The double-under, a jump rope exercise in which the rope passes under your feet twice for every jump, is one of the best monostructural (i.e. “aerobic”) exercises available, training speed and coordination along with cardiovascular endurance. It’s also one of the most frustrating for a lot of people, with a lot of opportunities to get tripped up – literally and figuratively.
What problems are holding you back on your double-unders?
Problem #1: Turning the rope too slowly
It always seems like this would be so obvious that it hardly bears mentioning. Instead, however, it is one of the most common problems in getting the doubles. If you’re jumping at a rate of 100 jumps per minute, the rope must spin at a rate of 200 RPM. Again, it seems like a no-brainer, but around 3/4 of double-under aspirants start off trying to speed the rope up a little bit at a time.
One of the best pieces of advice I got for this problem came from a dancer: if you count the beat for your jumps as “1-2-3-4”, then the rope RPM needs to be “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and…”
Problem #2: Moving your whole arm
You may find that a full arm movement (rotating from the shoulders) is the best way to accelerate the rope enough to get it around for the first double. After that, however, using the whole arm is slooooow. Instead, keep your elbows tucked into your sides and spin from the wrists.
Problem #3: Only moving your fingers
Related to the last entry, keeping your elbows and wrists locked in place and just spinning from the fingers is too weak to keep the rope spinning quickly enough to get it around twice.
Problem #4: Jumping too fast
If your jumping pace is too fast (much more than 100 BPM for beginners is probably too fast), you might have trouble getting the rope around twice for each jump.
Problem 4a: Speeding up your feet
Related to the first entry, if you try speeding up the rope gradually, all that will happen is your jumps will speed up to keep pace with the rope speed.
Problem 4b: Lifting your knees
One of the most common unconscious mistakes happens when our brains feel the need to jump higher to accommodate the rope passing under twice. Unfortunately, the way you’re most likely to do that is by picking up your knees, which actually speeds up how quickly your feet hit the ground. Try it yourself: without the rope, try jumping with your knees held in a “soft” (almost straight) position, then try it again, picking your knees up on each jump to see how much faster your feet come down.
What’s happening is that, when you keep your knees straight, your entire body is moving up, increasing your hang-time. When you pick your knees up, your body is keeping more level, so you don’t have the same amount of time hanging in the air.
Problem #5: Letting the rope “coast”
Another really common mistake – the jumper starts the rope spinning quickly, but then allows it to slow down instead of actively bringing it through the second time.
Problem #6: Letting your elbows or hands drift out or forward
If you imagine the rope path forming a sphere, with your body as close to the center as possible, you can envision how moving that sphere forwards, backwards, up, or down will change your relative position, and end up with the rope smacking your feet, shins, or the back of your head. Similarly, if your elbows start moving out away from your body, the “sphere” turns into more of a “football” shape, decreasing the amount of room you have inside it.
In the video above, you can see that the rope is held in a very stable rotation until the elbows start moving forwards and back.
Problem #7: Jumping backward
Once you’re getting some double-unders, the next step is to keep jumping in the same place. Any movement changes your position within the sphere mentioned in the previous entry. Try standing 8-12 feet away from a stationary object (like a wall or a weight rack) and trying to keep the same distance away from it.
Double-unders can be extremely frustrating at the beginning, but with their ability to help with both cardiovascular endurance and stamina, along with the benefits for coordination and speed, they are truly worth mastering. Follow these tips and keep working on them, and see how much you can improve!