Equal parts loved and loathed, double-unders play an important role in many CrossFit workouts. They regularly appear in the CrossFit Open and have a reputation for being pretty tricky to RX — but they are a great exercise to learn for many reasons.
Simply put, double-unders are like a grown up version of the Jump Rope games you used to play in the school playground, but completely upgraded to help you improve your athletic ability. According to David Newman, L-1 CrossFit trainer and CEO of RXSG:
“While classic jumping rope and double-unders are very similar in appearance, when done correctly, the tempo, timing, required coordination, and benefits are actually quite different.”
To complete each double-under correctly, you must make two full rotations with the rope in a single jump, making it an exercise all about technique, precision and timing. But what are the benefits of double-unders? How do they help you become a better CrossFitter?
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What are the Benefits of Learning Double-Unders?
You might feel like putting your energy into learning how to do double-unders is better spent elsewhere, but it’s an exercise that comes with a ton of benefits.
Double-unders work many muscle groups in the legs, core, and shoulders. The movement trains everything from the forearms and traps to the ankle tendons, calves, and hamstrings. They also come with a bunch of cardiovascular benefits too, improving:
Unlike running, assault bikes, burpees, and other compound cardio exercises, double-unders usually need practise to get them perfect and Open-ready. As it is an exercise you have to work on, RXing the movement will result in better focus and improved coordination, which in turn will help improve your agility, speed and endurance in other areas of CrossFit.
Double-unders also burn a bunch of calories, so are a great quick and easy exercise you can do from home if you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight. The longer you keep your heart rate elevated, the more calories you’ll burn — on average a 150lb person should burn up to 150 to 200 calories every 20 minutes just by doing double-unders.
It’s important to remember that success with double-unders takes time and patience. It’s a skill that doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so practise is key before you incorporate them into your workouts. There is also no shame in starting with single-unders and working up — it’s all about what works for you and you’ll learn a lot from simply attempting this movement.
How to Avoid Injury When Training Double-Unders
No one wants to experience injuries with any exercise that they do, but even in seemingly innocuous movements, injuries could still occur. Therefore it’s always good to take preventative measures so that you don’t hurt yourself while completing a workout. Some injuries that could occur from working on double-unders are shin splints, calf strain, or stress fractures, to name a few.
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Here are some ways to avoid any issues:
- When practising double-unders make sure you have the right shoes, something with good shock absorbers that protects your ankles on impact with the ground.
- Pick the right surface to jump on. Hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt put stress on the joints, so it’s recommended to find softer ground while you’re learning. Eg, rubber or wooden flooring.
- Listen to your body: If any part of your anatomy feels uncomfortable (beyond what’s expected) then take regular breaks or lower your intensity.
- Stretch and warm-up! This will decrease your chances of developing muscle strain, cramps, and other unpleasant setbacks.
Finally, don’t give up! It’ll be frustrating and tedious from time to time but with a little hard work, you’ll be hitting those unbroken reps in no time.