Train Hard

6 things more worth practising than double-unders

Written by joelsnape

Firstly, please let me say that I have nothing against skipping. At at the risk of sounding like a fitness hipster, I was into skipping before it was cool: at my school I could throw down at double-dutch with the best of them, and when I started boxing in my 20s I picked it up again at the insistence of my trainer, who started every session with 10 minutes on the rope. I can do figure-8s, I can do the Ali shuffle, and – yes – I can do double-unders. 47 of them in a row at the 2009 CrossFit sectionals, where I competed, ta.

Also: yes, I think skipping is valuable. Not a valuable skill in itself, but a good way to train jumping mechanics, light-footedness– if this sounds non-technical, try fighting guys who skip and then ones who don’t – and, to some extent, coordination. You should learn it to do it, and preferably to a decent standard.

But, all of that said, I think practising double-unders is a bit of a waste of time.

You might be familiar with Dan Gable, one of the greatest wrestlers (and wrestling coaches) of all time, who once said:

‘If it’s important, do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all.’ 

This is where I am on a lot of technical movements that people practice for the gym. Are they fun? Yeah, maybe. Are they important? Not really. Are they more important than other physical skills you could be learning/improving/perfecting, given the same time and environment and commitment to improving your life? Absolutely not.

Here are six things that will absolutely offer more value to your life than constantly practising double-unders. In a way, they’re all a bit like double-unders: easy enough to learn in a couple of weeks’ serious practice, but the sorts of things that you could spend years practising without ever fully mastering. Things that you don’t need much more than a bit of empty space (and a bit of commitment) to work on. Things that will make you fitter, happier, and more competent at life.

1. Breakfalling
I’ve talked about this before, but learning to fall over is one of the most proactive things you can do to reduce your own chances of death by misadventure. Imagine you’re flying off a motorbike right now: are you instinctively forming the correct arm position to not break all the bones in your face? If not, that might be worth working on a bit more than skipping.

2. Punching 
Real talk: if you can do more than 10 double-unders in a row but you don’t know how to throw a decent jab and right cross, your priorities are simply wrong. Being able to punch properly is what sets us apart from animals (except kangaroos): a glorious expression of full-body coordination that, when done on a decent bag, feels really, really satisfying. Start with a jab and cross: clean, straight punches that boxers work on for years (and that can get you out of a lot of trouble). Even if you never move on from there, at least you won’t embarrass yourself on the gym’s heavy bag.

3. Climb-ups
This could have said ‘parkour’, but let’s keep things simple: climbing onto a thing is a fundamental human skill, and one that offers an enormous amount of gradation. If you’ve got a wall to hand, do them during training sessions. If not, improvise with a plyo box (your bare minimum: dips on the box). Also, for the love of all that is holy start doing strict muscle-ups on a bar.

4. Swimming
Full disclosure: I am terrible at swimming. I can move forward without drowning, but the intricacies of breathing properly and actually being efficient are (currently) lost on me. I’m working on it, though, since not dying if I fall off a boat is quite important to me.

5. Tumbling
Not the same as breakfalling. We’ll dance over the problems with having ‘handstand walk’ as a key metric of fitness (TL;DR: it encourages you to put unnecessary pressure on your cervical spine) and say, instead, that rather than focusing on getting more mileage on your hands, it’s probably a good idea to work on getting your body upside down in other ways. Learning to cartwheel, macaco, roundoff and otherwise move your body through space in non-common configurations will improve your proprioception, make you happy, and let you show off in front of children and romantic partners. Why would you NOT?

6. Dancing
Look, if you want to throw a CrossFit-themed wedding then all power to you, but just be aware that a) All the other CrossFitters will be judging your form and b) Everyone else will be wondering why you’re doing kettlebell swings instead of a first dance. To put it another way, being able to throw fucking down on a dancefloor is one of the most important, empowering skills a human being can acquire – one that will serve you well and bring you happiness at practically any age. Or to put it yet another way: stop laughing at those people doing the Zumba classes while you do your three sets of squats.

HOMEWORK: Pick one of these things and practise it for at least five minutes, three days this week.

About the author


Editor and creator of Live Hard. Fighting enthusiast, steak lover and aficionado of all things self-improvement related.

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