by: Yuri Elkaim

Jumping Rope vs. Running – Which is Better-

Jumping rope vs running…

Is one better than the other for getting in great shape?

Well, if you’ve been indoctrinated by decades of cardio-loving experts, then you might be surprised to find out that running, unless you’re training for a specific race, is wasting your time and even increasing your risk of injury compared to jumping rope.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me answer a couple of common questions about jumping rope vs running…

Is Jumping Rope Good Cardio?

Absolutely! If you’ve jumped rope for just a few minutes, you’ll understand how challenging it is. Just a few minutes will have you huffing and puffing and that’s because it engages more muscle than running does (think arms, core, and legs).

Since muscle requires oxygen (ideally) to produce energy, the more muscle involved in an activity, the more oxygen you need to bring into your body. That’s why you start breathing more heavily.

From a time perspective, it takes less time for jumping rope vs running to achieve the same benefits. And because jumping rope requires greater technique, it incorporates more muscles, which also leads to a greater number of calories burned in less time.

Total time jumping rope is far less than total time in a continuous running workout. This results in greater workout intensity and reduced stress from impact on your body.

The Problem with Running

Listen – I used to play pro soccer, so I dedicated a LOT of time to running. Plus, I’ve create an entire series of interval running workouts called the Treadmill Trainer to help you train smarter, not harder with your runs.

Yes, I’ve seen and experienced what too much does to the body over time.

It might help to imagine what would happen to your car if you drove it hundreds of thousands of miles…

running wear and tear

Would it perform better? Would it have greater value? No and no.

And that’s due to simple wear and tear.

The same thing happens with running. It’s a high impact activity, plus most runners don’t even run with good form which is one of the reasons why the yearly incidence rate for running injuries varies between 37 and 56%. (1)

About 50 to 75% of all running injuries appear to be overuse injuries due to the constant repetition of the same movement and factors associated with running injuries include previous injury, lack of running experience, running to compete, and excessive weekly running distance.

Suffice to say that if you’re running on a regular basis, whether on a treadmill or outdoors, you will eventually develop some kind of nagging injury. Unless you know how to run properly – both in terms of form and workout protocol. Most people have no idea.

Running, Heel Striking, and Stress on Your Body

For instance, many runners heel strike when running. This is not good because heel striking is like slamming on the breaks each time your feet hits the ground and the resulting force (usually about 3x your body weight) is mostly transmitted right through the passive structures – joints and bones – instead active muscles.

Conversely, a mid-foot or forefoot strike (which naturally happens when you run barefoot), where the body is overtop the foot and absorbing force through the muscles (not the joints) is a much safer and more effective for energy transfer while running and reduces your risk of injury. (2)

This picture illustrates the difference between the two forms of running landing mechanics:

 Different foot strike patterns while running

Why Jumping Rope is Safer and More Effective

Jumping rope prevents the common forces you would be subject to with heel strike running by forcing you to land on the toes and use the untapped power in the calves and the combined power of the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core.

Don’t believe me? Try jumping rope by landing on your heels. Ouch!

Compared to running, much of the impact of jumping rope is taken through the leg muscles. The erect posture and long spine forces the abdominal muscles to hold your core tight and work in perfect coordination with the back muscles to form the same kind of internal pressure as a weight belt. All of this supports your torso and transfers energy more efficiently through your body.

The other reason why jumping rope is better than running for burning fat and getting in great shape is because it is barely possible to do with poor form. The rope is your teacher and you’ll continue to make mistakes (ie. tripping on the rope) until you learn how to do it properly.

In other words, if you have poor jump rope technique, you can’t jump rope. By contrast, if you have poor running technique (and almost ALL people do), you can do still go out and pound the pavement – a recipe for disaster.

Jumping Rope vs Running for Interval Training and Leg Strength

Interval training involves repeated bouts of high and low intensity of varying durations.

interval training jumping rope

One of the challenges with running intervals is that quickly changing from jogging to sprinting can pose a potential injury (hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, other) to many people not properly trained for higher intensity running or those who haven’t warmed up properly.

Furthermore, doing short interval sprints (5-20 seconds) on the treadmill is almost impossible because of the time it takes for the treadmill to change from a slow speed to its maximum speed.

With jumping rope, none of that is an issue…

You can quickly change speeds by increasing the speed of the rope at the snap of a finger without worrying about getting injured.

When it comes to strengthening your legs, especially your calves, jumping rope is incredible. Think about it: you’re landing on the ball of your foot each time it hits the floor. This is exactly how you activate and develop your calves.

Think of gymnasts who are trained from almost birth to walk, run, and bounce on the balls of their feet. Their calves and legs have beautiful shape and strength.

Plus, unlike running, with jumping rope you can repeatedly land on the same leg to achieve an isolated leg strengthening workout if you like. There are endless possibilities.

And the Winner Is…?

By now, it should come as no surprise that jumping rope is the BETTER all around exercise option compared to running. Let’s quickly recap why:

  • It’s safer
  • It’s more time efficient
  • Forces good posture and core activation
  • It recruits almost all of your muscles
  • It leads to greater lower body strength improvements

Even if you’re a runner who’s training for a 5k race or a marathon, jumping rope every so often as a cross training activity will be of great benefit to you.

Four 5-Minute Jump Rope Workouts That Will “Whip” You into Shape

To help you get started with jumping rope, here are 4 quick jump rope workouts you can choose from. Each one takes only 5 minutes and you’ll be thankful for that by the time you’re done. 🙂

They’re set up in interval training fashion combining bouts of high and low intensity (effort) to give you maximum benefits in less time.

For each workout, begin with some light skipping 2-3 minutes as your warm up.

Workout #1: Beginner

Work interval: 5 seconds @ 100%

Recovery interval: 25 seconds @ 65% (nice and easy)

Repeat 10 times = 5 minutes

Workout #2: Intermediate

Work interval: 10 seconds @ 100%

Recovery interval: 20 seconds @ 65% (nice and easy)

Repeat 10 times = 5 minutes

Workout #3: Advanced

Work interval: 20 seconds @ 100%

Recovery interval: 10 seconds @ 65% (nice and easy)

Repeat 10 times = 5 minutes

Notice how each of these workouts are 30 second blocks repeated 10 times. The only difference was varying the amount of work and recovery time.

Here’s a helpful tip: to easily make an interval workout more challenging simply reduce your recovery (even without touching the work interval). You’ll feel the difference immediately.

Workout #4: Leg Sculpter

Right leg interval #1: 10 seconds hopping on right leg @ 65% effort

Left leg interval #1: 10 seconds hopping on left leg @ 65% effort

Recovery interval #1: 20 seconds on hopping on both legs @ 65% effort

Right leg interval #2: 10 seconds hopping on right leg @ 100% effort

Left leg interval #2: 10 seconds hopping on left leg @ 100% effort

Recovery interval #2: 20 seconds on hopping on both legs @ 100% effort

Repeat this entire sequence 3 times for a total of 4 minutes.

To help you get the most out of these workouts, let’s answer a few common questions that should be addressed…

What Jump Rope Size Do I Need?

Before you begin using a rope, measure it to your height. When you stand on the middle of the rope, the handles should reach your armpits. Wrap any excess rope around your hands if necessary.

What’s the Best Jump Rope to Use?

In choosing a good quality jump rope, there are a number of considerations.

First, choose a rope that has light weight handles, otherwise your arms will burn out in seconds.

Second, the rope must turn smooth and fast, and have a good, comfortable grip that doesn’t slip when you sweat.

Third, consider the rope quality itself. Nylon coating is much tougher and lasts longer than vinyl coatings. You can also use a beaded or plastic “speed” rope as they tend to whip around faster, making for a more intense workout.

How to Jump Rope Properly?

You have to gradually prepare your lower body for the impact of jumping, so begin on a waxed wooden floor or rubber floor. Hold the rope with hands at about hip height and elbows slightly bent, keeping your upper arms close to your sides. Your chest should be out and your shoulders back and down. Make your jumps small and land on the balls of your feet.

Now you’re all set!

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Yuri Elkaim

Yuri Elkaim

Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.