Imagine you’ve just turned the legal driving age.
Today is the day that you finally get to learn how to drive. Woohoo! Driving school is the first order of business, and other than a couple times where you’ve played with your friend’s go-kart, there’s not a shred of driving experience in your life.
As you arrive at driving school, you can hardly contain your excitement. There’s a nervous tension in the air, and you’re excited to meet the instructor, sit behind the wheel, and finally drive your first real car.
Lining the edge of the huge parking lot are the student driver cars. There are small cars, big ones, white ones, red ones, long ones, and short ones. You recognize a few cars, and spot a few that look really sporty. You think to yourself, “I wonder which one I’ll be driving for the next 8 weeks?!”
Your driving instructor walks you to all the way to the back of the lot, and pointing to a car he says, “Here’s the one you’ll be driving!”
He points to a red car.
Not just any red car.
The fastest red car you’ve ever seen.
Okay, now back to reality.
In the above scenario, how do you think your first day of driving will play out? Remember, this is your first day of driving - ever.
Do you think you’d have a pleasant driving experience? Or would it be filled with frustration, nervousness, and a TON of costly mistakes? Keep in mind that replacing a single wheel for the 458 Speciale will cost you around $2,000 (yikes).
Let’s be honest… you’d be lucky to make it out of there without causing some serious damage.
Heck, for many of us, we wouldn’t even be able to figure out how to turn the car on and pull out of the parking space.
It seems silly, right? Why would ANYONE expect a complete beginner to be able to handle such a high-performance machine?
This is EXACTLY what many of you are doing with double unders.
Bear with me for a second and I’ll bring the analogy home...
Many athletes start their CrossFit® journey with hardly any experience with a jump rope. Yet three weeks after their first class, they’ve purchased some super-duper speed rope with all the bells and whistles. They assume that speed is their issue. They want the best of the best so that they can be the best.
Wrong. This is not what you want. To add insult to injury, they try to learn double unders without any coaching. Could you imagine trying to learn how to drive a race car without anyone helping you?! It’s ludicrous, I know.
Thankfully, I’ve had the opportunity to help hundreds of athletes learn their first double unders in person, and several thousand more have learned double unders through my online coaching.
So today I’m going to show you the exact jump rope selection process that I use to help people find their perfect jump rope for double unders.
Remember, just like cars, you should start with something slower and then gradually work your way up to a high performance, super fast model.
Switching ropes every time you try double unders is like trying to learn to drive yet using a different car every time. Just like cars have different speed, acceleration, braking, and controls - jump ropes are certainly not created equal.
Why would you make it even harder on yourself?! Because of this, I highly recommend that everyone buy a rope to keep things consistent as they work through the learning process. For beginners, this is the most important piece of training equipment to buy for yourself and will significantly shorten your learning curve. Skip the OLY shoes and buy a rope first 😉
By the end of this article, you’ll have an idea of what makes a great rope for learning double unders.
Starting with a super fast speed rope often causes athletes to overspin. And to be honest, overspinning is one of the most common errors I see. If you tend to trip up after 3-4 reps, there’s a good chance that you might be going too fast - not too slow!
Instead, get a rope with a slightly heavier cable (cable weight does matter). This will literally force you to slow down your double unders, which can make a huge difference. I recommend a cable weight over 3 ounces, and my personal favorites are in the 4 to 5-ounce range. It won’t be the fastest rope you’ve ever spin, but it will help you maintain control!
This may seem like common sense, but twisted and kinked ropes are another major factor that will cause you to trip. If the rope isn’t rigid enough, it can actually ball up and twist as you’re trying to pass it around your body, which is going to cause issues.
You want your rope to maintain a perfect “U” shape as it spins around your body to maximize your chances of success. If you already have a rope, perform this simple test. Take it out of your gym bag and hold the rope handles by your side in each hand. Does the rope make a perfect, natural “U” shape? Or is it filled with kinks, loops, and twists? If you’ve got a loopy rope, it’s going to be even harder than normal to get the rope to spin properly!
Feedback means that you can feel the rope weight as it spins around your body. A rope that is too light (most speed ropes) will offer near-zero feedback, so it will be difficult to understand where the rope is as it spins around your body. The rope and handles might be so light that you have absolutely no clue what’s going on as the rope spins. You just move your hands and hope for the best - a recipe for lots of tripping.
As a bonus, a heavier rope (4 - 5 ounces) will also help you develop your double under muscles. Sure, knocking out 100 unbroken might not be feasible with a heavier jump rope, but practicing with a heavy rope will make spinning a speed rope even easier down the line. This is similar to how baseball players swing a heavier bat before stepping up to the plate with their lighter bat.
I’d rather have an athlete who can hit 30 reps consistently with a heavier rope than someone who can hit 100 unbroken one day, and only 3 the next. Double unders should be predictable, not hit-or-miss.
Once you start really crushing double unders and hitting 30+ unbroken consistently, this heavy rope won’t matter as much and you can move on to faster versions, but it’s very important in the beginning!
The perfect length varies from person to person, but very simply, the rope should barely touch the ground every time it passes under your feet. If you don’t hear two distinct “clicks” for each double under rep, then your rope is too short (or you are lifting your arms and pulling the rope off the ground). Both of these issues can be alleviated by getting a rope that is slightly longer, which will account for any arm lift that might happen as you spin.
A word of caution though - if the rope is too long, it can actually bounce back up off the ground and hit your feet - also causing trip-ups. One of the best ways to catch this error is to film yourself using SUPER slow motion, which most smartphones can do. Film yourself doing double unders directly from the side. As you watch the slow motion, you should see the rope making contact with the ground just a few inches in front of your feet. If the rope is hitting the ground 10+ inches in front of you, then your rope might be too long.
The key is finding a rope that is in that perfect ‘sweet spot’ which may take some adjustments as you work through it. It’s impossible to give a one-size-fits-all recommendation because everyone has different body dimensions, but I’d always suggest starting with a slightly longer rope and then slowly shortening as you get better and more efficient!
When you take the time to combine the 5 factors above, you‘ll find yourself with a fantastic jump rope! The good news is, there are TONS of different jump rope options out there for you to choose from. It really doesn’t matter what brand, as there are hundreds of viable options out there.
A great option for a very basic, beginners rope is WOD Nation’s Attack Speed Jump Rope. This allows you to interchange between a lighter cable, and a thicker cable, which as we discussed above, is perfect for someone still learning. It doesn’t allow cable switching quite as fast, but the more affordable price tag makes it a great option for a beginner on a budget.
No matter which route you take, just be sure to keep the five factors in mind:
Still, have questions regarding finding the right rope? Need some more double under pointers? Comment below, and a WODprep coach will get back to you with the answers you’re looking for.
If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out our free double under training guide where I’ll walk you through the simple step-by-step progression we’ve used to help thousands of athletes get their first unbroken DU reps.
This is a guest post from Ben Dziwulski, the founder of WODprep. He is a former affiliate owner that specializes in teaching athletes in a simple, easy-to-understand way. Right now, he is traveling around the world with his wife and does 100% of his coaching online! For more instructional videos, tutorials, and free WODprep coaching check out WODprep.com and subscribe to his YouTube Channel, Instagram, Facebook. Also, feel free to shoot him a personal email: email@example.com