Whether you played outside as a kid or have looked for ways to warm up at the gym, the odds that you've picked up a jump rope at some point in your life are high. Still, the thought of performing double unders, or any other fancy jump rope tricks, might sound intimidating.
Double unders, in case you're not familiar with them, are a way of jumping rope where you make two full rotations with the rope in a single hop. It's an advanced move and not something you should try to whip out without some prep work.
Double unders are popular in CrossFit, but you can use them to boost your performance in other workouts too. For example, jumping rope can help prepare fighters for the high-impact stress of boxing, and can make you more able to take on other cardio exercises (e.g. running) without becoming winded, as Shape previously reported.
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Interested in taking your jump 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 build up to the move. Because jump rope champs aren't born, they're made.
How to Prepare for Jump Rope Double Unders
Here are a few steps you should take before attempting double unders.
Find the right jump rope.
First thing first: You should make sure you have a suitable jump rope before attempting double unders. “You don’t want one of those old-school multicolor plastic playground ropes, and you definitely don’t want a rope that’s too long 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 be around two to three ounces, and it should have handles that allow the rope to rotate easily, she says. You also want a rope that’s at least two feet longer than your body. (So, if you’re 5 foot 6 inches, look for a rope that’s at least 7 foot six inches.) Or, if space is limited, opt for a cordless jump rope.
Try single unders.
Once you’ve secured your rope, start with single unders, aka the basic jump that involves rotating the jump rope over your head and jumping when it’s near your feet, clearing the rope in the process. “Because the movement is so accessible, the basics of jumping 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 great way to improve your reaction time. It’s also an effective way to strengthen the feet and lower legs in preparation for running and jumping.”
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Of course, double unders are a little 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 at single unders.
Before progressing to double unders, "spend time developing the mechanics and being consistent with performing single unders, the basic bounce, and the power jumps — jumping high and fast — with or without a rope."
"Make sure you're able to get the rope under your feet at least once with a consistent speed and cadence before moving on to double unders," says Crockett. "I see many people using their arms to pull the rope over their body, but the motion of the rope relies on the wrist."
As you continue to work on single unders, focus on increasing your jump height. This "is one of the keys to helping you execute a double under," shares Crockett. While you jump, see how high you can get. "This will help you create more time and space to get the rope under twice once you're ready to practice or get better at double unders," adds Crockett.
How to Do a Double Under with a Jump Rope
When you're ready to try double unders, here's how to do them:
A. Stand holding a jump rope handle in each hand, allowing the rope to hang behind feet.
B. Keeping arms by sides, flick wrists to perform a single under, swinging rope behind body, above head, and forward, and jumping to swing rope beneath feet and complete a full rotation. Perform a few more single unders, focusing on jumping high.
C. When ready to attempt a double under, jump as high as possible, spinning rope quickly at the same time so that rope makes two full rotations before landing jump.
Key Jump Rope Double Unders Benefits
Double unders don't just look cool — they also offer three major benefits to your fitness.
Double unders are no joke — it takes some athleticism to pull these off. "Performing double unders develops cardiorespiratory endurance and stamina due to the movement's high-rep potential and its effectiveness at elevating the heart rate," says O'Connor. To consistently be able to perform these, you need to have stamina.
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"This exercise calls on so many different elements of your body and really raises the heart rate," explains Crockett. "If you're a person who is low on time but needs a great cardio conditioning workout, just five to 10 minutes of double unders will definitely work up a sweat."
Help You Gain Power
To do double unders, you need to be able to push yourself off the ground quickly to reach a high height — and then you have to do it again and again. "Athletes may gain power and speed benefits by learning to minimize ground contact time and stabilize against the repetitive bounding demands placed on the lower body," says O'Connor.
There's a lot going on when you do double unders. "Your mind is doing a roll call to make sure your wrists, feet, eyes, and muscles are all on the same page," says Crockett. As a result, double unders "offer 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 benefits of this neurological development may carry over to other fitness and sporting endeavors."
Jump Rope Double Unders Muscles Worked
Double unders work a lot of your body. “The lower-body musculature takes on the primary demands of the exercise to absorb the landing and to extend at the ankles, knees, and hips on the jump,” says O’Connor. Your quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes are at work, he says.
Your core needs to be tight during this time too, says O’Connor. “The value of using the trunk to stabilize the spine cannot be overstated, and jumping rope challenges this capacity,” he explains. In other words, you need your core to be tight in order to allow you to have good posture in your jump and to keep you from falling forward or backward. Having a strong core has been linked to a slew of benefits, including less back pain and an improved ability to carry out both everyday movements and exercises.
And it’s not obvious, but your shoulders get a solid workout too. “Many individuals, after performing a few minutes of single unders or high-rep double unders, will mention they felt significant fatigue in the shoulders,” says O’Connor. This exercise helps build endurance in the area, he says.
Jump Rope Double Unders Variations
If you can whip out a jump rope and do double unders like it's nothing, more power to you. If not, here are some easier (and harder) variations on the exercise you can try.
Modify with Single Unders
Sure, they're not technically double unders, but experts swear that working on your single jump rope game will help you build up if you can't do double unders yet. "The more coordination, speed, wrist rotation, and height you can get with a single under, the better your jump roping skills will become no matter what variation you decide to do," says Crockett.
Try a slow rope cadence and a high jump to get the right feel, says O'Connor. You can also remove the rope and do power jumps or a power jump while tapping your legs twice in the air to build up your timing, he says.
Advance with More Reps and Triple Unders
Double unders are tough and consecutive double unders will cause some serious burn in your calves. If you want to ramp things up even more, build up to sets of 50 to 75 reps of consecutive double unders before you increase the difficulty, suggests O'Connor.
Then, if you really want to go wild, you can try triple or even quad unders. "Yes, quad unders are possible," says O'Connor. "[Spectators] have even witnessed athletes performing backward double unders, and at this year's CrossFit Games, athletes were challenged to perform a crossover double-under."
Jump Rope Double Unders Common Mistakes
The biggest mistake O'Connor sees is people not giving themselves time to practice, he says. "Take five minutes a day, two to three times a week, get a rope in your hands, build capacity at the basics, and progress from there," he says. Other mistakes he commonly notices:
How to Add Jump Rope Double Unders to Your Exercise Routine
Double unders are a great warm-up or “burnout” for upper body days, says Crockette. “The next time you’re hitting shoulders, biceps, or triceps, get in the habit of adding double unders and really take your workout to the next level,” she advises.
O'Connor also suggests using double unders in your warm-ups. "The warm-up starts easy and gradually ramps up toward double-unders by the end," he shares. For example, you can perform 20 seconds of each of the following movements, resting five to 10 seconds between exercises:
"After these movements, perform two to four sets of 10 seconds of double unders, followed by 10 to 20 seconds of rest," he says.
You can also simply add double unders into your HIIT workouts, suggests O’Connor. “The number of reps to complete will largely vary from athlete to athlete and even based on the intended stimulus of the workout for that day,” he adds.
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If you have back or knee issues, or need to stick with low-impact exercise, double unders probably aren’t for you. But “any individual who has built capacity performing single unders” and other jumping skills can benefit from double unders, says O’Connor.
"Beyond the cardio and stamina benefits for all, those new to the movement will benefit by learning a new skill through enhancing their coordination, accuracy, and agility," explains 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."
Basically, double unders can add a new challenge to your workouts and push your coordination and strength even further. So, pass the jump rope.