You’ve heard us say it time and again – jumping rope is one of the best full-body workouts you can do.
And while this fact is probably obvious to anyone who has ever picked up a jump rope, there is some confusion among our community members regarding what “full-body” really means.
Indeed, this happens to be one of the most common questions we (Dan and Brandon) receive here at Jump Rope Dudes. Understanding that this term is rather ambiguous, we are here today to highlight some of the most important muscles worked when jumping rope, as well as the impact you can expect on each muscle group.
Important caveat: the following list is not exhaustive!
While jumping rope will activate muscles from your head to your toes, this article will focus on seven major muscle groups:
- Hand (1) and forearm muscles (2).
- Shoulder (3) and back muscles (4).
- Abdominal muscles (5).
- Glute muscles (6).
- Calf muscles (7).
If you are interested in taking a deeper, more granular dive on the topic, we recommend checking our video tutorial from a few years back: What Muscles Does Jump Rope Work?
Ok! Let’s get started!
1. Hand and Forearm Muscles
While your hand and forearm muscles might not be the first muscle groups you think of when it comes to jumping rope, both are crucial to developing proper jump rope form (especially for heavier ropes).
Now, why should you care about strengthening these muscle groups?
First and foremost, we consistently use these two muscle groups in everyday life. Whether opening a jar, carrying something up the stairs, or walking your dog, you need your hands and forearms to be strong and healthy. Second, studies have shown that grip strength is an excellent “biomarker” for well-being as we age. One particular study from 2019 found grip strength to be a great predictor of future overall strength, upper limb function, and bone density.
Finally, stronger hands and forearms offer many additional benefits for athletes of all types (from boxers to powerlifters to climbers), especially for injury prevention.
The key to effectively activating these groups while jumping rope is to develop proper form. If you focus on keeping your elbows tight to your body, your hands out, and your palms up, you will place more resistance on these two muscle groups and build more muscular endurance as you rotate your jump rope and try to maintain rope speed.
If you are interested in learning more about proper grip and the importance of strong hands and forearms, check out the video tutorial embedded above.
2. Shoulder and Back Muscles
Proper form is key to jump rope longevity. Anyone that has read a few of our articles or watched some of our videos on the JRD YouTube channel knows that we are borderline obsessed with making sure our community members stay disciplined in mastering the basics and avoid common beginner mistakes.
When it comes to mastering the basics (particularly proper form), your back and shoulders are key. The focus here should be on pulling your shoulder blades back, down, and together. This will engage your lats and rhomboids and provide you with an excellent back workout that will pay HUGE dividends as you progress.
Want an even more intense shoulder and back burn? Try incorporating heavy ropes into your jump rope workout routine.
By increasing the weight of your rope, you will add pressure to your shoulder stabilizers and back (in a good way). This will force these two muscle groups to work harder to control the shifting weight and resistance of your rope as you jump, strengthening your back and improving posture (FYI – we cover heavy ropes in more detail in the sections below).
3. Abdominal Muscles
Your abdominal muscles, also known as your core, tend to be an afterthought when it comes to jumping rope. And yet, proper jump rope form requires that you keep your core tight, straight, braced, and activated.
This allows for a more controlled and effective transfer of power between the upper and lower portions of your body as you jump. Remember, every jump is an opportunity to activate your core and stabilize your body! When you combine this degree of intense core activation with a jump rope workout routine designed to burn excess body fat, well, you have a dynamic one-two punch for quickly developing six-pack abs.
Beyond the sex appeal of washboard abs, a strong core has many additional health benefits – from improved balance and posture to enhanced prowess in the bedroom (yes, a healthy sex life calls for a powerful and flexible core).
Your core muscles also play a huge role in body stabilization and force generation when it comes to sporting activities. Studies have shown that dedicated core training has the potential to improve balance, muscular endurance, and oxygen consumption in as little as eight weeks.
If you are looking for specific jump rope movements to burn fat as you target your core, check out this article from the JRD blog: 29 Best Jump Rope Exercises For Fat Loss.
4. Glute Muscles
Did somebody say BUNS??
While proper jump rope form requires muscle activation in both your quads and hamstrings, the glutes are the star of the show when it comes to jumping rope. As one of your body’s most powerful muscle groups, your glutes help maintain and stabilize proper hip/knee positioning as you both explode and descend in and out of jumps.
As with most muscle groups on this list, strong glutes (mainly your gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus) provide benefits that extend beyond jumping rope. This is perhaps no surprise given that hip extension is a fundamental movement for daily life and most athletic activities. One study from 2015 even found that increasing the strength of this muscle group can reduce pain and help stabilize patients with chronic and debilitating lower back injuries.
If you are simply interested in some glute gains, we recommend you check out our glute strengthening workout embedded above (note, this is from our Zen Dude Fitness days). Here Brandon will take you through a series of jump rope and bodyweight exercises that will get that booty burning in no time.
5. Calf Muscles
One of the great benefits of jumping rope is that it targets the calf muscles – a muscle group often overlooked in traditional fitness and strength training.
Consisting of a large upper muscle called the Gastrocnemius and a smaller lower muscle called the Soleus, the calf muscles are crucial for ankle extension and stability when jumping. Not only do they help absorb the force of your body weight, but strong calves reduce the risk of common injuries like sprains, strains, stress fractures, shin splints, and plantar fasciitis (to name a few).
One of the best things about jumping rope for calf strength is that you can incorporate different jumping patterns and movements that target and engage your calves in a variety of ways.
- Basic jump (for a good burn).
- Front-to-back (calf stabilization).
- Side-to-side (lateral quickness).
- Single leg jumps (for explosive power).
It is important to note (as we do in the video above) that the calf muscles are rather stubborn.
Your ability to build strength and increase the muscle mass of your calves often depends on genetics. If you want to grow your calves (instead of defining them or building muscular endurance), we recommend incorporating supplemental weight training exercises into your fitness routine. This could be dumbbell calf raises, barbell calf raises, farmer walks, or anything similar.
Does Jumping Rope Build Muscle?
Now that we have covered the main muscle groups activated when jumping rope, it’s time to address another frequently asked question: does jumping rope build muscle?
This specific question has generated a lot of debate in the fitness community in recent years, and it’s one that we have addressed in previous videos and articles (check out Brandon’s interview with Men’s Health to learn more). A quick Google search reveals a lot of hot takes on the topic. Some fitness experts say it does; others say definitely not.
Here’s our take: maybe.
At Jump Rope Dudes, we try our best to avoid making claims that we can’t back up with science. The fact is, this topic has not been sufficiently studied for us to reach a concrete conclusion on the matter.
Our personal experience has taught us that jump rope training does build some muscle mass over time. Now, is that muscle mass comparable to other forms of resistance training like weight lifting or calisthenics? No.
However, the muscular endurance you build as a result of jumping rope will increase your ability to perform repetitive muscle contractions against force for an extended period of time. That is to say, your performance in sport-specific competitions and other types of training like weight lifting should improve.
To summarize, if you want to both build muscle and jump rope, we suggest incorporating weight training or bodyweight exercises into your fitness routine.
Weighted Jump Ropes: A True Full Body Workout
Having just stated our official position on the whole jump rope/building muscle debate, we also want to highlight that we have come across some interesting research looking at the impact of weighted jump rope training on athletes.
We are referencing a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness in 2011. This study suggests that weighted jump rope training can, in fact, have a positive impact on the strength and endurance of the lower extremities in athletes.
Here is a quote from the study:
“Adding jump rope to training programs improves joint repositioning and coordination. The Weighted Rope Training group [received] greater gains for coordination and eccentric endurance parameters for lower extremities in a closed kinetic chain.”
While we are definitely missing a comprehensive body of work that reviews this topic in detail, the results of this study appear to align with our personal experiences jumping rope.
As Dan highlights in the video above, lifting weights is the most efficient training methodology for growing pure muscle mass. However, weighted jump ropes offer several amazing benefits. Not only do they leverage resistance to burn a TON of calories (less body fat = more visible muscle definition), but they take normal jump rope muscle activation to a whole new level.
If you are an experienced jumper and looking to dive headfirst into the world of weighted jump ropes, we recommend the Get Strong set. This set comes with both 1 LB and 2 LB ropes and is paired with the thicker Crossrope Power Handles. This combination is ideal for more advanced high-intensity workouts and upper body strength training.
For this reason, you will often see us jumping in our videos and workouts with weighted jump ropes from Crossrope. While the exact weight of the jump ropes we use depends on our fitness goals at any given moment, we typically rotate between two sets of ropes: the Get Strong and Get Lean jump rope sets.
If you are just getting started, we recommend the Get Lean set. This set comes with 1/4 LB and 1/2 LB ropes and is the perfect combination to help you burn fat, master the basics, and transform your body. If you are truly new to the world of jumping rope, we also recommend checking out our comprehensive beginner’s guide.
OK, dudes and dudettes, that’s everything!
Hopefully, you walk away from this article with a better understanding of how jumping rope impacts your body, as well as the benefits of incorporating weighted jump ropes into your workout routine.
Finally, if you want to take your jump rope workouts to the next level, don’t forget to check out our brand new jump rope community platform, Jump Rope Dudes TV. You can sign up for a 7-day free trial and immediately access an entire jump rope and body weight exercise playlist dedicated to targeting the specific muscle groups covered in this post. If you are looking to streamline your jump rope experience across devices with daily, commercial-free workouts, then JRDTV is right for you.