"When it comes to cardio, nothing burns better than jumping rope, and it tones head-to-toe," says Gerard Calvo, group fitness manager of Equinox in New York City and creator of its Rope Burn class. Fine-tune your form with his tips, then hop to it for up to 5 minutes for a warm-up, 20 minutes for a full cardio session, or 30 seconds between strength sets to drop pounds by leaps and bounds.
Stand tall. Keep neck relaxed and gaze ahead—resist the urge to look at your feet—to keep spine aligned. Lift chest and lower shoulders to avoid hunching, which can also strain the back.
Square off. Hold elbows at sides, bent 90 degrees, with arms slightly forward, palms up. For smooth turns, it's all in the wrists. Rotate hands, not the entire arm, in small circles. Contracting shoulders, triceps and biceps throughout will help you control your revolutions and sculpt arms.
Cue your core. Engage ab muscles the entire time; a tight middle helps you maintain proper posture and stability, protecting the lower back and knees. Bonus: It will tone your tummy, too!
Stick the landing. Jump on the balls of your feet (heels should never hit), bringing toes only 1 inch off floor. Shoot for a quiet landing with soft knees to ease impact. Wear crosstrainers with extra cushioning, and a sports bra to ban bounce.
Get the best fit. Lassoing the right-sized rope is key for a smooth swing. For the ideal length (most are 9 to 11 feet long), stand on the center and pull up on the ends. Handles should hit at the armpits. Too long? Tie a knot at each end. Too short? Swap skippers.
Know the Ropes
Pinpoint the perfect type for your skill level, and jump off the jiggle.
For newbies: Plastic beads on the Harbinger rope make a sound when they hit the ground; time jumps to the clink of the links. $15; Amazon.com
For endurance: A boxer's go-to, a leather rope is heavy, so it punches up intensity. $18; Everlast.com
For tricksters: Ball bearings in the handles and slick rubber material of the Deluxe speed rope ensure that spinning it quickly is a cinch. $11; ValeoInc.com
Increase your metabolism and tone up faster. Find a fat-burning class.