You’ve come a long way since your days on the playground. You’ve swapped swinging from the monkey bars for pull-ups, traded P.E. kickball for an adult kickball league, and stopped climbing trees in favor of bouldering. You’re all grown up. But there’s one childhood exercise that’s effective (and fun!) enough to take with you into adulthood: jumping rope. And double-unders are jumping rope, but harder. As the name would suggest, the rope passes under your feet twice in one jump.
“From a conditioning standpoint, jumping rope probably ranks higher than running and rowing,” says Maillard Howell, owner of CrossFit Prospect Heights in Brooklyn. “I think it’s probably the most highly underrated conditioning modality.” Hearing a CrossFit coach describe an exercise as “underrated” is enough to convince me to give it a try for myself.
According to Howell, there’s a good reason boxing legend Muhammad Ali used a jump rope as part of his training. “It’s good for speed, agility, conditioning, and endurance. It does it all,” says Howell. Unlike other forms of cardio, jumping rope raises your heart rate almost instantly. And because you can use a jump rope almost anywhere, it also makes executing your workout a bit easier from a logistical standpoint. No more ping-ponging between the treadmill and the weight room to combine cardio and strength training.
Howell suggests combining double-unders (or attempts) with heavy weight movements. “The combo of lifting and jump rope hits two different training stimuli, making it more challenging,” he explains.
For example, perform eight heavy deadlifts, eight weighted lunges, and 10 double-unders (or 30 singles, if you’re still working your way up to them). “There’s something about going from that heavy lifting back to trying to utilize your coordination that becomes very, very challenging,” says Howell. Indeed.
How to master jump rope double-unders
To select a jump rope with the appropriate length, simply step on the center of the rope and pull the handles toward your shoulders. The ends of the rope should hit right at your armpits. If you’re purchasing your own, follow the instructions on the website.
Before attempting double-unders, make sure you’ve got singles mastered. If you haven’t jumped rope recreationally since kindergarten (guilty as charged), start by just hopping in place while clapping.
Once you pick up the rope, Howell’s says to grip the handle with three fingers to prevent overusing your wrists. To work your way up to double-unders, drop the rope and start clapping. Every jump should be met with two claps so you can first become accustomed to the rhythm of the movement.
Finally, you’re ready for the piece de resistance, the move that will turn heads at the gym, the double-unders. Grab the rope and start your “attempts.” If you nail 10 in a row on your first try, snaps to you, but the trainer says attempts count, too. If you’re in for an extra challenge, you can try single, single, double or another mix that challenges your coordination.
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