What would happen if I did 500 Double Unders every day for one month?
But why? I get asked that, you know. Why would I take this challenge on? Basically, what’s the point?
Here are the cliff notes.
I started ZOAR because I believed I had information, experience and context that people in the Functional Fitness space would find valuable.
People in the arena are smart; you are smart. You can learn and glean nuggets of knowledge from the people around you without having to embark on those endeavors yourself.
The hard part is you don’t always know in the moment what the takeaways should be. My goal with exercise experiments is to change that.
I’ll do the experiment for you. I’ll tell you how awesome or terrible, useful or useless the whole process was.
And ultimately I will hand you a list of takeaways so you can learn through me.
Everyone wins. Well…everyone except for my calves.
My Prediction (Day 1)
- I will have about 2 weeks of sore calves, and quite frankly really not feel like doing double unders on a daily basis.
- The double unders will feel really natural and relaxed by the end of the month.
- I will be tempted to spend my training time elsewhere, as double unders are not a weakness for me.
- I will learn little efficiencies from doing the movement at such high volume and high frequency.
The Results (Day 30)
I always spend at least one day out of the gym each week so I ended up doing a minimum of 583 double unders every day I went to the gym.
- I had a lot of soreness the first two weeks and almost no soreness in weeks three and four.
- There were days where double unders felt effortless, the rope spun well and the timing was routine. These days happened far less often then the days where everything felt forced, laborious and “off.”
- I didn’t reduce my training in other areas and I didn’t feel as though the double unders had much of a negative impact on my other training. The biggest commitment was time. I have limited time to train (I compete in Functional Fitness) so spending 15-20 minutes doing double unders seemed a bit foolish at times.
- I learned so much about my body as a system as well as double unders as a movement. Here are my top takeaways from 15,000 double unders in 30 days.
I missed two days back-to-back in week three so I completed 1900 double unders in the course of two days to make up for the missed time. To my amazement, I did not get sore at all. Less than half that volume just two weeks earlier would have wrecked me for several days.
In the Movement Library: Double Unders
What I Learned: Takeaways
(1) More Wrists, Less Calves
It’s pretty simple, the slower you spin the rope the higher you have to jump to stay in the air long enough to let the rope pass under you twice. The faster you spin, the less high you have to jump. If your calves are constantly getting sore from double unders, you would be tempted to focus more on your calves. In reality, if you want to stop getting sore calves you must focus on your wrists. Spin faster, jump lower and stop getting sore.
(2) Motor Learning has Ideal Conditions
Motor learning is simply learning a new movement. If you want double unders you must practice them. As you practice, there are ideal conditions and less than ideal conditions, specifically for frequency (how often) and dosage (how much). In other words, doing over 500 double unders every single day is a pretty poor way to learn how to do double unders. If you haven’t mastered double unders yet my suggestion would be 3-4 times per week for 10 minutes.
(3) Soft Tissue Handles High Volume
Minimal action anywhere besides the elastic tissue is the name of the game, think about a martial artist dancing up and down warming up for a fight. Calves are soft tissue and they are meant to break down and repair because they are vascular and are delivered sugar, amino acids and oxygen on a minute-by-minute basis. The same is true for the removal of metabolic wastes. It’s a good thing if your calves get sore from double unders provided that your knees and ankles didn’t take a beating. Unlike muscles, joints don’t have that blood flow and therefore aren’t meant to take a pounding again and again. Mess up your joints and they will take months, not days, to recover.
(4) Double Unders are A Cognitive Workout Too
In the words of Ron Burgundy, “I like to work up a mental sweat as well.” The days where double unders went poorly for me, I felt as though I had lost my mental edge. I found that sleep, mood & alertness had more of an impact on my practice than the tiredness or soreness of my body structures.
(5) Breathing Matters
Breathing for all of life, especially exercise, helps us find and maintain rhythm. For many exercises, finding a breathing ratio within a movement is crucial. For double unders, I switched between two breathing ratios, 4:1 and 2:1. This means I either completed four or two double unders per breath. It is good to have these ‘gears’ because typically double unders will show up in the middle of a workout. As you get tired it is natural and wise to switch from 4:1 to 2:1. I find many people have no clue how they breath during double unders because they have never focused on it. I understand why this happens, but I also can’t imagine how much harder the timing of the movement would be without a conscious focus on one’s breath.
(6) Our Feet are Filled with Muscles
Okay, we all knew that already. It’s just we rarely focus on the feet being a big factor in running and jumping. The reality is the muscles in my feet were just as sore at the end of week one as my calves. Getting out of bed on day 6 and planting my feet on the floor made me very aware of all the tiny muscles in my feet and how, so often, we don’t use them.
(7) You are Most Likely to Mess Up Reps 1-3
If you can get through those first three reps you are likely to be able to continue for a while after that because you will settle into a rhythm. Again, people struggle with double unders because they can’t find that rhythm. Trust that even though you are tired and breathing heavy that if you can focus hard those first few reps that you will be able to continue past them. Beyond the three rep mark, as soon as you lose that mental focus you are likely to trip up. The fight is maintaining laser-like focus.
(8) I Messed Up. A Lot.
I tripped up countless times during my month of double unders. It is easy to get annoyed, upset or even downright angry (we’ve all seen it). But the reality is getting frustrated is only going to pull focus away from you being able to do the movement successfully. Maintaining your cool is even harder in a competition when points are on the line and every second counts, but here staying calm is even more crucial to your success. In my experience the best thing to do when you trip up mid-workout is to take a single, deep breath, let it go and get right back to work. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself get beat by a damn jump rope.
Got an idea you want me to try out for my next exercise experiment?
Let me know below!