Like any good Hollywood movie, my double unders journey hits all of the plot points within a hero’s quest: the unlikely champion, the near-death experience, the call to action, the appearance of the mentor, hitting rock bottom until that unbeatable attitude shines through and of course, the secret weapon.
I believe that if I can learn double unders, and do them well, then anybody can.
Believe me, I’m not some chosen hero like ‘Neo’ was in the Matrix. “I’m just some guy”. A father of three, here today to share my Double Under Underdog story and the few things I’ve noted on my journey that might help you too.
I started my functional fitness journey way back in 2011 and, like many, struggled with all the skilled movements. One skill seemed to have it out for me: double unders. I went through cycles of practicing for a few weeks. Giving up. Trying again. Nothing seemed to help.
Fast forward to the 2015 CrossFit® Open where I thought I was going to die.
If you recall workout 15.3 was:
14 minute AMRAP
- 7 Muscle Ups
- 50 Wall Balls
- 100 DUs
I was doing everything I could to string double unders together so that I could finish one measly round (I’d end the workout 56 DU short - not even close). While most athletes were worried about the ring muscle ups, I was floundering on “the easy part”.
My frantic, broken double under attempts led to a splitting headache that suddenly went off like a thunder clap in my head as the WOD ended. My head hurt so bad I thought I was going to drop dead with an aneurysm. It was scary, painful and another upsetting DU experience. It would take weeks for the headaches to go away.
My New Year’s resolution on Jan 1st, 2016 (five years after my CrossFit journey started) remained the same - conquer double unders.
A NEW HOPE
Little did I know that the 2016 Open was going to give me a sliver of hope. I unexpectedly landed my first ever bar muscle up in 16.3! I remember thinking,
"What if I actually practiced these movements during the off season....instead of waiting for the Open?"
This would be the start of a pretty epic year.. Six months later, having added kipping TTB, pull-ups, handstand push-ups and even ring muscle ups to my CrossFit toolbox, I was ready to take those lessons learned and tackle my greatest challenge - double unders.
But I knew couldn’t do it alone.
As luck would have it, WODprep was launching something new at the time - it’s first ever small group coaching program solely focused on Double Unders. Coach Ben was looking for a group of dedicated athletes willing to be beta testers. Knowing that I had made zero progress in years and years of trying, I was ready for a mentor to teach me the ways of double unders.
So with my new “Ferrari 458 Speciale rope” (don’t get the analogy… check out this post on double under jump ropes) I landed a lucky five double unders in my baseline attempt. Ben had his work cut out for him over the next few weeks - check out my baseline video below.
(Notice how fast my rope was? BAD IDEA!)
DOUBLE UNDERS STRIKE BACK
As the weeks went by, other athletes proudly posted incredible double under transformations while mine didn’t seem to change... though I did start wearing long-sleeve shirts and wristbands so I could keep skipping through the painful whips.
The group dynamic was awesome, and the feedback and encouragement I got was instrumental in my transformation. Not to mention, the WODprep video analysis and feedback consistently made my mechanics better; now if we could get my rope under control.
Before I knew it the program’s 8 weeks were coming to a close and it was time to test my how far my double unders had come; I was ready for a miracle. I got to the gym, set up the clock and posted a new PR of... 4!!
Yet I was pretty unfazed. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and so instead of pouting I decided to focus on all the many small victories and improvements I made over the 8 weeks. I wasn’t getting consistent double unders yet, but both Coach Ben and I knew they were close. It was amazing to see the majority of the group posting new PR’s. One guy, Stephane, went from 3 to 107 unbroken. It was unreal.
Their successes allowed me to refocus my efforts on the one goal I had since beginning CrossFit® years prior: conquer double unders once and for all.
So, with lifetime access to Ben’s course, I dusted myself off and got back to work.
10 days later (I kept a journal) I had my worst double under day EVER.
THE DARKEST HOUR IS BEFORE THE DAWN
I caught myself on the back of the ear with the rope and thought I was going to pass out, it hurt so bad (did I mention yet how terrible uncoated speed ropes are for beginners?). So I did something I vowed I wouldn’t do: I let DU’s get the best of me. I slammed my rope to the ground and stormed out of the gym.
I wasn’t meant to do double unders! I gave it my best shot, but double unders knocked me to the ground battered and broken. I had enough.
FLASHBACK: 3 WEEKS PRIOR
Throughout the program, I scoured the Internet daily for anything double under related that could help me on my quest. Very early on, I came across the website for Crossrope™. They sold high-quality, heavy ropes that I thought could help me with my double unders. As the Double Unders Unleashed program finished, I thought more about Coach Ben’s observation of how my speed rope seemed to fly around me with no real whip or control. His words were, “It looks like you need a heavier rope.”
So I bit the bullet, pulled out my wallet (again), and decided to invest in the Crossrope™ Starter set. Little did I know... this simple transaction would change everything.
DOUBLE UNDERS AWAKEN
I went out to the driveway, and practiced the mechanics that Coach Ben taught during Double Unders Unleashed. I started with some “big singles” and then started with 1 DU… it didn’t go so badly… so I tried for 2… oh, not bad… 3... my confidence grew. I decided to go for it, I turned on my camera and…
Coach Ben would later call this “The fist pump heard ‘round the World.”
A new PR of 21 double unders! Holy Guacamole!!! I was almost in tears when I texted my wife. I could do double unders!!
I couldn’t wait to tell Ben. I wanted to show him this huge PR, but I also had to tell him about this magical jump rope. I reached out to Dave Hunt, the CEO of Crossrope™, to share the news and put him in touch with Ben. Sure enough, when Ben got a hold of the rope to test them, he loved them. So much so, that he incorporated heavy rope training into his newly remastered Double Unders Unleashed program.
UPDATE: Recently Ben and the Crossrope™ team combined forces and designed the WODprep Crossrope Set, specifically for double under training!
Sure I could do double unders with a “heavy rope” but that didn’t always translate when picking up a speed rope. For that, I spent weeks jumping between cable weights; heavy to medium, medium to light, light to heavy. Though this constant change resulted in lots of trip-ups, amazing things were happening.
A few weeks later, I finally started to ‘feel’ my speed rope like Coach Ben had told me, and promptly set a PR of 88.
Shortly after that I hit 177 unbroken.
THE TRUE TEST
These emotions were incredible, but nothing would beat the euphoria I felt during 17.5 (10 rounds for time of 9 thrusters and 35 double unders).
Despite having to break up my thrusters into sets of 5 & 4, I nearly went unbroken on the double unders each round. A very respectable performance for the guy who started the year with only 4 double unders.
One year later...
By the time 18.3 was announced - a chipper with 400 DU’s per round - I was a different athlete. No longer were 100 double unders going to cause brain-splitting headaches. In 18.3, I did the first two sets of DU’s unbroken, and then broke them into sets of 50. I’d finish that workout 184 worldwide in my age group and 7th in my region.
Double unders were no longer my greatest weakness. Instead, it’s now one of my greatest strengths.
Like Maverick, after becoming a coach I returned to WODprep to help others on their quest for Rx skills, including double unders! Nothing is more gratifying than helping other athletes find their “aha” moment and learn a skill they never thought possible. There’s no shortage of testimonials that illustrates this joy.
CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON
Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, Captain America's shield, or even Harry Potter’s wand: using the right weapon is an integral part of any hero’s journey.
So for your own hero’s journey, let me suggest two double unders weapons... new and improved from what I used during my DU quest:
- The highly successful Double Unders Unleashed program
When designing the new WODprep Jump rope, Coach Ben teamed up with Crossrope™ to create an exclusive set, specifically designed to help you learn unbroken double unders. The set features a 2oz and 5 oz cable that can be changed in less than 5 seconds.
When most athletes buy a 'heavy' rope they tend to choose a cable weight around 3oz. We've found that this isn't quite heavy enough for most beginners, and for that reason we chose a tightly-wound 5oz cable that’s heavy enough for even the most stubborn double under-er. 5oz gives athletes the most training “bang for their buck”, and we’ve paired it with a great 2oz option for those who are speed hungry!
The custom designed handles feature a special clipping mechanism that moves the rope’s “point of the rotation” away from your hands. This is key, because the extra hand clearance helps fix common flaws that beginners often make, like lopsided spinning.
Of course, Crossrope™ isn’t the only rope out there. Other brands like Rx Gear, RPM and WOD Nation offer heavier ropes as well. Overall, it’s great to see heavy rope training being recognized as a key way to learn double unders. Regardless of which rope you choose, you’ll be the right path.
When my Crossrope set arrived I was at a tipping point. I had done all the work and just needed something to push me over the edge to make everything “click” once and for all. For many athletes, getting a heavy rope might not be a magic bullet right away. However, I’ve seen it work with a ton of our athletes. So, if you’re struggling with double unders and have the desire to star in your own “Hollywood underdog story”, then a heavy rope can help.
Double unders can be hard, frustrating, and just plain mean. You either breeze through them, or struggle, which is exactly the reason why they show up in every Open. So, take a few pointers from my own journey:
- Hire a watchful eye (a coach...like me!)
- Invest in the right rope
- Stay focused on the process (even when you’re being whipped repeatedly by your rope)
Oh yeah… and if there’s a hotshot CrossFit®-loving producer out there who understands this story of blood, sweat, and tears - I’m totally open to turn my story into a box-buster hit (get it..?). I think Targon Edgerton from Kingsman: The Secret Service would be a good choice to play me, although my wife says I’m more handsome 😉
If this hypothetical movie is ever made, which Hollywood actor should play the role of Coach Ben? Vin Diesel? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? Ben Affleck? Comment below and let us know what you think.
Also, feel free to ask me any double-under-specific questions you might have! I’m here to help 🙂 If I can learn double unders - ANYONE CAN!