Double unders. The movement we all love to hate. There's something innately satisfying about hearing your rope swish past you, but mastering them can take years. Even at the elite level, many athletes find double unders consistently infuriating - they might be fine with a normal rope but with the increasing use of drag ropes and weighted ropes in competitions, it becomes a whole new skill to learn, and you're back at square one. So where to start on becoming a double under master?
It's all in the rhythm
Rhythm is the most important aspect in learning double unders. Understanding the 'beat' is key, and to do this, perform this simple drill. Without a rope, just jump on the spot and clap your hands to the sides of the legs in time with each jump. Start with one clap for each jump and then move to two claps for every jump, just as you do when performing a double under. It should almost sound like a heartbeat - two short claps for each jump. Pay attention to the sound - imagine the sound of a heart beating and replicate that.
Pay attention to those wrists
Once you're understood the rhythm, it's time to think about what the wrists are doing. Often athletes hold on to their ropes too firmly, gripping on for dear life. This makes turning the rope fast really difficult. Instead, you want to hold loosely onto the handles. Without a rope, imagine you're holding onto a pen - this is the position you want to be in. Instead of a full grip, hold the handle loosely between your thumb and middle finger., with your index finger helping with support. From here you want loose wrists to ensure you spin the rope fast enough. Try this drill - put both handles into one hand, and have the rope to the side of you. Now focus on spinning the rope to the same rhythm as you did the penguin claps - listen to the sound of rope hitting the floor. Keep your wrists loose and grip relaxed. Another good way to understand the wrist movement is hold two items that can replicate handles of the rope and mimic the movement (but without having to worry about the rope). Try holding two marker pens, one in each hand, and practice the hand motion, to the 'heart beat' rhythm.
Putting it all together
Once you have an idea of the rhythm and the hand and wrist movement, it's time to put everything together. Start with some single skips but gradually increase the height of your jump (and in doing so, slowing down the speed of your skip). This is all a double under is - a higher, slower jump but with two spins of the wrist. After some big and slow singles, try to spin your wrists around twice before going back to single skips. Keep repeating this; so single, single, double, single, single, double. Once you start to get a feel for what the double is like, try linking a few together; so single, single, double, double. You don't want to get caught in a trap that many athletes get stuck in, where you can only perform single, double, single, so start out practicing this but always try to move to linking a few as soon as possible, so that pattern doesn't get too engrained.
Practice practice practice
Sounds simple really, but the best way to learn double unders is to put a LOT of consistent practice in. Not just once or twice a week, aim to do 10 minutes before or after your class every single day (obviously keep an eye on how those calves are feeling and rest when needed!). It's going to be frustrating and you'll feel like you're going nowhere, but the best way to get them is just consistent practice.