Perfect your Double Unders: Speed vs Timing

UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor made a brilliant quote after knocking out Jose Aldo in the first 13 seconds of their bout. He said, “Precision beats power and timing beats speed every time”.

Those are the fundamentals he lives and trains by.  I absolutely love that quote because there is a common misconception that speed is the answer to everyone’s double under woes.

The thought process goes; if I could go faster, then double unders would be easier.  Assuming you are still developing your skill and perfecting your technique, try to think of any other athletic movement that requires coordination, and tell me which one becomes easier the faster you try to do it?  I can’t think of any either.  My contention, which is the basis of The Rx Method, is that:‘Timing is more important than speed, and slowing down develops good timing.’

Want to perfect your double under? Start with the right equipment
Want to perfect your double under? Start with the right equipment

Let’s analyze some of the pitfalls we discovered.

These are the unintended consequences of trying to do fast double unders:

  1. Generating speed creates tension in the hands, arms and shoulders.
  2. Increased tension can pull the body out of proper position.
  3. Increased speed increases the potential for error.
  4. Increased speed makes it difficult to develop timing.
  5. Increased speed spikes the heart rate
  6. Last but not least, a faster moving rope hurts much worse when you miss.

This is why it is common to see people in the gym chaotically flailing their way through fast double unders using poor posture with improper hand and arm placement.  Meanwhile, their lungs are on fire while their forearms and shoulders are burning with fatigue. Their run of double unders usually comes to an abrupt stop with the sting of a scorching whip mark across their backside.

Focus on Good Timing

Now let’s discuss the alternative to fast double unders, which is to focus on good timing.  Working hand in hand with developing good timing is actually learning how to slow your rope speed down by increasing the height of your jump (or bound).  By creating more time in the air, you are forced to slow the rope down to match your bounding tempo.  What’s the drawback to this solution?  Only that your fatigue will now be caused by connecting more double unders then you ever thought possible.

Here are some of the positive benefits to bounding higher and slowing down the rope:

  1. Your arms and shoulders would remain more relaxed.
  2. It’s much easier to maintain good positioning when relaxed.
  3. More airtime improves your margin for error.
  4. Your rope would be more visible creating better awareness.
  5. Improved awareness leads to better timing.
  6. Misses do not hurt nearly as bad, if at all.

The two biggest challenges to learning a slower tempo double under is first changing your perception that double unders are supposed to be fast.

Change your Perception of Double Unders

This is farthest from the truth.  Speed is very subjective and specific to each individual.  What you should be focused on first is developing slow, methodical, connected double unders while perfecting your technique and positions.  Like all smart movement training, intensity can be added after integrity of the movement is achieved.

The second challenge after learning slow, methodical double unders is to rearrange your priorities.

It seems very natural to want to speed up the rope to ensure success and counterintuitive to bound higher and allow the rope to casually rotate around your body.

‘The only way to conquer your compulsion of speeding up on double unders is by giving yourself permission to fail.’

You have to not be so focused on the end result (of making the double under) but on the process of feeling a bigger bound and seeing the rope move around you at a relaxed pace.  Each miss will tell you what you need to correct, whether it’s to adjust your timing, bound a little higher, or speed up the rope.  This is when the misses can be more helpful than the makes.

Single under jumping height
Single under jumping height

It is important to note that using a slightly heavier jump rope cord or cable is more conducive to learning slow tempo double unders.  The key is to slow the rope down enough that it still maintains a good arc shape and yet you still feel connected to it through the resistance or “feedback” in your hands.  The problem with a jump rope that is too light is that you have to increase its speed to create the feeling of resistance through centrifugal force, thus defeating the purpose.

‘The goal is to make a heavier rope feel light by using good technique.’

Only then can you make a light rope feel weightless.  The Rx Method proposes that you learn the slowest possible double unders to establish a base, then speed up until you find a comfortable tempo that you can perform 50 and 100 unbroken double unders with minimal effort or spike in heart rate.

  • 50 double unders at an easy tempo should take approximately 30 seconds or less.
  • 100 double unders should take 60 seconds or less.

Once you’ve developed consistency, then you can add in the intensity by speeding up your double unders.  Mix up your training by doing double under speed intervals.  An example would be doing double unders as fast as possible (afap) for 30 seconds with 30 second rest for 10 rounds or afap for 60 sec with 60 sec rest for 5 rounds.  This method will help engrain good positioning and movement patterns while under tension and fatigue.

Double under jumping height
Double under jumping height

Perfecting your Double Unders

In closing, bounding higher and slowing down your tempo and rope speed is simply a technique to develop sound fundamentals, the same way you would establish a base for any new movement.   As your consistency improves it is quite natural to speed up to a comfortable tempo by adjusting bounding height and matching the rope speed to it.

Having the ability to operate at different speeds will make you more competent using a variety of jump rope types.  Practice these fundamentals and soon you too will attack double unders with the same precision and timing that Conor McGregor uses to destroy his opponents in the ring.

 

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About The Author

David Newman is the Founder/CEO of Rx Smart Gear, Inc. He is the inventor of the Rx Jump Rope, Rx Smart Ring and creator of the Rx Method jump rope training program. David began CrossFit in 2008 and earned his Level 1 in 2009. Once a competitor, David now CrossFits everyday to maintain peak fitness. Growing up David participated in wrestling, gymnastics, football, water/snow ski, motocross and distance running. When David is not teaching or ...

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