Want to boost your workouts? Try a weighted jump rope
The added poundage does way more than you'd think.
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A jump rope may seem more like something that harkens back to your elementary school days than a serious piece of exercise equipment. Although this simple set of handles and cord may not look as impressive as a connected exercise bike or treadmill, it can give you a great workout—especially if you go for a weighted rope. With this heavier version, you’ll work your arms, legs, and core, and get some cardio action, too, given all that jumping around. Here’s what to know about using weighted jump ropes.
What is a weighted jump rope?
A weighted jump rope is, well, a jump rope that's heavier than the usual plastic, wire, or braided cord with handles. You can find ones that weigh just a quarter of a pound, which isn’t much heavier than a standard jump rope, and ones that weigh up to 10 pounds. You also have options where that extra heft goes. Some bear the pounds in the handles, while others have it in the rope itself. That said, it’s best to look for a weighted jump rope with the additional load in the rope, not the handles. This way, “you’re looking at an amount of weight [that moves] through a full circle around you, so that burns more calories and challenges more muscles,” says Chris Gagliardi, scientific education content manager at American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Examples include Crossrope (a brand that sells ropes between a quarter pound and 5 pounds made of braided steel, that we’ve tested and loved), Rhino Rope (which sells ropes made of thick woven nylon-like material that weigh between 2.8, 5.8, or 8.8 pounds), and Rogue (a respected training brand that sells 1.5- and 1.75-pound ropes made of woven steel).
However, you’ll pay more for the ropes that carry the load in the cables. You can get a highly rated handle-weighted WOD Nation one-pound rope for less than $20, while Crossrope’s one-pound rope (and handles, which are sold separately) will set you back about $110 and Rogue’s 1.5-pound rope costs $50. If you don’t want to spend that kind of cash, starting with a handle-weighted option is fine—you’ll notice a difference either way.
How to use a weighted jump rope
When you’re just getting into jumping, don’t scoff at seemingly low-level poundage. Your rope will likely feel heavier than its stated weight when you swing it repeatedly over your head, even if it’s “just” one or two pounds. Gagliardi recommends starting off with a one-pound jump rope before getting into heavier territory. You also shouldn't expect to be able to do a full 30- or 40-minute workout with the rope—when you're starting out, try a five or 10-minute session either on its own or worked into a warmup or HIIT session.
Once you have your rope, your form should be the same whether you’re using a weighted or regular version—stand up straight, keep your shoulders back and relaxed, and hold your arms close to your body as you hop. Generate the rope movement with a flicking motion in your wrists and hold your shoulders and elbows still without being rigid, explains Gagliardi. “If you're minimizing the movement in your arms, it becomes more of an isometric hold [an exercise that engages muscles without much movement, such as a plank],” he says. “With big arm circles, you’ll feel a burn but you may tire out quicker.” If possible, he recommends jumping in front of a mirror to keep an eye on your form.
A key part of achieving good form is ensuring the rope is the right length for you. Brands like Crossrope allow you to order ropes that are pre-sized based on your height. Other ropes are adjustable; however, not all jump ropes have this capability, so you’ll want to check that your height fits in with the range suggested by the brand before you buy it. If you’re able to get your hands on a rope before buying it, you can check to see if it's the right size by stepping on the middle of the cord and pulling the handles up. If the ends of the handles reach your armpits, you're good to go.
Benefits of working out with a weighted jump rope
Jumping with any kind of rope has a lot of pros. “It’s a great way to do cardio, especially if you’re confined to the indoors,” says Holly Rilinger, Nike Master Trainer and creator of the workout program Lifted. You’ll probably feel it in your legs right away, but jumping helps activate muscles all over the body. “Anytime you’re jumping around your core has to stabilize,” Rilinger says. “If you use it for a longer period of time you notice that the shoulders, forearms, biceps, and triceps feel it, too.” Jumping rope also helps increase cognitive function and coordination and improves the elasticity of the lower body, which lessens the chance of injury.
Adding on a few extra pounds or ounces helps your legs, arms, back, and core become even more engaged. It increases the aerobic effect of jumping rope because your body has to work harder to move the extra heft, so you’ll burn more calories in a workout with a one-pound jump rope than a lighter rope. A study found that weighted jump ropes helped to improve coordination and endurance even more than standard ropes.
You also don’t have to be a Double Dutch champ to start using these ropes—in fact, you can be a total jump rope beginner. “Using a weighted rope can make it easier to learn to jump rope rather than a speed rope because you can really feel it moving around you and it helps with the timing of knowing when to jump,” says Gagliardi. You can start by mastering a basic jump, then move into more advanced moves such as double unders and criss-crosses.
Finally, jump ropes are easy to store. Even if you don’t have room for a lot of other exercise equipment, you can stick the ropes wherever they fit: under your bed, the back of a closet, or the trunk of your car. (That said, you will need sufficient ceiling height for your jumping workout—if you don’t, you can always jump outside.)
Downsides of working out with a weighted jump rope
Some people may overestimate the load they can handle—if you’re used to lifting 10-pound dumbbells, a 5-pound rope may seem like a piece of cake. But this weight feels much heavier when you’re swinging it around, so if you go too heavy too fast, your form may get sloppy. “A rule of thumb is, ‘Am I breaking my form to handle this much weight?’” says Rilinger. If the extra poundage messes with your form or makes you feel like you have to “muscle” through every movement, she recommends scaling back and practicing your form with a lighter rope.
Poor form when using a weighted rope can cause strain and injury, particularly to your back, knees, rotator cuff, ankles, and/or wrists. If you have existing injuries or trouble spots in any of these areas, consult with a doctor, physical therapist, or personal trainer before you start using a heavy rope.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.