The Double Under Strategy Guide was created to provide some insight to the mental side of the Double Under movement. Most CrossFit athletes are capable of jumping 2-3 inches off the ground, and capable of swinging a rope around their body, so it stands to reason that much of the development of the skill is done in the head.
In the course of teaching double unders we often come across frustrated athletes who have nearly lost hope on the double under. My first question to these athletes is “Okay, what were you trying to accomplish there?”, to which they answer, “I don’t know- a double under I guess.” The athlete is only looking at the double under as a binary – a yes or no. Did I get the Double Under or not?
Instead, I ask the athlete to construct a Game Plan in order to break the skill down into small steps. I ask them the following:
- “Exactly how many single unders are you planning to do before attempting the double under?”
- “What pattern are trying to accomplish? Single-single-double, single-single-double… or single-single-double-double-double…?”
- “What type of audible cue do you expect to hear when you begin?”
- “What areas are you focusing on during your attempt?”
Only after we establish a Game Plan will we be able to chip away at accomplishing this seemingly binary task of performing a double under.
The Game Plan also provides the athlete with a structured progression (like any CrossFit movement), and with a sense that if they can accomplish the small steps leading up to the execution of the double under, they will be more likely to focus on problem areas that can be identified and corrected. It also provides them the fallback that if they fail at something difficult, they can fall back to the previous step in the progression and not all the way back to the beginning.
Planning ahead and creating a game plan to follow will greatly improve your efficacy in the Double Under skill.
The timing of the double under is critical to an athlete’s success in performing the movement. Knowing when to drive the rope with the wrists is like knowing when to pump your legs on a swing set in order to get height in the swing!
We have constructed a nice mental picture of when to start driving the rope in the double under by representing the rotation of the rope around our bodies as the hour hand on a clock (see the video). If 12 o’clock is directly above our heads, 3 o’clock directly in front, and 6 o’clock directly below, we often tell our athletes that the double under drive (or “flick”) begins between 3-4 o’clock. It is at this point that the wrists should be active and driving the rope around our body.
Additionally, this 3-4 o’clock position is also the “time” at which the second “flick” for the double under occurs. So both flicks of the wrist occur around 3:30. Sometimes we see people drive twice very rapidly at the beginning of the movement hoping that this super ‘flick-flick’ at the beginning will magically drive the rope around twice. It’s not the case. One flick at 3:30 drives the rope around once, at which point the second flick of the wrist occurs also at 3:30 – all while remaining in the air from your initial bound.
There are several parts of our body that need to be “in sync” with one another during the double under in order for the movement to be performed correctly. It can be quite confusing to the mind to be synching our bodies in this way. In particular, the double under movement requires something of our bodies that is almost never done in real life: we ask our upper body (arms and wrists) to do something at EXACTLY twice the rate as our lower body (legs). It’s difficult! It’s like rubbing your head and patting your belly.
To start, we will often have athletes stay stationary on the ground with no ropes in their hands and ask them to follow these instructions:
- Standing in this position with no rope in hand, flick your wrists twice (no jumping) as if you were the maraca player in a band. A simple, steady 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, rhythm is what we’re looking for here. No bouncing to the beat, no matter how good your maracas sound!
- With arms at your sides, jump in the air and say the words ‘one-two, one-two’ at the same rhythm you used in step #1, all while keeping your arms still (no movement). You should be landing on the ground while saying ‘two’ (you say ‘one’ while jumping in the air).
- Finally put the above two steps together – jump AND move your arms with the “one, two, one-two” cadence. This is the heart of the difficulty in the double under – getting one part of your body to do something at a rate different than another part. Practice this one over and over again, even if you look strange! Get maracas if that helps!
Rhythm and synchronicity go hand and hand. But the choice of exactly what rhythm (or cadence) you perform your double unders at will determine a great deal about your ability to perform them for long periods of time. What we recommend athletes do is that they try different speeds of double unders by jumping higher or lower in their bound. By bounding higher, you’re afforded the opportunity to slow down your double under rhythm and keep better control of your motion. Only when you’ve mastered the skill should you try to burn through them quicker.
The next aspect of rhythm that should be considered is the small accrual of time lag in each double under that can occur if your bound is slightly out of sync with the drive of your rope. A skilled instructor (like those on our staff) can tell if an athlete is 2-3 double unders away from making a mistake by listening to the sound the rope makes when striking the ground and comparing that to the pace of the bound. A slight time lag is audibly apparent and a mistake often follows immediately after. So pay close attention to the rhythm of the rope using audible cues (discussed later).
We are often asked whether or not the rope should strike the ground while jumping rope. Naively, one would think that it would be less efficient and more disruptive if the rope were to hit the ground, but there are several advantages to having the rope “kiss” the ground slightly.
First, if you were to place the center of the rope on the ground and hold each handle out at your side, there would be a moment at which point the rope will lift off the ground completely as you raise your arms out to their side. At JumpNrope we preach heavily the benefits of keeping your arms in close to your torso as you jump rope. So by having the rope strike the ground (just barely), one can use the sound that is made from the rope striking the ground as an audible cue to knowing that their arms are roughly in the correct position. If they don’t hear the “kiss” sound that is made on EACH REVOLUTION, they know that their arms are likely drifting away from their body! What a great cue!
Second, having just written about Rhythm in the previous section, one can see that the sound that the rope makes by striking the ground is indicative of the rate at which the rope is moving. Listening to the ‘kiss-kiss, kiss-kiss’ rhythm that the rope makes on the ground is invaluable information that is critical to successful double unders. Listen to a friend who is able to do consecutive double unders and you can see what it is like to listen to this.
Use this audible cue when you’re jumping and you should be able to make some sense of your double under form and rhythm!
In the Double Under Setup Guide, you’re told to keep your gaze forward, not looking too far up or too far down, but rather straight ahead like you’re watching a sunset. As you’re doing so, there are several visual cues that you may be able to pick up on that will help with your double under form as you progress with the skill.
First, as you keep your gaze forward, try to find your hands in your peripheral vision. Referring again to the Double Under Guide, you should have your hands at your side, slightly in front of and away from your hips. If you can’t see them as you hold your hands at your side like this, try looking down slightly until they come into your peripheral vision.
With your hands starting in the “good position”, move your hands backwards towards your backside until they disappear from your field of view. This should happen fairly quick, as humans don’t tend to have walleye vision like fish. The fact that your hands seem to disappear from your peripherals when they drift back is your first visual cue: keep your hands in your peripherals at all times and you will ensure that they remain in front of your body and don’t drift back!
Next, again with your hands starting in the “good” position, try moving them away from your body (sideways) into a “bad” position. You should see them physically move out, away from your body, in your peripheral. This is the visual cue that you can use to ensure that your hands are in the right position: you should be able to watch them at all times and return them to the “good” position as you jump rope. It’s a closed-loop feedback system (nerd talk)!
There are two types of rhythms / patterns that we prescribe to athlete’s learning double unders: the “Single-Single-Double” pattern and the “Double-Double-Double” pattern.
The 1-1-2 pattern is nice because it allows athletes who are still learning the double under to mix a few single unders into the mix in order to preserve confidence & to provide a nice step along the progression to consecutive double unders. The pattern begins by starting with two single unders (no more / no less) at which point the athlete should be prepared to take a slightly larger bound followed by a doubly-rapid drive with their wrists (the double under). Once the rope passes the feet from the first double under, the athlete should slow the rope down slightly, and repeat the single unders twice (to slow the body and the mind) in preparation for another double under.
All together the pattern looks like: 1-1-2-1-1-2-1-1-2-1-1-2…
The 2-2-2 pattern is not so much a pattern as it is just setting up for consecutive double unders. To be fair, the pattern starts with two single unders, like the 1-1-2 pattern, but the singles never repeat after the first set. The two single unders start the athlete off in preparation for consecutive double unders, in which a rapid “one-two-one-two” cadence is met with the drive of the jump rope and “kiss” sound of the rope softly striking the ground.
The important part about the patterns is having an understanding of the rhythm and sound of the pattern that is being attempted. Create a pattern in your head, identify what you expect to hear from that pattern, and execute that game plan.
Let’s be clear: when it comes to jump rope and double unders, there is no getting around the fact that you must practice A LOT in order to become a virtuoso in the movement. It’s very rare for an average adult to pick up a jump rope and perform double unders without a struggle. I’ve seen some great athletes struggle mightily in this movement, and the only way that I’ve seen them progress was through practice – pure trial and error. It obviously helps to have the right guidance on the movement, and to be focusing on the correct form and functions, but nothing replaces practice.
Secondly, it is quite obvious in the sport of jump rope that those that are skilled at basic jump rope movements (single unders, speed step, etc.) are typically skilled at double unders. Practicing ALL aspects of jump rope are beneficial to Double Unders. So go out and try new things with your jump rope. Try Speed Step (alternating feet w/ single unders), simple freestyle movements (crosses, backward jumping, etc.), or utilize other gauges & weights of ropes. Constantly vary your challenges in jump rope and you will see progress in the Double Under, without a doubt!
In jump rope, the name of the game is control – you want it completely from head to toe, and from brain to body. But control is difficult to attain without the right tools (your jump rope), the right education (what you read, watch, or listen to), and the right amount of effort (practice). If you’re reading this, then you’re reading and watching the right education (in our opinion), and if you see the tools we sell on our webpage, then you have an opportunity to get (what we believe is) the proper tools to grow as a jump rope athlete and master the Double Under skill.
In our opinion, there is no better tool (aside from the jump rope itself) in learning jump rope movements than Speed Balls. Speed balls were developed as a training device for elite jump rope athletes – the size of the ball provides aerodynamic drag to resist a jump rope athlete’s intense drive, the result of which is strong arms!
Non-competitive jump rope athletes can find value in Speed Balls as a training device to learn control. The path that the balls take and the rate at which they both (independently) rotate can tell you A LOT about what your form likely looks like when your jumping rope.
The path the balls take as you turn them should mirror “wheel chair wheels” in the sense that the circular path of each ball should be parallel to one another and at the side of the athlete’s body. Furthermore, they should turn at exactly the same rate. Achieving this level of control is sometimes (and surprisingly) difficult for some athletes!
Lastly, a quick demonstration of hand position on the handle while using the speed balls can quickly illustrate the difference in control that an athlete has when they hold the handles firmly (with their whole hand on the handle) versus when they hold the handles softly (only holding the ends of the handles with a few fingers). Control can be gained easily by just holding onto more handle!
In watching athletes learn jump rope, it is quite clear that there is no sport that is as frustrating to learn as jump rope. However, there is no sport that can show such quick rewards as jump rope either. The result is frequent whip marks on arms & legs, and vulgarity being strewn throughout the gym, followed by intense “Eureka!!!” moments, high-pitched elation, and frequent ‘high-fives’ to follow. These emotions that surround the double under skill are real and common, so don’t ever feel like you’re out-of-line by feeling frustrated with the skill – just keep those frustrations healthy and productive.
If you’re frustrated with your progression, try something new! We have tons of tips and tricks that you can focus on. We have a lot of material to read, and we are also developing new ways for our staff to help you remotely, if you’re unable to join us in our Double Under Seminars.
Don’t ever give up or feel like there is “no hope” for you. There is always hope and we are always here! Be kind to yourself like you’d be kind to your fellow athletes and remember that a solution is available for everyone. In the several thousands of athletes that we’ve coached in our Double Under Seminars, only a handful have been cases where double unders were not possible for that athlete… chances are good that we can help!