Sarah Louise jumping over the rope

How to skip: try this beginner’s guide for getting the skipping rope overhead

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Can’t even get the rope over your head, let alone do skipping tricks? Here’s your basic guide to getting a jump rope over your head. 

Skipping is one of those workouts you assume is easy – after all, you did it when you were a kid. But then you watch a viral Instagram star swing the rope around their body at breakneck speed and think ’… what?’

It’s a frustration that Alyss Bowen, social media editor at Stylist, has experienced many times. “I can’t stop watching skipping videos, but I’ve never managed to learn how to do it myself,” she says. “Whenever I try, I just fall over the rope. How do people do it?”

Patience and practice are the main ingredients, reassures Sarah Louise. She began skipping in lockdown and has more than mastered the art of the sport – perfecting even the trickiest moves and gaining nearly 50,000 followers in the process. “I think most people just jump into it – pardon the pun – and they don’t really know anything about technique. Then they’ll often injure themselves or find that skipping just isn’t very comfortable for them,” she says. 

So, how do you get started if you’ve not skipped since primary school? First step: follow Sarah’s Strong Guides tutorial. Today, we’re looking at how to properly skip for a killer cardio session. 

How to skip if you’re a beginner

First, pick the right kit. “Beaded ropes are the most versatile rope for beginners. They move slower (allowing enough time for you to execute the skill) than wired and PVC ropes and retain their shape so they don’t get tangled up,” says Sarah. “It’s also important to use a mat in order to absorb the impact on your joints and extend the life of your rope. Mats designed for jump rope are best.” 

As for the actual jump? “I like to break it down into what I’m doing with my feet and what I’m doing with my arms, then bring it all together,” Sarah says. 

How to bounce in skipping

To begin, your feet should be in a neutral stance, not shoulder width apart but not too close together either, says Sarah. “You should aim to land on the balls of your feet, not bang your heels down during the jump, as this is what can cause injury,” she explains. “Most of the people doing great tricks will be on their toes the whole time.”

“When you jump, your legs should stay in a relaxed position. Not stiff, but don’t bend the knees too much either, because you’ll find it really hard to steady yourself. A nice soft bend will help soften the landing without you going flying.”

It’s important to talk about jump height. Remember that the point is to get over the rope, not get high in the air. In fact, jumping too high is often what causes people to trip up (and is a waste of energy that could be used on maintaining speed and form). “Jumping too high will over-work your muscles and ruin your coordination,” says Sarah. “The rope is under your feet for a millisecond, and is usually half a centimeter or so wide. That means your bounce only really needs to be about one or two centimeters high. Not inches – centimeters. It sounds easy, but it’s actually probably harder to jump lower when you’re a beginner.” 

How to use your arms in skipping

Where you place your arms as you twist the rope will depend on who you ask; boxers, CrossFitters and those who do tricks with their rope will all have a slightly different positioning. For Sarah, it’s about making the skip as efficient as possible. 

“I say keep your arms as close to your hips as possible, but that will depend on where you are in the journey. I’d say for completely new beginners just try to tuck your elbows in as close to your waist as possible and have your wrists as close to your hips as you can – this is called pocket position as it’s as though you’re putting your hands in your pockets,” says Sarah. 

This is to allow all of the motion to come from your wrist, rather than your shoulder or elbows which can cause injury or miscoordination. “You also don’t want to stick your arms out in front as you’ll shorten the length of the rope – try to draw your elbows back and in and move the rope with tiny circular motions,” she adds. 

How to jump over the rope in skipping

Anticipating when the rope is coming is harder than it sounds. “You can learn this by doing a toe catch, which is where you start with the rope behind you and flip it over your head. Rather than jumping, just lift your toes and let the rope catch. Keep doing that over and over again and you’ll get used to where the rope needs to be and when you need to jump,” says Sarah. 

It’s about building up the muscle memory and having the confidence to remember when it’s coming for you, she explains. If there’s positioning you want to look out for, she says that “as you’re at the lowest point of your jump, so your toes are on the floor and knees soft, the rope should be directly above your head. When you’re at the highest point, the rope is directly underneath you.” 

As for avoiding trips? “It’s so important to get the right length rope,” Sarah says. “For most people, I’d say get a rope two or three feet longer than your height, but it’s personal preference. If you want to do tricks, too long of a rope will get in the way, so getting an adjustable rope is best to play around with the length of it.”

She recommends standing with one foot in the middle of the rope and seeing how far up your body it comes without the handles. “Anywhere from the top of your chest to the top of your ribcage is good,” Sarah says. “I think it’s important to remember that if you’re only getting over the rope four times – that’s fine. It’s four times more than before you started.” 

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Images: Getty 

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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