Think skipping rope is simply a warm up or worse, a playground game? Think again. Ask any boxer or CrosFitter worth their sweat and they'll tell you that a jump rope is a formidable fitness tool. Inexpensive, effective and highly adaptable, you can jump rope anywhere—like while you're traveling or when it's raining outside—all that's required is a few feet on each side of you.
A true head-to-toe workout, you've got to love an exercise that improves cardiovascular health and tones muscles while increasing your agility and endurance. Of course, that's not to say it's easy. Jason Warner and Brett Stewart, certified personal trainers, triathletes and authors of Ultimate Jump Rope Workouts, warn that it's a skill that takes practice. "If you haven't jumped rope in a while (or ever), it'll take some time ... but over the course of a couple days, you'll get the hang of it."
jump rope, $18
To get the most from your rope workout, they suggest a simple interval routine: After warming up for five to ten minutes, jump fast and hard for one minute, rest for 30 seconds and repeat the cycle as many times as you can. To give you a goal to aim for, count the number of jumps—the guys suggest shooting for anywhere between 60 to 80 jumps for each minute set. Intensity is the key to a great workout, says Warner, who likens the quick bouts of jumping rope to sprinting (as opposed to jogging).
And while sporting goods stores seem to be flush with new fangled "high speed" jump ropes, your best bet is the old boxing gym mainstay: a leather rope and two wooden handles. They swing plenty fast and the extra effort required to keep them moving will ensure a good burn on your shoulders. Which is the point, right?