Double unders are one of those things that CrossFitters tend to struggle with in the early stages of their training. Most people have one of just a few sticking points though, so we’re here to try to help move you past the frustration and get you onto RXing WODs with the best of them!
These tips for learning double unders begin with the assumption that you already have the right size rope for you. If you aren’t that far along in the process yet, try this link from RX Smart Gear or this one from Rogue Fitness.
1. Master Single Unders
And master them in every way possible! Once you really…and I mean REALLY have single unders dialed, your body will have a better understanding of rhythm and connecting your feet to your hands. Learning to connect these two things on singles will also help you get less whip marks on your arms and legs throughout the double under learning process. So what does it mean to master single unders? Jump with two feet. Now jump with alternating feet. Then jump really fast with both feet. Now jump really slow. Now jump slower. Jump really slow and really high. Jump side to side and front to back. Mix all of these different single under jumps together with someone calling out the changes to you. Get it? If you can do all of these kinds of changes and jumps while doing single unders, then you’re ready to move on to the first steps of learning double unders.
2. Jump Without The Rope
Before actually trying to swing your first double under, put down your rope and jump slow and high and quickly count to two out loud as you jump. The counting should be as if you were swinging the rope on those two counts, meaning your feet should be off the ground the whole time you’re counting. My hardest part when learning double unders was figuring out a rhythm and finding the coordination to jump once and swing twice. I felt like I’d have to be a drummer to understand how to make my arms and legs do different things at the same time. This was my personal biggest breakthrough and my personal sticking point. Once I could jump and count out loud together, the actually swinging of the rope came around relatively easily. For me, after I got two connective double unders, three came really quickly, and within a few seconds I hit 11 in a row. The next day I got 25, and a day or two later I got 50.
Pay close attention! This is an extremely important part of this tip… Do NOT count a harsh “One, TWO!” Instead, count a very steady “One-two, one-two, one-two, one-two.” If you emphasize the two too much while counting it will train your brain and body to stop after hitting the second revolution of the rope as opposed to keeping a steady, fluid, and constant rotation.
3. Keep Jumping Without The Rope…And Tap Your Hands
If you want another interim step before picking up the rope, then as you jump and count out loud you can also tap your hands two times on the side of your thighs. This will give you more simulation of moving your hands twice and your feet once, and will also help train you to keep your arms in close to your body, which is a common problem we often see with double unders. (More on that later…)
4. Hold the Handles Lightly
Imagine massaging the jump rope handles gently with with your fingertips and thumb. This is how your grip should be while doing double unders. You don’t need a tight grip. The tighter you grip, the more tense your entire body gets, and this will create a chain reaction that will prevent you from relaxing and stringing together the DU’s.
5. Keep Your Arms Close to Your Body
Think about having magnets on your elbows and ribcage that keep them pulling towards each other while you’re jumping rope. This is what you want… If your arms and elbows start to drift away from your body, you do two things that hurt your learning process—shorten the length of the rope, which means you have to jump higher to clear it, and you pull more weight away from your center of gravity, which will make your arms get tired quicker. Remember, the flick is in your wrists, not in your arms!
6. Don’t Use Headphones
Being able to hear the rope as it rotates around you and clicks against the ground helps your mind connect the rhythm to your body. You don’t need to consciously focus on the sound, but I noticed when I put in headphones after learning double unders, they got harder because I wasn’t able to hear the rope come around. Similarly, if the music in the gym is blaring really loud, double unders before more difficult, so make sure you’re learning in a more quite environment.
7. Pick a Spot and Focus
While jumping, pick a spot on the wall across from you to look at and focus on. I personally feel like looking at something about 10 feet away and slightly below eye level puts my head in a good position to focus properly. I also notice that I often “unfocus” on the spot on the wall—you know, like a Magic Eye book or something—when you’re kind of looking through the object and not really at it.
8. Relax, Don’t Bend Your Knees, and Don’t Hunch Over
Keep a good, upright, hollow posture while jumping. If you start to hunch over, your body will naturally tense up and you’ll tire out much quicker. Sure it’s easier said than done, but you MUST relax! Also, avoid bending your knees and pulling your feet up towards your butt! Instead, read tip nine below…
9. Pull Your Toes Up
Instead of staying high up on your tippy toes the whole time, as you jump off the balls of your feet, pull your toes up to the sky. They won’t literally point up, but they should get close to parallel instead of pointing down. This will do two things—it’ll give you more clearance for the rope to pass under your feet, and it will even out the usage of muscles in your lower legs so you don’t cramp up or get shin splints.
10. Go Straight For Doubles
It’s very common for people to do a few singles before trying to swing a double, and it’s also common for people to try alternating singles and doubles before connecting multiple double unders together. I think this is an ugly trap that teaches bad habits! Once you’re comfortable with all the steps above and you’re ready to start really committing to double unders, then actually commit! Pick up the rope and go immediately into doubles, and don’t stop at one. If you intentionally stop after one or slow down to do a single, then you’re training your body to do exactly that. Train your body to do more than one at a time from the beginning since that’s what you’ll be doing eventually anyway.
Bonus Tip: Don’t Reach Frustration
I recommend practicing for no more than about 10 minutes per day until you get good at double unders. Let’s face it, they can be extremely frustrating, and when you get whipped they can really hurt, too! If you get frustrated, your learning curve will become much more difficult. If you start to get pissed off after five minutes, then just stop and come back the next day and take a step back and start off from the previous step to build momentum.