Maximum Sweat: The Under-20-Minute Video Jump Rope Workout

If you want maximum cardio in the minimum time, you need to start jumping rope. Jump rope is an ideal workout—it's true functional training, teaching timing and agility even as it burns calories like crazy and strengthens your legs, glutes, and core. Add to that that it's practically free, it's portable, and about 20 minutes of it is more than plenty, and you've got an amazing, compact workout. To get you started jumping rope we've put together a video workout, designed and cued by Devin Wicks, creator of the RealJock Strength Foundation 12-Week Workout program and a fitness operations director at the University of California, Berkeley, so that you can jump along.

Ready to get started? Grab a rope, find a spot with a high ceiling, and follow along as the video kicks your butt. We promise you—you'll sweat. Even our model had to take his shirt off half-way through…last that long and you can see for yourself. If you're new to jump rope and want to get the most out of this workout, read the overview below the videos before you get started. Note: The workout is divided into two parts due to YouTube's video length restrictions. With transitions, you should be able to complete the entire workout in under 20 minutes.

Pick a Rope
To get started, you need a rope. There are a lot of types of ropes out there, and there are differences between them. Essentially, the heavier the rope, the more easily it will stay open in an arc—but the slower you'll jump. So, for a beginner jumper, you may want to get a beaded rope, one that will stay open and let you take your time developing skills. A more experienced jumper will want a leather or plastic rope so as to have to jump fast, and work harder. The best ropes have bearings in the handles to stabilize their turn, or even weights to add an upper body workout. It's up to you whether you want to spend the money on bells and whistles.

Size also matters in a jump rope. To test the size, step on the center of the rope with one foot. Hold both handles right in front of you with the rope stretched tight. The handles should be roughly midway between your belly button and chest.

Starter Skills
To get into your jump, you need to find your rhythm. The video begins by teaching you some techniques for doing this. Start with both handles in one hand and just swing the rope side to side, practicing keeping a rhythm. Now, pass the rope from hand to hand, keeping both handles in one hand at all times, and trying to keep your rhythm steady. Next, keep that rhythm as you keep the handles in both hands, but still together, continuing to swing the rope side to side. Now, you should be able to take your hands apart so that the rope opens—and jump right into that rhythm.

While you're jumping, you want to focus on keeping a relaxed upper body. Your hands should be close to you at your sides, with your palms forward. To turn the rope, just turn your wrist, not your arm. "It's all done with a flick of the wrist," Wicks says; you want to practice minimizing your arm movement so as to find a precise rhythm and a stable upper body. Jumping rope is largely about efficiency of movement—try to go controlled and precise.

Note that there's a learning curve here—but, as Wicks tells us, "It's a steep curve—it may be a bit frustrating at first, but it just takes a little practice to start to get good; and then you can start challenging yourself."

Challenging Yourself
Once you've got your basic jumping skills, you can start changing things up, adding different kinds of jumps to a greater variety of muscles in the legs, and to up the intensity. You can do jacks, one-legged hops, boxer shuffles—a list of the video's various moves appears below. But remember, everything else you'll do in this video builds on the basic jump—and any time you find yourself in trouble, you can come back to the basic jump to get your breath or get your rhythm back. In the course of this video, you'll practice your skills in big blocks, then stretch, then repeat the sequence with the addition of some one-minute intervals of high-knee runs to get your heart rate higher. Do what you can do the first time—and plan to build over time.

Wicks's jump rope workout will help you develop the following skills:
  1. Jump to one side as well as up on each turn of the rope, alternating sides
  2. Front-to-back jumps: On one turn of the rope jump forward, on the next jump back
  3. Jumping Jacks: One half jack for each turn of the rope
  4. One foot: Hop on one foot for a sequence, then switch to the other
  5. Boxer shuffle: A low, quick hop, swapping from one foot to the other on each jump
  6. High knee runs: Alternate pulling the knees up to the chest in a run; a great high-intensity interval.