Are you doing singles unders when the workout calls for doubles? Or perhaps, banded, negative, or jumping pull ups? Does your toes-to-bar technique resemble a Foucault pendulum?
There are certain movements that when we see them come up in a workout, we think, “Crap, I wish I had my [insert word here]!” When the WOD is flying by and you see classmates burning through double unders and you are still doing singles, or the single-single-double method, you feel that twinge of envy.
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When you see others jump on the bar and knock out ten beautiful butterfly pull ups, and you are still in that three-tiered jerky pull up (which, aside from being ugly, is fairly horrible on your body and somewhat ineffective on your training), you wonder: why not me?
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It’s time to do something about it. Your double unders will not magically appear. Nor will the strength for pull ups, the technique for toes-to-bar, or the completion of muscle ups. You need a plan.
Skills Rarely Develop During a WOD
It’s the rare athlete who can walk into a CrossFit box, grab a rope, and by sheer osmosis start cranking out double unders in a few days. Sure, there are some phenoms, but that’s probably less than 1% of the CrossFitting population. For the rest of us, we struggle.
Skills like double unders, kipping handstand push ups, and toes-to-bar almost never just arrive during workouts. You need to dedicate time to developing these skills. Seems obvious, but think about it – most CrossFit sessions include warm up, strength, WOD, and cool down. On the rare occasion that skill work is included, the odds of your sought-after skill coming up in the rotation with any regularity as to make a difference are small.
“It’s the rare athlete who can walk into a CrossFit box, grab a rope, and by sheer osmosis start cranking out double unders in a few days.”
So, you need to take the bull by the horns and do it yourself. The following will give you a few suggestions, but you can take the larger template and apply it to nearly anything.
My Double Unders Suck. What Do I Do?
Confession: I have coached numerous people to a successful muscle up and zero people to successful double unders.
I won’t sugar coat this. No amount of coaching, video watching, or tips from your buddies will help you here. This is one movement where you need to find what works for you. Yes, keep the wrists in close. Yes, find the proper rope length. Yes, stay on your toes. But the one rule to getting successful double unders is clear – time under the rope.
You know that part of the warm up when your coach says, “Five minutes of cardio, run, row, bike, etc.”? Grab your rope and practice your double unders for five minutes. After the workout is over, spend no less than five additional minutes practicing.
If you can confidently say, “I don’t have double unders yet.” Then I can confidently say, “You don’t practice them.” It’s not going to happen by itself. Trust me on this. Ten minutes a day.
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I Wish I Could String Together Toes-to-Bar
Here’s your plan: First, you will learn to string two together. Then, develop a strategy to get to ten with no problem.
The hardest toe-to-bar to get is the second one. The first one is easy because you have all the momentum from your initial swing and pull. What usually happens is that once your toes hit the bar, you relax the tension that got you up there in the first place, resulting in a big, loose, swing. At which point, it’s over.
“Throw your feet straight down like you are dipping them in a bucket of water sitting under you, then, with that tension still running all the way up, reverse the shade and roll it back up.”
You need to fight for that second rep. Once your toes hit the bar on rep one, don’t release the tension that runs through your body. Your arms should be tight like you’re doing a mini pull up. From there, keep the tension in your core and intentionally bring your feet back down.
Think about unfurling, like a shade rolling down, rather than just swinging out. That will keep your body close to your center of gravity. Throw your feet straight down like you are dipping them in a bucket of water sitting under you, then, with that tension still running all the way up, reverse the shade and roll it back up.
Once you have that second rep, try this twice a week after your workouts when you are warm:
Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM) for 8:00:
Evens: 4 toes-to-bar
Odds: 4 wall ball
Then slowly, but surely add reps, then minutes. The wall ball is a nice balance between a push and a pulling motion to keep the EMOM session fun.
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What Can I Substitute for Rope Climbs?
Rope climbs are coming up more and more in workouts because once something hits the CrossFit Games, it trickles down into the boxes. There is no reason you need to be intimidated by the rope. If you find yourself constantly subbing pull ups or ring rows, start a plan to learn how to climb.
Often, when practicing rope climbs, the first pull is fine and then we flail helplessly trying to readjust our feet. Why? Because we haven’t figured out how to snag the rope with our feet while not looking at it like we do before that first pull. The result is we get three feet up and start flailing because we can’t find the rope again.
“There is no reason you need to be intimidated by the rope. If you find yourself constantly subbing pull ups or ring rows, start a plan to learn how to climb.”
The solution is simple. Pull a 24” box over in front of the rope. Stand on the box and hold on to the rope. Now step off the box and snag the rope with your feet over and over:
- Hit the rope with the outside of your left foot.
- Use your right foot to snag the rope and bring it up on top of your left foot in a “J” shape.
- Pinch the rope under your right foot. (For you lefties, reverse this).
Again, that’s: outside-of-the-left-foot, snag with right, wrap onto the top of the left, and pinch. Repeat that over and over. Then, when you jump up and grab the rope, your feet know what to do.
Work on this once a week outside of class, working on getting halfway up, then back down, then three-quarters of the way up, then back down. Work on bringing the knees up as far as you possibly can between each pull.
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Write Out Your Plan
Your goats will continue to haunt you until you develop a strategy for attacking them. Sit down and write out your plan. Don’t hope things fall together. Chart out your progress and your plan for 2015.
Photos courtesy of CrossFit Impulse.