Most of us have jumped rope a time or two, whether it was on the playground as a kid or in CrossFit last week. And while skipping rope one turn at a time to the tune of “Miss Mary Mack-Mack-Mack” is amusing for a little while (a very little while), you’ll eventually want to kick it up a notch. That’s where double unders come in.
“Double unders require speed, finesse, precision, focus and rhythm,” notes Dave Hunt, president and CEO of Crossrope LLC (crossrope.com) in Hampton, Va. “These factors make them a challenge to learn, but with practice it’s one of the most effective and beneficial exercises you can do.”
Aside from making you look like an athletic savant, double unders require total central nervous system engagement. “Training yourself to bound quickly provides a stimulus to your central nervous system that can improve reaction time and quickness,” says Hunt. In addition, the quick bounding action recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers, giving your calves definition and shape, while also training explosiveness since you need to jump about twice as high off the ground as you do with single unders. And when you land, your stabilizing muscles are put to the test eccentrically as they absorb your downward motion.
The Lowdown on the Double Up
Double unders are exactly what they sound like: You rotate the rope two full times around your person in a single bound. This means a little more hang time is required to make that happen without stepping on the rope or thrashing yourself with it. Here’s how to do them successfully.
Master the single under. Maintain a relaxed posture with your focus forward. Keep your elbows in and your hands at waist height in front of your torso. Turn the rope with your wrists, not your arms. Keep your body long and engaged. Take off and land lightly on the balls of your feet using an even pace. Once you can do 100 to 200 single unders without a mistake, you’re ready to double things up.
Jump higher and slower. Give yourself some time to get the rope underneath you twice by doing a “power jump” that’s roughly double the time and altitude of your typical single under. Remember, your form should stay the same. No donkey-kicking your glutes, no flailing of the arms, no bounding kangaroo jumps. Practice this power jump with single unders until it becomes comfortable.
Integrate the double. For every three single unders you do, throw in one double under. Once that becomes easy, do two singles and one double, then one single and one double, then try linking your double unders.
Double Trouble, Interval Style
Think you’ve got it down? Turn concept into action with this double under advanced workout from Crossrope’s Dave Hunt. Do 15 seconds of double unders Rest 15 seconds Repeat for 8 sets Write down your number of double unders for each round. The lowest round is your score for the day. Next time, shoot for five more!
Ladies Only: T.M.I. Time
For women, particularly those who have had children or do high-velocity sports such as gymnastics, ballet and CrossFit, the double under can be a little, um, messy. “Urine leakage is caused by a pressure system failure,” says Julie Sarton, PT, DPT, WCS (pelvichealing.com). “The pressure from above is exceeding the pressure below during impact, and the result is leakage.”
Correcting the problem is not as simple as “Do 30 Kegels and call me in the morning,” however. In fact, Sarton recommends a visit to a pelvic-floor physical therapist to assess the problem. According to the doc, the muscles of the pelvis, hips, transverse abdominis and core that work in concert with the pelvic floor can be shortened, lax, imbalanced, weak or herniated. Treatment can include manual and electronic biofeedback, triplanar strength training and Pilates-style pelvic-floor exercises. “Sometimes patients only need four visits, but sometimes they need 12 or more,” she says. “Every pelvis is different.”
So book your pelvic-floor PT appointment today. In the meantime, invest in some pantyliners and keep practicing those double unders, because according to Hunt, “As your double unders improve and the rope is rotated faster, the bound becomes increasingly lower, which means a reduced likelihood of issues.”