Stay Strong Movement Breakdown: Double Unders

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Stay Strong Movement Breakdown: Double Unders

The CrossFit Open is here and while it can be hard to predict what Dave Castro has in store, there are a few movements that have commonly shown up each year.  One movement that has been featured in the CrossFit Games Open since 2011 is the Double Under.  Now I know for some athletes just mentioning double unders brings up all sorts of dread and anxiety, but the truth is that there are some simple ways to improve, or even get your first double unders just in time for this years CrossFit Games Open.

In order to improve your double unders, you must first understand some of the common faults people make.

The Donkey Kick:

During the “Donkey Kick” the athlete flexes at the knee bringing the heels back towards the butt.  This occurs because the athlete is not jumping high enough for the rope to clear the athlete twice.  While some athletes may be able to connect a few double unders together this way, it places greater force/stress on the knees and wastes energy.

The Stomper:

During the “Stomper” the athlete flexes at the hip and knee during the jump.  Similar to the “Donkey Kick” this occurs because the athlete is jumping high enough for the jump rope to clear the athlete.    The “Stomper” can also occur if the athlete is using a rope that is to short or extending the arms out away from the body.  Once again, athletes may be able to string a few double unders together this way, but will find themselves fatigued from wasting extra energy.

The Flipper or Dolphin:

The “Flipper” is characterized by the athlete flexing at the hips and bringing the feet forward during the jump.  The “Flipper” occurs because the athlete is unable to jump high enough for the rope to clear athlete twice.  This is often caused because the athlete has their hands out to wide or to far in front of the hips.

Arms Out to Wide or Out Front:

“Floating Arms” is another common fault that is caused by the athlete extending the arms out to wide or to far out in front.  “Floating Arms”  decreases the space between the athlete and rope during the double under and often causes many of the other common faults described.  “Floating Arms” also places greater stress on the athlete’s upper body causing the athlete to fatigue at a greater rate.

Now that you understand some of the common faults that people make while performing double unders lets review some simple corrections.

Choose the Correct Rope.

Choosing the correct rope is one of the simplest ways to improve your double unders, however many athletes just grab the first jump rope they see rather than taking the time to select the correct rope.  

When selecting a jump rope athletes must consider two factors:

  1. The length of the rope
  2. The thickness/weight of the rope.  

The length and thickness of the jump rope is going to depend on the athletes current double under ability.  Beginners who can do 0-50 unbroken double unders should select a rope length that is their height + 3’.  This length will provide athletes with a little bit more room for error as they become more consistent with their jumping and timing.  It is also recommended that beginners select a thicker/heavier rope rather than a thin cable rope.  This thicker rope will help to provide the athlete greater feedback as they practice the timing of their jump and wrist “whip”.  As athletes become more proficient with their double unders they can advance to shorter and thinner/lighter jump ropes.  The recommended jump rope length for advanced athletes that can perform 50-100 unbroken double unders is their height + 2’6”, while it is recommended that expert athletes that can consistently perform 100+ unbroken double unders select a rope length that is their height + 2’.   

Correct Jumping Position

Another simple way athletes can improve their double unders is by correcting their jumping position.  We have already outlined some of the common faults that athletes make while performing double unders, so now let’s discuss how athletes should look while performing double unders.  

-The athlete should be standing upright with their feet together.  

-The athletes hands should be facing forward at hip height.

-The wrists should be shoulder width apart and slightly in front of the hip bone.  
-The elbows should be bent and slightly drawn back.
-The wrists should be shoulder width apart

This is the optimal position for double unders and athletes should practice maintaining this position throughout their double unders.  If an athlete is unable to maintain this position while completing double unders they should make sure they selected the correct jump rope or take a step back and practice perfecting their single under.  

Perfecting Your Single Under

You wouldn’t expect an infant to suddenly start running before they have even learned how to crawl. The same goes for an athlete expecting to suddenly perform double unders before perfecting their single under, yet many athletes begin attempting double unders to soon.  If an athlete has selected the correct size jump rope and still finds themself performing the common faults listed above or struggling to string their double unders together, they may need to take a step back and work on improving their single under.

So what exactly should single under practice look like?

First off, athletes should focus on maintaining the same position outlined above for the double under position during the single under.  Since most athletes have some experience performing single unders, it is not uncommon for them to just complete single unders in a WOD with less than ideal position.  If not corrected, the athlete will develop a poor and inefficient movement pattern that will follow them along as they attempt to progress to double unders.  To help correct this athletes should focus on performing 100 perfect unbroken single unders (no loss of optimal position) before progressing to “lengthened” single unders (read below).  

It’s also not uncommon for athletes who are performing single unders in a WOD to jump minimally  (1-2”) off the ground so they can move faster, however this can hinder their double under performance since the double under initially requires a higher jump (3-6”) off the ground.  In order to improve this, athletes must focus on “lengthening” their jump by slowing down their jump rate and increasing their jump height. This will also help the athlete perfect the timing and coordination of the jump and wrist “whip” needed for the double under. Once an athlete is able to perform 100 unbroken “lengthened” single unders, they may progress to attempting double unders.  

Now it’s time to stop talking about improving double unders and instead actually start practicing your double unders.  While there are some other tips and drills we can use to improve your double unders the key things to remember are: 1. Choose the correct size rope, 2. Maintain the correct jumping position during your double unders, and 3. Focus on perfecting your single under before progressing to double unders.  

Be sure to look out for more Stay Strong movement/workout breakdowns in the upcoming weeks.