Time-Based vs. Rep-Based Jump Rope Workouts

Jan 14, 2024Devin Meek

Jumping rope is fun. Anyone who has picked up a rope, pulled off a new trick, or done double-dutch with a friend knows it’s a great excuse to feel like a kid again.

But there’s another, more serious side to jumping rope: pure cardio. It’s one of the best heart-rate-raising workouts out there. Jumping rope beats out running, swimming, boxing, and biking in terms of caloric burning. Depending on your body type and speed, you can burn around 250–300 calories in just 15 minutes of jump roping. Practicing this aerobic cardiovascular activity benefits your heart, physical fitness, and lifts your emotional health. And it’s a low-impact activity. That means jump roping is easy on the joints, making it great for all ages and stages of life.

Pop stars and heavyweight boxers use jump ropes to prepare for rigorous physical activities. See Katy Perry showing off her skills during a concert, or check out Floyd Mayweather's pre-match fancy footwork.

So, now you want to get in the best shape of your life with a jump rope. Only one question remains: How do you train with a jump rope?

The answer: Structure your jump rope workouts so you won’t feel like you’re jumping aimlessly into the sunset. In addition, it’ll be easier to track your progress. There are two options: time-based and rep-based sets. The choice comes down to your goals and preferences. Read on to decide which is best for you.

First Off, Let’s Get our Definitions in Order.

What is a set?

A set is a group of consecutive reps. For example, in a time-based jump roping set, three sets of twenty reps while jump roping could look like twenty jumps, then a thirty-second rest, then twenty jumps, then a thirty-second rest, then twenty jumps.

Now, the Two Types of Sets:

What is a time-based set?

Time-based sets are tracked on the clock, rather than by counting. Typically, time-based sets are delineated by 30, 50, and 60-second measurements. You can also time your set by starting a timer and making a goal to keep moving non-stop for 10 or 15 minutes. This method is much more complicated than it sounds, so beginners take note. With a jump rope, this would look like jumping nonstop without breaks.

You don’t have to count how many jumps you do while completing a time-based set. By relying on the clock and focusing all of your attention on proper jumping form, you’ll experience an intense full-body workout.

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts are a form of time-based training. A HIIT session looks like brief periods of explosive exercise (usually 30 seconds to a minute) separated by equally or slightly shorter rest periods. This method of exercise is incredibly trendy, with good reason. It can be completed quickly and turns your body into a fat-burning furnace. Even after a HIIT workout, the calories keep burning due to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

What is a rep-based set?

Rep is short for repetition. In exercise, it refers to how many times you complete an exercise before taking a break. Rep-based sets involve a goal to hit a certain number of jumps or repetitions of an exercise. You’ll count the number of jumps or tricks you do and take breaks.

The rep-based approach can motivate some athletes to count down or up to the number of jumps they want to accomplish. Especially in jump-roping, some athletes want to build their exercises to the point where they’re jumping as fast as possible (even letting the rope pass underneath their feet twice per jump). Getting into the 150–200 jump range is possible with dedicated practice.

What are the Benefits of Each Set?

Time-Based Set Benefits:

A time-based set will direct your focus on exercise and form rather than counting, which can get difficult to track when you’re a fairly fast jumper. Unfortunately, some of us aren’t the best speed-counters!

It’s easy to build short, high-power workouts into a busy schedule. Do you only have 20 minutes between work and running evening errands? Ample time for an intense workout.

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is an easy way to burn the maximum number of calories during and after your workout. Check out these great jump rope movements and turn your jump roping into a challenging HIIT workout.

You can challenge yourself in multiple ways with a time-based set. For example, you can try to move for the entire interval or take shorter rest periods until you can gradually eliminate them altogether.

Rep-Based Set Benefits:

Rep-based sets are perfect for Type A folks who want to be precise about counting their jumps and calories. It can be motivating to finally reach a high goal or get down to that last sweaty 3-2-1! It’s not the same as watching the clock (we all know how slowly the last five minutes of a rigorous workout can go).

It can be helpful to use rep-based sets while mastering a specific jump rope trick. For example, if your goal is to nail the double under, hitting that trick 20 times in a row in just one set will ensure you reach your objective with practice.

No need to buy a clock. You can just use your mind if you’re good at counting. And some great apps will keep track of the number of jumps you do. For example, this free Jump Rope Workout app works with your iPhone. Just attach it to your waist or arm and watch those numbers climb. If you’re a tech-lover or want to invest in an even more in-depth system, try a digital jump-counting rope.

Which Type of Set is Better?

In the case of any workout, you should always do what feels best for you. Choosing between sets is a matter of preference, goals, propensity to injury, fitness level, age, and strength.

For example, if you’re a beginner trying to get down just the basic jump using rep-based workouts, it might be a good idea to use rep-based exercises to count how many successful jumps you can land in a row. It’ll give you a good sense of your progress without the pressure to move too quickly and potentially injure yourself. As mentioned before, an experienced jump roper can try to grow the amount of time they’re jumping gradually, eventually cutting out rest periods between intervals altogether.

Regardless of skill level, we recommend a jump rope mat to ensure you’re jumping safely and keeping the exercise easy on your joints.

Both time-based sets and rep-based sets offer great benefits. If your goal is to improve cardio function, time-based high interval training may be your best bet. You won’t be distracted by counting so you can put all your focus on speed and endurance. To increase the resistance and challenge your muscles, try these Muay Thai Heavy Jump Ropes that weigh 1.5 pounds. You’ll be the buffest gym rat in no time.

On the other hand, if muscle growth, form, and muscle endurance are most important to you, rep-based resistance training may suit you better. Low reps help build muscle strength, while a higher number of reps help build muscle mass and endurance.

To prevent counting from messing with your rhythm use a timer with an audio or vibrating interval notification, or any number of interval-measuring sports watches.

Mixing and Matching Set Styles

Is it okay to do both? Sure! Variation in workouts is healthy. In fact, we recommend switching it up with both time-based and rep-based sets. It’ll help you see what works best for you and your body and keep your muscles on their toes. Try different rep styles for different goals and see which is most effective in your routine.

Examples of Jump Rope Routines

Here’s a great example of a “sliding scale” rep-based jump rope routine from builtlean.com:

“One great way to keep the volume high but manageable intensity is to create a sliding scale. You start out with let’s say 500 jumping rope reps in a row, then rest, decrease by 50 reps to 450, then complete again, until you get down to 50 reps. So it looks like this:

(Rest 30-90 seconds in between each set)

  • 300
  • 250
  • 200
  • 150
  • 100
  • 50

The total amount of reps is a solid 1,050 accomplished in 6 sets, but the intensity is manageable because the number of reps per set decreases over time.”

And here’s an idea for time-based set workout from self.com:

Circuit 1

  • Freestyle jump (30 seconds), rest (30 seconds)
  • Repeat five times total

Circuit 2

  • Freestyle jump (40 seconds), rest (20 seconds)
  • Repeat five times total

Circuit 3

  • Freestyle jump (30 seconds), rest (30 seconds)
  • Repeat five times total

The Verdict

Though there are benefits to both approaches, a time-based set is most effective for your standard jump rope workout, especially if you’re looking to get the most out of a quick cardio session. You won’t be distracted by counting your own jumps and you can keep track of your progress by shortening and eliminating breaks within the set. To get the most out of your time-based set, we recommend the Cardio Builder jump rope bundle, which includes 3 ropes for training cardio.

The time-based approach works well for most jump rope workout routines, while rep-based routines are well-suited for practicing tricks. We encourage you to incorporate both techniques into your workouts.

Jumping rope gives you a great workout no matter how you choose to go about it. It is a fun, incredibly effective work-out that benefits people of any age and any fitness level.

About the Author

Devin Meek is the Director of Education for Elite Jumps. He's been a jump rope entertainer for over eighteen years and is a three-time world champion competitive jumper. Devin travels the country sharing his passion for the sport, giving jump rope workshops to schools, CrossFit gyms, and corporate wellness programs.


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