It feels like it’s been a blink of the eye since the last Open, but here we are again. We’re officially transitioning into a February Open format, and 23.1 is just around the corner.
So my question to you is, are you ready for it? Have you been fine-tuning some of those skills that we see pop up year after year, or have you been avoiding them like the plague?
Regardless, I’m here to help.
Every year, there are a handful of movements that we see programmed across the Open without fail. Today I want to focus on three that I believe you still have time to make progress on before February – when workout 23.1 is officially announced.
Believe me, I’ve experienced it first hand… Double Unders can be super annoying. There’s nothing more frustrating than repeatedly getting whipped by a rope as you’re trying to learn a new skill.
Whether you’re just starting to learn them, or working on improving your capacity, I recommend following 4 simple steps.
- Make a plan.
It may sound silly, but unless you know what your starting point is, it’s hard to move forward. Don’t even know the first step to take towards a double under? Try checking out this video.
If you already understand double unders but are having specific issues with wrist speed, jumping form, stringing reps together etc., then it’s important to find drills to address whatever your specific issue is.
- Try new things.
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut and just CAN’T figure out where your sticking point is, here are a few things that I recommend for switching things up and breaking through barriers.
Below are a few techniques that I have seen work well with athletes in the past:
Video: “Jump and Clap”
Video: “Banded Double Unders”
Video: “Listen To Your Rope”
- Know your jump
Are you “donkey kicking”?
Jumping form is incredibly important in relation to double unders. So when I say ‘know your form’, this is what I’m referring to:
Are you “piking”?
If you are, you’re wasting a TON of energy. Generally, I 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!
- Be Patient
This is important: trust the process. Know that every day of practicing double unders isn’t going to bring immense progress, and there may be days where you feel like you’re backtracking…
Stay focused, stay diligent, and try to enjoy the process!
2. Kipping Pull-ups
As a disclaimer, I highly recommend that you do NOT attempt kipping pull-ups until you can do at least 4 + strict pull-ups. The motion of a kipping pull-up can cause a lot of stress on your shoulders, therefore the movement really shouldn’t be attempted until you’re strong enough to string together a series of strict pull-ups first.
Still working on strict pull-ups? There’s a free guide for that.
When it comes to this skill of kipping pull-ups, I like to break it down into 6 parts:
- Grip and hollow body.
Your grip should be just outside of your shoulders when you hop onto the bar, and you should be holding a hollow-body position (think of your body forming a slight ‘C’ shape.) Another important tip is to make sure that you’re wrapping your thumb around the bar and under your fingers; this is simply more safe and won’t allow you to fly off.
- Extend into the arch position.
Keeping your legs and core tight, point your toes and extend from the hollow body position into an arch position. This will push your head through, and your legs back behind your body.
- Shoulders up and away.
In this step, you’re moving back into a hollow body position, but also start to hinge your shoulders back as well. At this point your head will start to come through as well.
- The Hip Pop
As you’re drifting up towards the bar, you will momentarily reach a point of weightlessness right at the apex. As you are reaching the apex, or right when you reach it, you need to pop your hips. This hip pop is what will help you pull yourself directly into the bar.
- Pull with your elbows down.
This step is pretty simple: you should be pulling up and into the bar, so that you can use your biceps and back muscles – not just your shoulders.
- Push back and away
Now that your chin is above the bar, this next step is crucial (and often overlooked). You need to push back away from the bar, bringing your feet back out in front of you and moving back into the hollow body position. Think of it like pressing rewind
3. Bar Muscle Ups
I very often get asked the question “Ben, which is easier – bar muscle ups or ring muscle ups?
In my opinion, the answer is bar muscle ups – because the bar is much more stable than rings are. So if you’re at a point where you think you’re ready to work on muscle ups, but not sure which one to focus on, my suggestion would be bar muscle ups first.
Now, let’s look at my favorite drill for this movement…. ‘banded bar muscle ups.’
This drill can help you work towards getting your first – or, help you clean up your current technique if you already have them. And the best part is, the only equipment that you need are a band and a bar.
First, wrap the band around the pull-up bar that you will be working on. Then, carefully put one of your feet into the band once your hands are on the bar (either enter this position from a dead hang, or from a box).
Note: To keep this movement clean, simply wrap your foot that isn’t in the band over the top of your other foot.
Once you’re situated, make sure your hands are about shoulder width apart on the bar, lever back and attempt a bar muscle up. The more assistance you need with bar muscle ups, the thicker the band should be.
So, why am I specifically recommending this drill? I’ve got three reasons.
- It’s a great skill progression. Once you find the correct band that allows you to do assisted bar muscle ups efficiently, this drill allows you to scale yet still practice multiple reps in a workout (instead of just scaling down to pull-ups).
- Helps to eliminate bad habits. Like I mentioned above, even if you can already do bar muscle ups, this drill can be useful to you. If you’re still finding yourself doing the ‘chicken wing’, or having crazy legs in the process of your kip/lever, using a band can help you clean up these bad habits.
- This drill helps to accumulate volume. If you currently aren’t able to do several reps in a row, then you probably aren’t accumulating enough practice with bar muscle ups to truly get good at the movement. So, grab one of the lighter bands the next time a workout calls for multiple bar muscle ups, and work on accumulating those multiple reps.
Hopefully this post helped to give you some ideas of movements and/or drills to work on as we quickly approach the 2023 Open. Even if you can’t “Rx” all of the movements, the Open is a great time to challenge yourself as an athlete, all the while evaluating where you stand in your fitness.
Best of luck!