Get to grips with the classic fitness move with our expert-led primer complete with a few modern twists
Words: Tom Ward
Think skipping is just for those creepy twins from The Simpsons? Think again. As expert PT Farren Morgan explains, it offers an all-round workout anyone can enjoy.
Grab a rope, and let’s get stuck in.
First of all, have you ever tried skipping? It’s exhausting. Which, presumably, is why boxers love it so much. According to Morgan – head coach and tactical trainer at the Tactical Athlete – skipping is even better than jogging, with just 10 minutes offering the same cardio burn as 30 minutes of slogging away pounding pavements.
So far so good. But wait, there’s more! “Skipping is a full-body exercise that relies on both the upper and lower body,” says Morgan. “Skipping strengthens your entire cardiovascular system, including your heart and lung capacity, which decreases the likelihood of heart diseases and strokes while contributing to the health of your skin.”
One of the only real studies out there was done on school kids (naturally) but found skipping led to an improvement in grip strength, flexibility, and body composition. But obviously you don’t have to be struggling with world capitals and Pythagoras’s theorem to claim the benefits.
Morgan also points out that the increased blood flow from skipping also contributes to the health of your skin and even reduces anxiety and depression levels, improving your mental health. As well as helping you improve fitness and tone up, Morgan says it will also strengthen your bones by increasing your bone density to reduce the likelihood of osteoporosis.
Best of all, “It’s an exercise that anyone can do at minimal risk regardless of their age, can be conducted anywhere indoors or outdoors, and is affordable for anyone looking to improve their lifestyle by focusing on their fitness,” Morgan enthuses.
If skipping were easy we’d all be skipping everywhere, right? The post office, the dog park, the, er, gym. But it isn’t, so we don’t. Morgan has thoughts. “The biggest issue people struggle with is their feet getting caught on the rope, which comes down to your body positioning,” he chastises. “Make sure your feet are close together and your arms are positioned by your side to prevent the likelihood of tripping.”
Morgan says another issue is that often we can’t tell where the rope is, which can be rectified by a heavier rope providing a more instinctive sense of motion. You might also be moving your arms too much, or jumping too high, leading to fatigue. To rectify this, either film your performance or study yourself skipping in a mirror.
“For the standard jump, it’s important to start with the rope behind you. Your shoulders and hands should be relaxed, with your hands by your side as you swing the rope,” he advises.
It’s important not to run-skip before you can walk-skip. Not everyone is aiming for Adonis Creed-style double-unders. But if you are, Morgan has some tips on taking your skips to the next level.
“The boxer step is a technique that requires you to shift the entire weight of your body to one foot as you tap the ground lightly with the other, alternating so the weight gets shifted to the other side as your other foot taps the ground softly during the next jump,” he explains.
“The criss-cross relies on coordination and timing,” Morgan explains. “Keep your arms back, shoulders relaxed, and feet together. The first skip will follow the standard jump method, but as the rope lifts behind you for the second jump you’ll cross your arms and bring your shoulders in to make the arc as wide as possible. This should make it easier to jump through the rope. When you’re confident with the technique, you’ll be able to redefine the shape of the arc by reducing your range of motion as you cross your arms.” Easy, right?
“The double-under technique relies heavily on rope control which includes the range of motion, speed, and timing,” warns Morgan. “You’ll need to do a high power jump to give you sufficient time to enhance the rotation speed of the rope while you’re in the air for it to swing twice before landing in a balanced position. Maintaining your rhythm will be crucial to synchronising your movements. If you’re a beginner you can count the steps out loud.”
A great skipping workout is to aim for 1,000 jumps in 5 minutes. Only joking, that’s crazy and may well lead to your legs dropping off. Morgan has some better thoughts.
“Skipping can be a great exercise to include in HIIT workouts,” he says. “If you’re looking for an intense full-body workout that utilises some of the skipping techniques I like to do you can follow the steps of my drill below. Aim for five sets, adding five additional reps per exercise each time with a 60 second rest between rounds.”
20 Vertical jumps
Squat down, swing your arms as you jump up high. You got this.
10 Prisoner Squats
Stand with your legs slightly wider than hip-width apart. Place your hands behind your head like you’re surrendering after a high speed chase. Squat as you normally would, keeping your hands where we can see them, back straight and core engaged.
20 Skipping Mummy Kicks
An advanced one, this. Skip normally, but as the rope comes under instead of bouncing on both feet, you’re going to alternate kicking your feet forward an inch or so. It’s like hopping on the spot, but you want to bounce off the toes, kicking the foot slightly forward each time while ultimately remaining in one spot.
Get in a press-up position. Do a press up. Repeat, times ten. Keep your palms below your chest, back straight, core engaged for brownie points. Don’t lock out your elbows, and don’t bounce up and down either, we’re after slow controlled movements. And yes, it’s perfectly fine to do it from your knees too.
20 Single Unders
Your classic skipping move. Children and brain-damaged boxers can do this, and so can you. With some practice. Because this is hard. Even if you have to do one jump, stop, and so on, you can get through it though. If 20 is too much, start with five and build up. We believe in you.
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