Whether you played outdoors as a child or have searched for ways to warm up at the gym, the chances that you’ve picked up a skipping rope at some point in your life are high. However, the idea of performing double unders, or any other impressive skipping rope tricks, might sound daunting.
Double unders, if you’re not familiar with them, are a way of skipping rope where you make two full rotations with the rope in a single jump. It’s an advanced skill and not something you should attempt without some preparation.
Double unders are popular in CrossFit, but you can also use them to enhance your performance in other workouts. For example, skipping rope can help fighters prepare for the intense impact of boxing and can improve your ability to handle other cardiovascular exercises (e.g. running) without getting out of breath, as Shape previously reported.
Interested in taking your skipping rope skills to the next level but can’t do double unders yet? Here’s how to do double unders, with a detailed breakdown of how to progress towards the skill. Because skipping rope champions aren’t born, they’re made.
How to Get Ready for Jump Rope Double Unders
Here are a few steps you should take before attempting double unders.
Find the appropriate jump rope.
First things first: You should ensure that you have a suitable jump rope before attempting double unders. “You don’t want one of those old-school multicolored plastic playground ropes, and you certainly don’t want a rope that’s too lengthy or too heavy to turn,” says Chrysten Crockett, NASM-certified personal trainer and founder of Get Fit with Chrys. The rope you use for double unders should weigh around two to three ounces, and it should have handles that facilitate easy rotation of the rope, she explains. You also want a rope that’s at least two feet longer than your height. (So, if you’re 5 foot 6 inches, look for a rope that’s at least 7 foot 6 inches.) Alternatively, if space is limited, opt for a cordless jump rope.
Try single unders.
Once you’ve obtained your rope, begin with single unders, also known as the basic jump, in which you rotate the jump rope over your head and jump when it’s near your feet, clearing the rope in the process. “Because the movement is so accessible, the fundamentals of skipping rope are often introduced as a starting point for plyometric activity and even speed development,” says Eric O’Connor, certified CrossFit coach. “It’s a fantastic way to improve your reaction time. It’s also an effective method for strengthening the feet and lower legs in preparation for running and jumping.”
Of course, double unders are a bit different — they require even more speed and quick thinking. “Many beginners, or those new to exercise, may not be prepared for the impact and demands of the movement,” says O’Connor.
Progress in single unders
Before advancing to double unders, “dedicate time to developing the mechanics and being consistent with performing single unders, the fundamental bounce, and the powerful jumps – leaping high and fast – with or without a rope.”
“Ensure that you can successfully get the rope under your feet at least once with a steady speed and rhythm before moving on to double unders,” says Crockett. “I see many people using their arms to pull the rope over their body, but the movement of the rope relies on the wrist.”
As you continue to work on single unders, concentrate on increasing your jumping height. This “is one of the crucial factors to assist you in executing a double under,” shares Crockett. While you jump, observe how high you can go. “This will help you create more time and space to get the rope under twice once you’re ready to practice or improve at double unders,” adds Crockett.
How to Perform a Double Under with a Jump Rope
When you’re prepared to attempt double unders, here’s how to do them:
A. Stand holding a jump rope handle in each hand, allowing the rope to dangle behind your feet.
B. Keeping your arms beside you, flick your wrists to perform a single under, swinging the rope behind your body, over your head, and forward, and jumping to swing the rope beneath your feet and complete a full rotation. Perform a few more single unders, focusing on jumping high.
C. When you are ready to try a double under, jump as high as possible, spinning the rope rapidly at the same time so that the rope completes two full rotations before landing the jump.
Key Benefits of Jump Rope Double Unders
Double unders are not only visually impressive – they also provide three significant advantages to your fitness.
Double unders are no laughing matter – it takes some athleticism to execute them. “Performing double unders develops cardiovascular endurance and stamina due to the movement’s high-repetition potential and its effectiveness in elevating the heart rate,” says O’Connor. To consistently perform these, you must have stamina.
“This exercise engages various elements of your body and significantly raises your heart rate,” explains Crockett. “If you are short on time but need an excellent cardio conditioning workout, just five to 10 minutes of double unders will undoubtedly make you sweat.”
To perform double unders, you must be able to propel yourself off the ground rapidly to reach a considerable height – and then repeat the action. “Athletes may experience power and speed benefits by learning to minimize the time in contact with the ground and stabilize against the repetitive jumping demands placed on the lower body,” says O’Connor.
There is a lot happening when you engage in double unders. “Your mind is ensuring that your wrists, feet, eyes, and muscles are all synchronized,” says Crockett. As a result, double unders “provide an opportunity for individuals to learn how to coordinate their entire body to achieve what most consider to be a high-level but attainable skill,” explains O’Connor.
The advantages of this cerebral advancement may transfer to other physical conditioning and athletic pursuits.
Jump Rope Double Unders Muscles Engaged
Double unders engage a plethora of muscles in your body. “The primary demands of the exercise involve the lower-body musculature, which includes absorbing the impact of landing and extending at the ankles, knees, and hips during the jump,” states O’Connor. Your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and gluteal muscles play a significant role in this exercise.
Your core muscles also need to remain tight during this activity, according to O’Connor. “The importance of stabilizing the spine using the trunk cannot be overstated, and jumping rope effectively challenges this capability,” he explains. In simpler terms, maintaining a tight core allows for proper posture during the jump and prevents you from leaning forward or backward. A strong core is associated with numerous benefits, including reduced back pain and enhanced performance in daily activities and other exercises.
In addition, the shoulders receive a considerable workout despite it not being apparent. “Following a few minutes of single unders or high-repetition double unders, many individuals report significant fatigue in their shoulders,” notes O’Connor. This exercise helps in building endurance in the shoulder area.
Jump Rope Double Unders Variations
If you effortlessly perform double unders with a jump rope, then kudos to you. However, if you are not quite there yet, here are some easier (and more challenging) variations of the exercise you can try.
Modify with Single Unders
While they may not be classified as double unders, experts claim that focusing on improving your single jump rope technique will aid in developing the necessary skills for double unders. “The more coordination, speed, wrist rotation, and height you can achieve with a single under, the better your jump rope skills will become, regardless of the variation you choose,” explains Crockett.
To get the right feel, O’Connor suggests trying a slower rope cadence and a higher jump. Alternatively, you can also try removing the rope and performing power jumps or tapping your legs twice in the air to improve your timing.
Advance with Increased Repetitions and Triple Unders
For those looking for a challenge, increasing the number of repetitions and attempting triple unders is a way to advance your jump rope skills.
Double skips are challenging and consecutive double skips will result in some intense burning in your calves. If you want to increase the intensity even further, gradually work your way up to sets of 50 to 75 repetitions of consecutive double skips before you raise the difficulty level, suggests O’Connor.
Then, if you truly want to get adventurous, you can attempt triple or even quadruple skips. “Yes, quadruple skips are feasible,” says O’Connor. “[Spectators] have even witnessed athletes performing backward double skips, and at this year’s CrossFit Games, athletes were challenged to perform a crossover double skip.”
Common Errors in Jump Rope Double Skips
The most significant error O’Connor notices is people not allowing themselves enough time to practice, he explains. “Allocate five minutes a day, two to three times a week, hold a rope in your hands, build your proficiency in the fundamentals, and progress from there,” he advises. Other errors he frequently observes include:
- Selecting a rope that is too light: “Utilizing a high-speed rope with a short handle and a very thin/light cable is attractive but may be better suited for intermediate and advanced jumpers,” clarifies O’Connor. “Initially, you may find it beneficial to use a slightly heavier and thicker rope with longer handles. This can provide more feedback and assist with coordination and timing.”
- Swinging your wrists outward: This tends to be the most common mistake, states O’Connor. “The wrists should be the primary movers of the rope,” he adds. “The focus should be on generating movement at the wrist and avoiding excessive arm and shoulder circles.” If you are struggling with this, concentrate on keeping your wrists in and slightly forward of your torso, he suggests. “Avoid the tendency to allow the wrists to move outward and away from the body as you complete repetitions,” he advises.
- Bringing the knees up: “Many athletes feel the urge to bring their knees towards their chest during the jump,” says O’Connor. “This will increase the impact when you make contact with the floor and make it harder to string together multiple repetitions.” It can also be “extremely tiring,” he points out. Instead, “focus on achieving a powerful jump where the legs remain straight in the air.”
Incorporating Jump Rope Double Skips into Your Exercise Routine
Double skips are an excellent warm-up or “burnout” for upper body training days, according to Crockette. “Next time you are targeting your shoulders, biceps, or triceps, make it a habit to include double skips and really take your workout to the next level,” she suggests.
O’Connor also recommends incorporating double skips into your warm-ups. “The warm-up starts off easy and gradually progresses towards double skips by the end,” he shares. For example, you can perform 20 seconds of each of the following exercises, resting for five to 10 seconds between movements:
- Single skips
- Alternating step single skips
- Side-to-side hops
- Front-to-back hops
- Single-leg single skips
After these movements, carry out two to four sets of 10 seconds of double unders, followed by 10 to 20 seconds of rest,” he states.
You can also simply incorporate double unders into your HIIT workouts, recommends O’Connor. “The amount of repetitions to finish will mainly differ from athlete to athlete and even based on the planned stimulus of the workout for that day,” he adds.
If you have back or knee problems, or require to stick with low-impact exercise, double unders probably aren’t suitable for you. But “any individual who has developed capacity performing single unders” and other jumping skills can benefit from double unders, says O’Connor.
“Beside the cardio and endurance benefits for everyone, those new to the movement will benefit by learning a new skill through enhancing their coordination, precision, and agility,” clarifies O’Connor. “Advanced athletes may benefit most from high-rep sets to challenge their conditioning in a high-intensity setting while also working to minimize their ground contact time.”
Essentially, double unders can introduce a new obstacle to your workouts and push your coordination and strength even further. So, pass the jump rope.