Single Unders: Your Double Unders Missing Link

Written By Brent Tiesma  |  Double Unders 

Have you heard about Double Unders Unleashed? It's our double under coaching program that's helped hundreds of athletes learn unbroken double unders. Today I'm going to let you in on a little secret from inside of the course...

Single unders are more important than you think. 

In fact, if you've been struggling to master double unders for the longest time, and things just don't seem to "click", then read on.

Since I started coaching with WODprep in 2017, I’ve been fortunate to be part of countless of athletes’ success stories in their  journey to unlocking double unders. I have a lot of love for the 8 week Double Unders Unleashed program, especially as one of the original graduates of the program myself.  

Prior to the course I struggled for years with DU’s and it wasn’t until I invested in WODprep coaching and a heavy rope that my world changed. So, trust me, if there is anyone who understands you wanting to breakdown to tears when it comes to double unders - it’s me. You can read all about my Double Unders Hollywood story here if you're interested. 

single unders are important

One thing I’ve observed since reviewing hundreds of attempts as a WODprep coach is that if jump rope foundation isn’t there - DU’s don’t magically appear. This has led to a strong conviction that the secret to double unders - for many - can be found in the penguin drill. 

DU's and The Penguin Drill 

The penguin drill, often referred to as penguin claps, is when you simply jump in place and at the apex of your jump, tap your hips twice with your hands - like you are doing a DU. That’s it. You’re not even holding a jump rope. 

Much like the air squat being the king of all squatting movements, the penguin clap is an unloaded movement with all the components of the double under built in. It trains tempo, timing, jumping and even hand position. Back in 2016, Coach Ben was praising the penguin drill as the number one DU drills for beginners and he was right. 

Yet the real star of this show is the single under since it requires a jump rope - and moves us a step closer to DU success.

I know what you’re thinking. Your gym probably makes you do double the amount of single unders for every DU you can’t do. You’re doing hundreds of single unders already... so then how come you can’t already double under?

The same reason that despite driving everyday, we’re not racing cars in the Indy 500.

If I asked you right now, you could probably bang out a near world record set of single unders without mechanics playing any issue. Once we get the hang of jumping over a moving rope as it gets close to our feet, it no longer challenges us.

Single Unders: What's the Catch?

Here’s the thing: there’s a good chance that we’re performing all those reps on autopilot without much regard to form. From then on, every time we jump rope we’re actually reinforcing bad mechanics.

Think about it, when was the last time you thought about how well you were performing your single unders? Which is understandable. Single under form only becomes an issue once we start adding the complexity of DU’s to it.

Now, any underlying issues in our single under mechanics compound and multiply and that easy single under now becomes a trainwreck at a bottomless pit of double under misery. That’s the exact reason DU’s show up in every CrossFit Open®... it demonstrates that you’ve crawled yourself out of the depths of hell (or haven’t yet).

Even Dave Hunt, Crossrope CEO and a Jump Rope expert echos the same sentiment: 

“The upper body mechanics of a proper single under and double under are identical. If you are unable to perform proper single unders, then double unders will be at worst, impossible to learn and at best, tremendously inefficient.”
If you’re an athlete who has tried ‘everything’ and still nowhere close to getting consistent DU’s… then there is a good chance that perfecting your single unders could lead to the DU breakthrough you’ve been dreaming about. 
single under solutions

Change how you think about single unders

It’s not a simple jump over the rope any more. It’s optimal patterning for DU’s! As Malcom Gladwell notes in his book Outliers, it takes 10,000 hour to reach mastery. However, it’s not simply accumulating 10,000 hours that makes an expert. It’s accumulating 10,000 focused hours.

We’ll need focused single under training to move us forward. Secondly, understand our journey may need an investment in heavy ropes. In our experience, cables heavier than 4 ounces help us feel and control the rope as it turns around us - and the sheer weight challenges our form while strengthening our core, bound and wrist mechanics. It’s a whole lot of awesome rolled into one.

However before we do any of that, let’s see if you’re someone who could use a single under makeover. To check this, we’ll need space, a phone camera and a jump rope.

If you’re a WODprep Jump rope user, use your 2oz cable. Set a camera up at waist height and record footage of your penguin clap, single under and double attempt from a 45 degree angle with the full movement in frame. 

  • Record 20 seconds of the penguin claps
  • Record 20 seconds of single unders
  • Record 20 seconds double under attempts
Here's an example of all three movements, filmed back to back. After filming, review your video and screen grab the top of each bound. You should have 3 pictures, like so.
single under training

What do you notice from my pictures above? That’s right, my form is nearly the same for each movement. If we have strong mechanics all three pictures should look relatively the same. Let’s examine your screen grabs now.

If you’re someone whose penguin clap and SU looks similar (especially with your hand position) but your DU look different, you’re likely an athlete that can move right into our 8 week Double Unders Unleashed course. However, if your penguin claps or SU doesn’t look like mine above, then single under training could be our missing piece.

However, don’t put your rope away just yet. Let’s breakdown single under mechanics so we can perform them better. It could be that your dependance on single unders that's holding you back and now it’s time to go for it! With the proper DU drills and focus, it's time to make your single under skills work for you."

Slow motion video analysis
Hold high on the handles 

With a handshake like grip, hold the handle between your forefinger and thumb. This should be closer to the top of the rope.

A higher grip also gives us much more control over the rope and vital for flicking the rope when we get to the DU. Often athletes will grip closer to the bottom of the rope, thinking it makes the rope longer but actually creates a flatter arch that shortens the rope.

Look ahead not up

Keep your head and eyes forward. Looking up will compromise our positioning by giving us a proud chest and setting our shoulders back.

Jump straight up and down

Jump up and down like you’re on a pogo stick by jumping lightly through the mid-foot while remaining long and tall with our feet under our hips. Remember, the key is to keep our core and glutes turned on. If we lose that positioning we’ll lose our jump mechanics.

Keep your hands by your hips

Aim to keep the hands inline with our hips by keeping the elbows back with a slight bend in them. This should keep our hands 6-12” from our sides. When in doubt go back to your penguin claps as they set your best hand positioning.

Move the rope through your wrists

Here’s where so many athletes fail. We want to move the rope primarily through our wrists and forearms. Not the elbows and shoulders. Often we’ll see either big hand circles here or completely locked out arms with the rope being moved through the shoulders.

Following those cues will help you perform flawless single unders.

Here’s a quick recap:

  1. Hold high on the handles
  2. Look ahead not up
  3. Jump straight up and down
  4. Keep your hands by your hips
  5. Move the rope through your wrists

Now, let’s double knot our laces and do a simple EMOM to reinforce these new SU mechanics. 

6 Minute EMOM
  • Min 1 • 20 seconds Penguin Claps
  • MIn 2 • 20 seconds Single Unders 

Let’s finish up by filming our last set of 20 second single unders. How does it compare to the first set we filmed earlier? Were we able to make changes in our mechanics?

If not, no worries it can be a hard thing to correct in just a few minutes. 

Introducing: Single Under Solution

It should come as no surprise that we’ve since created a 5 week single under course called Single Under Solution for those athletes struggling with double unders at the foundational level. The course covers everything you need to perfect your single unders.

While perfect single unders by no means guarantees double unders, they do make DU’s far more attainable than ugly single unders ever will. So, if you’re an athlete who gave DU’s a serious shot but were emotionally traumatized by the experience... our single under course may hold the key for you.

Join our Double Unders Unleashed program and you’ll get Single Under Solution and WODprep’s world-class coaching as an added bonus. 

Looking forward to seeing you in our private Single Under Solution Facebook group! Happy jump roping!

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