Written by Nash Woods
Double unders are a source of endless frustration for many people starting CrossFit. The constant stream of cursing and rising welts could probably be described as self mutilation. Although some are able to pick up a rope and string together consecutive reps almost on first try, I was not one of them. In fact, it took me 3 years before I would string together even ten. Despite a lot of frustration, I learned a few tricks along the way that may help you in mastering your own jump rope in shorter time.
Choosing a Rope
First things first: buy yourself a good rope. Unless you can already string together 50 or so, however, wait to buy the speed rope! Buy some type of rope that has a thicker cord that is adjustable in length. Although a speed rope is a great advanced tool for greater speed, the heavier weight of a beginner rope will provide you with better feedback as to where the rope is in relation to your body. Having flexibility with the length of your rope to begin is also important so that you can experiment with your preference – too long and the rope will hit the floor and bounce up into your toes, too short and the rope will hit your toes anyway. Trial and error is the best method to figure out the length that suits you best.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you have a rope, it’s time to practice…a lot! Being well conditioned may be the first step, so get comfortable with large sets of singles before you move on to double-unders.
Slow down! The biggest mistake that I see people making when they’re trying to transition from single-unders to double-unders is that they think that they need to jump faster when the opposite is actually true. The pace of double-unders is actually slower than the pace of a single-under in order to allow the rope to pass beneath the feet twice. A great way to learn the pace for cycling double-unders is to try and cycle singles jumping as slow and as high as you possibly can.
Cycling that high jump is another hugely important factor. Spastic jumping will lead to failure – each jump should look and feel identical to the last. Keep your eyes forward, shoulder back and try to “relax” into each rebound. Your knees should not tuck towards your chest and avoid the “donkey kick” as well.
When jumping rope, the momentum of the rope should come from your wrists and not your arms – your arms should remain stationary throughout the set. If your arms move your rope changes length in relation to your feet and will result in tripping up the rope. I like to think about pinning my triceps to my lats. A great way to train this is to jump rope with change plates in your armpits. This way, if your arms come up the plates hit the floor. This will force you to learn how to use your wrists instead of arms to spin the rope.
The Penguin Drill
If all of the above doesn’t help you string together your double-unders, then it may come down to a simple matter of timing and rhythm. A great way to figure this out is to actually put down the rope and practice “penguin taps.” Try jumping and clapping your hands against your thighs. If you can’t clap your hands against your thighs twice before hitting the floor then your timing is off. This drill is a great way to practice double-under rhythm without the frustration of a rope getting caught at your feet when you fall off pace.
The most important factor in this whole learning process is to stay calm. Getting frustrated when practicing will just make you tense up and make everything more difficult. Just stay calm and keep at it – you’ll get there!