Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

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A Holiday Gift For Your Athlete

I get a lot of questions about exercise equipment. What is the best exercise? How to workout on the road? What “should my kid be doing to improve” etc.   There is one simple answer to this question and it is also an ideal gift for almost anyone with fitness or athletic goals regardless of age who does not have too many orthopedic limitations. So what is the answer?


Get a Jump Rope and use it!

Jumping rope (or skipping rope) is outstanding for general conditioning. It can be used to generate an aerobic workout and you can things like minute on minute off intervals skipping rope. Skipping rope also develops footwork and balance. For younger athletes these are skills that carry over to almost all sports. For middle aged and older people these skills are critical to ward off things like frailty and falls.   Jump ropes are also cheap, portable, and don’t require a lot of space. The video clip below shows some classic footage of boxers jumping rope. Note especially the foot work and wild routine of the great Sugar Ray Robinson.   Later in the video you can see Bernard Hopkins who keeps fighting at age 50.



click for video

What kind of rope?

I have a 40 year old Everlast leather jump rope with ball bearings that my mother got me sometime in the early 1970s. This is the type of rope the boxers use and it has stood the test of time. It is also a beautiful piece of functional industrial design. But almost any rope will do.





No barriers

The specifics of skipping rope aside it is important to remember that you don’t need much if any equipment or space to develop an outstanding and effective whole body exercise routine. Skipping rope along with some simple calisthenics is free, can be done almost anywhere, and requires minimal equipment. The key requirements are simply self-discipline and motivation.


4 Responses to “A Holiday Gift For Your Athlete”

  1. December 12th, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    Meegan says:

    Just ordered this for the kids two days ago for holiday gifts. Introduced by their PE teacher and they are obsessed. Having competitions with one another. We have only had one mishap – when they decided to tie one end to a table lamp so that kid A could turn the rope for kid B … Ummm keep jumping kid cuz I guess we can’t count on any academic scholarships;)

  2. December 14th, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Mark Sobus says:


    Love this post. i travel with my rope for a quick (and not so easy) workout on the road. Try this 30 minute workout. Set your countdown timer for 1 minute, or have a clock in front of you – Jump rope for two straight minutes, following the two minutes of skipping, immediately do 10 squats and 15 pushups. Start your next two minute rope jumping when the timer sounds. This usually gives you about 30 seconds rest between the last pushup and the next two minute rope skipping session. At the end of this 30 minute workout you’ve got 20 min. of rope jumping, 100 squats and 150 pushups. Obviously you can easily manipulate this workout to suit any level of fitness. i also find that skipping rope carries much less impact than running so it is great cross-training.

  3. December 19th, 2014 at 7:36 am

    This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness - Sheila Kealey says:

    […] those lines, Dr. Micheal Joyner wrote a blog post on a simple and underrated piece of exercise equipment that is inexpensive, transportable, works on […]

  4. May 8th, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness - Sheila Kealey says:

    […] was comparable to traditional fitness classes like step aerobics or cardio kickboxing. Like the jump rope, you don’t need fancy equipment to get some […]

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