The Double Under Setup Guide was created to provide CrossFit athletes and fitness enthusiasts with information on how to position their bodies properly when jumping rope. Many common functional flaws in jumping come from poor body positioning. By starting your body in the right position, you may find that your jumping function improves dramatically!
The position of the head can determine a lot for a jumper, believe it or not! We tend to see a jumper’s gaze correlate strongly with whether their energy carries them forwards, backwards, or in a neutral position while jumping – neither position being preferable.
Those with a gaze to the ground tend to either jump forward, or extend their butt back and their toes forward in a piking motion. Those with a gaze towards the ceiling tend to open their arms more when they jump and direct their motion backwards while jumping.
A strong gaze to the horizon (or slightly below horizon) is the ideal head position, as it keeps the head aligned with the midline of the body, and prevents any forward- or backward-motion faults. This neutral head position also allows for a relaxed neck and shoulders, which contributes to a nice comfortable movement.
The shoulders tend to see the biggest impact when considering proper Double Under form, as ideal & efficient movement is found when the hands and wrists are kept closer to the body while jumping rope.
Non-ideal jumping can still be done at a high rate, but with an incredible toll taken on the shoulders (and back). We often use the analogy of holding a kettlebell for an extended period of time. Would you prefer to hold the kettlebell close to your body or far from your body for a long period? You would prefer to hold it closer to your body to be efficient as the force of the kettlebell acts at a shorter distance. The same goes for the tension force in a jump rope: keep that load close to the body for efficiency!
When efficient form is found, one should be able to shrug one’s shoulders and breathe with ease during double unders!
The chest, like the shoulders and back, is an area that can see a huge benefit to proper jumping technique, as proper jumping techniques can allow for relaxed, comfortable chest muscles, whereas Hulk-like muscle tension can also be seen commonly by jumpers using brute-force strength to get through double unders.
When the hands are in the proper place (see ‘Hands’), and the wrists are driving the jump rope (as opposed to the arms doing the work), the chest can relax tremendously. This can allow athletes with proper jumping form to relax those muscles in preparation for the next movement in a workout – a significant advantage.
The back (shoulder blades in particular) should be moderately engaged, like with most movements in CrossFit, in order to facilitate bringing the elbows back behind the plane of the body (which is covered in the ‘Elbows’ tab). We often ask athletes to pretend they are pinching a pen or pencil between their shoulder blades, thus drawing the shoulders and elbows back.
In addition, we often see a great deal of fatigue in the back muscles from athletes who tend to flap their arms like a bird when doing double unders. With proper hand placement and wrist movement, arm flapping and muscle fatigue in the back muscles can disappear almost entirely.
The position of the elbows (and their relationship to arm movement) is often a difficult concept to understand with many athletes. By drawing the elbows back behind the midline plane of the body, we find an additional degree of freedom for our hands and wrists- they are now able to move closer to our hips (but not touching).
The best analogy that we can come up with is the elbow position of a long-distance runner. The runner is free to move his elbows forwards and backward as he or she pumps their arms. They do this because it’s quite efficient – they can run with their arms in this position for very long periods of time. So when considering the elbow position for double unders, try to emulate a long-distance runner. Even try jogging in position!
The concept of keeping the elbows close to the body does not, however mean that you should PIN your elbows to your body! Does a runner do this? No. Keep your arms parallel to one another like they are sitting in the armrest of a chair.
The position of your hands while jumping rope is the most critical element to efficient jumping, as it determines the actions of so much of the rest of your body.
Proper hand placement belongs within a narrow box slightly in front of the midline of the body, and slightly away from the hips. We often refer to the ‘3-6 Zone’ when describing the area that the hands should live during double unders. The zone extends away from the body by about six inches directly in front of the hips, and roughly three inches to the left or right of that area. Hands should remain in this ‘zone’ during double unders, without exception.
Hands will also tend to drift away from jumpers during double unders. This occurs because it relieves the tension in the jump rope slightly. Most athletes will do this inadvertently. One easy fix to this is to watch your hands in the periphery of your vision as you stare forward (see ‘Head Position’). Watching your hands in your peripheral vision while jumping can provide a nice feedback. Watch as your hands drift away from your body and summon them back with your incredible mental powers!
The wrists are, without a doubt, the driver behind efficient double unders. Athletes who can perform hundreds (or thousands) of double unders unbroken are either extremely gifted, or extremely efficient with double unders, or both! Those athletes, like Molly Metz, who can perform double unders all day without breaking a sweat utilize wrist movement to drive the jump rope.
The best analogy that we can come up with is the wrist movement associated with playing the maracas! Nobody shakes maracas with their arms. In addition to being “that weird maraca player”, your arms would tire out quickly. Instead the maraca player shakes the maracas by casually driving his wrists. This is the same motion that an efficient jumper will utilize!
Another analogy (because I love analogies) is casting a fishing line into the water, or casting a spell with a wand (for all you young kids). Both analogies demonstrate the wrist motion that drives the jump rope.
The wrists also facilitate the “push” of the thumbs into the jump rope handle that gives the jump rope the drive to get around the body efficiently. A quick ‘flick-flick’ motion timed with the bound of the jump will help get that efficient double under.
The hips act much like the knees in the absorbing of the impact of the body’s weight, and aiding in returning the athlete to the air. The hips should be aligned with the head, shoulders, and feet at all times and not extended backward, relative to the midline of the body (often associated with a pike).
The hips join two areas that should be engaged during the double under movement: the abs and the glutes. Both should be engaged and “squeezed”, with the hips providing the nice “rebound” as the feet strike the ground.
The knees are critical in jumping rope as they absorb the impact of the jumper’s weight as they strike the ground, and also provide the drive to return them into the air to avoid the passing of the rope beneath their feet – duh. The knees need to be able to execute this movement for every double under, and to do so, they need to be explosive, yet resilient. A slight bend in the knee is all that is needed when flexed, and full extension should be reached in mid-air.
The feet should remain along the midline of the body at all times (ideally). Piking (in which the feet raise forward), or bunny-hopping (in which the heels draw back towards the butt) are very inefficient ways of jumping.
The feet are meant to absorb the weight of the jumper entirely on the balls of the feet. That’s right, one movement in CrossFit in which the heels aren’t the main driver between the body and the ground- in fact, the heels should never really strike the ground during double unders.
Additionally, as one jumps from the ground, a good jumper will often be seen pointing their toes towards the ground, as if they tried to make their toes hang onto the ground for as long as possible until they lifted off.
Finally, the feet should both be directly beneath the jumper and not staggered one in front of the other. We’ve been asked this before and occasionally see a jumper who prefers to “line up” their feet.
In short, we suggest that a beginning athlete find a jump rope that they can feel. The feel of a slightly heavier jump rope in your hands will offer an nice “inertial reference” upon which you can time your jumps. As athletes get better with the skill, they don’t need the feel of the rope as much, and can graduate on to a Speed Rope or similar.
Additionally, we highly recommend getting a jump rope that can easily be adjusted in size, either on the fly, by tying knots in the cord, or with a flathead screwdriver. Workouts vary in their nature and the length of your jump rope will also need to vary. Take the workout ‘Annie’- it’s many double unders coupled with sit-ups. The arms won’t be taxed and you can therefore get away with using a shorter, faster rope. On the other hand, if you asked me to do double unders immediately after doing 100 push-ups, my arms would be Jell-O and I would much prefer to have a rope that is slightly longer in length and just a tad bit heavier, so that my noodle arms can feel it.
Lastly, get a quality jump rope – one that you love… whether that’s from us or from someone else. Don’t get a crappy jump rope. For around $20 (the cost of most drop-ins at a CrossFit gym) you can get an extremely good jump rope. 🙂