Unexpectedly Intriguing!
03 June 2022

We live in a wireless age, cutting the cord is all the rage.

Or so it would seem. Whether it be connecting to the Internet via Wi-Fi, ditching traditional cable television for digital streaming services, or shopping for the latest Bluetooth-powered wireless earbuds, the people have spoken. What they're saying is that they don't want to be physically tethered to the tech they use.

So why would anything be different for physical fitness technology?

That's part of the thinking behind inventor Lester J. Clancy's cordless jump rope, for which he was granted U.S. Patent 7,037,243 on 2 May 2006. Here's how he describes the invention in the patent's abstract:

An exercise apparatus is provided that simulates the effects of jumping rope, but does not utilize an actual rope. Two handles are provided similar in appearance to jump rope handles. At the end of the handle, where the rope would typically be, a donut-shaped enclosure is provided and mounted to the handle along its symmetrical axis. Inside of each donut-shaped enclosure, a weighted ball that rotates around a circular chamber within the enclosure. When rotated, the weighted balls generate rotational torque to simulate the use of a jump rope.

Figure 1 from the patent illustrates Clancy's conception of what a completely cordless jump rope should look like:

U.S. Patent 7,037,243 Figure 1

One cynical wag suggested a Latin name for Clancy's cordless jump rope: maracas. What possible benefit could come from eliminating the rope in a jump rope?

Reporters at CBS News asked Clancy that question back in 2006, shortly after he received his patent. The following excerpt from their story gives more background into his invention:

If you think keeping fit is merely mind over matter, Lester Clancy has an invention for you _ a cordless jump-rope. That’s right, a jump-rope minus the rope. All that’s left is two handles, so you jump over the pretend rope. Or if you are truly lazy, you can pretend to jump over the pretend rope.

And for that idea kicking around Clancy’s head since 1988, the U.S. Patent Office this month awarded the 52-year-old Mansfield, Ohio, man a patent. Its number: 7037243.

What makes this invention work is the moving weights inside the handles. They simulate the feel of a rope moving, Clancy said. Well, it’s only one handle so far because Clancy is waiting for financial backers before building its partner.

But why jump rope without a rope?

It’s perfect for the clumsy, Clancy said. “If you are still jumping, you’re still using your legs as well as your arms, and getting the cardiovascular workout. You just don’t have to worry about tripping on the rope.”

It is also good for mental institutions and prisons where rope is a suicide risk, said Clancy, who works as a laundry coordinator in a state prison. And low ceiling fans aren’t a hazard any more, he said.

Those are very practical considerations, which clearly factored into the development of his invention.

We went searching to find if his invention ever made it to the marketplace. We came up empty, but only because a different form of cordless jump rope has become popular, including one model that has garnered over 3,000 reviews on Amazon. While that other style now defines what a cordless jump rope looks like, that so many of these other kinds of cordless jump ropes exist validates Clancy's inventive vision. There is a market for imaginary jump ropes.

If you want to take things a step further, a decade after Clancy's patent was issued, Nintendo's Wii proved there is a large market for "imaginary" physical activities and sports. That's carried through to today with Nintendo's Switch, which includes, yes, a jump rope challenge.

In 2006, Clancy's invention was something that many people wrote off as silly. Today, we can say that Clancy's concept was perhaps more cutting edge than anybody appreciated at the time.

From the Inventions in Everything Archives

The IIE team has seen its share of physical activity-related patents and virtual inventions over the years. Here's a sampling of some of the innovations that solved problems you many never have known existed!

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