As a boxing trainer, I’ve helped many fighters cut weight over the years. Weight loss is an important part of the job. Unlike traditional sports, boxing is divided by weight classes. A boxer can’t box if he doesn’t make weight. And if he can’t box, he doesn’t get paid. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that I often receive questions about weight loss. One of the most common is related to the jump rope. After all, I’m known to jump rope, boxers jump rope, so is jumping rope good for weight loss?
The Uniqueness of the Jump Rope
I’m obviously a huge fan of the jump rope. I’ve skipped rope since the 1980s and plan to keep skipping as long as I’m kicking. Aside from the obvious conditioning benefits, I genuinely enjoy jumping rope. It’s one of the few conditioning activities that allows creative freedom throughout the session.
You’ll be hard pressed to find another tool that is as effective, inexpensive, and versatile. As I often say, if the rope didn’t work, someone would have figured it out by now. You wouldn’t continue to see million dollar athletes using a tool that wasn’t useful. The jump rope has stood the test of time for good reason.
Yet, despite the obvious benefits, there is one disadvantage to the jump rope that makes it unique from other conditioning exercises. To put it bluntly, you can’t skip rope if you don’t know how. There’s a learning curve that must first be overcome. And while it isn’t difficult to learn how to jump rope, the initial prerequisites can’t be ignored.
With that in mind, the jump rope should not be your first and only choice for weight loss. If you are overweight and new to skipping rope, there are two potential problems that may arise.
First, a beginner won’t have the necessary skills to skip rope continuously. Constantly tripping over the rope isn’t an exercise. Doing so won’t lead to anything but frustration. If you are struggling to lose weight, the last thing that you need is to be frustrated by your workout.
You’d be better off starting with exercises that are devoid of a learning curve. This doesn’t mean you can’t eventually jump rope, but skipping rope shouldn’t initially be viewed as a workout. Beginners must first view the jump rope as a skill. That skill won’t become an exercise until you can efficiently perform it.
When learning a new skill, I recommend frequent, yet brief practice sessions. The best way to learn something new is by practicing when you are fresh. Fatigue shouldn’t be part of the equation. One option would be to practice with the rope for a few minutes before your primary workout. Put the rope down as soon as frustration sets in. Come back the next day when you are fresh and try again. Within a few weeks, you’ll be surprised at how far you’ve come.
Once you’ve passed the frustration phase and can skip rope repeatedly, there is another problem that may arise. Many novice rope skippers lack the ability to remain light on their feet when jumping rope. Instead, their feet come crashing down with each hop or step. As a result, it’s not uncommon for beginners to experience pain throughout the lower body (ex. feet, shins, knees, etc.).
The jump rope is often blamed for these pains when the true source is related to skill. Contrary to what some believe, jumping rope is not a high impact exercise once you are proficient with the tool. It’s entirely possible to skip rope while remaining light on the feet.
For example, notice how my feet barely leave the ground in the short clip below. There is virtually no impact.
Even when I sprint in place with the rope, my feet aren’t crashing down with each step. Notice below how my feet move fast, but they actually touch down with minimal impact. You’ll hear the rope touching the ground, but you won’t hear my feet.
Most beginners will need time to develop the necessary skill to jump rope while remaining light on their feet. I often tell beginners to pretend that they are skipping rope on a thin sheet of ice. If you land too heavy, you’ll break the ice. And if you’re landing heavy enough to break the ice, you’re probably landing heavy enough to cause pain to the lower body.
Carrying extra bodyweight certainly won’t help the situation. If you land heavy while trying to lose weight, you are asking for problems. Once again, there’s a learning curve that first must be realized.
You vs. Them
The natural question therefore is why do so many boxers skip rope when cutting weight. The answer is quite simple. Skipping rope is like riding a bicycle. Once you know how to skip, it becomes a skill that you never lose. Thus, even when a boxer gains weight in between bouts, he still possesses the skill to jump rope effectively. He can jump right back into action without dealing with the problems outlined above. He won’t be frustrated by the rope and he won’t land too heavily with each step.
Furthermore, when it comes to weight loss, the exercises that you perform are just one piece of the puzzle. As an old saying suggests, you can’t outwork a bad diet. If you eat and drink too much, it won’t matter what exercises you perform. You’ll continue to struggle with weight loss.
For instance, I’ve trained many fighters who live at a weight that is 10 to 20 pounds heavier than their competition weight. That heavier weight is referred to as their walk around weight. It’s the weight that they live at when they aren’t actively cutting for an upcoming bout. Many fighters will train hard in between bouts but still remain at their walk around weight. They don’t begin losing weight until dietary changes are made when preparing for a specific fight. During that time, the training often remains similar to what they were doing before. The biggest change is to diet. Sacrifices are made, which means they eat and drink less.
In summary, if weight loss is your goal, don’t be so quick to focus your attention towards a tool such as the jump rope. The jump rope can eventually become a tool that you’ll use forever, but trying to rush through the learning curve will only cause downstream problems. You’ll be better served to first focus on strength and conditioning activities that involve minimal impact.
Furthermore, it’s important to understand that no exercise is as important as diet when weight loss is the goal. Often times, what happens in the gym is secondary to what happens in the kitchen. I don’t say this to suggest that exercise isn’t also important, but you certainly shouldn’t put all of your eggs into one basket. Doing so can lead to overuse (particularly for beginners).
Therefore, in many ways, you could say that there is no single best exercise for weight loss. Don’t let others fool you to believe otherwise. Instead, clean up your diet and slowly make exercise a part of your daily routine. Eventually, it will become part of who you are and what you do. Once you reach that stage, regular jump rope training will be a more realistic and sustainable goal.
“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” – Jim Rohn