Double-under dos and don’ts

March’s contest of the month is a fast-paced sprint of 60 double-unders followed by 30 burpees—and all within a four-minute time cap. The key to doing well in this challenge is to streamline your double-under technique so you’re not entirely gassed when you start the burpee blitz.

Here are some tips for making your double-unders more efficient and relaxed:

Practice single skips

You can’t hit your double-under stride without first mastering the single-skip. Make sure your basic body position is on point, which means you’re:

•Generating your jump from the calves and landing on the balls of the feet.

•Keeping your elbows in snug to the body.

•Keeping your hands positioned near your hips and slightly in front of the body.

•Working the rope with the forearms and the wrists rather than the whole arm.

•Gazing straight ahead at all times.

Work on your double-unders

Batman didn’t wait until his first encounter with a baddie to master hand-to-hand combat so why are you waiting until the WOD starts to practice your double-unders? If you want to master the double-under then start practicing them before, or after the WOD. Start with one double-under every few single skips. When that starts to feel comfortable, reduce the amount of single skips from one double-under to the next. Then try linking two double-unders together. Finally, move on to three or more linked doubles. You’ll be amazed by how fast you improve when you take this gradual approach.

Swallow your pride: do double-unders in the WOD

I get it. It sucks doing double-unders during a WOD when you know you could just scale it to single skips and get through the workout faster. However, at some point you’re going to have to make the transition, so why not just bite the bullet and do it now? If it’s an AMRAP and you’ve got a few DUs under your belt already, then push yourself to do double-unders. You may get a crummy score, sure, but you’ll RX the WOD, finish the same time as everyone else, and most importantly, you will develop your skill and confidence. If it’s a Chipper with 300 double-unders, stick with your singles and concentrate on an efficient body position, or do a mix of single skips and DUs. If the workout is meant to be metabolic conditioning then decide if you would prefer the extra double-under work or to focus on the stimulus programmed.

If you’re struggling to get your first double-under, or can’t seem to accumulate volume then you should focus on what needs improvement.

Here are some possible issues that are preventing you from developing your skill:

Your jump is off

If you are guilty of piking, or an excessive knee bend, try pointing your toes down at the top of your jump. This will help you resist the urge to bend at the waist and/or stop bending at the knee. Also focus on keeping the same jumping rhythm for double-unders as you do for single skips.

You’re tense

Breathe, loosen your arms and shoulders the same way you would if you were running, and stay calm.

You’re getting frustrated

If you’re going after your double-unders with the same intensity Christian Bale brought to his performance as Batman, then you’re not going to make much progress. Anger is not a motivator; it’s an obstacle. Pick up the rope you tossed away in a white-hot rage, take a deep breath, relax, smile and try again.

You’re jumping too high.

When you first start trying to do double-unders, you’ll have to jump higher to make it happen. But as you practice you’ll need less and less height to clear your rope. Having an efficient jump is the secret to getting a higher number of reps before you collapse on the floor gasping for air.

Your rope is too long

Having a too-long rope contributes to bad form. A sign your rope is too long: your arms are sticking out on each side like you’re about to take flight. (Wing-y arms will also lead to more shoulder and arm fatigue and therefore less precision in your movement.) Try an adjustable rope and gradually shorten it so your hands are under your shoulders as you skip.

You just started!

Give yourself a break! The last time you jumped rope you were probably in elementary school, so don’t expect to master DUs on your first few attempts.

You don’t own your own rope

This may sound like the part where we try to sell you a jump rope, and I guess it sort of is. But if you don’t own your own rope, you’re diminishing the return on the effort you’re putting into the exercise. Double-unders are a finely tuned movement requiring a specific length of rope for each individual. Invest in your progress and get your own rope.


Craig Latendresse is a coach at Alchemy CrossFit.

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