Short story: I have a friend who hates double unders. One time he thought he had finally figured them out but really, the rope had split in two and he wasn’t jumping over anything. He was pretty excited to finally get double unders and the expression on his face when he realized he wasn’t jumping over a rope anymore was priceless. Needless to say, he’s sworn off double unders at this point and whenever they show up in a WOD, he does singles.
You probably know someone like this. You, yourself, may find double unders near impossible. I know I did. I CrossFit for well over a year before I finally got my first double under and doing them in a WOD was slow going once I had them. It took time and a lot of practice to finally figure out double unders, but now that I have them, I actually enjoy them.
Even if it seems impossible, you can get double unders. I’ve created a list of tips to help you do just that:
Tip #1 Figure Out the Rhythm
It helps to feel out the rhythm of a double under before you actually do them. To do this, put your rope away and start with just jumping on the balls of your feet. Try jumping just high enough to clear a 25 lb plate and get into a rhythm so that you are jumping consistently. This should be nice and steady. Once that is going, you can add in double taps. Double taps are when you tap on your chest with your palms twice. Do these at the top of your jump. See how long you can consistently jump and double tap at the top. Once your pattern breaks and you find that you are double tapping too early or too late, stop and rest. You want to program the muscle memory for the rhythm of double unders by calmly jumping and double tapping at the top of the jump.
Tip # 2 Practice Whipping From Your Wrists
A common error with newbies is that they try to turn the jump rope with their whole forearm. This causes the rope to move too slowly and throws the rhythm of double unders off so that you miss the rope. Instead, you need to use small flicks from your wrist to get the rope moving. My husband likes to think of this as spinning his wrist. I like to envision myself flicking my wrist up and down. Either way, we are both focused on our wrists and that enables us to do double unders. When you practice this, make sure you are holding the rope between your thumb and your index and middle fingers with a relaxed grip.
Tip # 3 Relax Your Body
Remember how we got you jumping in a nice, calm, consistent rhythm with tip #1? Well as soon as you tense up and start trying too hard, you’ll stop jumping straight up and down on the balls of your feet and start either kicking your feet forward in your jump while bending at the waist, or bring your heels up towards your butt expending wayyy too much energy. You may get one or two double unders this way, but you won’t be able to establish a pattern of movement that allows for multiples. Instead, stay relaxed and focus more on the jumping pattern than on the rope.
Tip # 4 Relax Your Arms
Another common error is that people forget to keep their arms nice and relaxed. Instead, they get tense and shrug up with their traps. Then, they start swinging from their arms instead of focusing on their wrists. Tense shoulders shortens the rope so that it hits your feet. Staying relaxed and keeping your hands positioned at your sides prevents the rope from hitting too far in front or too close to your feet. Just like you relaxed your body, you must relax your arms. Double unders are all about staying calm and collected!
Tip # 5 Try for One Double, One Single
When you are first learning double unders, it’s completely fine to mix and match double unders and single unders. In fact, its much easier to stick to hitting one double under, then doing a single under, etc. than it is to try to hit multiple double unders right off the bat. As you get better, you can do two double unders and one single under. Then three and one. As you get more efficient at doing double unders, you’ll learn to string them together more consistently.
Tip # 6 Catch Your Breath
If you are trying for double unders mid-wod (though we suggest you practice them on your own first), make sure you catch your breath before you start your double unders. Like we said, you must be calm to stay relaxed and keep the rhythm, the wrist whip, and the steady ball-of-the-foot jump. If you can’t breathe, you’ll forget to be calm and instead become tense. It’s worth it to take five seconds to catch you breath before you start. And when you miss a double under and need to re-start, take a mini rest then too! This is one of those situations in a WOD when resting for a few moments saves you a lot of time overall.
Tip #7 Get a Good Rope
Equipment matters when it comes to double unders! The weight of the rope will dictate how quickly it spins and as you get better, you’ll want a rope that spins more readily. The ones most boxes carry are just okay. They probably cost about $5-8 dollars per rope when brought in bulk and this is economical for a CrossFit gym. However, there are better ropes on the market. For a good rope, expect to spend about 40 dollars. One great rope we recommend is the Rx Jump Rope by Rx Smart Gear.
Tip #8 Make Sure You Have The Right Length Rope
Though it may be obvious to some, its worth noting that you want to make sure the length of the rope is appropriate for your height. To do this, stand on the center of the rope and hold the handles up. Handles should be pointed straight up and the end of the handle should be at the arm pit. Any lower means the rope is too short. If they are much higher, it’s too long. Some people may prefer a rope a bit shorter than that or a bit longer, but this is the general rule of thumb.
Tip #9 Practice Regularly
When I finally got double unders, it’s because I stayed after class and forced myself to practice for five extra minutes every day until I had them. Like anything, you need to practice this skill if you expect to master it. If you’re still having difficulty, try videoing yourself to see your form and identify how you can improve. Expect frustration, but don’t give in to it. This is just one of those movements that you will have to struggle with until it suddenly clicks, but you’ll never get them if you aren’t willing to embrace the suck first.
Do you have another tip to share with our readers? We’d love to hear it! Leave a comment below if you do!