Let's take a quick step back from double unders. First, imagine you’ve just turned the legal driving age.
Today is the day that you finally get to learn how to drive. Woohoo! Driving school is the first order of business, and other than a couple times where you’ve played with your friend’s go-kart, there’s not a shred of driving experience in your life.
As you arrive at driving school, you can hardly contain your excitement. There’s a nervous tension in the air, and you’re excited to meet the instructor, sit behind the wheel, and finally drive your first real car. Lining the edge of the huge parking lot are the student driver cars. There are small cars, big ones, white ones, red ones, long ones, and short ones. You recognize a few cars, and spot a few that look really sporty. You think to yourself, “I wonder which one I’ll be driving for the next 8 weeks?!”
Your driving instructor walks you to all the way to the back of the lot, and pointing to a car he says, “Here’s the one you’ll be driving!”
He points to a red car. Not just any red car. The fastest red car you’ve ever seen.
It’s a Ferrari 458, seemingly brand new just off the showroom floor.
Turns out, it’s actually the “Ferrari 458 Speciale”… the special racing edition… of a street legal race car. You hardly have time to collect your thoughts when the instructor reaches into his pocket and says, “Here are the keys! I’ll be back in three hours to see how you’re doing” and quickly walks back towards the reception desk.
In the above scenario, how do you think your first day of driving will play out? Remember, this is your first day of driving - ever.
Do you think you’d have a pleasant driving experience? Or would it be filled with frustration, nervousness, and a TON of costly mistakes?
Let’s be honest… you’d be lucky to make it out of there without causing some serious damage. Heck, for many of us, we wouldn’t even be able to figure out how to turn the car on and pull out of the parking space. It seems silly, right? Why would ANYONE expect a complete beginner to be able to handle such a high performance machine? Well…
Bear with me for a second and I’ll bring the analogy home. Many athletes start their CrossFit journey with hardly any experience with a jump rope. Yet three weeks after their first class, they’ve purchased some super-duper speed rope with all the bells and whistles. They assume that speed is their issue when it comes to double unders.
Wrong. This is not what you want. To add insult to injury, they try to learn double unders without any coaching. Could you imagine trying to learn how to drive a race car without anyone helping you?! It’s ludicrous, I know.
Thankfully, I’ve had the opportunity to help hundreds of athletes learn their first double unders in person, and several thousand more have learned double unders through my online coaching.
So today I’m going to show you the exact jump rope selection process that I use to help people find their perfect jump rope for double unders. Remember, just like cars, you should start with something slower and then gradually work your way up to a high performance, super fast model.
Switching ropes every time you try double unders is like trying to learn to drive yet using a different car every time. Just like cars have different speed, acceleration, braking, and controls - jump ropes are certainly not created equal. Why would you make it even harder on yourself?!
Because of this, I highly recommend that everyone buy a jump rope to keep things consistent as they work through the learning process. For beginners, this is the most important piece of training equipment to buy for yourself and will significantly shorten your learning curve. Skip the OLY shoes and buy a rope first 😉
By the end of this article you’ll have an idea of what makes a great jump rope for learning double unders.
Starting with a super fast speed rope often causes athletes to overspin. And to be honest, overspinning is one of the most common errors I see. If you tend to trip up after 3-4 reps, there’s a good chance that you might be going too fast - not too slow!
Instead, get a rope with a slightly heavier cable (cable weight does matter). This will literally force you to slow down your double unders, which can make a huge difference.
I recommend a jump rope cable weight over 3 ounces, and my personal favorites are in the 4 to 5 ounce range. It won’t be the fastest rope you’ll ever spin, but it will help you maintain control!
This may seem like common sense, but twisted and kinked ropes are another major factor that will cause you to trip. If the jump rope isn’t rigid enough, it can actually ball up and twist as you’re trying to pass it around your body, which is going to cause issues.
You want your jump rope to maintain a perfect “U” shape as it spins around your body to maximize your chances of success.
If you already have a rope, perform this simple test. Take it out of your gym bag and hold the rope handles by your side in each hand. Does the jump rope make a perfect, natural “U” shape? Or is it filled with kinks, loops, and twists? If you’ve got a loopy rope, it’s going to be even harder than normal to get the rope to spin properly!
Feedback means that you can feel the rope weight as it spins around your body. A rope that is too light (most speed jump ropes) will offer near-zero feedback, so it will be difficult to understand where the rope is as it spins around your body.
The double under jump-rope and handles might be so light that you have absolutely no clue what’s going on as the rope spins. You just move your hands and hope for the best - a recipe for lots of tripping.
Bonus Double Under Jump Rope Tip: A heavier rope (4 - 5 ounces) will also help you develop your double-under muscles. Sure, knocking out 100 unbroken might not be feasible with a heavier jump rope, but practicing with a heavy rope will make spinning a speed rope even easier down the line. This is similar to how baseball players swing a heavier bat before stepping up to the plate with their lighter bat.
I’d rather have an athlete who can hit 30 reps consistently with a heavier rope than someone who can hit 100 unbroken one day, and only 3 the next. Double unders should be predictable, not hit-or-miss.
Once you start really crushing double unders and hitting 30+ unbroken consistently, this heavy jump rope won’t matter as much and you can move on to faster versions - but - it’s very important in the beginning!
The perfect length varies from person to person, but very simply, the rope should barely touch the ground every time it passes under your feet.
If you don’t hear two distinct “clicks” for each double-under rep, then your rope is too short (or you are lifting your arms and pulling the jump-rope off the ground). Both of these issues can be alleviated by getting a rope that is slightly longer, which will account for any arm lift that might happen as you spin.
If the rope is too long, it can actually bounce back up off the ground and hit your feet - also causing rope trip-ups. One of the best ways to catch this error is to film yourself doing double unders with your jump rope, using SUPER slow motion, which most smartphones can do.
Film yourself doing double unders directly from the side. As you watch the slow motion, you should see the jump rope making contact with the ground just a few inches in front of your feet. If the rope is hitting the ground 10+ inches in front of you, then your rope might be too long.
The key is finding a rope that is in that perfect ‘sweet spot’ for double unders - which may take some adjustments as you work through it. It’s impossible to give a one-size-fits-all recommendation because everyone has different body dimensions, but I always suggest starting with a slightly longer double under jump rope and then slowly shortening as you get better and more efficient!
When you take the time to combine the five factors above, you will find yourself with a fantastic double under jump rope!
The good news is, there are TONS of different double under jump rope options out there for you to choose from. It really doesn’t matter what brand, as there are hundreds of viable options out there.
To cut down on the confusion, we’ve partnered with the amazing people at Crossrope™ to make the ultimate jump rope system for learning double unders. And it’s even got cool WODprep handles!
It combines the best of both worlds - a heavy 5oz rope for double under coordination and strength practice, and also a fast 2oz rope for ultimate double under speed. Generally speaking, we have athletes practice with both ropes, quickly interchanging them with Crossrope’s patented Infinity Rope System™.
When you have the ability to switch back and forth between heavy and speed ropes, it enables you to get the hang of double unders more quickly.
Another great option for a very basic, beginners rope is WOD Nation’s Attack Speed Jump Rope. This allows you to interchange between a lighter cable, and a heavier cable, which as we discussed above, is perfect for someone still learning. It doesn’t allow cable switching quite as fast, but the cheaper price tag makes it a great option for a beginner on a budget.
No matter which route you take, just be sure to keep the five factors in mind for double under jump ropes:
Still have questions regarding finding the right double under jump rope? Need some more double-under pointers? Comment below, and a WODprep coach will get back to you with the answers you’re looking for.
If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out our free double under training guide (below) where I’ll walk you through the simple step-by-step progression we’ve used to help thousands of athletes get their first unbroken double under reps.
The CEO and Head Coach at WODprep, Ben is passionate about helping fitness athletes of all abilities get their competitive edge and learn new skills! He's currently living in Denver, Colorado with his wife and two dogs, and whenever possible the two love to travel and explore new places around the world (and meet new WODprep athletes).
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