If the last time you touched a jump rope was in grade school, it’s time to get back into the swing of things. A trusted training method for boxers like Muhammed Ali, jumping rope improves stamina and conditioning while building speed and agility. But even if you’re coordinated and fit, there’s a learning curve to mastering any new movement. Plenty of CrossFit devotees and jump rope lovers struggle with double unders (two rotations of the jump rope per jump), a skill featured in several WODS. And since messing up means literally whipping oneself with the rope, practicing can become frustrating fast.
“There’s kind of that freak-out moment with the double unders,” says Shane Winsor, a jump coach at CrossFit Cadence and head coach of the RPM Fitness competitive jump rope team. “People are comfortable with single bounces [one revolution per jump] but then something spazzes out with the feet and their body goes crazy when they attempt double unders!” We asked Winsor, World Record holder for the most double unders in 60 seconds (164!), to share some of his tips for correcting common newbie mistakes. Let’s hop to it, and start jumping like this:
5 Double Under Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)
Mistake #1: Using your whole arm to move the rope.
If you’re swinging your arms like two windmills, there’s no way you’ll be able to get the rope around twice per jump. The key is learning to move the rope more efficiently.
The fix: It’s all in the wrist, says Winsor. He recommends starting off with the single bounce (one jump per revolution of the rope) to get comfortable. A quick flick of the wrist should be all you need to keep things moving for single jumps. Once you’ve got that down, try flicking faster and developing consistent swing timing. “If you watch the pros, the only thing that changes when they do double or triple unders is how high they jump,” Winsor explains. But trying to overcompensate for a slow wrist movement by jumping high won’t work for beginners, so be sure to get a fast flick down before experimenting with your jump height.
Mistake #2: Jumping with your feet too close together.
If you’ve got a habit of bringing your feet together when attempting your double unders, you’ll be thrown off balance very easily. It will cause you to jolt right and left or forward and back too much, wasting the energy you should be using to bounce up and down.
The fix: According to Winsor, your feet should be hip-distance apart. This stable base will give you control to perform a more coordinated jump. “A lot of people hang out on the ground too long,” he adds, explaining that your heels should make very little contact with the floor so you can rebound as quickly as possible.
Mistake #3: Launching into a pike or dolphin kick position in the air.
Shooting your legs out into a pike position or “dolphin kick” may seem as though it will earn you some extra time to swing the rope around. In reality though, you’ll land heavier and take more time to recover and rebound into your next jump.
The fix: Winsor recommends keeping your legs right under you in the air so they’re prepared to rebound as quickly as possible after landing on the balls of your feet. And keep in mind: Upon landing, your knees should bend a tad to absorb shock.
Mistake #4: Letting your arms float away from your body.
You’re in the zone when — BAM! — you get smacked in the shins or in the head by the rope. What went wrong? You might have subconsciously moved your arms away from your torso, which will make the rope’s arc around your body shorter.
The fix: “You want your elbows close to your rib cage,” says Winsor. Your arms should remain relatively motionless while naturally extending from the elbows, since your wrists should be doing all the work of turning the rope. Though it might be hard to think about when you’re first starting out, try and pay attention to your arms until the proper position becomes habit.
Mistake #5: Changing your rope every time you work out.
Picking up any old rope you find at the gym might be convenient, but different lengths and thicknesses will require you to adapt your tempo. As a beginner, it’s going to be hard to adjust on the fly.
The fix: Size up your strand before you start jumping. According to Winsor, the handles of the rope should hit between the breastbone and the armpits if you’re stepping on the rope with one foot. “So much of the double under is about rhythm and timing, and that will change if and when you switch ropes,” he says. Winsor recommends learning on the rope you want to end up with, be that a heavier or mid-weight rope or a lighter speed rope. Using the same rope every time can only help you.
Learn the Ropes
Ready to jump in? This ladder workout designed by Winsor will help you get on track with your double unders. Do one to three single bounces for every double under until you have enough control to complete continuous double under rotations.