[Srdjan here. This week I have an incredible guest post from my good friend and jump rope specialist Dave Hunt from CrossRope Jump Ropes. Not too long ago, Dave and I were chatting when he mentioned something that caught my attention: two years ago he could barely do a single triple under; now he's pulling off 100 in a row. I had to know how. This post is his answer.]
The triple under.
One jump. Three revolutions of the rope.
What’s the big deal, right?
The triple under is nothing new.
It’s been prevalent in competitive rope jumping for decades and its relevance and necessity has been perhaps a bit of a controversial topic among fitness pundits.
I’ve heard skeptics with a number of different viewpoints. Most fall into the category of individuals that just don’t think they’ll ever be able to do a triple under.
“Hey, I can’t even do double unders well – so forget triple unders!”
Then you have a handful of capable athletes that view the skill as a mere novelty.
“I can do double unders, but I don’t really see the point of triple unders.”
It is because of questions like these that I have chosen to write this article.
I believe that I have a strong case for what training benefits triple unders provide that double unders and other jump rope skills just do not. I’m going to tell you why you should strive to add this powerful and very challenging skill and exercise to your routine.
Triple Unders: Competition vs Fitness
I think it’s important to start by addressing some similarities and differences in jumping rope for competition and jumping rope for fitness.
You may have seen some video clips of individual or team jump rope competitions that look like a mix of cheer-leading, tumbling, break dancing and acrobatics. These routines have everything from fancy footwork to back flip reverse triple unders.While I have a lot of respect for the skill and ability of these individuals, it raises an important question:
Should an individual training for a sport, athletic performance, or general fitness take the time to learn these tricks?
My argument would be no.
And that’s in alignment with a large majority of the population that views jumping rope as an activity for schoolgirls on the playground. Or boxers. For the really fancy stuff, I think that the amount of time and practice required to achieve this level of skill and proficiency would be better spent on more specific training objectives if your goals are fitness-oriented.
But hold on. Where does the triple under fit into this?
The triple under does NOT fall into the category of a fancy trick.
Technically, it’s simple: one jump and three rotations. This jump rope variation involves sheer athleticism – power, explosion, quickness, hand speed, coordination.
“So Dave – can anyone do a triple under if they practice enough?”
Some individuals just might not have the capacity to bound high enough or employ such precise wrist rotation. For those individuals, the double under will still serve a valuable purpose.
But you won’t know whether you can do one or not until you try!
For those capable of executing explosive bounding and precise wrist rotation, here are some reasons why the triple under is a valuable training addition.
The triple under provides/offers:
- Progression and Improvement,
- Explosive bounding development,
- Precision coordination training,
- Balance improvement,
- Attention (if you are into that sort of thing).
I could go in depth on each of these, but I’ll try to keep it short so we can move on to the instructional tips.
First, as we seek to better ourselves and our abilities, the natural progression from the double under is the triple under.
There is great satisfaction in learning and mastering a new skill. The triple under requires a quick, explosive bound with minimal ground contact time. Not all jumping rope is truly plyometric in nature, but max effort triple under bounds most certainly are. This athletic ability is valuable in sports like football, basketball, volleyball, and soccer among others.You will develop incredible timing and coordination as triple unders offer very little room for error.
You will build exceptional body control as doing a triple under requires precise coordination, timing, and rhythm. You will learn how to move with efficiency, control your center of mass, and rapidly stabilize your body each time you land in preparation for another bound. These are very useful benefits whether you’re an athlete, a CrossFitter, or a weekend warrior.
Lastly, let me touch on attention. Whether or not you like attention at the gym, I can promise you (from experience) that the whistling speed of the rope when doing triple unders will most definitely turn heads. Just be warned!
Triple Under Mastery
Now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you that triple unders are legit, we’re going to cover some drills that will help you master this intense jump rope variation.
Here’s the official warning: the triple under is not for everyone.
Please use extreme caution when working with triple unders. This is a very high impact exercise. If you have any pre-existing ankle, knee or hip injuries or ailments, stay away from this jump rope variation.
Even if you are completely injury free, make sure that you keep the volume of your high bounds low each session so your body has an opportunity to adapt.
Because this is a plyometric exercise, excessive bounding can do more harm than good. I would not recommend any more than 2 practice sessions per week. If you are experiencing any bad joint or shin pain, make sure that you get adequate rest between your sessions.
For someone new to power bounding, keep your total jump attempts under 50. If you have more experience bounding, you should still limit yourself to no more than 100-150 triple under attempts in a single session.
Triple Under Prerequisites
As with any advanced skill or movement, there are some recommended prerequisite benchmarks you must attain before attempting triple unders.
If you are not quite there yet, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever try to learn triple unders. It just means that your time will be better spent improving more basic skills and abilities first in order to start the triple under drills with a good baseline jumping ability.
Here are some recommended prerequisites for the triple under:
You must be able to consistently bound at least 12”-15” off the ground (without the aid of swinging your arms).
This doesn’t mean that you will ultimately have to bound this high once you master the wrist speed aspect, but it’s going to be difficult to get the timing down initially unless you have some good vertical height to work with.
You can gauge your bounding height by finding an object approximately a foot tall. Have someone watch as you bound next to it to make sure the heel of your foot is higher than the top of the object. Or just use a mirror to gauge your approximate bounding height.
You must be able to perform at least 50 double unders in 25 seconds.
This ensures that you’ve developed the ability to rotate the rope at a fast enough pace with your wrists. That quick wrist speed is absolutely essential for triple unders.
Note: this is also a good chance to refine your mechanics. If you have any excess arm movement, you may be able to get away with it when performing single and double unders, but it will not work for triple unders.
If you don’t meet one or both of these prerequisites, don’t get discouraged. Working towards them will set you up for success later on. If you can perform these prerequisite tests, don’t get too confident just yet. There is still a lot of work to be done.
Triple Under Drills
There are two key principles to keep in mind when approaching your triple under training:
- You have to be aware of the relationship between bounding height and wrist speed. The higher your bound, the less wrist speed you will need to complete 3 revolutions. The lower your bound, the faster your wrist speed will need to be. By improving both, you will give yourself the greatest chance for success.
- There is a fundamental difference in the rhythm and timing of double unders and triple unders. If you utilize your double under cadence and try to just ‘squeeze in that third rotation,’ you’ll never get the proper timing down.
Here’s what I recommend…
Instead of trying to tackle the triple under all at once, break down the variation into a couple of drill progressions:
Bounding for Height
Regardless of your bounding ability, it’s worth warming up with a set of two of 10-15 bounds with a focus on maximum explosion and a quick pop off the ground.
Hold your arms at your sides in the same position you would be holding your jump rope handles and do not use your arms to generate momentum for the bounds. Make sure that you have already warmed up your muscles and joints prior to trying this drill as it is very high impact.
Bounding for Height with a Verbal Count
This drill will help you learn proper cadence.
Each time your feet leave the ground, you will count out loud “one, two, three” before you land for the next bound. If you are not able to count to three while you are in the air, your bound is probably not high enough (or you need to count faster). Once you have the count part down, you can add a small wrist flick or rotation to match your count that will prepare you for adding the rope.
Accelerating Double Unders.
This drill will help your overall double under speed and skill, but it also helps you learn the proper feel of an increasingly faster wrist rotation. Begin jumping at a comfortable double under pace and gradually increase the rotational speed (this will actually require you to lower your bounding height).
Putting Things Together
Once you have mastered these drills, it’s time to put everything together! Here’s how you can approach your first one.
Perform the following drill: start with regular single jumps and focus on good wrist rotation. Once you have established a comfortable pace, bound just high enough to do a double under and on the next jump, bound as high as you can and rotate the rope at the same cadence you performed the counting drill previously. So from single under to triple under is: (low bound) “one”, (medium bound) “one-two”, (high bound) “one-two-three”. Count the numbers out loud.
So you want to gradually increase your bounding height and your wrist speed to ultimately execute a triple under.
Take a look at the tutorial video for further explanation and demonstration.
The triple under is a simple exercise to understand, but a very difficult one to execute.
It is not an easy skill to learn because of the combination of factors and abilities that need to come together almost perfectly for everything to work properly.
It was less than two years ago when I got my very first triple under and it wasn’t pretty.
Though I practiced hard, I absolutely have to give credit to the CrossRope System for my rapid improvement. I didn’t realize it at the time, but jumping rope with different weights really helped improve my wrist speed, power, and perhaps, most importantly, my ability to adapt to and control different timing and rhythms. This was crucial for developing the rope-body awareness to teach myself triple unders and ultimately master the skill. Once I got the timing down with the Speed rope, I started training with the Stamina rope, Explode rope and even the Power rope!
I never in a million years would have thought it was possible to do triple unders with a heavy weight rope so I surprised even myself. I strongly believe in the power of multi-rope jumping for enhancing skill, speed and overall fitness because of the body’s powerful ability to adapt.
The triple under is one of my favorite high intensity exercises for explosive workouts and I hope that you will put in the practice, time and effort to learn it as well!
If you have any questions about the triple under, please don’t hesitate to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
[Dave Hunt is the owner of the incredible CrossRope Jump Rope System (which is a staple of my own jump rope training). You can get in touch with him on Twitter here and on Facebook here. At the moment, he is running a pretty cool sweepstakes where he's giving away some awesome jump rope gear. If you're interested, you can check out the details here. Thanks Dave!]