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Fast track your fitness by skipping

It not only torches calories, it also hones your agility, coordination, timing and balance

Australian rugby player James O'Connor skips rope during a training session. Athletes often use the exercise as part of a warm-up or a conditioning workout.

SKIPPING is so easy that five-year olds can pick it up, yet it's also a boxer's essential warm-up exercise. Skipping can be physically taxing, and a good alternative to cardiovascular work when the weather turns foul.

What's more, the rope is so easy to carry around, that's one less excuse to skip your workouts when you travel.

This calorie-torching machine (you'll singe up to 200 calories in just 15 minutes of moderate skipping) also hones your agility, coordination, timing and balance, says Mitch Chilson, director of strength and conditioning at Evolve Mixed Martial Arts.

Plus, you'll also work out those lesser-used calf muscles. Mix things up with these exercises that boxers often use, and you'll keep your fitness and motivation razor-sharp.

You can also bring things up a notch with a heavy jump rope.

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Essentially, the heavy jump rope is a skipping rope that weighs about 500g (regular ropes weigh less than 250g).

"It's a great way to strengthen the shoulders and upper body," says Mr Chilson. "It allows fighters to develop the endurance that's needed for extended periods of punching."

He recommends starting with three sets of five minutes each, resting one minute between sets. Then build it up by doing 20 to 30 minutes of continuous skipping, if you want to get your fitness to the level of "fight-ready" boxers.

The bounce step

How: Keep your elbows in, hands 25cm to 30cm from your body, just below your waist. Jump, feet together, as the rope passes your eye level. "Keep a slight bend in your knees and land on the balls of your feet," says Beci Dale, a coach with the British Rope Skipping Association.

Best For: Fat burn. Keep the intensity high, she says.

The skier

How: Imagine your feet are laterally crossing a line with each hop. "Keep your upper body straight and feet together," says Cathy Brown, a former British and European boxing champion.

Best For: Obliques, inner thighs and glutes. "It's good for improving your ski technique, and also for explosive side steps in all sports," says Brown.

Knees up

How: Start with the bounce. Then as the rope comes around, lift one knee, bounce, then repeat with the other.

"Raise your knee as close to your chest as possible, holding it up for one hop to really hit your abs," says Brown.

Best For: Balance and explosive power. "This hits frontal abs for that chiselled six-pack look. It's also perfect for acceleration sports such as football," says Brown.

The cross

How: Do the bounce. And as the rope passes your face, cross your arms. "This gives you a wide loop to jump over - then point the handles towards the floor for a low loop to jump through," says Ian Oliver, the author of Boxing Fitness.

Best For: Shoulders and biceps. "Great for building upper- and lower-body coordination for sports like tennis," he says.

Power jump

How: Do three bounce jumps, and bend both knees forward and up as far as you can on the fourth.

"Perfect the technique, then go for a 'double under' - where the rope swings under you twice," says Brown.

Best For: Abs and hamstrings. "This will increase your jump speed and height for sports like basketball and volleyball," says Brown. MEN'S HEALTH SINGAPORE

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