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Skip your way to a better body

Skipping is an excellent exercise for anyone who wants to improve their fitness and their body.

While it provides a similar workout to running at a pace of 5 min/km, it is a lower impact activity than running, so its kinder to the joints.

Benefits of skipping

This exercise targets your calves, quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings and it gives your forearms, biceps, triceps and shoulders a good workout, too.

Skipping has a direct aerobic fitness benefit by improving lung function and cardiovascular efficiency. And the jumping motion is both functional and plyometric in nature, which helps to strengthen muscles and tendons and can help to improve bone density.

In fact, a study published in 2022 in the journal Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology found “no significant difference in lower extremity sports performance … between the PLY (plyometric) and JR (jump rope) training programs.”

Skipping also improves co-ordination and balance, and offers an ideal option to warm-up effectively before a workout. It is also a great form of cardio to ramp up the intensity of a circuit workout and metcon.

Get your skip on

Before you start skipping, ensure that you have the right sized skipping rope – the length of the rope should be right for your height.

Right-size your skipping rope: Stand on the centre of the rope and lift up the handles. The point where the handles meet the rope should be level with your armpits.

And just like running, proper form matters to avoid injury and get the most from your training. This is how to master the skip…

The movement sequence

  1. Stand tall but relaxed, with your feet placed slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold the skipping rope loosely with your thumb and index finger for the greatest control.
  3. Keep your elbows at waist level with your arms extended sideways at a 90-degree angle.
  4. Start turning the rope with a circular wrist motion and rotate it behind you, over your head. Jump up using both feet, but only high enough for the rope to pass just under the soles of your feet.
  5. Continue by jumping on the balls of your feet, landing softly each time you skip over the rope.

Technique tip: When starting out, aim to complete 60-70 turns per minute.

From tip: Keep your elbows tucked in and try not to lean forward during the skip.

Safety tip: Wear soft-soled shoes (your running shoes are ideal) and jump on softer surfaces wherever possible.

Skipping variations: Beginner

  • Bell jumps: Jumping forward and back.
  • Skier jumps: Jump side to side.
  • Running step: Skip using high alternating knee raises.
  • Twist jumps: Rotate your body at your hips from side to side while skipping.
  • Straddle jumps: Alternating jumps, firstly with your feet apart then together.
  • Side Swing: Pass the rope each side of the skipper’s body, without jumping it between normal skips.

Skipping variations: Intermediate

  • The crossover: As soon as the rope passes over your head, cross your arms as far across the front of the body as possible, jumping through the gap and over the rope.
  • Criss-cross: While jumping move the left hand to the right part of the body and vice versa for the right hand, with arms crossing in front of the body.
  • Front-back cross: Similar to the criss-cross, but one arm crosses behind your back.

Skipping variations: Expert

  • The toad: Perform the cross manoeuvre with one arm crossing under the opposite leg from the inside.
  • Crougar: Use a normal open jump, but hook one arm under the same leg.
  • Double under: Pass the rope under your feet twice with every jump by jumping a little higher and using your wrists to whip the rope around as fast as you can.
  • Awesome Annie: Alternate between a crougar and a toad without a jump in between.
  • Inverse toad: The arm crosses the same leg from the outside (rather than the opposite leg from the inside).
  • Elephant: A cross between the inverse toad and the toad, where both arms cross under one leg.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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