A Guide on Starting to Skip
The first thing you will need is a rope, but you can actually begin learning to skip even if you don’t have one yet (see below).
Choosing a good rope is important but don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to spend a lot of money as frankly there is very little difference in quality between expensive and cheap brands. The most important thing is to get a rope that is easy to use.
One of the main things to look for is whether the rope turns freely inside the handle. If it gets caught up easily it will make jumping very difficult.
Ropes with ball bearing swivels are often not any better than a simple standard rope, so don’t assume they are easier to use just because they cost more.
Try to avoid cloth / material ropes (i.e. actual “rope” ropes) as they are generally too lightweight and so don’t tend to rotate well.
Probably the best ropes are made of either straight plastic (commonly called a speed rope) or plastic beads, although some people do prefer the leather ropes often seen in old-style boxing gyms.
Ideally you want to either buy a rope that is already the right length (see below) or get one that is easily adjustable or that can be easily cut to the right length.
Naturally you can always make yourself a rope using actual rope, plastic washing line, thin electrical cable or whatever else happens to be at hand, but as a perfectly good rope can probably be bought for less than £5 or $5, don’t make your life any harder than necessary.
The main thing to look for is a rope that has a little bit of weight (which makes it easier to turn) and doesn’t twist up and snag easily.
Having got a rope, the next thing to do is to make sure it is the right length. Many ropes are designed to be adjustable in some way but some designs have moulded and fixed handles that make cutting the rope to a shorter length, or otherwise adjusting, it very difficult. Naturally one can always shorten a rope by tying knots in it near the handles but avoid doing so if there is an alternative. There is no easy way of making a rope that is too short any longer.
To find the right length of rope for you, stand on the middle of the rope with both feet. The handles should reach to just under your arm pits. Adjust the rope until it is roughly this length but avoid actually cutting it until you are sure that you have it the right size for you.
Jumping with a rope that is too short will at best make you tired quickly as you will have to jump higher than necessary every time and at worst it will either keep snagging on your feet or trip you up.
- Tip : When not skipping, the best thing to do with your rope is to hang it up – this will stop it getting tangled or developing kinks. Failing that, or if taking the rope somewhere, get into the habit of folding it carefully, maybe securing it with an elastic band. A minute spent looking after your equipment is always a good investment.
2) Starting to Skip
If you don’t already know how to skip, or if you are a bit rusty and want to improve, this guide should help you to learn the essentials.
The first thing to realise is that skipping is not just an exercise, it is a skill.
It is vital to develop the basic skill before trying to use skipping as an exercise, just as it is vital to be able to ride a bike before planning on using cycling as an form of training. Just like skills such as riding a bike, typing or juggling, when a person knows how to skip the skill itself is likely to stay with them for the rest of their life.
The importance of taking the time to learn to skip properly in the first place cannot be overstated.
If you can’t already skip, expect to allow a couple of weeks to master basic skipping methods before expecting to use skipping as an exercise. Obviously everyone is different and some people will pick up skipping easily and some will take longer – this doesn’t really matter. If you can skip properly after 10 mins or if it takes you 10 hours to get the basics, this really makes no difference when you consider that you may be using skipping as part of your training for decades to come. What really matters is that you develop the skill to skip well and avoid ingraining technical errors and bad habits at an early stage.
- Before you begin :
Remember that the best way to perform, let alone learn, almost any form of exercise is by keeping the mind and body as relaxed as possible. If you are tense, for example because you are subconsciously worrying about getting the timing of the jump right, then it will be harder to perform the exercise (as you have to relax before you can move instead of already being relaxed). Being tense will make it physically harder to skip and tire you more easily, and it will also make it harder to keep a good rhythm, so take a few moments to settle your mind, relax your body and prepare yourself before starting to skip. If you find yourself tensing up if things go wrong, stop for a moment and relax before trying again.
1) Start without a rope
This may sound a little odd but many people will find it easier to learn how to skip properly if they begin without a rope.
- First stand in a good upright stance with the knees relaxed (your legs don’t have to be actually bent but they should not be locked out straight).
- Come up to stand on the balls of your feet e.g. as though standing on tip-toes or performing a calf-raise exercise.
- Hold your hands low, perhaps around waist height, with your palms up, as though you were holding a jump rope.
- Now begin gently bouncing up and down.
How to Bounce
The most common mistakes people make when trying to jump rope are usually rooted in bad jumping form. If you’re jumping properly, you should be on the balls of your feet (if you stand on your tip toes the 2-4 inch area still on the ground is the ball of the foot) and your knees should be slightly bent. While jumping, your heels should never touch the ground. Jumping flat footed is really bad on your knees and should be avoided, plus it will make you tired very quickly. Don’t lock your knees and remember to relax – jumping should become a very fluid motion in time.
This bouncing exercise, which is basically a form of “pogo jumping”, is essentially the same as you will use when skipping with a rope.
You should concentrate on setting and keeping a regular and steady rhythm, not too fast at first.
- Tip : It may help to count e.g. 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4 as this can help to keep the rhythm steady (i.e. you bounce every time you count). I strongly recommend you try this, at least until you can skip without having to think about co-ordinating your movements.
Don’t jump too high – just bouncing about 1 inch off the floor is probably the maximum and less is usually enough. Jumping higher can be used at times but will tire you more quickly and will probably make it harder to keep a good rhythm at this stage; skipping should be roughly equivalent to running in terms of intensity e.g. a slow skip should be much like a jog and a fast skip like a sprint – at this stage you should be aiming to make this feel like a jog, nothing more.
When you can comfortably bounce up and down with a steady rhythm you can begin to employ the hands. Start by making small circles with the wrists as though holding a rope. Don’t make the circles large – use you wrist movement, not your elbows and shoulders, to make the circle.
- Tip : Practice in front of a mirror if this helps – it may help a lot.
Don’t feel you have to rush things – take as long as necessary to get this right (you are actually doing almost as much exercise this way as if you were skipping with a rope at the same speed).
When you feel comfortable with this, you can move on to the next stage.
2) Skip – Bounce – Skip
- Tip : When you are skipping with a rope don’t keep looking down to see if the rope is approaching your feet, instead look forwards and learn to judge the right time to bounce. This will keep you in a better posture, avoid making you tense and work on developing your actual skill with a rope rather than relying on purely visual clues.
Possibly the easiest way to learn to skip is to keep the motion of the rope reasonably slow at first.
Most problems faced by beginners are to do with co-ordinating the movement of the rope with the bounce of the body and it is easier to learn to co-ordinate things if you aren’t moving too fast – when the motion is coordinated then speed will come easily, but speed is impossible without coordination.
What you will aim to do for this exercise is to turn the rope so that you perform two bounces for every complete circle of the rope.
To learn to skip with the “Skip-Bounce-Skip” or “Double Bounce” method:-
- Start with the rope behind your ankles and begin to turn it, bringing it above your head and down in front of your body.
- As the rope comes down toward your feet, skip over it with a double-foot bounce (i.e. use the “pogo” bounce).
- Continue to turn the rope and perform another bounce when the rope is over your head (the half way point in the cycle).
- Bring the rope down and skip as it passes the feet
- – and then repeat, so that you are following a “skip – bounce – skip – bounce -” pattern.
Tip : It may help to count e.g. 1-2-3-4 etc where (say) all odd numbers represent a skip over the rope and all even numbers represent a bounce while the rope is over your head.
Keeping a steady rhythm is the key aspect to this – it is far more important than speed, especially at this stage. It is perfectly possible to skip either slowly or quickly but very difficult to skip with an irregular rhythm.
- Tip : Set yourself a simple and achievable target for this exercise, for example aim to do 50 foot-falls in good form (25 skips and 25 bounces) i.e. without snagging the rope and having to restart.
If you make a mistake, don’t worry about it, just start counting from the beginning and try again.
Limit the amount of time you spend on each session to no more than around 30mins for a session. This is partly so that you won’t over-do things physically and partly so that you give your neurological system time to adapt; remember, even if you keep tripping over the rope you are still exercising and you need to give your body time to adjust to the plyometric aspects of repeated bouncing in this way, so even if you seem to be “failing” to skip, you are still exercising and are still developing both the skill and the physical aspects of skipping.
When you can perform 50 rope circles without making a mistake, and certainly if you can do this three times in a row, then you can honestly say you can skip and you are ready for the next stage.
To properly execute the Skip-Skip or “Single Bounce”, you should only be jumping about 1/4 – 1/2 an inch off the ground (your rope is not very thick so jumping higher than this is not necessary) and you should be landing softly on the balls of your feet.
- Tip : As with many exercises (including running and stepping) try to make your footfalls as near silent as possible as this will ensure you are not crashing your feet into the ground and impacting with an undesirable amount of force.
Your elbows should be kept near your sides and the rope should be turned by using your wrists, not your arms. A common thing for beginners to do is take really big jumps, kicking their heels up to their backside, while their arms are making huge circles. It’s ok to start like this when you are learning but such motions are far too exaggerated for prolonged use and waste a lot of energy so take the time to learn to lower your jump and to reduce you arm motion to the minimum necessary.
Actually learning to skip well is essential to using skipping as a part of your training. By skipping with good form you will reduce the risk of injuring yourself, especially through repetitive strain, and you will be able to increase the intensity of the exercise more effectively.
This is almost exactly the same motion as step 1) but with one important difference, you are now going to skip over the rope with a double-foot bounce every time rather than bouncing when the rope passes over-head.
It may help to explain the mechanics of this first. Your feet will be moving at the same speed as before and you will be aiming to keep the bounce aspect of this at the same rhythm you have already been using.
All that changes is that your hands will be making circles more quickly causing the rope (not your feet or the bounce) to move at twice the speed. Rather than bouncing when the rope moves overhead, the rope will travel faster so that you skip over it on every bounce you make – but the speed and rhythm of your bounces should still be what you are already used to.
Where to Skip ?
One real advantage to using skipping as a training method is that a rope is cheap, light-weight and easily fits into a bag or even a jacket pocket, so if you happen to be travelling away from home then unlike a treadmill or a weight stack you can always take a rope with you. All that you really need is enough space to turn the rope, so avoid training in rooms with low ceilings or that are full of furniture, otherwise indoors or out, you can almost always find space to skip somewhere. If you are skipping near other people or pets be careful with the rope and never rely on other people to avoid you – even if you are paying attention, they may not be!
Skipping Surface ?
What type of surface will you be skipping on? Sometimes you’ll find you may be missing jumps constantly and it may not be down to your skipping, it may be because of the surface or “contact zone” you are skipping on. Carpet may make your rope bounce, or slow it due to friction, so you may have to jump higher than normal and/or adjust the speed of either your rope or your bounce if you are on carpet. Skipping on grass is possible – but very difficult!
If you have a choice in surfaces, a suspended wood floor or a rubberised type exercise mat is possibly the best for your joints, plus it may give you some extra bounce for more advanced skipping methods. Since most of us have to make do with what is available, especially if skipping away from home, the next best bet is to find a flat surface that has some give to it. Try to avoid concrete if possible since it will wear you out faster, it’s not good for your knees and joints (due to greater impact force) and it will eventually damage your rope. Try a few jumps out on whatever your surface is and pay attention to how the rope bounces and slides across the floor. Once you’ve tried out a few different places, you’ll start to notice similarities and the adjustments you’ll need to make for each location.
How fast should I skip?
Sixty to seventy turns per minute is a good starting pace (roughly 1 turn per second). Around 90 turns per minute is probably the ideal for using skipping for running training. There is nothing wrong with starting slower than this when you are learning. There is no maximum speed but in general you should try to set a pace you can maintain for the duration of your skipping session, but it is perfectly reasonable to adjust the speed at different times.
How long should I skip for?
This of course depends on the nature of your training, but bear in mind that skipping can be a very demanding exercise. A good way to start would be to try doing 3 x 3 mins of continuous skipping, but 3 x 1 min is fine if you find this hard, and 3 x 5 mins is great if you find it easy. It is probably not necessary for most people to ever spend more than 30mins skipping continuously, in fact if you can do 20mins then rather extending the duration of the session it is probably better to keep the length of the session the same, or even reduce it, and skip at a faster pace, or with the same cadence but higher jumps.
What footwear should I use?
This depends a lot on the skipping surface. There is nothing wrong with skipping with bare feet if you are on a smooth floor. If you wear shoes etc of some kind they should be lightweight and allow you to come up on the balls of your feet easily. If you are going to skip on a hard surface then it may be a good idea to have footwear that provides a little cushioning to protect your joints .
A Reminder of Skipping Form
1. Stand tall but relaxed – breathing naturally
2. Elbows remain at waist level with arms extended sideways at about a 90 degree angle
3. Use a circular wrist motion to turn the rope
4. Hold the rope loosely, using thumb and index finder for control
5. Jump on the balls of the feet landing softly
6. Jump just high enough for the rope to pass under the feet
Practice makes Permanent
Focus on the mechanics of each skill so that you’re doing them properly from the start. Some skipping skills may feel unnatural at first, but if you practice them properly, your body will develop muscle memory and it will become second nature in no time. The longer you practice something with bad form, the longer it will take to unlearn that motion. Lots of skipping skills will take time to master so take it slowly and focus on the mechanics.
Keep things interesting…
This guide has been about learning to skip – but that’s just the start. There are literally hundreds of different skipping and jump rope methods using different movement patterns such as backwards skipping, high jumps, double skips, single leg or alternate leg hops and so on – but everything starts with the basics, so get these right first. There is no reason for skipping to ever become boring – if you find your skipping session becoming a little stale after a while, then spice it up by learning a new skipping skill.Tweet this!