Cable Jump Rope vs. a Plastic Jump Rope

Woman jumping rope

Skipping rope offers more than just a playground diversion -- regular exercise with a rope burns calories, increases endurance and improves your coordination, agility and response time, making it an excellent conditioning tool. Although jump ropes are typically affordable and accessible, they come in myriad styles. No single style takes the prize in all categories; ultimately, the winning choice boils down to your needs and preferences.

Cable Pros

Cable jump ropes -- which come in the form of tightly wound steel cables, typically wrapped in vinyl but sometimes exposed -- offer a high-speed option because of their lightweight materials. These high-tech ropes, often used in competition, cater to serious exercisers. Steel ropes excel at double and triple unders, tricks and criss-crossing. They are generally more durable than plastic ropes. You can adjust the length of most cable ropes using wire cutters.

Cable Cons

If you're new to skipping rope, a steel cable might not be your best bet. If you miss a jump, accidentally whipping yourself with a steel cable rope stings a lot more than it would with a plastic rope. Although the lightweight construction of these ropes allows them to move quickly, it also makes them more prone to twisting and tangling than plastic ropes. Rope manufacturers recommend using cable ropes indoors on non-abrasive foam, rubber, PVC or wooden floors; asphalt and concrete surfaces wear down the rope's rubber coating. Finally, cable ropes typically cost about a third more than plastic varieties.

Plastic Pros

Thin PVC jump ropes, often called “licorice” ropes, offer an inexpensive, entry-level choice for ropers who focus on cardio exercise rather than speed or competition. Although typically not as fast as steel ropes, plastic ropes easily outclass cloth and beaded jump ropes. A special type of plastic rope known as pro-vinyl may meet or exceed steel cable ropes in speed and lightness, making these ropes well suited to speed- and trick-oriented ropers. Like steel ropes, plastic ropes are usually adjustable.

Plastic Cons

In general, plastic ropes are simply not as durable or long-lasting as steel cable ropes. Outdoor environments easily wear down plastic ropes with regular use, which may limit your choice of exercise space. While plastic ropes work just fine for day-to-day exercise, they do not perform as well as steel ropes in the realm of trick or competition skipping.