The Double under is a cool jump rope skill that will ratchet up your coordination and endurance. I did my first double under about five years ago, but never managed to chain many together until last year. While practicing with a friend who could crank out dozens of them in unbroken streams, I decided to try to link 100 double unders together.
It took about four practice sessions to achieve this, and in this article I’ll tell you how I did it.
What’s A Double Under?
A double under is a jump rope move where the rope moves under you twice during a single jump. They require more coordination than the average person possesses off the bat, and mastering them will likely bump your proprioception, coordination, and endurance up a notch, bringing benefits to your life and athletic pursuits.
Why Double Unders Are Hard:
Outside the fact that they’re a challenging skill that needs to be acquired like any other, the double under is because it mercilessly punishes a lack of cardio, lack of muscular endurance, and sloppy form. And if you mess up, the fast-moving rope often whips your skin with a really painful smack
Jumping rope (singles) is pretty easy. It doesn’t take much coordination to time your jumps with the the slowly moving rope. If your legs splay out or you bend over, it probably doesn’t matter too much.
But by the time the rope is whipping around twice as fast and you’ve got to coordinate it with a higher jump – all the while fighting to keep your arms, feet, and torso in the right place – good form becomes critical.
What Sort Of Jump Rope Do You Need?
I’ve done double unders with the rusting derelicts and grade school cast-offs of the jump rope world. If you can’t do double unders, the jump rope is probably not your limitation.
That being said, it’s good if you can cut the jump rope so that when you step one foot on the middle of the rope, the two ends of the rope (right below the handles) reach your arm pits. This will ensure that you have enough slack to get the rope around you without having so much that it trips you up. Many jump ropes allow you to cut the rope to get the desired length.
You’ll likely find that a heavier rope is more conducive to being sped up, but I’ve used very light ropes as well.
The best jump rope I’ve ever used is an expensive Buddy Lee model, which has a fantastic ball bearing system that allows for nice rotation of the rope. I’ve also tried the RX brand, which is fantastic but not very utilitarian or long-lasting. They’re great if you only use them on padded gym surfaces, but if you ever bring them outside onto pavement, bricks, or rocks, the rope will quickly get shredded and you’ll be left with a nasty little metal wire that really hurts when it hits you.
After I lost my Buddy Lee rope in a flash flood last year, I picked up a cheap $10 one that’s not quite as good, but still perfectly workable for any jump rope skill.
If you don’t jump a lot, regular training of double unders will put a lot of stress on your calf muscles, and you may need a significant recovery time between training sessions. At first, training two or three times a week may be as much as your body can take, but after you’ve adapted you should be able to train daily without any problems.
Like any skill, the more often you work on it and give your brain a chance to wrestle with it, the quicker you’ll make progress. If you’re getting totally frustrated because your double unders just aren’t happening, I suggest calling it quits after 10 minutes and then coming back to it the next day. Sometimes, eight hours of sleep can make a big difference with coordination-heavy skills like double unders. Keep coming back to it for 10-minutes of effort, day after day if necessary.
The Mental Side
Double unders are a mental skill as much as a physical one, and it can be helpful to visualize yourself achieving double unders before your training sessions for a minute or two. Watch a youtube video of someone doing unbroken sets of them wth good form, and then use the details of that to help with your visualization.
Laying Your Double Under Groundwork
Before you try your hand at double unders, build up to being able to do 300 unbroken singles without feeling totally exhausted. When you first start training them, double unders are exhausting, particularly if you plan to do more than a few dozen at once, and it’s best to be prepared.
The technique for a double under is jumping higher (without bending over or pulling your knees and feet high off the ground) while whipping the rope around about twice as fast by moving your wrists quicker.
Your New Jump
If I asked you to jump straight up in the air, you could do it several different ways. If you were trying to jump the absolutely highest you could, you might push your hips back, bend your knees deeply, and throw your arms up as you spring off the floor. This won’t work for double unders.
We’re looking to get the maximum amount of jump that doesn’t force your body to bend over. Your jumps need to be powerful, but rapid fire, which means your body can’t move much.
Your weight should be in the toes, not in the heels. As you jump, push off the ground with your toes. Keep your torso erect. Bend your knees the minimum amount necessary.
Jumping Mistakes To Avoid
Most people make one or more of the following mistakes when they try to do double unders. As you jump, make sure you’re not:
Bringing your feet or knees up as you jump.
Bending over at the waist or sending your hips way back during the jump
- Sending your hips way back when you’re on the ground preparing to jump.
Your feet should be directly under your hips, or perhaps even slightly closer together. If you go out any wider with your feet they’re likely to catch the rope as it goes by.
Arm And Hand Movement
When trying to do double unders, many people find that their hands and arms drift outward (away from the hips). This makes their job harder, as there is less rope to move over your head and under your feet. Try to keep your arms fairly close in to your sides. The primary rope movement comes from the wrists, not the rapid swinging of the arms.
Counting Down To Double Unders
A lot double under problems comes down to timing. Your brain has to wrap itself around how your jumps coordinate with the whip of the rope.
It’s actually really hard to do double unders straight off the ground, so you can help yourself with the timing by doing singles first. This is how I achieved my first double under.
Try doing six singles in a row adding on one double under without stopping (see video). When that becomes possible, knocked it down to five singles for every double under, then four, then three, etc, until you can connect double unders.
At one point I found myself doing many back-to-back chains of three singles and one double, seamlessly transfering betweens the singles and the doubles Eventually, though, I needed to bite the bullet, give up the singles, and start trying to chain multiple double unders together.
Building Up To 100
By the time you can chain three double unders together you should more or less have the technique down. But it’s one thing to understand the technique and another entirely to have the cardio and muscular endurance to be able to do 100 in a row. As you get tired you’ll likely start breaking at the hips or having your hands drift outward, which robs you of the rope lack you need to keep going.
If you’re getting stuck and always tripping over the rope, I suggest you double down on form as your cardio and muscular endurance improves. There are plenty of energetically inefficient ways to do double unders, but they tend to fall apart when your body starts getting tired.
Take a video of yourself doing double unders and check to see how you’re doing.
Are you in a straight line the whole time? Are you feet and knees coming up off the ground? Are you hands drifting out to the side?
Are you fitness improves and you drill down your form, you should quickly be able to add more reps until you hit 100.