It seems that everybody these days are trying double unders, including Katy Perry at the recent VMA’s. Double unders are the one technique that I can’t always teach people in one class. If you are new to CrossFit then you will inevitably run into the “Double Under” exercise, which essentially is jumping rope or “skipping”. The double under is the act of the rope going under your feet 2 times when you jump once. While teaching a fitness intro or fundamentals class, generally I find that people haven’t jumped rope much since they were on the playground, with the exception of boxers and fighters. Using a jump rope is something that has been relegated to the box marked, ‘childhood endeavors’ like a skateboard, pogo stick, or nerf ball. Don’t be fooled though, double unders are a great fitness tool that to the beginner is difficult to master, and demands ones co-ordination, timing, balance, and cardiovascular output. For the seasoned CrossFit athlete, Double Unders are essentially a rest in a workout, as they are extremely efficient at doing them, and very little movement is involved. To the uninitiated Double unders are difficult and demanding, provide weeks of frustration, and discontentment, not to mention the nice welts due to cable lashes on your legs. Let’s make double unders easier for you by following these tips!
Here are 10 tips that will help you master the double under!
1. Pick the correct length of rope. Size it up by standing on the rope with both feet together. With the handles facing foward, the level should be at the bottom of your sternum. A rope too long is better than a rope too short, but not much. Spend the time getting sized up and your attention to detail will be rewarded.
2. Start by mastering fast “Single Unders”. One rope passing under your feet with one jump. Work your way up until you can get over 100 skips in a minute. There is no reason to progress past this point until you can master the quick single under. Once you have this, then I start people with 3 singles and then one double, then back into three singles to get their timing back. Once they get this then you can go down to 2 singles, 1 double, 2 singles.
3. Work on your timing. Double unders are all about accuracy and cadence. The timing that you should be saying in your head is “Tick – Jump”. The rope hits the ground on the word “Tick” and then you leave the ground as you say “Jump”. The two are close together and it is a quick “Tick-Jump” almost as it is one word. It works with both double unders and single unders. You should be loading up your jump, just before you snap that wrist downwards. Once you snap that wrist and thumbs down, the you should be already in a position to quickly jump. A common fault is people jumping too early, and they get a few double unders, but can’t seem to get past 5, and this is because their timing is a little bit off and eventually it catches up with them as it compounds over the revolutions of the rope.
4. Feel the rope hit the ground. Your rope should be in contact with the ground in order to get the “Tick”. You should be aiming to have the rope hit approximately 6 inches in front of your feet. If you start to loose that feel of the tick in the handle then you are about to break up your string of double unders and fail. Focusing on the feel of the rope will also help you focus.
5. Keep your hands low. You want to push your hands down by your sides and keep your hands lower than your elbows. Try to anchor your hands by your sides and definitely below the bottom of your ribcage. As you get more fatigued, your hands will rise and you will start to “fly away”. Once you start to flap your wings, then you will also raise the rope up and and it will catch on your feet. As you are doing your double unders you should be thinking about forcing your hands down by your sides and staying consistent.
6. Minimize the movement. Keep all of your actions consistent, jump in the same place at the same height and speed, keep your hands by your side and focus on a sharp snap of the wrist and a well timed jump. You don’t have to jump high if you time it right. Remember “Tick Jump”, and a quick snap of the wrist, there is no need to bend your elbows or flail your arms around.
7. Turn the music down. If you are focusing on your double unders, then as well as feeling the “tick” of the rope making contact with the ground in the handle, you want to listen to the speed of the rope or cable. There is a certain tone that you want to listen to that will sync with your jumping. Once you become aware of that tone, then you can keep the rope turn consistent. With the music loud, you can’t hear that rope whirring around your head. Try it, this may be the ticket!
8. Pick a Spot and Focus. How many times have you gotten close to your PR of double unders only to break mental focus and fail? You need to stay in your zone and focus on a small stationary spot away from distractions. If you choose that location that is not moving, it helps keep you balanced and will aid your proprioception ( a fancy word for your bodies ability to recognize where it is, and what it is doing in space).Focus on the sound of the rope, the feel of the rope hitting the ground and visually pick a small stationary spot. Use all of your senses!
9. Do double unders in ALL of your workouts. Just because you “Can’t get them”, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be doing them in a workout.There are exceptions to the rule, and some just aren’t able to do double unders without losing their bladder control. A good Coach will want you to get your double unders as fast as you can, and this is a surefire way to do it. The body will find efficiency through fatigue and some of the problems with timing seem to work themselves out in a workout. People who have a few double unders miraculously will get 20 in a row. Trying your double unders while on the clock will make you focus and keep you on task even when you become frustrated. You will never get good at double unders unless you try them. As a coach I tell newcomers to the the CrossFit game to attempt double unders and I will count all attempts as scoring towards a final tally, I take away the option of 3 for 1 that some people use as a suitable substitute for double unders. Double unders will “click” for most people during a workout.
10. Buy your own rope. Let’s get rid of the other variables of different ropes. Cable ropes turn faster than cheaper plastic ropes, and even speed ropes with bearings all turn at different speeds. The handles on the ropes have different lengths which accentuate that snap of the wrist. Let’s eliminate the handicap of having to figure out the speed at which the rope turns by using just one rope. Most CrossFit competitions allow you to bring your own rope, so there isn’t really much of a need to learn of different types.
If you consistently work through these steps, then you should have your double unders in no time. Jumping rope is a perishable skill as you have found out since you stopped skipping in grade 3. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get them in your first few sessions. If you want to get good at double unders then practise a little bit every day and you will be rewarded for your persistence.
Please feel free to leave a comment if this helped you get your double unders, and please leave a message if you have a tip of your own!