EYC Episode #37 – Achieving the Double Under
What’s up guys this is Kas with EYC and welcome to episode #37 of the podcast and today’s topic is achieving the Double Under. This episode of the podcast is similar in essence to episode #13 of the vlog, however I want to take this time to expand on some of the things I talked about in hopes of creating further understanding, and also offer a bit more for those that are interested in the subject. Starting at the beginning, the Double Under is a technique that involves jumping over two rotations of the rope, in a single jump. It is in the category of Power Jumps, and is very often the first one that people attempt. They come in many different flavours and are often taking basic techniques like the Alternate Step, and Bell Jump and incorporating them into two, or even three rotations of the rope. The idea is simple, execution is anything but. The Double Under is an excellent way to develop strength and explosiveness in the wrists, and legs, as well as anaerobic conditioning. As you improve, it is also a really good gauge of your rope efficiency. It’s important to understand that the Double Under is not only beneficial to the lower half of the body, but also the upper. It strengthens overall grip, the arms, shoulders, and rotator cuffs. Furthermore, it will work wonders for your balance, rhythm, and timing. It’s a powerhouse of a technique, and I recommend that everyone with a rope strive to become proficient with it.
It may not be apparent from the start, however the wrists play a crucial role in successful execution of the Double Under, and that is most often a sticking point for those new to the technique. That’s because it requires sudden, and controlled changes in speed that new practitioners often haven’t developed the mechanics or strength for. It may seem like jump height is the most important factor for successful Double Unders, however it is not. What you may think you are gaining by jumping higher, you lose in control, endurance, and technique. It is still common, however, in the early stages of Double Under training for the practitioner to jump much higher than necessary to compensate for a lack of power and technique. In fact, the way to know you are on the right track is if jump height decreases, with enough clearance for the rope of course, when you execute the double under. The main factor in this is found in the wrists, and I hinted at it when I previously mentioned control. Having the necessary power and technique is one thing, but you also need to be able to control the rope. Even if you are able to complete a double under as a beginner, it is often the case that controlling the rope becomes an issue after the first or second rep. A good way to tell is if you are unable to slow the rope down once the trick is complete causing a catch, or if a lack of control forces you to significantly modify your jump rhythm or technique. The jumps should be smooth, well-timed, and proper technique preserved throughout. Once you have one double-under under pretty well practiced, test yourself by performing two of them consecutively, then three, and so on. This will help bring out flaws in these different areas, and give you an idea of where you need to improve. And just in case anyone is curious, my record thus far for consecutive Double Unders is 115 with a long handled rope.
Something else that often occurs with beginner jumpers is they will jump the gun and jerk the rope in a quick motion in hopes of generating enough power for the Double Under. This usually ends up pulling the rope into the legs causing a catch because this jerking motion interferes with timing and mechanics so much that the legs often aren’t even off of the ground yet. The key is being able to generate the necessary speed and power through the wrists, while maintaining proper rhythm. This is something that comes with practice. The primary takeaway here is that wrist strength, speed, and control need to be emphasized in preliminary training to set yourself up for success.
One thing that I often emphasize in the work I do is core competencies, and the Double-Under is no exception. I highly recommend that you are proficient in the bounce, and alternate step before expecting consistent success with the Double Under. It will make you more comfortable with the rope, and help develop the precursors required for the strength, speed and control I spoke about earlier. I set the bar for myself at 500 clean, uninterrupted Bounce Step repetitions before I considered myself worthy of proper Double Under training. Double Unders will begin to really test your anaerobic conditioning, so be prepared to take it slow. With that, let’s get to my first strategy of success.
Employ sprints in your bounce step, and alternate step training. While you may be proficient in these areas at slower speeds that are more comfortable, I encourage you to practice short bursts of speed that will help develop overall strength and dexterity, especially in the wrists. It will also help you become accustomed to handling varying rope speeds which is crucial in developing rope control.
A great way to get a handle on how to manage speed in your training is by understanding your RPM, or Rotations Per Minute. As a baseline, you want to know what your RPM is at a pace that is comfortable. I like to describe it as your natural rhythm. Just set a timer for one minute and start jumping at a pace that feels manageable, while counting out your reps. At one minute, stop and take note of how many reps you completed. I realize that you can get a number by say jumping for 15 seconds, then multiplying by 4, however I recommend going the full minute to not only get an accurate number, but to also see if you can actually jump for 1 minute straight. If you can’t, use a smaller figure then multiply but jumping the full minute is a great early goal to work up to. I recommend measuring RPM at least a few times then averaging it. The more you do it, the better average you will get, but at the very least it’s important to get a rough idea of where you stand. When you have this baseline, try to increase that by 20-40 RPM for your sprints. My natural rhythm hovers at around 150RPM, and if I am doing sprint training, I will aim for speeds between 200-220RPM. It didn’t start out that way, of course. I fell in that 20-40RPM rate for a long time until I was able to work my way up to an increase of 50-70RPM. Now I very often choose to use a long handled rope, which will slow me down a little bit, however I enjoy the extra challenge to my grip strength, and overall endurance. For the beginner jumper however, I recommend choosing a rope better suited for speed training, which I’ll get into briefly a little later. Figuring out your RPM at a comfortable pace is a fair bit easier than doing so at a full sprint, so it is useful to perform them for 5 seconds, as an example, then multiply it by 12. Alternatively, if you can do 10 seconds of sprints, you can then multiply the amount of repetitions by 6. Getting an understanding of these numbers may seem a bit tedious, however it will give you more control over your training, and a clearer picture of your progress.
A great way to structure your training for sprints is finding a repetition split that you can use to alternate between your natural rhythm and sprints. I recommend starting off with higher rep splits at first because sudden changes in speed can be a little more difficult to handle. For example, you can do a split of 10/10, which is 10 reps at your natural rhythm, then 10 reps of sprints. Depending on your skill level, and conditioning, you can also do a higher amount of slower reps, while keeping the sprints the same – a 20/10 split for example. Giving yourself more repetitions of a technique you are comfortable with will allow you to “prime” yourself for the technique you aren’t so comfortable with. What I mean by that is, the new technique doesn’t come naturally yet, you aren’t practiced with it, so it will likely take a little more time to process before attempting it. By allowing yourself a larger grace period in reps, you can progress at a pace that is a little easier to handle. The rep splits can be modified in many different ways to suit your needs. As you improve, you can reduce the amount of reps between changes in order to really test your proficiency, and develop control. Some other pieces of advice I would give are, allow for enough rest between sets. You want to do your best to maintain the quality of your reps, especially at higher speeds, because you will have less room for error. The sprints will put heavy demand on your conditioning, especially early in training when we haven’t developed efficiency to a high degree. The first thing to go when we get tired is technique, so we want to allow for more rest to counter that. Something else to consider is not selling yourself short on your bounce step sprints. It may seem odd, or feel a little strange attempting these, but they are excellent for developing your jump height efficiency.
And now the second strategy for success, understanding how the rope affects your training. Ropes tailored to speed are a great choice for Double Under training and they tend to have short, light handles, with a PVC or Steel Cable rope. This combination will put the least demand on power and conditioning requirements. Having ropes such as leather, cotton, or nylon will put you at a disadvantage because of the heavier demand on the upper body and the limited speed due to the nature of the rope. Going into training with a knowledge of whether or not your rope is a good fit for your training can save a lot of frustration down the line. A note on Steel Cable Ropes because they are heavily associated with Double Unders and anaerobic rope training in general. I greatly encourage having a baseline competency in jump rope before using them because they are much less flexible and can be very painful when striking the body. If you aren’t fully comfortable in your training, and anticipate many errors, I would avoid using a Steel Cable rope. I say this because I started using one very early in my training and went through a lot of pain because of it. It didn’t help that I often trained without a shirt on. A PVC rope will do excellent here, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a steel cable rope.
Having the aforementioned knowledge of how your rope affects training is very valuable and will help optimize your training, however it can be useful, and fun, to challenge yourself by using a rope that puts you at a disadvantage. For example, I love performing power jumps like double and triple unders with a long-handled rope. Using long handles is less efficient, and puts greater stress on the grip and forearms, but is a unique way to take your training to the next level – if you are ready. When learning techniques, I recommend using the most optimal rope you can get your hands on for whatever your goals are, but once you’ve built a high level of competency, and have experience with a rope in general, you can tweak your training to create new challenges. In episode #27 of the podcast I went into detail on the different types of ropes and how they affect training, so I highly recommend checking that out, but for the purposes of this episode, the only thing I would like to add is, when you choose a rope, stick with it. When learning a new skill, it is important to keep as much consistency in the playing field as possible to allow yourself to develop proficiency under those conditions. For example, when first learning to play the guitar, if the pitch of the open strings is changing every time you attempt to play, it will make it extremely difficult to learn because the notes are never consistent. However, once a baseline skill level has been achieved under stable conditions, we are better equipped to handle change down the line. The same goes for the Jump Rope. Allow yourself to become proficient with a certain type of rope, and you’ll develop the skill and comfort level to deal with varying conditions as you progress.
The third strategy for success is breaking down your training into stages. Just like in early bounce step training, it can be very useful to break your Double Under training into parts so it is more manageable, and fruitful. The way to do this is very similar to the methods I’ve discussed in the past relative to the Bounce Step. First would be simulating the Double Under without the rope. Then, the second is putting both handles of the rope into one hand and jumping that way. The final step is to perform a single Double Under, stopping, then resetting. The main difference between using it in this context versus the Bounce Step is the final step would require you to maintain a consistent bounce step before performing one Double Under, stopping, then resetting. At this point though, you should have a consistent Bounce Step, and if you don’t, then you’ll likely need to improve it before progressing to the Double Under. All of these stages will help you get a feel for the movement, improve conditioning, and very importantly, develop your timing. It will also help you build confidence, which is extremely important. Sometimes we can reach a little too far in our training, which can be frustrating and detrimental to our progress long term. If you are having trouble with your Double Unders, break it down into manageable steps, and be sure to alternate between both hands if you are putting both handles into one or the other. I discussed these stages in detail in episode #24 of the podcast, but I do want to briefly recap some key points. In the first stage, your main goal is to begin to apply proper technique your jumps, and allow your body to become accustomed to the Double Under. It’s crucial that you understand what proper technique is at this point because you don’t want to reinforce bad habits early on that will hinder your progress. Use this time to practice proper posture, control your breathing, loosen up, and get an idea of your jump height. In the second stage, you want to carry these things over to jumping with both handles of the rope in one hand. This stage is incredibly important because it will begin to test your ability to bring all of the elements of the Double Under together at a certain rhythm. The rhythm is the key point here because the increased demand on technique, conditioning, speed, and power will throw your rhythm off if you aren’t equipped to handle it. Having the rope in the equation begins to address these things, while still not having to worry about jumping over it. This makes it an excellent bridge to performing proper Double Unders so I recommend spending a lot of time at this stage. For the musically inclined, an approach I took to my Double Under training was to do a 4/4 count, and on the 1, I would count two eighth notes instead, so 1 + 2 3 4, the 1-and being the Double Under, or two rotations of the rope. This gave me a stronger grasp on what I had to do, then it was just a matter of developing the technical skill to do so. The third stage, as expected, brings all of these elements together to begin performing a single repetition of the Double Under. So now we have the technical elements, as well as the rhythmic, but now we have to actually jump over the rope. I recommend sticking to only one repetition here because consecutive repetitions are more difficult, and at this stage we want to ensure we can perform a single Double Under properly before we consider adding any more. The main goal here is to ensure that we are getting over the rope, while maintaining proper technique. If you are unsuccessful in completing it, take a moment to freeze, and look at where the rope caught, where your hands are, how you landed, your posture, and any other information you can glean. Even if you complete the movement, stop and consider what you did well, and reinforce it. Your timing may need some fine tuning because we now have to actually jump over the rope, but just keep at it. Soon enough you’ll be able to perform the Double Under and continue to the Bounce Step without breaking stride, and that is ultimately where we want to land. Give yourself plenty of rest between sets so conditioning doesn’t impede technique too much, and do your best to maintain quality repetitions.
For this episode, I am adding a fourth strategy for success that I didn’t touch on in the vlog, and that is maintaining proper posture. This is most definitely a part of overall proper technique, but I wanted to drill down a little more on it because I think there are some subtleties that might not be apparent from the start. Firstly, keep your head up, and look straight forward. This will likely be hard to do at first because it is common to want to look at the ground in front of us, or even at the rope to get a sense of its timing, especially in the Double Under. This is something I had trouble with in all types jumping, not just Double Unders. I’ve spoken a lot about training in front of the mirror, but it helped me a lot in this particular area. One of the ways I would make sure I kept my head up was simply by observing myself jumping. You certainly can’t do that by staring at the floor so it is a really good way to reinforce the behaviour. It also allowed me to keep an eye on how I was performing which is a huge bonus. Another way to train yourself to keep your head up is by becoming very familiar with what it does to your posture, and how it feels. For me, it tends to make me want to close my chest off by bringing my shoulders forward. This will not only create a slight lean forward, but is also conducive an overall tighter upper body which is inefficient, reduces mobility, and generally uncomfortable. I also just feel very closed off, stiff, and less aware of the rope when I am looking down, which is very unpleasant. By paying attention to how you react, you are much less likely to do it, or quickly correct yourself when you do. A note on breath. Because the Double Under is an explosive movement that tests anaerobic conditioning, you may find you are holding your breath while attempting it, particularly if you are trying consecutive repetitions. This isn’t ideal because you want to remain as relaxed, and composed as possible. Not breathing will make that very difficult. Proper posture is very closely related here because remaining upright, and looking forward will help keep the chest open, and shoulders back for easier breathing, and an overall more relaxed, mobile state. This is especially important for when you get into multiple Double Unders, because efficiency becomes crucial to successfully completing higher amounts of repetitions.
I certainly haven’t covered everything here, but I hope that this proves helpful in your training. I have a lot of other great rope content so be sure to check it out. At the end of the Achieving the Double Under vlog I have a video clip of me performing 100 consecutive Double Unders which will give you a great picture of how it is supposed to look. I have some things I need to improve on as well, but that’s what keeps things interesting.
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