By Coach KB
With all of the hype about “functional” fitness, we spend a fair amount of time explaining why you might need to develop strength through movements like the front squat, the pullup, or even the defensive slide. All of these exercises existed before “functional” fitness became the new buzz-word in gyms worldwide, it’s just that now we put specific emphasis on how these movements translate to actions and activities found outside the gym. Exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups at the same time, flex and extend multiple joints throughout the movement, and require a large amount of core-stabilization can be categorized as “functional.” This is why a bicep curl would not be considered a functional movement. You might develop some sweet looking guns but if the muscle is not trained to activate in harmony with the surrounding muscle groups then you will never be able to use it for much more than a dumb bicep curl.
With that definition, you may be wondering why in the heck we do double-unders at the gym and especially why we are spending three weeks focusing specifically on improving this skill. Here is my short-and-sweet rationale for including double-unders (and really any plyometric/agility exercises such as lateral cone jumps or the ladder): double-unders, especially when performed consecutively, develop speed, agility, coordination, endurance, and stamina. Additionally, as with every functional exercise, the requirement to focus on multiple actions happening at once develops neurological intelligence. This, in particular, will carry over and make all other movement patterns more efficient. BOOM!
You all have made such amazing progress with your double-unders in the short amount of time we have been intentionally working on them. Now that many of you can complete one, five, or even twenty-five in a row, we are going to take our training to the next level so you can string them together more efficiently. Here is my Top Eight list of training tips to improve your performance with double-unders.
1) Don’t underestimate the importance of mastering the single-under. Wax-on, wax-off… right? You can’t be a master of anything unless you have a solid foundation in the basics. No one tries a Gainer before they can do a simple dive into the pool. All of these tips for stellar SUs directly translate to proper DU form:
- Focus your gaze onto one point with your head looking forward or maybe slightly down.
- Keep your jump low to the ground, using your calf muscles to generate the jump.
- Keep your elbows in close to your sides and your arms slightly in front of your body.
- Your wrists circle to create the movement of the rope - not your elbows or shoulders; keep those on lock-down.
- Push and pull the handle around in little circles with your thumb and side of your forefinger.
- Keep your torso straight up or even leaning slightly forward.
- Establish a rhythm or cadence in your jumping, as if you have a metronome ticking with each jump.
2) Practice! Okay, duh. But seriously… practice! It really has been incredible how much improvement many of you have made in the three days a week we incorporate a skill-drill into the workout. If you want to improve at your DUs (and, let’s be honest, everything in life) you have to dedicate time to practicing. Once you master one, go for the double-single-double-single pattern. Once you get that, try two in a row and then a few singles. If you can do a few in a row, set a goal for more. If you can do 50 in a row, go for 100. If you can do 100, can you do them on one foot or can you do triple unders? Practice is all about achieving small goals and setting new ones so we are constantly challenging ourselves. Never get complacent.
3) Once you can do a few DU in a row, start choosing the DU option in the workout. Even when we give the option to do 300 SU instead of 100 DU… Go for it! It will take you longer, but you will get better so much faster! (If you really don’t want to slow down and miss out on all the other fun parts of the workout, then you best refer back to #2 and do some freaking amazing SU.)
4) Point your toes toward the ground during the jump. This is especially important if you are in the habit of piking your feet forward or tucking them up in your jumps.
5) Increase the efficiency of your jump by keeping your jumps low to the ground (#4 will help with this). It is natural to jump higher when you are learning, but as you improve, you will need less of a jump to clear the pass of your rope. Increasing the efficiency of your jump is the secret to stringing more DU together without feeling like you want to die gasping for air.
6) Use the right tools. I have a few things to say about the actual jumprope itself:
- Ensure your rope is a proper length. Using a long rope can be easier, but it allows you to get by with inefficient form. If you notice your arms are flying out away from your sides and are getting tired pretty easily, odds are your rope is too long. As you get better at DUs, work with a shorter and shorter rope until you get to a length that just clears your head.
- Start with a heavier rope like the plastic ones we have at the gym. You will be better able to feel where the rope is in space, thus making your first few DUs more successful. After you can consistently do eight or ten in a row, you can move to a lighter speed-rope to reduce the arm fatigue that comes from spinning a heavier rope.
- If you use the adjustable speed ropes we have at the gym, you may want to invest in your own to bring to class (and to practice at home!). Unless you measure exactly how far you set the screws, you are starting from scratch if you work with a different rope-length each time you come to class. Having your own rope ensures the same-length rope each time and allows you to make micro-adjustments to the length as you get better.
- If you do end up getting your own rope, know that a longer handle makes for an easier spin; shorter handles are more challenging.
7) Relax. If you find yourself holding your breath, red in the face, flailing in the air like a fish out of water you need to stay calm. Breathe. Loosen up your arms and shoulders. Stay light on your toes. Did I mention breathe?
8) Similar to #7, chill out! They are just double-unders. Not even a championship match of anything at any level is something to get angry about. I see so many people that FREAKING. HATE. DOUBLE UNDERS. If you are frustrated, that’s okay. I get it. But you have to train yourself to be okay with sucking for awhile. Approaching anything with a bad attitude and one of defeat before you start will get you nowhere. You have to begin each round with the belief that THIS will be the time you get your first DU. If you have plateaued at x-number in a row, stay calm, breathe, maybe even smile! It’s not that serious. Try again, but this time HAVE FUN!