Most combat sports utilize the plain old Jump Rope (aka skipping rope) to improve conditioning, or simply as a warm up. Go to any Muay Thai gym, MMA gym, or boxing gym and you'll find a well-stocked supply of skipping ropes.
I strongly feel jump rope training one of the best exercises out there. Not only does it build up your overall aerobic fitness, you can target specific conditioning like aerobic threshold work, Vo2 Max, and so on. Even better, while also working your conditioning, you can improve your coordination, your footwork, your balance, and you work MORE muscles (shoulders, back, lower body) than you do running. Even better, it’s lower impact on your joints.
it’s also pretty fun if you get into some of the trick work — you can add a lot of variety to a workout and keep it fresh and entertaining for you and for people who watch you.
Most combat sports utilize the plain old Jump Rope (aka skipping rope) to improve conditioning — or simply as a warm up.
Go to any Muay Thai gym, MMA gym, or boxing gym and you’ll find a well-stocked supply of skipping ropes.
Benefits of Jump Rope Training for Fighters & Athletes
- Increased stamina
- Increased coordination
- Improved Timing
- Builds better footwork that transfers into sport specific use
- Develop better overall rhythm
- Increased breathing efficiency
- Increased shoulder endurance
- Better punching endurance & stamina
- Burn more calorie than running
- Less damaging on knees
- Can be used to build and train different aerobic fitness attributes
The humble jumping rope is one of the absolute BEST ways to improve your overall aerobic conditioning — from long duration cardiac output work that builds overall stamina, to high intensity work that improves your VO2 Max, to longer duration, medium intensity work that raises your Anaerobic Threshold.
You can basically use the skipping rope to improve just about every aspect of your overall conditioning.
The benefits don’t stop here. Jumping Ropes exercises improve your coordination and balance. Why do you think boxers — masters of footwork and coordination — are also train almost exclusively with jump rope training?
The movements when you jump rope often directly translate into similar foot movements patterns you make when you fight (especially for boxers who jump back and forth on the balls of their feet, just like you do when you jump rope).
Why Trust My Opinion?
Because I love skipping. Next to Boxing, it’s one of my favorite physical activities. I’m serious about try to improve my jump rope abilities and spend hours every week trying to learn new jump rope tricks and become a better jump roper. When I first started jump roping, I could only do the basic skipping; at a Muay Thai camp, I never improved my jump rope technique for years. When I switched over from Muay Thai to Boxing, I began to realize HOW important jump rope can be to improving your foot work, balance, reflexes, and more.
Finding YOUR Perfect Rope
So, the benefits of jump ropes are numerous. But, finding a jump rope — at least a good one — can be challenging.
Now the simple old jump rope is NOT so simple any more. There’s countless varieties of jump ropes to choose from from a simple rope on a string that costs you a couple bucks, to highly engineered cable ropes attached to handles with bearings that will cost you over $50 dollars.
Now, what jump rope is ‘the best’?
Well actually, answering this is not as easy as you might think.
We can’t specifically recommend a single jump rope (also called skipping ropes), as the best skipping rope will depend completely on your specific sport, your training goals, and weather you want to do freestyle tricks or just stick to a more workout-oriented jump rope routine.
The Best Jump Ropes at a Glance:
Step 1: Choose the Jump Rope Size for Your Height
Too long and the rope will tangle up on the ground or it will slow down your workout, requiring more force to swing it through. Too short and you won’t be able to easily jump through or easily do tricks for freestyle.
You’ll want to find the perfect size first. As you improve your jump rope skills, you can shorten your rope (this allows for more speed) — but certainly when you start out jump roping, you’ll want to go with the standard size for your height.
Beginner Rope Length: You will want a longer rope — this rope will have more drag, you won’t be able to swing it as fast, but since speed won’t be an issue, you can work on timing.
Fitness / Double Unders Rope Length: You’ll want a rope that gives about 6 to 10 inches when you swing it over your head. The shorter distance means you can rotate the rope faster which means it’s easier to do double unders. Note: Double Unders are when you do two swing rotations per each jump.
Speed Jumping Rope Length: if you are going for max speed then you’ll want a rope that’s between 2 to 6 inches clearance over your head at the apex of the rope swing. This is an advanced style of jumping though and it’s only professional jump ropers who need to be concerned with this.
Freestyle Rope Length: You typically want longer ropes which give you more length for crossing movements. Somewhere between 12 to 24 inches is the suggested distance between the top of your head and the rope at the apex of the swing.
How to Find the Right Jump Rope Size
Note that when you measure for the correct jump rope length for your height, you measure from the tips of the handles and not only the jump rope cord length only.
- First take the jump handles with each hand and stand on the center of the rope with either one foot or both feet while pulling the handles upwards beside your body as you stand straight.
- The handle tips should touch your armpits. If it’s below this, it’s too short (unless you are more advanced) for beginners.
- Keep in mind there IS some variation depending on how you hold the rope (do you hold it high or lower as you turn the handles when jump roping) and the length of your arms (some people have longer arms and some shorter arms). Typically beginners do a bit better with the standard rope length for their size as given by my chart below while more advanced jump rope users may want a slightly shorter rope.
The handle tips should reach your armpits. When you jump over the rope, the rope should just brush the floor beneath your feet. If the cord doesn’t touch the floor, the rope is too short. If the cord hits the floor in front of your feet, the rope is too long and should be shortened. More advanced users will usually need a shorter rope than those indicated on the chart.
|Jump Rope Length||Your Height|
|7ft||4’0″ to 4’9″|
|8ft||4’10” to 5’3″|
|9ft||5’4″ to 5’10”|
|10ft||5’11” to 6’5″|
Step 2: Choose the Jump Rope Material
Some material will last longer and some material will wear out sooner if you jump on hard, abrasive surfaces like concrete. Keep this in mind. If you want to skip outside on hard surfaces, PVC material or cable steel tends to last the longest. Licorice / Vinyl will get torn up in a few months.
Jump Rope Materials
- Licorice (flexible and light)
- PVC Plastic (flexible and medium heavy)
- Cloth / Fiber / Woven
- Beaded / Segmented (heaviest)
- Cable / Wire (lightest and most stiff)
The basic material that most jump ropers swear by is either basic PVC plastic or vinyl cord. Either of these is excellent for casual or advanced jumpers. You can pick up a basic, cheap jump rope for about $5-$7 bucks that will function just fine for years.
Who Should Use What Material
Here are some basic jump rope categories for the type of material best suited for the experience level:
Beginners: New skippers are best off with either licorice or PVC rope which are fairly light, allow for some speed while still being slow enough to work on timing, have some degree of flexibility to the rope.
Intermediate: Licorice or cable work depending on preference. Steel cables are used for speed work while licorice can be used for speed or freestyle tricks.
Advanced: Licorice, cable, or beads depending.
Sport Specific Jump Rope Materials
Your material choice of jump rope might change depending on the sport you are using jump rope to train for, though again, for you basic jump rope workout, ANY cheap jump rope will work fine.
Boxers typically like the PVC plastic cables or poly vinyl (licorice) like Floyd Mayweather who uses a medium handle Amp Rope. These are functional, cheap, and can be used by casual, beginner, or even advance jump ropers.
Thai Boxers like the old school thick PVC plastic which are very heavy. The ropes are twice or three times thicker than regular sized jump rope rope widths. The handles tend to be thick wooden ones too. I personally don’t like these as you can’t work on speed or rhythm, but you can work on shoulder endurance because they are so heavy. I started off in Thailand using these for a couple years. But now that I’m pursuing jump rope seriously and trying to improve at it, I don’t touch these anymore. Still if you ‘want to do it like the Thais do traditionally, then pick up the Twins Jump Rope. I hate it, but you may love it and the Thais all use it.
Cross Fitters / Fitness Types typically like the speed jump ropes with metal cables, 90 degree connections or ball bearing swivels. These allow you to do some really fast skipping, easily perform doubles or triples and get a serious speed workout going.
Jump Rope Trick specialists use free style jump ropes which have very long handles and prefer the beaded material for the cords.
Rope Materials to Avoid
Obviously, some people may disagree with my choices here — some people may very well LIKE these ropes — but I don’t and here’s why:
Leather: heavy and hard to pull out a decent rhythm. I also don’t like how the material seems to stretch.
Rope: tends to be very light and makes it hard to get a fast rhythm going on. I recommend you stick to the other materials.
Beads: Unless you are doing free style tricks for an audience, these are heavier and I find, harder to build a fast rhythm with. Some of the pros use them, but the pros can use any type of rope and perform jump rope magic. I suggest you generally avoid these.
Weighted Jump Ropes: There are some fitness jump ropes that offer you weighted ropes. To me, this takes away the basic premise of jump roping in the first place – working on speed, power, and stamina. With weighted ropes,the emphasis is placed on just getting the rope rotated around without tiring out — it’s much harder to rotate the rope. You are better off putting strip weights around your wrists or around your ankles — you can work your speed while working on resistance at the same time better this way.
Rope Cord Stiffness
For more advanced skippers, there is also the cord stiffness you may want to consider. Stiffer cords (like steel cables) are not as flexible under tension. This means the rope won’t move or adjust very much — good for advanced skippers who need the rope to go where they want it to go without any subtle change. But this means the person must have enough skill since the rope won’t allow for mistakes. Beginners to intermediate will want a rope that has some flexibility and stretch — this allows the rope to adjust for mistake on the part of the skipper.
Step 3: Choose the Jump Rope Handle Type
The handles, besides the rope material, are the most important thing to consider. As of 2015, there are many different handle designs to choose from: Some are short and thick, some are short and thin, some are long and thin, and some even have funky shapes.
The Handle Weight
The one thing to keep in mind though, regardless of the width, height, or material the handle is made of is you want as light a handle as possible. A heavy handle will slow your jump roping.
The Handle Material
You may also want to give note to the material the handle is made of. While you may end up burning through your ropes if you jump on concrete, your handles will also give way to wear and tear too — especially around the ends. Cheap plastic handles are often bendable when you squeeze them and the ends are prone to split and break after a few months of heavy usage.
Hard shatter-proof plastic handles or light aluminum handles will last much longer and, if you don’t mind paying more money, are worth it.
The Length of Handle
You have quite a few options when it comes to handles. You’ll use about 2 or so inches of the handle gripping it, so when you look at handle sizes, deduct that amount from the length – this will be the handle length sticking out from your hands.
We have three basic lengths:
- short handles
- regular handles
- long handles.
Long handles are particularly useful for tricks. The longer handles give you more rope to work with when doing crossing movements. If you want to mix up your skipping rope workout with some cool tricks, I recommend picking a rope that’s at least medium length (4 inches) and preferably long (6-7 inches). I personally prefer long handles.
If you are just looking to start off jumping rope, go with a standard medium handle length. This will be the common length you typically find with a common jump rope available everywhere.
If you want something snazzy that will allow for more speed, you may look at a short handle skipping rope. typically, the more fancy cross rope skipping ropes or power speed ropes often have short handles.
The Handle to Rope Connection
There are three choices for how the rope connects to the handle:
- Regular connection (rope goes straight into handle)
- 90 Connection (rope is attached to the handle at 90 degree angle = much more speed and less friction)
- Ball Bearing Swivel (there is ball bearing at the end of the handle connecting the rope end to the handle = least friction, more fluid, and better control)
See the diagram I created below:
You can get by just fine on the regular connection, which is the standard cheap jump rope you see everywhere. The 90 degree connection style is a newer style of jump rope and generally, make for faster jump roping. I personally do prefer the regular connection — it just feels better to me, but that’s a personal preference. The Ball Bearing Swivel types are found in the premium, more expensive jump ropes. These are the best, but typically you will have to pay 20-50 bucks for jump rope like that.
The Handle Thickness
Thick handles give you more grip but are often heavier and make it more difficult to do tricks with the rope. These are recommended for cross fit / workout type.
The thin handle design is popular with speed ropes. They are the lightest and allow you to whip the rope around with more speed.
Medium handles are in between these. Those regular cheap skipping ropes that cost about 7 bucks usually have medium width handles. I recommend this as the best overall width.