Let’s face it: you can’t do double unders and it makes you mad. It frustrates you because they show up all the time in the WOD, you feel like a buffoon doing them, you’re pretty good at everything else, and those dang double unders beat you every single time. Well friend, good news, we’re here to help! Chances are you’ve sought out help, or receive tips and cues from coaches or boxmates, all of which that haven’t worked for you. You might be able to get a couple then lash yourself with the rope, or you might not be able to get any at all. Wherever you’re at in your double under jump rope progressions, we’re going to give you 9 tips to mastering double unders like a pro!
Tip #1: Double Under Rope
Using a rope that’s too long can keep you from mastering double unders right from the get-go. We recommend a rope that, when standing on the middle of it with two feet, goes up to your nipple line or your chest line. The reason? This will give you about 6” - 10” of clearance above your head, which is an efficient and preferred length.
Still too hard? Grab a rope that gives you about a 15-20” clearance above your head and start with singles. The main idea with rope length is to get the rope revolving with the smallest amount of effort possible. You’ll know if your rope is too long if it takes too much effort to do a single revolution.
Tip #2: Get Your Own Rope
Using a rope that is suitable for your capabilities and jump rope aspirations is important. We’ve seen people do numerous double unders with a beaded or weighted rope, whereas they can’t do a single dub with a cable rope. Try a few, then bite the bit and purchase one. The more consistently you can practice with the same rope, the more you can focus on your mechanics, and not the rope itself. Plus, mastering double unders is going to take time, and the more you can get familiar with the rope you use, the better it'll serve you in the long run.
Tip #3: Use Your Wrists, Not Your Arms
Yikes - this is a biggie! The key to mastering double unders is all in the wrists. Think we’re kidding? Think again! This is the most common mistake people make, using too much arm and not enough wrist. If you feel like you’re doing giant windmills with your arms, you probably are, and guess what? You’re doing it wrong. Aim to keep the elbows in tight, and use your wrists to perform quick revolutions, slapping that rope down on the floor right in front of your toes.
Another note here - it's not the jump height that influences how fast or how slow you go. Start with a single under and practice jumping. Once you get a consistent rhythm, increase your wrist speed, while maintaining the same jumping height. Wallah! Double unders!
Tip #4: Hand Placement
Keeping your hands in front of your hips and close to your sides are going to keep the rope tension throughout the movement, from floor to overhead, and back down again. It may feel uncomfortable, but using quick, tight revolutions with your wrists, and maintaining a good position with your hands in front of the hips, will encourage the rope to achieve the proper arc throughout the movement.
Tip #5: Pogo Stick Jump
Another big mistake we see all too often is a forward or backward movement with the jump. Think of jumping on a pogo stick - if you pike forward or backward, it’s going to influence your movement, forward or backward. The same can be said about the jump to have with a jump rope movement. Maintaining a vertical position, with the feet directly under the head, allowing a slight bend in the knees, will enable you to successfully and consistently, jump without interrupting the rope. Brace your core, allow your legs to be fluid, and try to jump/land without making a ton of noise - like a pogo stick spring!
Tip #6: Faster Isn’t Necessarily Better
When you’re setting out on a quest to mastering double unders, speed isn’t necessarily going to be your friend. It’s not “how fast can you go”. Chances are, this type of training will only end in a busted ego and red face full of frustration, trust us. Consistency is key - generate power through the spring loading of the calves, keep the elbows in tight, and let the wrist do the ‘talking’ as you jump straight up and straight down.
Give it time!!
There’s nothing wrong with doing singles over and over again to nail down the basic mechanics. We know that double unders look cool and seem like a simple concept, but they’re a technical movement that does take time. Cadence is what matters, not speed. When you’re first starting out, try training at faster and slower speeds, to find out your personal threshold and teach your body to adapt to your fatigue level. Then set yourself a goal, “okay, today I’m going to consistently get 5 in a row for as many sets as I can. Next week, I’ll bump it to 10”.
PS - nobody gives two sh*ts if you can't do double unders during the WOD. Nobody is watching you, we're all equally suffering at our own pace.
Tip #7: Stop Whipping Yourself
Getting whipped sucks. It’s painful and frustrating and it leaves marks on your body that are conspicuous to all your non-crossfitting friends. Remember this - the spinning of the rope shouldn’t take much effort, and nothing good comes from forcing anything. Whether you’re tired because your endurance is low or your dexterity is shot because you’re tired, try not to force the movement.
Pro tip: Practice mastering double unders when you’re fresh, not at the end of your workout when you’re fatigued. This will only lead to a greater amount of frustration and discouragement in the long run.
Tip #8: Listen to The Rope
Sounds kinda woo-woo but stick with us. Listening to the rope can help tell you what you’re doing right, and wrong. When the rope hits the ground, it makes a noise (surprise, we know). If you can’t hear the rope hit the ground, then you need to lower your shoulders a bit and relax. If you can hear the rope hit the ground, try to make it have the same sound every single time.
Tip #9: Breathe Fam
Breathing. Ah, why focus on breathing when you have so many other cues to think of and listen for when you’re jump roping? A few reasons. The first? It keeps you in rhythm. The second? It keeps you alive, literally. Jump roping is one of the best cardio aspects of your training, but without adequate oxygen, your gas tank is going to run out quick. Believe it or not, you can actually turn double unders into the “rest” part of your metcon! As aforementioned, you can’t muscle your way through double unders and expect to be successful.
Don’t hold your breath and instead, keep your forehead down and let your cheeks relax, to the point where they’re jiggly, and BREATHE through the movement, IN and OUT. If you’re tense in your face it translates to the rest of your body.
Pro Tip: Use this forehead down and loose jaw mentality when you approach any cardio to improve breathing technique, like row, bike or run, not just when you jump rope!
The Takeaway: Mastering Double Unders
All in all, mastering double unders is a lot like laying brick. It comes down to successfully completing one step at a time, amounting to one big movement. You’re not going to get it right away and guess what? THAT IS OK! Practice for 5-10 minutes every day, not being to hard on yourself, keeping these tips in mind, and before you know it, in a few weeks you’ll be teaching other boxmates double unders for beginners ;)
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