The double-under looks simple. After all, it's just jumping a little higher and spinning your rope faster so that it passes twice before you touch the ground. But looking simple and being simple are two different things. "People struggle with double-unders and think, 'it's a jump rope, man, I should be able to do this,'" says Josh Bunch, owner of Practice CrossFit in Troy, Ohio. Bunch has been making instructional CrossFit videos since 2007, and he says that his tutorial on double-unders is one of his all-time most viewed — proof that you're not the only one to be bested by it.
Even if you're not into CrossFit, which relies on the double-under as a workout staple, the move is great for building cardiovascular endurance and burning fat. Because your body has to work harder to complete the higher jump, you burn more calories in a shorter amount of time than a regular, single jump. Plus, "It builds the soft tissue that you need for the rebound, and it builds coordination, too, which is a key component of CrossFit or any fitness program," says Bunch.
Here are the four steps to start hitting consecutive double-unders every time:
Master Your Singles
Bunch says that you shouldn't even consider tackling the double-under until you can do singles in your sleep. "It's like trying to learn to run before you walk. You should be able to bust out 40 singles in a row without blinking," he says.
To get good at singles, make sure you have a rope that fits you well. Ideally, when you stand on the bottom of the rope, the handles should just about reach your armpits. Focus on keeping your jump small and try to keep the rope from dragging across the ground as it passes under your feet. Dragging slows the rope and increases the likelihood you'll catch it on your foot. Finally, "Relax. If you can forget yourself and just jump, you'll get it," says Bunch.
Practice the Power Jump
The double-under isn't just about swinging your rope faster. To execute the move, you need to be airborne long enough to get the rope around twice. To get better at this, you need to practice your power jump. Start by doing singles. Once you get into a rhythm, take a jump two inches higher. You shouldn't need to alter your rope swing, but if you're worried about tripping, practice first without a rope.
Keep proper form while perfecting your power jump. "Some people pick up their knees and then end up slamming their feet into the ground. I worry about that impact," says Bunch. Another common mistake is bending at the waist and bringing your feet forward. Stay as upright as possible and launch yourself from the balls of your feet. If you're just getting into shape, add lateral hops and pogos to your workout routines to build the ankle strength you'll need.
Perfect Your Spin
Molly Metz, a former world champion jump rope athlete who has a record for 1,400 consecutive double-unders in 10 minutes, says that once you've got the jump down, "the double-under is simply adding the flicks, or rotations, of the wrist."
A double-under requires two flicks of the wrist, but it's a different wrist movement from singles. Bunch compares it to skipping a stone, and says that the movement needs to come from your wrist, not your shoulders. Another problem Bunch sees regularly is that people rely too much on one hand to spin the rope. If he suspects this is an issue, he'll tie a couple whiffle balls on strings to a pair of jump rope handles. You should be able to make both whiffle balls rotate in circles as you jump.
Finally, make sure your arm position — elbows near your waist, hands in front and out to the sides of your hips — doesn't change as you spin. If your hands come away from your sides, you'll tighten the rope, increasing the likelihood of tripping. The same is true if your hands move higher up your body. Try to jump in the same spot, too. The more you move around, again, the bigger the likelihood that you'll trip on your rope.
Build Up Gradually
Once you get your first double-under, it's tempting to try and rip through 100 more, but Bunch warns against that. "Do a double-single-double combo before you start linking them together. You need to build up your feet, ankles, and legs so they're ready for that rebound."
After a few sessions of doing alternating single and double jumps, you should have both the strength and skill you need to go all-in on the double-under. Try making a workout with them by alternating between a minute of double-unders and a minute of a strength move — like squat to overhead press with dumbbells — and watch the sweat pour off of you.
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