Whether you’re jumping rope for boxing conditioning, working on your skip rope tricks, or just skipping for overall muscle tone and fitness, the first step is to pick the right jump rope for the job. We’ve already said in our jumping rope for beginners guide that the jump rope is the most economical piece of fitness gear you can buy, and that’s because no matter the style you pick, you’re not laying out too much cash. That said, it can be tough to pick the right type of jump rope from all the different styles out there, so we’re here to help.
How to Pick a Good Skipping Rope Regardless of jump rope style, there are a few basic rules which apply across all categories. No matter which jump rope style you’re looking at, and how much you want to spend, make sure the rope you pick has these important features:
Adjustable Length – A poorly fitting rope is the number one cause of frustration for beginners. Your form can be just right, but a rope that’s slightly too long or too short can cause you big problems with tripping or stepping on the rope. To properly fit a jump rope, stand on the middle of the cord with your feet together, then raise the handles; the ends of the handles should come to your armpits. Make sure you get a rope that allows you to make the necessary adjustments.
Slim cord – look for a jump rope with a thin cord which cuts through the air and allows you to spin it quickly. Jump ropes with wide cords offer more air resistance and tend to slow down your skips without adding much benefit to your workout. Some cord materials, such as leather and cloth, tend to be thicker than others, and we’ll cover them in their own sections below. Definitely avoid ropes with plastic shells or other kiddie attachments; these will slow you down even more and do your workout no good at all.
Rotating handle joint – Jump ropes which are fixed at the joint between cord and handle tend to develop a wear point at that juncture which can lead to premature fraying and breakage. Instead, look for a rope with a rotating handle set perpendicular to handle which will relieve stress on the rope and allow for a smoother spin.
Fitting handles – Make sure the handles fit your hands. This can be hard to do when ordering online, but just remember that smaller is usually better. An athlete with large hands can easily use a slim handle, but someone with small hands may find a large, padded handle uncomfortable. When in doubt, go for the slimmer option.
Plastic Jump Ropes
PVC or plastic jump ropes are the best all-around option for any athlete, and the best jump rope for beginners. The plastic cord is light enough to allow a good, fast rhythm, but has just enough weight to generate a good momentum on the upswing. The tough plastic cord can also take a heavy beating when skipping on wood floors, concrete, or asphalt, and offers a long service life even under these tough conditions. Even if it breaks, as all cords eventually do, PVC replacement cords are very affordable and easy to install. These types of ropes are tangle-resistant and won’t develop a kink when sharply bent like wire jump ropes do, so they’re very gym-bag friendly. The only disadvantage is that the light weight of the cord can make it tricky to skip outdoors in windy conditions. Otherwise, a PVC or plastic skip rope is a great all-around buy.
Steel Cable Jump Ropes
Steel wire or cable jump ropes are also a good choice, but they tend be be more specialized and offer a different set of tradeoffs when compared to the more general-purpose plastic ropes. These jump ropes have cords made of thin steel wires molded into a plastic sleeve for a combination of strength and smoothness. This produces a rope which is very stiff and thin, perfect for athletes who want to work on speed skipping or elaborate jump rope tricks like crossovers and double jumps. For outdoor skipping, the thin wire offers so little air resistance that wind is a complete non-issue. That same speed also creates the steel rope’s biggest disadvantage; it may be too fast for beginners who are still learning their timing. The wire rope is also counterintuitively less durable than the plastic rope; the twisted metal cable can develop kinks if bent, and metal fibers will start to fray and protrude with hard use. Still, if speed and cardio is your priority, it’s hard to beat a steel cable skip rope.
Weighted Jump Ropes
On the other end of the spectrum, weighted jump ropes are all about building strength. These usually come with a thick rubber or plastic coated cable and the handles tend to be thicker and padded with foam. Some models also come with removable weights to increase the mass of the cord. The first thing you’ll noticed with a weighted jump rope is that the weight and air resistance of the rope tends to produce a slower skipping rhythm. The second thing you’ll notice is that you’ll start to feel the burn in your arms and shoulders a lot sooner than you think! Weighted skip ropes are specialized for toning your traps, delts, biceps, and forearms by creating a constant heavy centrifugal pull on the end of the arc. However, that same weight can also cause problems for beginners, as the slow rhythm makes it difficult to build muscle memory for efficient skipping. Dedicated upper body strength trainers should definitely give the weighted jump rope a second look.
Leather Jump Ropes
As seen in movies like Rocky and Raging Bull, there’s something romantic about training the old-fashioned way. If you’re one of those athletes who appreciates an old-school, low-tech workout, consider picking up a leather jump rope. Leather skip ropes combine the properties of plastic and weighted ropes; the cord is wide with higher air resistance like a PVC rope, but it’s also on the heavier side like a weighted rope. One potential downside of going with old-school leather is drag, as the leather cord tends to hit the ground with more friction which can mess up the timing of your skips. On the other hand, the main advantage of a leather rope is durability; the tough cord will take many tens of thousands of impacts before showing signs of damage, and it won’t fray into sharp metal fibers the way a cable jump rope can.
Jump Ropes to Avoid Athletes should avoid any jump ropes made from rope, cloth or other textiles. Their air resistance is high, their cord weight is too light, their speed is slow, and their rhythm is nonexistent; rope and cloth skipping ropes simply offer the worst of all worlds for serious training. The same goes for cheap toy jump ropes covered in plastic shells.
A jump rope is one of the most cost-effective pieces of workout gear you can buy, so make sure you get the one that’s right for your fitness goals. For more information on jump rope workouts, check out our jumping rope for beginners article, as well as our guide to jump rope tricks.