Double Unders…

For the most part, people seem to love ’em, or hate ’em.

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About 6 years ago when I first got into the whole “functional fitness” thing… I hated them. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like the idea of  double unders – I just really, really sucked at them. 

It was embarrassing for me (as a 20 year old college kid who wanted to be good at everything right away).

So believe me, I’ve been there; there is nothing more frustrating than tripping on a jump rope AND getting whipped in the process.

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While all of my other skills seemed to be progressing rapidly (1-rep maxes, muscle ups, getting to write “RX” for most workouts), it turned out that double unders were my arch nemesis.

Once I finally realized that I wasn’t going to magically learn them, I decided to get to work.

It was December 2010 and it was time to learn double unders.
– Fast forward one month –

 60 reps unbroken. Holy crap. Is this real life? I remember the feeling of pure elation; like I had just finished a major project or adventure. I felt accomplished, and I no longer had the irrational fear that double unders would show up on the whiteboard.

So, what did I do to go from a few reps to 60 unbroken?

Here is the exact process I used:

1. Practice with a plan

Shocker, right? Well as un-sexy as this may sound, simply practicing several times a week – consistently – made a huge difference. It’s funny, many people seem to only practice a movement when it gets programmed… which is probably why they don’t see improvement.

Here was my plan: After every workout I would force myself to hit ___ unbroken. So, after my normal workout was done for the day I would pick up my jump rope and try to knock out an unbroken set. The first day I started with one and increased by a factor of one rep each day (on rest days I would still do my double unders in order to ingrain the habit).

December 1st I hit one “unbroken” double under. December 2nd was two unbroken.December 3rd was three, etc.

Some days it took 60 seconds. Some days weren’t quite as easy…

I distinctly remember December 17th. According to my rule, I had to hit 17 double unders before allowing myself to leave the gym. It took me an ENTIRE HOUR to hit that set. I probably tripped up on the 15th rep a dozen times.

Is it smart to do double unders for an entire hour? Absolutely not, and I am not saying that is what you should do. I am just being 100% transparent about my personal journey.

A little voice in my head kept telling me, “Chill out – go home. 15 is good enough!”

That same voice said, “This is going to kill your legs for tomorrow. You better quit and rest up!”

I almost listened, but luckily I was way too stubborn.

Was it pride? Ego? Maybe. Was it smart? Probably not. But check this out…

Want to know how long it took me to hit 18 reps the next day?

13 seconds.

I nailed it on my first attempt… and I’m pretty sure I screamed “YES!” so loud that everyone in the gym stopped what they were doing to look at who the crazy person was.

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The rest of the month was easy. It finally “clicked” and I started hitting big sets with no problems at all. The last few days of December I decided to just try to hit as many as possible in a row and that’s when 60 reps “magically” happened.  So no, I’m not recommending you take my stubbornness approach. However, I am saying that if you stay determined – YOU CAN DO IT!

2. Try new things

Simply grabbing a rope and learning to do double unders works for some people, but not for others. If you are stuck, switching things up can be a great way to break through those barriers.

Here are a few techniques that have worked really well for my athletes in the past: Video: “The Penguin Drill”
Video: “Banded Double Unders”
Video: “Listen To Your Rope”

#3 Know Your Bounce

When you learn how to jump properly, you will see major improvements. Many people focus on their arms, hands, and rope. However, jumping is the #1 factor for beginners.

Are you “donkey kicking“? (see pic below) 

Are you “piking“? (see pic below) 

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I generally like to think of the double under as a “pogo stick” jump. Keep your feet together and bend at the knees, hips, and ankles slightly. Imagine that your legs are one solid spring, and simply jump straight up and down, just like a pogo stick! 

Here’s a rough sketch of me “pogo-sticking” 😉

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In order to “know your bounce” I recommend taking your phone/camera and filming yourself. You will notice faults that you didn’t realize you were making!

#4 Be Patient

 We both know how frustrating it can be to learn these suckers…

However, remember to trust the process. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t think you are an inadequate person if you haven’t quite mastered double unders yet. Your life’s value is not your “Annie” time! There will be days where it’s easy. There will be days where you feel like you can hardly do a single rep.
Stay focused, stay diligent, and try to enjoy the process! 

This whole “competitive fitness” thing is an amazing way to display our physical abilities, but also our mental strength. Don’t forget to be thankful for the gift of fitness!

As always, if there is anything I can do to help you along your journey please let me know! Whether it is through our double under coaching, ring muscle up coaching, pull-ups, OLY lifts, etc. – the entire WODprep team is here to help you!

Last thing – don’t be afraid to share this with someone you know who might need help with double unders. They’ll thank you for it!

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