The Double Under. Possibly the most polarising movement in CrossFit. Present in every Open since inception in 2011. A poetic display of skill… for some. A frustrating, painful, and seemingly impossible calamity of flailing limbs, feet, and razor-sharp wire for the rest of us.
But why do I even need to do double under’s? Can’t I just sub in singles and be done with it? Why do I need to show up to work covered in hard-to-explain whip marks on a weekly basis and risk peeing my pants in pursuit of getting a sweat on?
I’m glad you asked! And as per usual a handful of reasons exist. At the very least it’s attaining a new skill – helping us reverse the aging process. And if nothing else it’s a pretty sweet party trick to show off to your mates and a skill to have over your kids. Scientifically speaking, we could dig into the fat burning qualities of high intensity, powerful movements, or the benefits of activating the stretch-shortening cycle of the calf muscle but we’ll focus today on how it relates specifically to CrossFit.
First and foremost, Virtuosity – a term not used as often as it once was in CrossFit circles but deserving of a return to prominence. The CrossFit methodology puts a premium on virtuosity and defines it as – doing the common uncommonly well. We use it to describe the pursuit of movement mastery that all athletes should seek to achieve. The key being movement mastery, Yes, we could settle for single under’s. Yes, we could use other movements to achieve similar metabolic effects. But we chase virtuosity. We don’t settle for good enough. We pursue mastery of movement and thus we take the odd whipping from time to time.
Next, let’s take a look at the 10 general physical skills. A list of parameters that contribute to a rounded picture of fitness. To quote Greg Glassman “you are as fit as you are competent in each of these 10 skills”.
Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance – The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen – yep, double under’s
Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy – definitely double under’s
Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force – less so but still relevant
Flexibility – The ability to maximise the range of motion at a given joint – again, important but not hugely so
Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time – um yes!
Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement – no brainer!
Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement – YUP!
Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another – check!
Balance – The ability to control the placement of the body’s center of gravity in relation to its support base – check!
Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity – and check!
So it’s really no surprise that the dreaded double under has found its place in CrossFit. It combines almost all of our 10 general physical skills and lends itself beautifully to the pursuit of virtuosity. It’s been a staple of every Open to date and I’d venture as far as to say it will remain a staple until the day it’s replaced by TRIPLE UNDER’s – I’ll leave you with that though.