Jumping rope isn't just for kids. It's also a fun and effective workout for adults. You can improve your cardiovascular fitness, torch tons of calories (372 calories in 30 minutes for a 155-pound person) and build lower-body endurance. And it's scalable. So once basic jumps become a breeze, you can add double unders.
Double unders are just what the name implies: The jump rope passes under your feet twice before you land. They're a staple of a lot of CrossFit workouts and a great way to ramp up the challenge and keep you on your toes, both literally and figuratively.
"[Double unders are] definitely an advanced skill, but once you're able to do them you'll be able to unlock another level of fitness," says Dan Witmer, co-founder of Jump Rope Dudes, an online jump rope fitness community.
The Benefits of Double Unders
For starters, double unders are a great cardiovascular exercise. In order to nail the move, you have to jump both higher and faster than a standard skip, which spikes your heart rate in a flash. So don't be surprised if you feel breathless after just a few reps.
"It's almost like when you're running and you go into a sprint," says celebrity trainer Amanda Kloots, a former Broadway dancer and Radio City Rockette who incorporates jump rope exercises into her classes and personal training sessions.
If weight loss is your goal, you should know that the intensity of double unders makes them a valuable calorie-burning addition to any workout. "Because it's such a strenuous movement, it requires you to recruit more muscles, which burns more calories," Witmer says. "It's a great tool to give you a more efficient workout."
Double unders are also fantastic for improving balance and hand-eye coordination. Once you try double unders for the first time, you'll see why: You have to time your jump with the double pass of the rope just right in order to complete the move.
How to Learn to Do Double Unders
If you're used to standard single- or double-leg jump rope skips, double unders will feel pretty awkward at first, as it's usually the timing that trips people up. "Obviously, anyone can do [double unders], I truly believe that," Witmer says, "but in order to get there, the biggest thing is timing."
You not only have to move the jump rope fast in order to get it under your feet twice, but you also have to jump high enough to give the rope enough time to get under you twice before your feet have a chance to land.
But don't worry, with a little practice — and patience — you'll be a double under pro in no time. If you're comfortable with the basic single- and double-leg skip, you're ready to master double unders. And the best way to learn double unders is to practice the rhythm.
Both Kloots and Witmer believe the most effective drill for learning double unders is the body-weight version, or double unders with an invisible jump rope. Here's how to do it:
- Set your jump rope aside but jump as though you still had one in your hands.
- Stay on your toes and keep your knees slightly bent. Your arms should be bent 90 degrees with elbows close to your body, wrists jutting out from the sides of your hips. Move the imaginary jump rope with your wrists (and only your wrists), keeping them close to your sides.
- Count out single-under reps aloud or in your head, jumping with feet hip-width apart). When you reach your fifth rep, jump higher — about six to eight inches off the ground.
- As you jump, whip the imaginary rope once very quickly with your wrists. Don't make the mistake of trying to swing the rope (real or imaginary) twice — swing it hard once and let the momentum carry it around twice. "If you try to spin it around twice, it makes the rope really loose and throws it out of its inertia," Witmer explains.
- Reset if you need, or continue with basic double-leg skips. Again, when you reach the fifth rep, practice doing another double under. Continue practicing the rhythm until you're ready to try it with a jump rope.
Once you're ready to pick up the jump rope again, practice doing intervals where you alternate regular jumps with double unders. Try this sequence:
- Perform 10 single-unders.
- Then, attempt one double under and stop to reset.
- Repeat until you're able to complete a full double under on each attempt.
- Gradually decrease the number of regular jumps before each double under.
Once you feel confident, eliminate the breaks in between sequences. Do a couple of regular skips, perform a double under and go right back into the regular skips without stopping to reset.
Learning the rhythm of the exercise is the hardest part, but once you get over that hurdle, double unders will feel natural. "Once you find the rhythm, it's like riding a bike," Kloots says. "You'll find it never leaves you."
Just keep in mind that double unders are pretty strenuous. If you try to do them every day as a beginner, you'll likely develop shin splints (acute pain in the shin and lower leg), Witmer says. Limit your sessions to two to three times per week, aiming to get 10 to 20 double unders per session, if you can. You'll be able to add reps and sessions as you get stronger.