As someone who loves exercise but has always found getting into it a little intimidating, I have always preferred group workouts to solo ones. However, the start of lockdown also meant the end of my ability to go to SoulCycle and F45 – and a distinct lack of space in my home made it impossible for me to join in with any Zoom class these establishments might have staged.
I needed a form of exercise that I could work on myself without next-level technique prowess, that could be done in a park and didn’t need clunky equipment. With all that in mind, I settled on using a skipping rope. And after posting to Instagram after my first solo session in the local park, I quickly found out I wasn’t the only one.
“As lockdown continued, it began to have an adverse effect on my diet, routine, and my mental health,” says Chirag Patel, 34, an art director who lives in South London. “I was determined to break out of this ‘Groundhog Day’ rut, so I picked up a speed rope that had been in a box for two months, found a quiet spot in the park, YouTubed a tutorial or two and proceeded to flail myself.”
Since then, Patel has been doing a skipping workout for 30 to 40 minutes a day, six days a week. He’s found it an overwhelmingly positive experience. “It’s given me a daily goal and a healthier routine,” he says. “Even just being able to skip for two seconds longer than the previous day, gives me a great sense of accomplishment. And hello calves!”
Perhaps the biggest challenge with skipping for a beginner is technique and coordination. Of course, putting in the time regularly helps with this as you start to learn how to make your body move correctly, but what has also helped Chirag and myself is searching out and sharing the Instagram accounts of professionals that we can learn from and be inspired by, such as @officialjumpropedudes, @dope_ropes, and @ajodudu.
One that I’ve found particularly useful over the past few months is Ghadi Abboud. Founder of jump rope skip crew, Timeless, Abboud is based in Montreal, Canada, and posts a new Insta workout or challenge every day that showcases his exceptional skills accompanied by an party-starting soundtrack, as well as staging free weekly Zoom classes. Hoping to spread the gospel of skipping workouts, we asked Abboud his best tips for improving your technique, his best skipping workouts and why everyone should give jumprope a try.
How did you get into skipping?
I first started jumping rope five years ago because I wanted to lose weight and improve my shape. As a teenager with a lot of energy, I would always do the same old thing at the gym until one day I got bored of the treadmill. As soon as I looked around for something else, I saw the jump ropes hanging up on the wall and I gave it a chance.
Which rope do you recommend?
That depends on your goal, but the two things you need to keep in mind are the size, weight, and grip of the handles, and the size, weight, and air friction of the cable.
If you’re just getting started, I would recommend a basic, short handle garage rope with a 4-5mm PVC cable weighing around 200-300g, which is optimal for basic jumping and technique.
If you want to progress to more complex techniques that require crossing in between the knees or precision air releases (like letting go of the handles and catching back), then I would recommend going for a 4-5 mm PVC cable with long handles as these will help in the placement of your hands in awkward positions and generate powerful torque force if gripping is well done.
If you want to build explosive power as part of plyometric training (something I most often see in Crossfit doing double- or triple-unders), I would recommend a short handle speed rope with a very light metallic wire cable. The weight of the speed rope also determines the level of activation and workload put on your forearms shoulder, you will definitely feel the difference over the long run.
Where do you go for your skipping workout?
The environment you jump in really affects your state of flow with the rope, so do it anywhere and everywhere you can – as long as you’re not putting yourself or the people around you at risk. Jumping on concrete is not the most cushioning surface for your calves, so make sure you wear shock-absorbing trainers and nothing with a thin sole.
If you’re concerned about shin splints or sore calves, I’d suggest doing your skipping workout on a wooden floor studio at the gym or with an exercise matt under your feet. If you’re just starting out, jumping in front of can help you in identifying incorrect form.
What’s the best tip for getting good technique?
When I think about good jump rope technique, I ask myself, how can I move with the rope travelling around me with maximum efficiency?
When your biomechanics are correct, four jumping phases are optimised: loading, take-off, airborne, and landing. The quality of your flow says a lot about your technique: if you look smooth and seamless, your technique probably doesn’t need major adjustment.
As a general rule, here’s what to think about when you skip. Make sure you take off on your toes with your feet together, keep your legs straight and aligned with your spine while in the air and land safely on both feet at the same time. I always recommend people keep their hands straight and as close as possible to their hips, not bending their elbows – just enough to isolate the movement and rotate the handles with our smallest muscles using both wrists and fingers only.
How long until I can progress from basic jumping to more advanced moves?
Jump rope requires a lot of patience – we’re constantly failing, hoping to get slightly better every time we try. To be a good skipper, you need to fall in love with the process of learning because this process is never-ending. There is always another level, another trick, another move that you’ve not mastered yet.
If you’ve mastered a straight 30 minute skipping workout a day, what’s a great multi-exercise skipping rope circuit that you can progress to?
Here’s the typical jump rope circuit I do, which is designed to improve my current jump rope skills, stay lean and build muscle, and enhance my cardio. It builds into a 20-30 minute skipping workout that’s really good fun.
I start with side swings by placing both handles in one hand, then I swing right and left, back and forth for three minutes with good music in my ears to get into the groove.
I jump in the rope, and go over all the basic footwork – high knees, skier jump, side-to-side, front-to-back – for 30 seconds each.
I rest for one minute, then I do everything again, but now with side swings and crosses on top with my hands. I do three sets of 30 seconds for each move.
Ten minutes into the workout, now I amp up and go for power jumps with double-unders, usually 50 in one shot. Then here I combine the double-unders with side swings and crosses and work different variations for two minutes for 3 sets.
I finish with burpees. To make it more challenging, you can add squats or push-ups into the sets.
What do you do for recovery?
Jumping rope will definitely shock your calves at the very beginning, and probably for the first six months if you’ve never done it before. Make sure you get enough rest and stretch your whole body after your workouts, as well as warming up the joints before any particularly intense sessions.
Is skipping more of a talent or a skill?
People have the tendency to think that they won’t be good at skipping as they don’t have a natural feeling for rhythm, but, like anything else in life, the more you practise, the better you get. It takes hard work. Every skill can be learned when we set our minds to it. Skills beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
How have you found your style?
One thing that’s really unique about jump rope is that we can all do the same technique and routine, yet we’ll all make it look different because of the way we naturally move. This is when we start developing our own style. The better your technique and experience, the more you can express yourself and create your own style.