. E-mail him with comments, questions or ideas for future blogs at aaron@athomefitness.com