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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!
WOD: “The Double Russian” (aerobic training)
20 Russian swings, 16K
20 Russian step-ups
My time: 20:13
: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…
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!