7 Things I Know About Double-Unders


Friday is aerobic endurance say at CrossFit Austin, and today’s workout pushed me hard, but left me feeling accomplished, and, if I’m totally honest, feeling damn tired of doing double-unders. I have to give a big hell, yeah! shout-out to Dave, a.k.a., the Senator, a.k.a., Best Husband On The Planet, for nailing his first three double-unders this morning. Right on!

double-under practice

WOD: “The Double Russian” (aerobic training)
5 rounds:
20 Russian swings, 16K
20 double-unders
20 Russian step-ups
20 double-unders
My time: 20:13

Cashout Fun
:40 handstand hold

When I ‘graduated’ to double-unders a few months ago, I made a commitment to myself that no matter how tired I was, how uncooperative the rope, how vigorously my ego worried about the clock, I would do every double-under in a workout. There would be no compromise, no “I’ll just do singles on this round, then I’ll go back to double-unders.” See: stubborn, relentless, determined, bull-headed.

I’m ridiculously pleased to announce that on the last round of the WOD, I did all 20 double-unders unbroken, smooth as (very sweaty) silk. But prior to that, my unbroken reps ranged from 2 to 13, depending on when I tripped on, or was viciously whipped by, the rope. This could have been a pretty fast workout: 16kg is a ‘light’ weight for me on swings, and I was a very committed step aerobics aficianado back in the day, so step-ups feel like a sort of homecoming. But double-unders can be a time suck. Unbroken, they swing by fast, but f*cked up double-unders? They’ll slow a girl down. It goes something like this:

  • single, single, single –> big breath and…
  • whip the rope into double-unders
  • trip on the rope / get whipped by the rope
  • [pant] X 3 while trying to achieve optimal blend of relaxation and aggression
  • single, single, single –> big breath and…
  • double-unders


After completing about 250 double-unders this morning (50 during our skills and 200 during the WOD), I have some observations to share about this particular CrossFit rite-of-passage.

1. Get your hands on the right rope.
I thought the need for a speed rope was just a case of Hothouse Flower Syndrome ([sigh] “I’m delicate and need things just so to succeed.”) But I was wrong. Getting a speed rope – at the right length – changed double-unders from the wistful “I can get them once in a while.” to the cocky “I have double-unders.” I really like this Again Faster Revolution Rope. If you invest in your own speed rope, play around with the length; I shortened mine a smidge a few weeks ago, and that’s when I nailed 22 unbroken. (Short video on determining rope length here.)

2. Find that magical place where you’re both aggressive and relaxed.
The day I got my first double-unders was the day I got angry. I was pissed at the rope, at my feet, at my arms, at the rising welts on my shins, at the evil mastermind that decided we should even be attempting to do double-unders in the first place. The angrier I got, the more aggressively I flung that rope and suddenly, vroop!, it had circled under my feet twice. On my next attempt, when I was happy about that, I tripped. But when I got angry again, I succeeded.

Now I’ve learned how to whip the rope without going to a grouchy place. It’s a far more aggressive movement than I imagined. With singles you can sort of la-la-la the rope around. It’s very chill, like Muhammad Ali slamming his poetry and shuffling his feet. With double-unders, there has to be a lot of force behind the movement, BUT… you also want to keep your shoulders and jumping mechanism relaxed. It’s tricky, but once you get it, you get it.

3. Remember it’s all in the wrist.
Somewhat related to #2, the movement of the rope needs to initiate from your wrist. With your shoulders relaxed in a neutral position and your core tight, you form a solid base from which your wrists can flick the rope. Again, it’s that hinky relationship between relaxed and fired up.

4. Keep your hands slightly in front of your shoulders.
Nick, champion-level double-under-er, shouted out this tip this morning (Thanks, Nick!), and it considerably improved my unbroken-to-broken reps ratio. When you’ve got the “from the wrists” thing working, try to bring your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. With elbows tucked into your sides and palms angled so they’re almost facing each other (instead of directly forward), you have a ballast against which to spin the rope.

5. Get bouncy.
Another tip from Nick: bounce! Most of the time, I have a little hitch in the rhythm of my double-unders. But if I think “bounce!” while I’m doing them, I reach a lightness and steadiness in my jumps that matches the rhythm of the rope… perfect sync.

6. Do not let frustration get the better of you.
This may be the hardest aspect of all. DUs are nasty little f*ckers and sometimes, that rope just refuses to cooperate. THAT is the true challenge of the DU. It’s not whether you can move the rope fast enough, but whether you you can put aside your frustration to learn to move the rope fast enough.

7. Channel the fighting spirit of Muhammad Ali.
I’m of the opinion that there is never a bad time to rely on Ali’s athletic model. He was charming, classy, worked hard, enjoyed his accomplishments, and did a whole lot of jump rope.

UPDATE July 27, 2011. I’ve got another tip!

8. Use the hollow hold position.
This morning I learned that when I do singles, my feet stay nice and close to the ground, and they’re practically in front of my body… kind of like the “hollow hold” position. But when I was doing double-unders, I was doing a “donkey kick” – I was bending my knees and kicking my feet back behind me on the jump.

Today, Coach Blake advised me to keep my feet/legs together, with knees pretty straight, and to hop on the balls of my feet, trying to see the tips of my toes almost in front of me on every hop. It made a HUGE difference, and I got a new unbroken DU PR! 32 in a row!

These are the cues and mental tricks I use to keep the rope moving – if you have a favorite technique, share in the comments!



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  • Barbara says:

    CONGRATS! I’m so excited for you…and completely jealous. I’ve yet to nail two in a row….

    I’m gonna practice your suggestions and get a better rope.

  • Carley says:

    Our WOD yesterday was 500 double unders and every minute on the minute you had to do 2 pistols per leg, talk about torture! Great job on your double unders, I averaged 8-12 in this wod but my best is 41 =)

  • Kristin says:

    I said mfer on more than one occasion this morning 🙂 I will get these “little f*ckers”!!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for this! I am just barely getting DUs, after months of trying. A bunch of the women at my box–who make DUs look easy–have and recommend speed ropes, so I ordered mine this morning. I got the Ultra Speed Cable Rope, also from Again Faster. One of my goals was to get DUs down by my birthday (8/23), so I’m excited about this!

    PS–we have to do singles x3 in any WOD with DUs, if you can’t do those. So the 45 DUs in yesterday’s WOD translated to 135 jumps x3 rounds = 390 jumps. Yea, gotta get those DUs down!

    • Mel says:

      Happy early birthday! Best wishes for hitting your goal! And you’ll make them look easy after you get them, too… that’s the trick of CrossFit. It all looks pretty easy once you got it. 🙂

  • Megan says:

    Love this post! I hate DU’s but did finished a full workout doing them a few weeks ago and I was so pumped. (I do 1 single 1 DU, can’t do those little f*ckers in a row, not sure if I Ever will) I might print off these tips and try them out soon!!

  • Carrey says:

    Love it – and thanks! You’re right about the time-suck thing. My girlfriend and I haven’t mastered them, and went from 2nd place to 8th place at a gym competition because of them. Arrgghh! Still trying….

  • Vanessa says:

    Thanks:) You made me laugh this is exactly how I am doing my double unders:D

  • Bo Sabin says:

    I tried double unders forever. Then I watched a Buddy Lee video (from the main site) and got that rhythm in my head….bounce, bounce, bounce, explode! I finally got them while practicing on my driveway. When I did 5 in a row, I high-fived myself and scream so loudly, my husband ran out of the house to see if I was ok. I had to have him watch me just to make sure that damn rope was going under me twice.
    Now I am working on a mental game my CF Coach PC told me, do 10, then 20, 30, 40, 50 and back down. You have to start at the number right before if you miss. Even if you are shooting for 30 and miss on 29. I’ve only made it to 30….but it’s on my goal list.

  • LG says:

    Ok I just got a buddy lee jump rope the other day! I am so excited to use it but I can’t find out what length I should have it and I’m so nervous to cut it.
    Any suggestions on length?

  • Amber says:

    Saw a link to this post on facebook yesterday…a few months ago I was able to link a few double unders together together, then something happened and I was double under handicapped once again. I bought an again faster rope but was so discouraged that I haven’t even cut it to the right length yet. After reading your tips, I tried again after my WOD yesterday.

    Moving my hands forward, I was able to string several together in a route several times! Yay! Now I’ll get my rope cut down and I’ll be double-undering in my sleep!

  • Double Under are my nemesis! I am *cough, cough* blessed to be married to Mr. perfectly coordinated, perfect form ever on round 382, Mr. work through any obstacle with grace, so he just doesn’t understand why I can’t ‘get’ them. You have inspired me to keep at it, and I will be going to test out some new ropes very soon! Thanks for your awesome blog!!

    • Mel says:

      Rule #6 is for you, sweet pea. Zero frustration… just keep chipping away at it. You’ll get it eventually. Have fun! Laugh at the damn rope.

      • Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! I was able to put your rules to work today (particularly use of wrists and hands slightly in front of shoulders, and of course, that damn frustration thing) and I met my first goal. After many welts, and unfortunatly much frustration, I officially completed 5 DUs in a row. This is HUGE for me. Hope you don’t mind, I shared your post with my blog readers. I’m sure many others can use your tips as much as I did!!

        • Mel says:

          ESTHER! That’s so awesome. Congratulations! FIVE DUs in a row is a great accompliehment — I hope you celebrated yourself big time after that… and I hope your welts are fading.

          Thanks for sharing the link! And stay in touch!

  • Tammy says:

    This post was perfect. Your description of your initial DU attempts sounds like I wrote it myself.

    I took note of your tips and I am determined to get them!

    • Mel says:

      I got a new tip today that’s made another huge difference!

      When I do singles, my feet stay nice and close to the ground, and they’re practically in front of my body… kind of like the “hollow hold” position. But when I was doing double-unders, I was doing a “donkey kick,” i.e., kicking my feet back behind me on the jump.

      Today, my coach told me to keep my feet/legs together, knees pretty straight, and hop on the balls of my feet, trying to see the tips of my toes in front on every hop. It made a HUGE difference, and I got a new unbroken DU PR! 32 in a row!

      Good luck with your training!

  • Jason says:

    Great article. I recently bought the AF Revolution rope and can do single DUs, still working on the unbroken DUs. Thanks for the tips.

  • Tania says:

    After a year and half of trying DU’s I still can’t make it more than 2 in a row. I’m clumsy, and my coordination of jumping and moving my arms just doesn’t work. But I am determined.

    I will try all your tips and keep you posted…it will happen!

    • Mel says:

      I refuse to believe that you are clumsy. I think you are AWESOME, your body just hasn’t learned to do more than 2 DUs in a row yet. Totally different thing. And if you’re determined, your body will learn eventually.

      Let us know how it goes!

  • Duane Waits says:

    Mel, Great Article you go deep into what it takes to be great at double unders. I to have gone deep and created a double under training program titled “The Secret To Double-Under Success Revealed: How To Improve Your Double-Under Efficiency in 5 Basic Step” I would love to get your initial review you sound like you too have discovered the secret. Thanks

  • Bee says:

    I am 11 years old and this year on my school’s Jumprope team I nailed 84 doubleunders this past year.It was tough but worth it.I had a friend who Broke our county record she did 200 doubleunders and I am not joking.

    • Mel says:

      Bee! That’s so great — 84 double-unders in a row. Holy cow! I think the most I’ve ever done unbroken was 13.


  • ASH says:

    great tips. i remember learning the double unders, all the swearing and all the crying haha. i found what helped me the most believe it or not were socks. yep socks those nice long ones that us crossfitters love because when you where them you don’t have to worry about whipping your shins and you’ll feel more free to swing that rope as hard as possible. that’s why i can only DU with long socks but i can now do them in my sleep and have no problem stringing 100 together.

  • Pamela says:

    I think its great that you respond to each individual comment, and I LOVED this post. The double under process that you mentioned had me laughing, it is exactly what I think every time I attempt them!

    My coach had me do Annie yesterday after our other WOD and my record is still 4 in a row. I’m adding 50 DU to my warm ups until I can do it. Thanks for all of the tips, I’ll sure use them!

    • Mel says:

      I’m so glad you liked this post… YAY! DUs can be such difficult little buggers. But once you get ’em, you’ve got ’em… like riding a bike!

      Four in a row is AWESOME — great idea to add them to your warmup. Keep me posted on how you’re doing!

  • Line says:

    Hi there! Have just started practising d.u. So happy that I can do one at a time. Googled d.u. and landed here with you. Great tips! Line, Norway, Northern Europe