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If the last time you picked up a jump rope was in elementary school gym class, new research published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance might have you jumping again in the form of a jump rope warm up.
The study, which involved 96 amateur endurance runners between the ages of 18 and 40, looked at how adding a jump rope regimen to a warm-up might affect performance. Each runner enlisted in the study had to be able to complete a 10K in less than 50 minutes, run three to five times a week, be injury-free for at least six months, and have no resistance training in their routine.
The experimental group replaced five minutes of their normal warm-up with jumping rope, while the control group kept their normal routines. After 10 weeks of training the researchers found that the jump rope group saw twice the increase in their 3K time trial performance on average than the control group. They also saw improvement in reactivity and arch stiffness.
In other studies, a variety of jump training (including skipping rope) has been found to enhance reactive strength and running economy in both recreational and elite runners. In some cases it can even be used to supplement running to reduce the likelihood of injury from overtraining.
Get Started Jumping Rope
Karly Kent, a certified fitness coach and former competitive jump roper, isn’t surprised that jumping rope would be beneficial to runners. “The main muscle groups that it works are quads, calves, and core, which in my opinion is the perfect recipe for a faster runner,” she says. Jumping rope also strengthens the ligaments and tendons around the foot and ankle and improves posture and coordination.
“With proper form, jumping rope is a very low-impact activity,” Kent adds. Proper form includes jumping on the balls of the feet, no more than two inches off the ground, with a slight bend in the knee. Arms should be down and close to hugging the rib cage. Those are just general guides to stay within. It’s more important to stay loose. If you’re forcing yourself into form to the point that your neck or arms are sore, you’re too tense.
Kent recommends a PVC jump rope (also known as a licorice rope) for beginners. “It’s the perfect weight to really help with your rhythm and timing,” she says. If you’re an experienced jumper and looking to use it as part of your cross-training, she recommends a weighted rope like Crossropes, which allows you to change the weight for different workouts.
Try This Jump Rope Warm-Up
If you want to incorporate jumping rope into your pre-run routine, Kent recommends starting with 30-second intervals and working up to 45-second and 1-minute intervals to prevent shin splints or other injuries. The following five-minute routine (that also incorporates some dynamic stretching) will warm up your hips, ankles, activate the glutes, and get your heart rate up before you go out for your run.
- 30 second basic bounce: Using proper jump rope form, bounce with your feet close together, no more than two inches off the ground.
- 30 second side straddle: From the bounce step, transition to this move by opening and closing your stance while jumping, similar to a jumping jack.
- 8 reverse lunges, alternating sides.
- 30 second heel taps: Alternating legs, you’ll bring your foot forward and tap your heel on the ground while jumping.
- 30 second hip twist: While jumping, twist your hips from one side to the other while keeping your torso straight.
- 8 squats with hip rotations.
- 30 second single leg jumps (15 seconds per leg): Just as it sounds, jump for 15 seconds on one leg, then switch to the other for 15 seconds.
- 30 second jumping butt kicks: While jumping, alternate legs and bring your heel all the way back to the glute.