Jump Rope Benefits
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Jump Rope Benefits

Usain Bolt had good reason to want to flout Olympic rules and sneak his jump rope into the Summer Games: Jump ropes are a potent fitness tool. Boxing coaches and CrossFitters will attest to that. In fact, jumping rope burns more calories per minute than running a six-minute mile, according to Brett Stewart, ultra-marathoner and co-author of 'Ultimate Jump Rope Workouts.'

Snicker all you want, says Stewart, this playground toy can be just the thing to bust through a plateau, relieve the monotony of running, or deliver an instant, lung-burning workout. And don't be surprised when your shoulders give out before your calves. It's a head-to-toe exercise in one motion.

Getting a serious workout is as easy as jumping fast, says Stewart. He recommends a simple interval routine: After warming up, jump hard for one minute, then rest for 30 seconds and repeat. Complete that cycle as many times as you can, which will likely not be many. To assess the intensity, count the number of  jumps you do each minute. "Between 60 and 80 is fantastic, above that is really pretty amazing," he says.

Finding the right length for your rope is easy: Step on the middle of the rope with one foot. The handles should be armpit height. The market is flush with ultra fast swinging models, made with metal or plastic cables. Those are best for speed.

But the boxing gym mainstay – leather rope and wooden handles – can swing lightning fast with a little extra effort. And for under $20, Pacillo's extra thick leather one looks better hanging on your wall than the newfangled variety does. [$11; pacillo.com]