I have a jump rope, and my pulse sure goes up while jumping. But what am I exercising exactly?
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Jump roping can be very effective in conditioning and strength.
Jump roping is a very helpful cardiovascular exercise. You're really exercising a complex system of muscles. You're not really isolating one muscle. You're exercising your upper body, core and lower muscles all in one action. You can't get more complete than that.
If you are jumping on your toes tips then you are definetely working out your calves.
Also you can count that as a cardio if you can keep jumping for like 20 minutes. But if your heartbeat rate is going really high, no point to do that as a cardio exercise. You should be able to keep your heartbeat rate at a constant range, let's say 140-160 for most of the males.
Edit: Yep, i meant toes! :) Sorry, English is not my mother language.
I agree with the earlier answers that slow-paced jumproping can increase your cardio-respiratory endurance, but I think the primary benefit is increasing power and speed. This is why you see it used in any movie with a boxer getting ready for a fight.
Because of the rapid higher jumping required, double unders are the most effective way to use a jumprope.