Jumping Rope Without a Jump Rope is Hard (and Good For You)

So there I was…doing double unders in my garage. I was trying to get in some long sets of over 100, but my rhythm and training effect was being hampered by an occasional missed rep that would derail my nice string. Then the more fatigued I got, the harder it was just to time the rope and my feet. My cardiovascular system was ready for more punishment, but the mechanics of the movement were hurting me.

Then I thought to myself, “What if I just did the same movement without the jump rope?” So I just jumped up and down and moved my hands as if I were jumping rope. My heart rate got just as high! I was wearing a Polar H10 heart rate monitor to verify. I tried this a few more times and got the same result. I have been doing this for the past month and it still rings true. Here is some evidence from today’s workout:

The first series of eight intervals are all 50 reps every minute, which means you do 50 reps and whatever time is left in the minute you can rest. Faster you finish your reps, the more rest you get. The “without rope” intervals are only a few beats per minute (BPM) less than the with a jump rope. Then I rested two minutes and did one minute of continuous reps with a jump rope, rested two more minutes, and did one minute without a jump rope. Got 163 BPM with a rope and 157 without the rope.

Lessons Learned & Application

  • Since you are not using a jump rope, you have to really jump as high as you would with a rope. Short, less intense jumps won’t equate to actual double unders.
  • Without the risk of missing reps, you can really increase the cadence of your jumps and get more reps in the same time. Without the fatigue on the shoulders which raises heart rate, increased rep frequency picks up the slack.
  • Jumping jacks don’t produce the same heart rates as ropeless double unders. The jumping isn’t as intense and even if I increased rep speed, I didn’t get heart rates as high – although you’d be surprised how much effect jumping jacks have on heart rate too.
  • This ropeless jumping rope technique is very useful for a few groups:
    • Those who can’t do double unders but who want to realize the benefits of the movement (lower body explosive power, cardiovascular endurance, and foot/ankle strengthening). This is a highly functional movement. I like to use it to break up boredom doing cardio (running or rowing). What I like about it most is how it conditions the lower legs and feet for running. If I don’t run for a while then run hard, my feet and calves feel it the next day. The energy output isn’t my problem, it’s just that I haven’t been doing a lot of jumping and landing on pavement. If I keep up with double unders, this doesn’t happen. Plus it teaches you do stay on your toes. There is no heel striking in double unders. Jumping rope is a great warm-up for running and for training runners.
    • Those who want to do higher rep sets but can’t keep the same mechanics when seriously fatigued. I really like doing long double unders only workouts like 500 reps for time, but at some point I start to miss reps and it gets annoying because I want to keep pushing. You could do some reps using a rope until it becomes prohibitive, then drop it and keep hammering.
    • Those with space or equipment limitations. My garage is a perfect example. A lot of times I leave one car in the garage and I have things hanging from the ceiling. There is a small space I can actually do a rep with a rope without hitting something.

Give it a try and let me know your thoughts below. You will look like a weirdo, but weirdos who smoke other people during PT are OK in my book.