Saturday, April 12, 2014

7 Steps to Mastering the Double Under

The fitness revolution has played a big role in the re-invention of Jump Ropes.  The Double Under is perhaps one of the most taxing cardiovascular exercises that can be done with minimal investment.  Next to sprinting, it’s benefits are great.  It is a skill which demands [or should we say rewards] coordination and agility.  But, the process to learning the skill can be a little frustrating so we've put together seven solid rules to get the double under in your wheelhouse.
Top 7 Steps to Mastering the Double Under:
  1. Size Your Jump Rope to You - Nothing makes the Double Under more difficult that if you constantly change equipment.  Grabbing one of the jump ropes off the Wall at the local box is only going to take you so far.  Too short a jump rope and the rope won’t make it under your feet.  Too long and the cable hits too far in front slowing the speed of the rope.  Here's a quick guide for cable length:  For those at 5'6" height and less, add 2'10" to your height.  For those over 5'6", add 3'0".  With proper hand and arm position, these cable lengths will get you off and running.  We list this step first because it's the most important.  Do everything else right but have a too short or too long a rope and it won't matter.  
  2. Keep Your Jump Rope in your car/gym bag  I keep my jump rope right at the gym.  That way, if Double Unders are in the workout, I'm prepared.  It's sized just for me and I know I can count on it feeling the same every time I use it.  That's important.  While you are learning the skill, keep your jump rope in your duffel bag or car.  And when you get an opportunity to practice at home, you've got it at the ready.
  3. It is not a Violent Movement.  It is very easy to believe that there is a tremendous amount of effort required to get the rope under your feet twice.  In the beginning, I found myself kicking my heels almost to my glutes to allow for more time for the rope to get under twice.  Hey - it's natural to think that.  And although 'donkey' kicking your feet does provide more time to get the rope under, it is not a method you want to practice because it quickly drains your energy and it is not efficient.  If you watch those that are skilled in the movement, it appears more effortless than not.  In order to string 30-40-50 or more double unders in a row, you've got to stay relaxed, keep relatively vertical and have a fluid motion.  The effort is in turning the wrists quickly, not in bringing your body into a full tuck position so you can get the rope under.
  4. Keep Relaxed While Practicing.  Ultimately, you will master the skill best when you are performing it relaxed.  Tensing up will only slow your movement down and fatigue your body quicker.  Instead of trying to string double under together, instead practice single under-double under-single under-double under.  Your movement on the single under is relaxed and efficient and that's just how you want to feel with the double under.  Keep relaxed while practicing and work in small bursts with rest breaks between.  When first learning, you'll do best when you are fresh.
  5. Practice Fresh and Tired.  Practice is the key.  The skill will not come without consistent effort.  But, like riding a bike, once you've got it, it seems to stick pretty well as long as you have a properly sized jump rope.  I think some of the best times to practice are before the workout and after.  You've got to practice when you are fresh to give yourself the best chance at stringing them together.  But you've also got to know how to do them tired since you eventually want to work them into your training.  Every time you walk in the gym promise yourself you will perform 2-3 minutes of practice during the warmup and 2-3 minutes after you're all through with the WOD.
  6. Mind Your Arm Position - During the jump, your arms can tend to float away from your body.  When this happens, the rope effectively shortens.  That means painful misses.  Ever whipped the top of your toes with a jump rope?  If that's something you are experiencing, it may very well be because of an improperly sized jump rope [too short] or your hands are floating away from your body.  Some try to compensate by kicking the heels higher to create more space.  Don't do that.  Instead, keep your elbows in tight to your body and keep your body position as vertical as you can.  If you are jumping consistently with single unders then the rope is sized correctly.
  7. Train your Brain - I once read an article about a Basketball Free Throw shooting practice technique that involved two groups.  Both groups practied an hour a day in front of the basket, but one group was also told to spend 15 minutes visualizing themselves shooting and making free throws after practice.  The study concluded that the group that also visualized performed better - seriously better.  It's worth a try, right?
The Double Under will come with patient, diligent practice and with a properly fitted jump rope.  The cable jump ropes at the gym are there for you in a pinch but they aren't fitted specifically to your body and it's tough to be consistent with them.  A jump rope sized just for you will grant you success far faster than grabbing a different one off the wall of the local box every time you visit.
And I think of it like driving a car for the first time.  When you get in, you've got to adjust the seat and the mirrors before you turn the key and drive off.  If you get into a car you've never driven, it doesn't feel right until you fit it to your body.  Same goes here.

Need a properly fitted jumprope?  Get one here.

Now get out there and practice!