Jumping over a rope that passes under both feet is a high impact exercise. Running is also a high impact exercise. If you had a choice, you wouldn’t run on a hard unforgiving surface! Would you? Well, the same is true with jumping rope. The risk of injury is much greater on unforgiving surfaces like concrete.
Too Soft is Too Bad
It may surprise you to learn that some surfaces are too soft for jumping. Thick foam mats, padded carpeting, mattresses and sand are not good at all. While these surfaces do absorb shock, they soak up all the energy from a jump and don’t give any bounce-back. It’s like running on the beach, away from the waterline!
What surface should you jump rope on?
The Best Jump Rope Surfaces
Smooth, firm and forgiving with a rebound bounce-back characterize the best surface to jump rope on.
Here are examples:
- Gym wood floors laid over a cushion base are the favorite of skilled jumpers. They give you the best combination of everything a skilled jumper wants. You should avoid those wood floors are laid directly over concrete, as they are too firm.
- Synthetic gym floors are a great choice for every rope jumper. They absorb a bit more shock than a wood floor and they have a lower bounce-back.
- Running tracks are excellent workout surfaces. They’re designed absorb the shock of running and that’s precisely what you want.
- Children’s playgrounds with a rubber surface similar to running tracks are safe and lots of fun. They are softer that a running track and absorb a bit more shock at the expense of some lost bounce-back.
- Interlocking plastic or rubber sports mats and tiles are a great for home use. Make sure the surface isn’t too soft. The tiles should be between 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. You want to have a surface that’s big enough for you to move around. Jumping rope in one fixed position can lead to repetitive use injury and it isn’t much fun either. You want to have a surface that is at least 9 feet by 9 feet. Don’t buy one tile because it will be too small.
Other Jump Rope Surfaces to consider
Boxers and other athletes who jump rope in training prefer mats. They absorb a lot of impact, so they are much easier on joints than jumping directly on a hard floor. The cushioning means more of a force is needed to jump up, so it provides a more effective calf workout. However, it slows down the pace of jumping, making for less of a cardio workout than jumping rope on a hard surface. (Often a Mat is to soft to jump rope on)
Grass as a jumping rope surface brings many benefits. You'll be working out outdoors, and muscles in the feet and shins will work harder to balance and support you on a less even, slick surface. Shock absorption is good so it's relatively easy on the knees, but the surface may be unstable and slippery, particularly after rain and early mornings.
Sand provides one of the most effective surfaces for a rope jumping workout. It requires considerable force to push off, but absorbs impact with a soft landing that compacts underneath you. You'll get the benefits of a little instability, as you engage muscles in the shins and feet, but it's easier to land safely if you fall or land off balance, with less of a risk of injury.
The best jump rope surface is one with a bit of give to distribute the shock each time you land, and protect the joints. Ideally you would use a sprung wooden floor, as found in gymnasiums and aerobic and dance studios. Not everyone has easy access to a suspended wood floor, but you can seek out other surfaces that naturally absorb some of the impact, like grass or a clay court.
Make sure the surface is flat and even, particularly if you're jumping rope outdoors. Don't risk adding difficulty or injury by landing on a surface that will give unevenly, trip you or put you off balance. Boxing trainers do loads of rope training, and they recommend many cushioned, flat surfaces found around the gym. There's added bounce and support in gym mats, the boxing ring itself, and other rubber sports surfaces like tennis courts and running tracks.
Concrete may provide an even, flat surface that's easy to find. But avoid jump-roping directly on a concrete floor: it will place extreme load on the knees and tire you out quickly, which could lead to injuries to other joints. If you have to use a hard concrete, stone or asphalt surface, protect yourself by putting down foam or rubber mats. Interlocking foam mats make a useful temporary surface for jump-roping.
Concrete is the surface used most often for rope jumping. It's found everywhere, it's solid and easy to push off from and gives great rebound for fast rope jumping. It provides an even, grippy, non-slip surface. But it's one of the hardest, densest jumping rope surfaces and doesn't absorb any shock when you land. It's hard on your joints and will tire you more quickly as well as increasing the risk of knee injuries and shin splints.
Carpeted Or Smooth?
If all your smooth surfaces in the home are hard and unforgiving, then carpet makes an acceptable jump rope surface, with some cushioning to protect you. But it does make jumping rope more of a challenge, because the rope will bounce or drag on carpet, forcing you to jump higher. It's easier to clear a rope that slides across a smooth surface such as a wood floor or mat.