Gymnastics Lite

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Gymnastics Lite

  1. 1. Other products by Gymnastic Bodies: B U I L D I N G THE G Y M N A S T I C B O D Y D V D S The Companion DVDs to Building the Gymnastic Body The Single Greatest Tool Ever Made for Building Upper Body Strength
  2. 2. Building the Gymnastic Body THE SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING
  3. 3. Cover photo: Yang Wei at 2003 World Championships, ©Steve Lange
  4. 4. Building the Gymnastic Body T H E S C I E N C E O F GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING Christopher Sommer Olympic Bodies, LLC
  5. 5. Published by Olympic Bodies, LLC 42140 N Mantle Way Anthem, Arizona 85206 Library of Congress Control Number: ISBN - 978-0-9821253-0-4 First Edition - September 2008 Printed and bound in Canada by Art Bookbindery DISCLAIMER The author and publisher of this material are not responsible in any manner whatsoever for any injury that may occur through following the instructions contained in this material. The activities, physical and otherwise, described herein for informational purposes only, may be too strenuous or dangerous for some people and the reader(s) should consult a physician before engaging in them.
  6. 6. First a n d foremost to my family, w i t h o u t w h o m n o t h i n g else matters, a n d to all of my students - past, present a n d future, from w h o m I always learn so m u c h m o r e t h a n I m a n a g e to teach
  7. 7. Table of Contents INTRODUCTION CHAPTER ONE Gymnastics as Conditioning CHAPTER TWO General Information Tools of the Trade Basic Gymnastics Terminology The Selection of These Exercises H a n d s t a n d s & Press H a n d s t a n d s CHAPTER THREE Basic Strength CHAPTER FOUR Fundamental Static Positions L-sit Straddle L Manna Back Lever Front Lever Planche CHAPTER FIVE Upper Body Pressing F u n d a m e n t a l Bodyweight Exercises P u s h - u p Variations Dip Variations HSPU Variations Multi-plane Pressing Variations CHAPTER SIX Upper Body Pulling R o w Variations Pull-up Variations Curl Variations Multi-plane Pulling Variations CHAPTER SEVEN Combined Pull/Press Muscle-up Variations Other CPP Variations CHAPTER EIGHT Core V-up Variations HLL Variations
  8. 8. Lower Back Variations 132 Oblique Variations 138 Straight Body Variations 144 CHAPTER NINE Legs 155 Deck Squat Variations 156 Single Leg Squat Variations 159 H a m s t r i n g Variations 165 CHAPTER TEN Program Design Options Static Strength Training 171 Basic Strength Training 175 Integrated Training 178 M a n a g i n g Intensity 179 G r o u p Training 182 APPENDIX A Tips for Increasing Pull-ups 185 APPENDIX B Static Strength Only Training Results 186 APPENDIX C 120 Muscle-ups in 15 minutes 187 Index 189 A Special Thanks 194
  9. 9. Introduction W e h a v e all seen t h e m on television d u r i n g the Olympics; these massive powerful m e n performing a m a z i n g skills w i t h ease a n d grace. Watching t h e m perform, the question inevitably arises - are they as powerful as they a p p e a r to be? A n d the answer quite simply is - yes. W h a t will probably be even m o r e surprising to y o u is that they build their strength a n d p h y s i q u e s almost entirely w i t h various b o d y w e i g h t exercises. There are of course some s u p p l e m e n t a l exercises w h e r e weights are utilized (i.e. w e i g h t e d leg lifts), h o w e v e r the central premise remains; these a m a z i n g athletes h a v e built the vast majority of their strength a n d p o w e r t h r o u g h the u s e of b o d y w e i g h t conditioning. The list of physical training requirements is long a n d can be rather d a u n t i n g to p r e p a r e a w o r l d class athlete: passive flexibility, active flexibility, joint preparation, static strength, d y n a m i c strength etc. etc. a n d in the past h a s only b e e n interesting in detail to those of us involved w i t h the physical p r e p a r a t i o n of champions. It a p p e a r s that times h a v e changed. This book a n d its c o m p a n i o n v o l u m e s are in response to the e n o r m o u s interest in the area of a d v a n c e d b o d y w e i g h t conditioning. Information, w h i c h in the past h a s only b e e n available to a few select elite, is n o w available to all. N o w another question that we should ask ourselves - is the b o d y w e i g h t training of the g y m n a s t also beneficial to the fitness enthusiast? A n d if so, is it possible to apply at least s o m e of it to those w i t h o u t a professional instructor to guide t h e m or tens of t h o u s a n d s of dollars of specialized gymnastics e q u i p m e n t ? A n d the a n s w e r s are once again - yes a n d yes. There are s o m e of o u r specialized exercises that are relatively easy to learn a n d require little or no e q u i p m e n t b e y o n d a chin-up bar, p u s h u p bars a n d some floor space. Other higher level elements will require m o r e of an investment in e q u i p m e n t . H o w e v e r y o u will almost certainly be m o r e muscular, powerful, agile a n d flexible t h a n ever before from successfully following this training. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  10. 10. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY Why bodyweight conditioning? N o w before continuing further into o u r training, let's first regress a n d consider the question of w h y to do gymnastics b o d y w e i g h t conditioning in the first place? A c o m m o n misconception is that b o d y w e i g h t exercises do not build substantial strength b u t are rather m o r e suited for b u i l d i n g e n d u r a n c e . For m o s t people this conjures images of endless p u s h u p s , sit-ups or for the strong, p e r h a p s pull-ups a n d dips; great m a y b e for general fitness or e n d u r a n c e , b u t of little value in b u i l d i n g real strength. First of all, exercise is exercise. Period. The n a m e of the g a m e is resistance. A muscle contracts against resistance and, w i t h perseverance, becomes stronger over time. For strength to increase, the a m o u n t of resistance or load w o r k e d against m u s t also increase over time. Hence the p r o b l e m w i t h b o d y w e i g h t conditioning - as the resistance (weight of the body) is fixed, is h o w to continue increasing strength? Surprisingly, the answer is simple - by decreasing the a m o u n t of leverage it is possible to exert on an exercise, the resistance of an exercise becomes increasingly greater. For example, a h a n g i n g straight leg lift is m u c h h a r d e r t h a n a tucked leg lift. In b o t h exercises the w e i g h t of y o u r legs remains constant; h o w e v e r by r e d u c i n g y o u r leverage (i.e. in this case straightening y o u r legs) we are able to greatly increase the resistance. By straightening the legs we h a v e effectively d o u b l e d the difficulty of the exercise even t h o u g h the weight of the b o d y h a s r e m a i n e d constant. W i t h experience a n d creativity it is possible to learn or design exercises that, d o n e correctly a n d w i t h the p r o p e r progressions, are so lacking in leverage that even at b o d y w e i g h t levels of resistance it is possible to build staggering a m o u n t s of strength. In addition to strength, the athlete will also develop excellent balance, coordination, agility a n d exceptional core strength. P e r h a p s that is w h y spectacular film athletes like Jackie C h a n a n d M a r k Dacascos always include gymnastics training in their physical preparation. H o w well do the progressions that I am going to share w i t h y o u work? Well, consider that fact that w h e n Mr. Mas W a t a n a b e visited my m e n ' s gymnastics p r o g r a m a n d he w a s a s t o u n d e d by the levels of strength a n d d e v e l o p m e n t he saw. For those of y o u outside the gymnastics c o m m u n i t y , Mr. W a t a n a b e h a s been, for the past 30 plus years, one of our p r i m a r y leaders of m e n ' s gymnastics here in the United States a n d h a s personally w o r k e d w i t h a n d evaluated every O l y m p i a n , World C h a m p i o n s h i p , National a n d Junior National Team m e m b e r w h i c h our country h a s p r o d u c e d d u r i n g this time. After observing my athletes completing their daily b o d y w e i g h t conditioning p r o g r a m , Mr. W a t a n a b e informed me that they w e r e the strongest m o s t physically p r e p a r e d g r o u p of athletes he h a d ever seen. In fact he w e n t so far as to state that he h a d never even seen another g r o u p come close. N o w the m a i n point that I w o u l d like to e m p h a s i z e here - is that their physical d e v e l o p m e n t w a s p r o c u r e d almost exclusively t h r o u g h consistent progressive b o d y w e i g h t conditioning. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  11. 11. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING H o w strong is it possible to become w i t h gymnastics exercises? Amazingly strong. In fact I w o u l d go so far as to say, d o n e correctly, far stronger than s o m e o n e w h o h a d trained for the same a m o u n t of time w i t h free weights. W a n t s o m e concrete examples? One of my former students, JJ Gregory (1993 Junior National C h a m p i o n on the Still Rings) developed such a h i g h degree of strength from my gymnastics conditioning p r o g r a m that on his first d a y in his h i g h school weightlifting class he d e a d lifted 400lbs, a n d this at the scale breaking w e i g h t of 135 lbs. a n d a height of 5'3". JJ Gregory in a 'Maltese' on the Still Rings After this I w a s curious a n d w a n t e d to m e a s u r e JJ's one r e p m a x on w e i g h t e d pull-ups. We started fairly light w i t h 10 lbs. or so. I continued a d d i n g m o r e w e i g h t while JJ performed single rep after single rep. Unfortunately I d i d n ' t k n o w about chinning belts a n d chains at that time a n d the cheap leather belt we w e r e using b r o k e at 75 lbs. Once again, I repeat, at 75 lbs. a n d JJ h a d never performed a w e i g h t e d pull-up in his life. But he h a d performed years of my specialized gymnastics conditioning exercises. H o w m u c h could JJ h a v e chinned that day? We will never k n o w for sure, b u t I will tell y o u that at 75 lbs. JJ w a s laughing a n d joking w i t h me a n d did not a p p e a r to be noticeably b o t h e r e d by the weight. A n d JJ, while the strongest, is n o t an isolated case. For example, over the years I w o u l d occasionally (once a year or so) allow my athletes to test their one rep m a x on w e i g h t e d chins (an exercise we never perform as p a r t of o u r regular conditioning) simply so that they could h a v e proof positive of the e n o r m o u s measurable strength gains w h i c h they w e r e enjoying. My o w n son at the age of 13 a n d a b o d y w e i g h t of a r o u n d 110 lbs. could chin 50 lbs. for 8 reps a n d it w a s n o t at all u n u s u a l for a 60 lb. y o u n g e r athlete to perform 5 or m o r e reps w i t h 25 lbs. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  12. 12. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY In addition to his a m a z i n g strength, look again at the incredible p h y s i q u e that JJ built solely t h r o u g h various b o d y w e i g h t exercises. Also look at the pictures of s o m e of my current g r o u p of athletes. Pretty buff for b o y s w h o mostly r a n g e from 7-17 years old a n d h a v e never lifted weights. As well, consider the fact that as competitive athletes, they never train for cosmetics or appearance. Their p h y s i q u e s are solely the result of their training their bodies for the function of b e c o m i n g better athletes. In other w o r d s , their p h y s i q u e s (and a n y o n e else's w h o trains in this m a n n e r ) are functional first a n d o r n a m e n t a l second. W h y does correct gymnastics conditioning w o r k so well? There are several reasons; the first is contraction. Basically, the h a r d e r the contractions, over a greater p a r t of the b o d y d u r i n g an exercise, the m o r e effective the exercise. For m a x i m u m i m p r o v e m e n t s training to failure is not necessary, b u t m a x i m u m contraction is. O n e of the m a i n a d v a n t a g e s to these a d v a n c e d b o d y w e i g h t exercises is that they require a complete full b o d y contraction. In fact at a d v a n c e d levels, they are so d e m a n d i n g that it is simply not possible to complete t h e m any other w a y . A n o t h e r p r i m a r y reason for their beneficial results is the n a t u r e of the gymnastics c o m p o n e n t s themselves. Take static h o l d s for example; by h o l d i n g the b o d y w e i g h t in a d i s a d v a n t a g e d leverage position, we are effectively multiplying the resistance of our bodyweight. Or m o r e simply stated, we are s u p p o r t i n g a h e a v y weight in a locked static position. This h a s t r e m e n d o u s positive impact on the strength of the joints a n d connective tissue a n d aids greatly in overall strength development. M a n y great weightlifting c h a m p i o n s h a v e s w o r n by the benefits of h o l d i n g h e a v y weights in a locked position. T w o that immediately come to m i n d are Paul A n d e r s o n a n d John Grimek, w h o b o t h m a d e h e a v y s u p p o r t s a regular p a r t of their early training. Success at these exercises requires consistent incremental i m p r o v e m e n t s . Do not seek i m p r o v e m e n t quickly or become frustrated after only a few w e e k s . You w o u l d n o t p o k e a seed into the g r o u n d a n d t h e n j u m p back waiting for the plant to explode out instantly. You m u s t be patient w i t h physical conditioning also. While y o u m a y become m o r e skillful or feel m o r e powerful while performing a n e w exercise relatively quickly, this is d u e to b e c o m i n g m o r e neurologically efficient ("greasing the grove"), rather t h a n experiencing an absolute gain in strength. It takes approximately 6 w e e k s to establish the first concrete strength gains. In other w o r d s , make haste - slowly. Be p r e p a r e d to s p e n d at least six m o n t h s at these exercises to w o r k t h r o u g h the various progressions. What?! Six months?! Yes, that's right, at least six m o n t h s . In fact s o m e of the progressions, the m a n n a for instance, m a y take y o u several years to w o r k t h r o u g h . You w o u l d n ' t expect to b e n c h press 300 lbs. right a w a y . N o r s h o u l d y o u expect to b u i l d h i g h level b o d y w e i g h t strength instantly either. Be consistent, be patient a n d soon y o u Too can be enjoying the benefits of greatly increased strength a n d athletic ability. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  13. 13. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING V WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  14. 14. CHAPTER ONE Gymnastics As Conditioning
  15. 15. Gymnastics as Conditioning; The Journey To my k n o w l e d g e , a n d I h a v e w o r k e d w i t h a n d learned from m a n y W o r l d a n d Olympic Caliber coaches from a r o u n d the world, I am the only high-level US gymnastics coach to approach gymnastics as primarily physical p r e p a r a t i o n rather t h a n skill training. This is not to say that my athletes do n o t train high-level skills; I am a USA Junior National Team Coach, h a v e p r o d u c e d several National C h a m p i o n s and, at the 2005 U.S. Junior National C h a m p i o n s h i p s , one of my athletes b e c a m e the y o u n g e s t National Medalist in the history of USA Gymnastics. However, my success as a competitive coach h a s been completely d e p e n d e n t u p o n my p h i l o s o p h y of first b u i l d i n g the physical structure. Then once h a v i n g d e v e l o p e d a b o d y that is capable of performing at a h i g h level; I layer the required technical training u p o n it. In essence, my training m e t h o d o l o g y is first physical structure, then skill training. In my opinion, w i t h o u t a b o d y capable of h a n d l i n g the pressures a n d d e m a n d s of h i g h level gymnastics, a d v a n c e d skill training is usually a h a p h a z a r d affair w i t h unpredictable results as well as a m u l t i t u d e of unnecessary injuries. N o w before we get into the specifics of my gymnastics training philosophy, I w o u l d like to share a question w i t h you; a question that I h a v e spent nearly twenty-five years asking myself. In fact, the search for the answer to this question h a s s h a p e d my entire professional career. That question is simply - H o w ? Or m o r e specifically - " H o w did my gymnastics specific training lead to substantial levels of general physical p r e p a r a t i o n across a w i d e r a n g e of other, non-gymnastics related, athletic modalities?" You see after my "retirement" from competitive gymnastics, I d i d w h a t I t h o u g h t y o u w e r e s u p p o s e d to do to stay in shape - I b e g a n to lift a n d I b e g a n to run. N o w for the sake of this discussion, it is i m p o r t a n t to r e m e m b e r that n o n e of results for the following events h a d been specifically trained for. Prior to this, I h a d engaged in no structured weight lifting or r u n n i n g . In fact d u r i n g my day, m o s t of the gymnastics conditioning in the USA w a s a h a p h a z a r d affair at best w h e r e a couple times a year my coach w o u l d say "Do 50 p u l l - u p s " or something else equally u n s t r u c t u r e d . WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  16. 16. 4 BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY It is also i m p o r t a n t to note that as a g y m n a s t I w a s not particularly strong. M a n y of my t e a m m a t e s w e r e far stronger t h a n I. These w e r e s o m e of my initial results w h e n I b e g a n lifting a n d running: • Double b o d y w e i g h t d e a d lift • Military press w i t h 110% b o d y w e i g h t • Chins + 50% b o d y w e i g h t for reps • Dips + 60% b o d y w e i g h t for reps • 75 p u s h u p s in 1 m i n u t e • Wrist curls w i t h 110 % b o d y w e i g h t • 5:37 m i l e / 11:30 two-mile r u n • Ran 20 miles on the s p u r of the m o m e n t W o w ! I w a s p u m p e d u p . I w a s smoking the vast majority of lifters a r o u n d m e , g u y s w h o w e r e m u c h bigger t h a n myself. If I w a s d o i n g this well right off the bat w i t h no specific training whatsoever, h o w m u c h better could I do w i t h m o r e training? So I j u m p e d in w i t h b o t h feet. I trained very h a r d , 7 d o i n g everything the 'experts said that I should do to perform at higher a n d higher levels. A n d the results? I got sore, stiff, slow, tired a n d my athletic ability, after initial gains, w a s n o t only not improving, b u t b e g i n n i n g to slip. (Pause here for the s o u n d of grinding teeth.) Well the answer w a s obvious, I m u s t n o t be training h a r d e n o u g h , right? So for the next t e n years I trained my rear e n d off. If one p r o g r a m w a s n ' t giving me the results I w a s seeking t h e n I explored another, either separately or in combination: weights (in all their various incarnations), calisthenics, running, s w i m m i n g , cycling, circuit training, low repetitions, h i g h repetitions, h i g h intensity, low intensity, linear periodization, etc. etc. etc. A n d w h a t w e r e the results of all that consistent long-term dedication? The b o t t o m line is that n o n e of the training m e t h o d s w h i c h I e m p l o y e d w e r e able to give me the overall level of physical performance that I h a d previously enjoyed; if my strength i m p r o v e d - my e n d u r a n c e w e n t d o w n , if my e n d u r a n c e i m p r o v e d - I lost agility, vertical j u m p etc. In fact it s e e m e d that the only constants that I could count on w e r e that as the years w e n t on I got even sorer, stiffer, weaker, m o r e exhausted and, on t o p of being far b e l o w my p r e v i o u s performance levels, I n o w h a d an impressive collection of injuries to s h o w for it as well. Obviously I w a s missing something. Finally, after h a v i n g literally exhausted all conventional a v e n u e s of conditioning, on review it a p p e a r e d as t h o u g h only gymnastics training w o u l d give me back the excellent athletic abilities that I h a d previously enjoyed. H o w e v e r that no longer seemed feasible; w i t h work, family a n d other commitments, I simply no longer h a d WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  17. 17. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING t w e n t y h o u r s a w e e k to s p e n d training in the g y m . There w a s h o w e v e r s o m e t h i n g about gymnastics training that gave athletic results completely outside of w h a t w a s being specifically trained for. Further reflection on the m a i n question of ' H o w ? ' in t u r n led to the following secondary questions of " W h y " : W h y d o e s n ' t a h i g h level of traditional m a i n s t r e a m general physical p r e p a r a t i o n automatically i m p a r t a h i g h degree of gymnastics specific strength? W h y is the reverse not also true? W h y does it appear to be a one-way street? A n d that is w h e n I b e g a n to look at gymnastics not as primarily skill training - b u t as a m e t h o d of physical preparation. In contrast to the conventional gymnastics training philosophy prevailing in the US at the time, I started to allocate 1/3 of my athletes' training time to physical preparation, at the expense of our technical training time. N o w w h a t is especially interesting here is that, as soon as I b e g a n focusing on building the physical foundation first, my athletes' level of technical skills increased exponentially. I w a s definitely on the right track. I continued to consider " H o w " a n d " W h y " , attempting to analyze the core elements of w h a t m a d e gymnastics training so effective athletically, even w h e n applied to sports outside of gymnastics. Within the w o r k o u t s , some type of synergy w a s obviously taking place b e t w e e n the physical p r e p a r a t i o n a n d the technical event training. Correctly applied gymnastics training primarily involves w h o l e b o d y m o v e m e n t s that force the b o d y to perform as an integrated unit, over a w i d e range of specific training stimuli. But w h a t elements or c o m p o n e n t s inherent in gymnastics training w e r e missing in c o n t e m p o r a r y training protocols? H o w , a n d to w h a t extent, w a s it possible to separate these gymnastic specific training c o m p o n e n t s from the competitive aspect of gymnastics? Could these c o m p o n e n t s t h e n be integrated into an overall conditioning p r o g r a m applicable to all w h o w e r e interested, n o t simply to elite high-level gymnasts? Literally t h o u s a n d s a n d t h o u s a n d s of h o u r s of practical experience in the g y m coaching h i g h level athletes, - studying, experimenting, i m p l e m e n t i n g a n d refining - eventually led me to distill gymnastics training into four m a i n c o m p o n e n t s and, m o r e importantly, to design the subsequent progressions necessary to develop t h e m safely, t h o r o u g h l y a n d w i t h seamless integration b e t w e e n the c o m p o n e n t s for b o t h g y m n a s t s a n d non-gymnasts. A n d even m o r e spectacular w a s that rather t h a n requiring 20+ h o u r s a w e e k in the gym, distilling the training into the core components, a n d utilizing my specialized progressions n o w r e d u c e d w o r k o u t s for the fitness enthusiast to an average of t w o to three h o u r s per week. A l t h o u g h I h a d one g e n t l e m a n w h o took my training r e c o m m e n d a t i o n s in a direction I h a d never anticipated a n d m a d e astonishing gains on only t w o m i n u t e s of w o r k per day! Joint p r e p a r a t i o n a n d h a n d s t a n d w o r k b o t h begin on d a y one of WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  18. 18. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY training a n d will continue t h r o u g h o u t an athlete's career. D y n a m i c strength is inclusive of all m o v e m e n t s that contain a dynamic, plyometric or ballistic element. It is of s u p r e m e importance in gymnastics, as well as to athletics in general, a n d its d e v e l o p m e n t also begins on d a y one; h o w e v e r d y n a m i c strength will r e m a i n a secondary focus until after an a d e q u a t e foundation of m a x i m a l strength h a s b e e n laid. The d e v e l o p m e n t of maximal strength will be a two-tiered process starting w i t h the fundamental b o d y w e i g h t m o v e m e n t s a n d t h e n continuing w i t h a d v a n c e d ring strength w o r k A special aspect of the Gymnastic Bodies p r o g r a m that I h a v e n o t m e n t i o n e d is that a proficiency in gymnastics is N O T required to enjoy the conditioning benefits of the d y n a m i c components. For those w i t h o u t gymnastics specific skills, an extensive r a n g e of substitute m o v e m e n t s a n d highly effective exercise progressions are p r o v i d e d in The D y n a m i c Physique. The following are the relevant Gymnastic Bodies v o l u m e s w h e r e i n these c o m p o n e n t s are discussed in depth: Maximal Strength Beg to Int - Basic Strength - Building the Gymnastic Body A d v - Ring Strength - All Muscle, No Iron Joint Preparation / Active Flexibility - Liquid Steel H a n d s t a n d W o r k - The H a n d s t a n d Chronicles D y n a m i c Strength - The D y n a m i c Physique The rest of this first volume, Building the Gymnastic Body, is an in d e p t h exploration of Basic Strength a n d its t w o components, fundamental static positions a n d f u n d a m e n t a l b o d y w e i g h t exercises. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  19. 19. CHAPTER TWO General Information
  20. 20. 9 Tools of the Trade F or this first v o l u m e in the Gymnastic Bodies series, the following tools will either be necessary or helpful in developing the basic strength exercises. Rings are the single greatest tool ever m a d e for developing u p p e r b o d y strength. They are also the only piece of e q u i p m e n t that is absolutely essential in y o u r training. Strong, light, portable a n d incredibly versatile, these gymnastics rings can be u s e d a n y w h e r e there is a n y k i n d of an overhead s u p p o r t (high bar, chin-up bar, or even a tree branch). Rings are capable of far far m o r e t h a n simple dips, chins or muscle-ups. Gymnastic Bodies provides the technical progressions for a m u l t i t u d e of a d v a n c e d b o d y w e i g h t exercises to develop the u p p e r b o d y completely a n d thoroughly. With the correct k n o w l e d g e at y o u r fingertips, literally the only limitation w i t h ring strength training is the d e p t h of y o u r commitment. Parallel Bars If y o u h a v e access to a set of competitive gymnastics parallel bars t h e n y o u will h a v e the best of all possible options. H o w e v e r , if not, there are still m a n y choices. In y o u r local area, o u t d o o r parallel bars are sometimes available at p a r k s that contain Par or Fitness Courses. A dip station will also suffice as a partial substitute for parallel bars for m a n y of the variations, although for s o m e of the m o v e m e n t s a d i p station w i t h extended b a r s will be necessary. A n d if all else fails there is always the fall back option of t w o chairs facing back to back. Competitive PBs Outdoor PBs D i p Station Parallets There are m a n y types of parallets to choose from. Which is most a p p r o p r i a t e for you, will d e p e n d u p o n y o u r long-term training goals. If only training simple pressing a n d static h o l d positions, something as basic as a set of p u s h u p bars m a y be a d e q u a t e for y o u r needs. If y o u w o u l d like to a d d a substantial a m o u n t of h a n d s t a n d w o r k to y o u r training, a set of h o m e m a d e PVC parallets will serve y o u better, as their wider base a n d greater length (12"-18") greatly increases stability. A n d finally if y o u w o u l d eventually like WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  21. 21. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY t o progress onto m o r e a d v a n c e d h a n d s t a n d w o r k (single bar h a n d s t a n d s a n d pirouettes etc.) t h e n the far greater strength a n d longer length (48") of a set of commercial parallets will be necessary. Pushup Bars PVC Parallets Commercial parallets Stall Bars Stall bars h a v e b e e n t r e m e n d o u s l y p o p u l a r in E u r o p e for m a n y years a n d for good reason. They h a v e a m u l t i t u d e of uses, especially in the areas of joint p r e p a r a t i o n a n d active flexibility. Stall bars are generally 8' h i g h x 3' w i d e a n d come in single, double, triple or q u a d sections. The lower r u n g s are 5.5" apart while the top r u n g is 8" higher a n d offset 3.5" o u t from the others. Stall Bar - D o u b l e Section Nylon Straps The straps that we use to h a n g the weights on are sections of n y l o n s t r a p p i n g (available at H o m e D e p o t or L o w e ' s for about $.12 a foot) s e w n into circles of 22"-25" circumference w i t h a 1" overlap on each end. Keeping tension on the n y l o n strap by pulling the ankles slightly apart will h e l p to p r e v e n t the weights from sliding a r o u n d d u r i n g leg lifts a n d other w e i g h t e d exercises. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  22. 22. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING The nylon strapping my athletes use for a variety of exercises Fractional Plates The reason that most people fail to m a k e progress on w h e n a d d i n g weight to some of the leverage d i s a d v a n t a g e d b o d y w e i g h t exercises (i.e. h a n g i n g leg lifts) is simply that they try to use conventional plates d u r i n g their training. For example, let's say that y o u are using the smallest conventional weight plate available; a 1.25 lb plate. You build up to three repetitions in the H a n g i n g Leg Lift (HLL). Your training is going well a n d it is time to progress to the next level a n d y o u a d d another 1.25 lb plate. You are n o w attempting to train w i t h 2.5 lbs of extra resistance - an increase of 200%. It doesn't require a great deal of imagination to see that in only a very short time, gains in this m o v e m e n t will quickly grind to a halt as the j u m p s in a d d e d resistance are simply too great for such a leverage d i s a d v a n t a g e d m o v e m e n t . On the other h a n d , fractional plates will allow training to progress in increments of .251b guaranteeing continued long-term gains. Fractional Plates Basic Gymnastics Positions & Terminology I n order to h a v e a clearer u n d e r s t a n d i n g of m a n y of the exercises u s e d in the Gymnastic Bodies p r o g r a m , I will n e e d to introduce y o u to some gymnastics terminology. N o t h i n g too complicated or technical, just some basic b o d y position references. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  23. 23. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY Supports Straight-arm Bent-arm Upper-arm In gymnastics conditioning a great deal of time is spent in various s u p p o r t s . The three m a i n s u p p o r t positions we will use in this v o l u m e are straight-arm, bent-arm and upper-arm. Hangs Over-grip Under-grip As a general point of reference an over-grip is w h a t is u s e d d u r i n g a pull-up a n d the u n d e r - g r i p is w h a t is u s e d d u r i n g a chin-up. It also bears mentioning that the type of grip is i n d e p e n d e n t of the shoulder angle position. Obviously there is the straight b o d y h a n g (pictured above), h o w e v e r we will also be utilizing some other h a n g i n g position variations; an inverted h a n g (the b o d y straight while in an u p s i d e d o w n position), an inverted pike (self explanatory) a n d the G e r m a n h a n g (generally arrived at from an inverted pike). Inverted hang Inverted pike German hang WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  24. 24. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING Shoulder Angles Open Shoulders Closed Shoulders With r e g a r d s to the shoulders, their being in a "closed" or "open" position refers to the angle b e t w e e n the u p p e r arms a n d the torso. The axis of the angle w o u l d be the armpits. A smaller angle w o u l d be referred to as closed. A completely closed shoulder angle w o u l d be w i t h the arms next to the sides. A larger angle w o u l d be referred to as open. A completely o p e n shoulder angle w o u l d be w i t h the a r m s next to the ears a n d extended up over the h e a d . Hip Angles O p e n Hips Closed Hips Like the shoulders, the hips m a y also be in either an o p e n or closed position. In reference to o p e n or closed hips, the hips themselves will be the axis of the angle in question. Basic Body Positions Tuck Flat Tuck WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  25. 25. 14 BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY For m o s t of us seeing a tuck brings back memories of youth. A tuck position is relatively simple a n d something that all of us h a v e d o n e since childhood in o n e form or another. The p r i m a r y difference b e t w e e n the t w o m a i n variations s h o w n here is that a regular tuck has a tightly r o u n d e d back a n d that a Flat Tuck h a s a straight or w h a t in gymnastics is referred to as a flat back. You will quickly find that exercises or static h o l d s performed w i t h a flat back are significantly m o r e d e m a n d i n g t h a n those d o n e w i t h a r o u n d e d back. O p e n Pike Closed Pike An o p e n pike indicates that the legs are straight a n d the torso is relatively straight w i t h an angle of closure of approximately 90° at the hips. A closed pike is simply an extreme example of closed h i p s performed w i t h straight legs. The t w o p h o t o s above d e m o n s t r a t e different degrees of closure d u r i n g the pike. It should also be n o t e d that referring to a position as " p i k e d " does not always indicate sitting on the g r o u n d . This position m a y also be d o n e h a n g i n g , in s u p p o r t or j u m p i n g . Standing Straddle Semi-closed Straddle Closed Straddle A straddle refers to the legs being o p e n from each other; this could be while the b o d y is in a standing, hanging, prone, supine or sitting position. The straddle m a y be large or small, b u t regardless will still be referred to as a WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  26. 26. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING straddle. The variations s h o w n above all h a v e straddled legs, b u t h a v e differing degrees of h i p " o p e n n e s s " . Half Lay The half lay is especially helpful in back lever, front lever a n d planche work. It is that intermediary step w h e n a straddle is too easy b u t the completely extended straight b o d y is still o u t of reach. In the illustration above, d u e not be concerned w i t h the shoulders or arms, b u t focus solely on the knees a n d hips. Notice that in a correctly executed 1/2 lay, the knees are bent b u t the hips are completely open. The Selection of These Exercises T he lists of exercises a n d progressions incorporated in this book, while extensive, are by no m e a n s m e a n t to be an exhaustive collection of all the possible gymnastics exercise variations that exist, are pertinent or beneficial for the d e v e l o p m e n t of Basic Strength. Rather the emphasis h a s b e e n on p r o v i d i n g a reasonable series of progressions a n d exercise choices to aid y o u in your quest for a h i g h degree of fundamental static a n d fundamental b o d y w e i g h t strength. There are a m u l t i t u d e of other b o d y w e i g h t exercise variations available; a great m a n y of w h i c h relate to the other c o m p o n e n t s of the Gymnastic Bodies p r o g r a m a n d will be discussed in detail in my other volumes. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  27. 27. 16 BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY It is i m p o r t a n t to note that no joint pre-habilitation, technical h a n d s t a n d or technical press h a n d s t a n d work, d y n a m i c or a d v a n c e d ring strength exercises are included in this v o l u m e . This v o l u m e will focus solely on the acquisition of Basic Strength. In cannot be overstated that acquisition of fundamental static positions a n d f u n d a m e n t a l b o d y w e i g h t strength will be the foundation from w h i c h all the other higher-level strength progressions will proceed. Once an a d e q u a t e foundation h a s b e e n established, y o u will be better able to progress a n d p r o s p e r w i t h m o r e the a d v a n c e d c o m p o n e n t variations a s p r e s e n t e d in the other Gymnastic Bodies volumes. In addition, a difficulty rating of 1 to 5 is p r o v i d e d for each of the exercise variations t h r o u g h o u t this book. These ratings are n o t m e a n t as an overall difficulty rating in comparison to all other gymnastics exercises, b u t only as a relative level of c o m p a r i s o n b e t w e e n the other variations in that particular family of m o v e m e n t s ; i.e. c o m p a r i n g regular dips to XR dips. Difficulty rating: Handstands & Press Handstands H a n d s t a n d s a n d press h a n d s t a n d s are essential elements in the d e v e l o p m e n t of the exceptional u p p e r b o d y strength a n d p o w e r of m y gymnasts. I n m y opinion, h a n d s t a n d s are quite simply the m o s t effective of all of the static strength exercises, with a tremendous carryover to other athletic endeavors. I believe that a great deal of my prior athletic ability w a s d u e to my college coach requiring me to perform thirty m i n u t e s of ring h a n d s t a n d s every day. I focus m o r e on the d e v e l o p m e n t of press h a n d s t a n d s t h a n any other single exercise, especially w i t h beginning a n d intermediate athletes. Why? I h a v e found that press h a n d s t a n d s i m p a r t athletic ability far in excess of w h a t one w o u l d a s s u m e for such a seemingly simple exercise. In my experience, a g y m n a s t ' s overall gift for high-level elements can often simply be m e a s u r e d by their proficiency in press h a n d s t a n d s . My top c h a m p i o n WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  28. 28. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING 17 athletes h a v e all b e e n capable of 16-30 technically correct straddle press h a n d s t a n d s in a row. It is difficult to m a k e an accurate analogy; h o w e v e r for the gymnastics- training enthusiast, press h a n d s t a n d s , in all of their incredibly difficult variations, are the u p p e r b o d y snatch of b o d y w e i g h t m o v e m e n t s . There is no other single b o d y w e i g h t exercise that d e m a n d s m o r e strength, focus, tension, stability, coordination, balance a n d active flexibility over a greater range of motion. Truly h a n d s t a n d a n d press h a n d s t a n d training yields a m a z i n g results, especially w h e n trained in combination. H o w e v e r the necessary specific physical preparation a n d technical training progressions for these t w o elements far exceeds the space allowable in this volume. My p r o g r a m for the complete d e v e l o p m e n t of h a n d s t a n d s a n d press h a n d s t a n d s is therefore p r e s e n t e d in a separate volume, The H a n d s t a n d Chronicles; w h i c h quite literally contains the m o s t complete a n d extensive information ever presented on the subject. Everything necessary is p r o v i d e d to develop a rock solid static h a n d s t a n d a n d to master the m a n y intricacies of press h a n d s t a n d s . Everything that is, except for the sweat; that is up to you. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  29. 29. CHAPTER THREE Basic Strength
  30. 30. 21 Basic Strength S trength is the foundation from w h i c h all forms of athletic physical expression become possible. In this respect, gymnastics is no different t h a n any other sport. We do, however, h a v e o u r o w n specific requirements. In the strength training of my athletes, I am primarily concerned w i t h b u i l d i n g t w o facets of strength: maximal a n d dynamic. The d e v e l o p m e n t of gymnastics m a x i m a l strength will be a two-tiered process; building basic strength is the first step, as well as initially b e i n g our m a i n training focus. Basic strength is c o m p o s e d of t w o components; fundamental static positions (FSP) a n d f u n d a m e n t a l b o d y w e i g h t exercises (FBE). F u n d a m e n t a l static positions a n d fundamental b o d y w e i g h t exercises are "fundamental" in that they are the initial b u i l d i n g blocks from w h i c h all other gymnastics training progresses. Increasing m a x i m a l strength will directly relate to o u r ability to execute ever m o r e leverage-disadvantaged b o d y w e i g h t exercises. Once proficiency of the FBEs h a s b e e n achieved, our journey t o w a r d s higher levels of gymnastics maximal strength will continue t h r o u g h the u s e of the a d v a n c e d ring strength exercises a n d progressions discussed in All Muscle, No Iron. A d v a n c e d ring strength training is extremely potent a n d will yield astonishing strength gains, IF the correct p r e p a r a t o r y foundation h a s b e e n laid. Simultaneously w i t h our transition to a d v a n c e d ring strength, a significant shift in our strength training protocol will also occur; the continued acquisition of maximal strength will no longer be our p r i m a r y training focus, b u t will shift to a secondary role. 7 After the 'basic foundation is achieved, the p r i m a r y focus of o u r Gymnastic Bodies training will shift to the d e v e l o p m e n t of " p o w e r " utilizing gymnastic d y n a m i c strength exercises, as outlined in The D y n a m i c Physique. H o w e v e r until that time occurs, our p r i m a r y focus n e e d s to r e m a i n on establishing a solid foundation of basic strength t h r o u g h the use of FSPs a n d FBEs. It should also be u n d e r s t o o d that the vast majority of athletes fail in establishing an WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  31. 31. 22 BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY optimal s u r p l u s of basic strength a n d p r e m a t u r e l y focus on d y n a m i c strength training. This is n o t to insinuate that d y n a m i c strength w o r k will not take place in o u r initial training, it will. D y n a m i c strength is an essential c o m p o n e n t in the d e v e l o p m e n t of gymnastic abilities a n d is explored t h o r o u g h l y in the Gymnastic Bodies volume, The D y n a m i c Physique. H o w e v e r , to ensure the m o s t efficient d e v e l o p m e n t of the athlete, d y n a m i c strength training m u s t r e m a i n a secondary focus until an a d e q u a t e foundation of basic strength h a s b e e n established. W h a t a b o u t relative strength a n d developing a h i g h strength to b o d y w e i g h t ratio y o u m a y ask? As gymnasts, it is literally impossible to neglect this p a r t of our training. It w o u l d be like asking a fish to not get wet. D u e to the fact that we are w o r k i n g w i t h b o d y w e i g h t progressions, all of our maximal a n d d y n a m i c strength training already occurs w i t h i n a matrix of relative strength. With the Gymnastics Bodies Program, all increases in m a x i m a l a n d d y n a m i c strength will automatically equate to increases in relative strength as well. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  32. 32. CHAPTER FOUR Fundamental Static Positions
  33. 33. Fundamental Static Positions G ymnastically speaking, static strength is the ability to h o l d or maintain the b o d y motionless in an often mechanically d i s a d v a n t a g e d position. L-sits, front levers a n d planches are all examples of static strength elements. I h a v e found static strength training to be invaluable in building the ligament a n d t e n d o n strength of the joints, as well as h a v i n g a p r o f o u n d effect on core strength development. The static exercises h e l p to build a m a z i n g strength w h i c h quite frankly cannot be d e v e l o p e d any other w a y . A caveat is required here; training the s u p p o r t static strength positions can be quite taxing on the wrists; especially w i t h o u t an a d e q u a t e developmental foundation. The wrists will consequently require special physical p r e p a r a t i o n to be able to adequately h a n d l e the n e w training load. As m e n t i o n e d previously, the wrist specific p r e p a r a t i o n series that I use w i t h my athletes is quite extensive a n d is covered in great detail in the Gymnastics Bodies volume, Liquid Steel. Following are the basic static strength positions in m e n ' s gymnastics. Complete descriptions as well as progressions for developing all of the basic positions are provided. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  34. 34. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY L-sit T he L-sit, or half lever as it is sometimes called, is one of the m o s t basic gymnastics elements and, seemingly, the simplest of all a b d o m i n a l exercises. H o w h a r d can it be to simply stay in one position? It m u s t be the easiest thing in the world, right? W r o n g . Correctly done, the L-sit will m a k e m o s t other conventional a b d o m i n a l exercise s e e m like child's play. W a y back w h e n , w h e n I w a s a b e g i n n i n g gymnast, my first coach h a d us do no specific a b d o m i n a l exercises; only lots a n d lots of regular L-sits. A 60 second L w a s the expected standard. O n e day, one of the senior g y m n a s t s challenged me to a h a n g i n g leg lift contest on the stall bars (These bars are directly anchored to the wall a n d do n o t allow y o u to lean back at all or to pull d o w n w i t h y o u r lats - all p u r e core strength). I cranked o u t ten repetitions w i t h o u t ever h a v i n g d o n e the exercise before. The Progressions L-sit - PB tuck Center yourself on a set of parallel bars (PB), parallets or p u s h u p bars. If y o u r a b d o m i n a l strength is very low, you m a y also begin on t w o chairs, as this will allow y o u to start w i t h y o u feet m u c h lower a n d m a k e the exercise m o r e accessible. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  35. 35. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING Tuck y o u r legs a n d a t t e m p t to lift t h e m until they are parallel with the floor. At first it m a y not be possible for y o u to lift y o u r legs up to a completely parallel position. That is fine, simply w o r k w i t h y o u r knees at the height that y o u are comfortable. Sit up straight a n d be sure to keep y o u r elbows locked (straight). Difficulty rating: L-sit - PB l o w The p r i m a r y difference on this variation is that the knees will n o w be straight. As the leverage is m u c h less on this exercise a n d the difficulty is higher, y o u will probably find that y o u cannot h o l d y o u r legs as h i g h as y o u did in the tuck L a n d that you n e e d to w o r k on t w o chairs or elevated bars. In the beginning, it is perfectly acceptable for y o u r feet to be far b e l o w horizontal. Be p r e p a r e d for some exceptional c r a m p s in b o t h y o u r h i p flexors a n d the rectus femoris (the muscle in the u p p e r m i d d l e of y o u r quadriceps). If the c r a m p s become too intense, stop the exercise for some stretching a n d massage before again continuing the d a y ' s w o r k o u t . Difficulty rating: L-sit - PB Once y o u can hold the Low Straight Leg L comfortably, it is time to progress to the Horizontal L. The difference b e t w e e n this a n d the prior version is WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  36. 36. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC B O D Y simply that y o u r legs are n o w h i g h e n o u g h d u r i n g the static h o l d to be parallel to the floor. As y o u will n o w be h o l d i n g y o u r legs horizontal a n d parallel to the floor y o u will h a v e e n o u g h height a n d clearance to, if y o u wish, w o r k this exercise on the floor as well as on the bars. W o r k h a r d a n d persevere in the p u r s u i t of excellence w i t h this position. Achieving the horizontal L-sit for substantial time will be a major milestone in y o u r athletic development. Difficulty rating: L-sit - PB advanced For m o r e advanced athletes, the regular L - s i t m a y be m a d e m u c h m o r e difficult by transitioning to the A d v a n c e d L-sit. In the a d v a n c e d L-sit the legs are still straight a n d level a n d the a r m s are locked, h o w e v e r n o w the back is held flat w i t h no h u n c h i n g or c u r v a t u r e allowed. Do n o t allow y o u r chest to cave in. N o w while maintaining this "flat b a c k e d " position, attempt to p u s h y o u r h i p s forward in front of y o u r h a n d s while continuing to h o l d the legs straight a n d level. Be prepared, this is an extremely difficult variation e v e n for a d v a n c e d athletes. Even as small an adjustment as one inch forward of the h i p s in front of the h a n d s will cause most athletes to fail at this version. Difficulty rating: WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  37. 37. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING L-sit - XR The L-sit on the Xtreme Rings is everything that the PB L-sit is - squared. D u e to the t r e m e n d o u s instability of the rings, y o u will probably find it exceedingly difficult to maintain the s a m e good b o d y position that y o u h a v e d e v e l o p e d on the PBs. Be patient. Generally y o u r stabilizers will adjust to the n e w d e m a n d s being placed on t h e m over the course of a few weeks. The n o r m a l performance criteria that y o u developed on the PBs for y o u r L-sit still a p p l y here. Performed correctly, the back s h o u l d be flat, the elbows locked a n d the chest up w i t h the back flat. In addition, y o u will also n o w be w o r k i n g on correctly t u r n i n g out the rings d u r i n g a s u p p o r t for the first time. For information on executing a correct s u p p o r t position on the rings, see the XR s u p p o r t entry in the section on dip variations. Difficulty rating: L-sit - XR advanced To adjust y o u r regular XR L-sit, p u s h the hips forward until they are next to the h a n d s . Do this while continuing to maintain the flat back w i t h chest out, a r m s locked a n d the rings t u r n e d out that y o u m a s t e r e d d u r i n g the regular XR L-sit. Difficulty rating: WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  38. 38. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY Straddle L T he straddle L is a graceful a n d elegant m o v e m e n t . It is an excellent combination of a b d o m i n a l strength a n d active flexibility; w h i c h develops a great deal of stability within the h i p joint. I injured my left h i p some years ago a n d I h a v e found that training straddle Ls several times a w e e k greatly relieves the discomfort w i t h i n the joint. Straddle Ls, as well as L sits, are also easily integrated in the training of other skills. This simplifies y o u r training a n d increasing the effectiveness of y o u r conditioning p r o g r a m . Press h a n d s t a n d s , pull-ups a n d d i p s are especially amenable to its inclusion. The Progressions Straddle L - PB bent For the beginner, this exercise will n e e d to be d o n e on the PBs, h i g h parallets, or even in-between t w o chairs as they will probably not as yet h a v e d e v e l o p e d the a p p r o p r i a t e h i p strength necessary to perform it on the floor. Unfortunately p u s h u p b a r s will not w o r k for most beginners, as the height of the bars is simply too low. Place yourself, so that y o u are standing or sitting in a straddle w i t h your h a n d s in-between your legs. With y o u r h a n d s comfortably spaced apart, lift y o u r buttocks up a n d attempt to bring y o u r legs up in front of you. Be sure to k e e p y o u r legs bent in this first variation of the straddle L. Unlike the regular L, the straddle L should h a v e a forward lean while in support; the higher the straddle L, the m o r e substantial will be the forward lean. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  39. 39. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING It is a grave error to allow the legs to rest on the arms d u r i n g this element. While it will greatly reduce the intensity of this m o v e m e n t , it will also greatly reduce the very strength gains that y o u w e r e seeking in the first place. Difficulty rating: S t r a d d l e L - PB l o w With this variation it is perfectly fine to continue to allow y o u r legs to h a n g below parallel; our major change will n o w be the straightening of the knees. Do not be overly concerned if y o u r n o w straight legs are far below horizontal. Your strength will continue to i m p r o v e w i t h consistent practice. Difficulty rating: S t r a d d l e L - o n e h a n d center This variation requires vastly less flexibility t h a n b o t h h a n d s in the center a n d yet allows y o u to continue building h i p a n d leg extension strength. Sitting on the floor in a straddle, place one h a n d in the center a n d the other h a n d outside of y o u r leg just in front of the hips. P u s h up a n d a t t e m p t to h o l d the straddle L. Lower to the g r o u n d , switch h a n d s a n d repeat. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  40. 40. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY Difficulty rating: Straddle L - partial roll Technically this is not a p u r e static strength element, b u t rather an e m b e d d e d static strength element. H o w e v e r it is not u n c o m m o n for a beginning trainee to h a v e a great deal of difficulty initially w i t h lifting into the horizontal straddle L. This rolling version helps to alleviate that p r o b l e m by utilizing m o m e n t u m . For additional information on utilizing the excellent technique of e m b e d d e d statics in y o u r training, they are discussed t h o r o u g h l y in the P r o g r a m Design section. Begin from a straddle sit on the floor. Partially roll b a c k w a r d t h e n quickly roll forward while simultaneously attempting to p u s h up into the straddle L w i t h b o t h h a n d s in the center. There will be a m o m e n t a r y h o l d of the straddle L at best. Adjust the intensity of this m o v e m e n t by increasing or decreasing the speed of the roll forward. Difficulty rating: Straddle L - PB For a correct straddle L position, the legs should be parallel to the floor w i t h the feet slightly above the knees. The h i p s in height should be s o m e w h e r e in- b e t w e e n the wrists a n d elbows. The legs should n o t be touching the arms. The shoulders should be slightly leaning forward. It m a y be performed either on the floor, parallets or parallel bars. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  41. 41. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING Difficulty rating: Straddle L - XR Like regular L-sits, straddle Ls are m u c h m o r e difficult w h e n performed on the Xtreme Rings; the inherent instability of the rings themselves greatly increases the muscular d e m a n d s of this m o v e m e n t . For beginners on the rings, it is often easiest to begin from a bent leg straddle L a n d then extend o u t to the straight leg position. W h e n performing a straddle L on the rings always attempt to lift the legs above the rings. Do n o t b e n d the elbows, y o u should feel the biceps pressing forward strongly. Also strive to k e e p the t h u m b s t u r n e d out d u r i n g the support. Remember that unlike L seats, straddle Ls m u s t lean forward in order to preserve balance. This of course causes the h i p flexors a n d rectus femoris to c r a m p strongly d u r i n g the maintenance of the position, especially for n e w trainees. Difficulty rating: Straddle L - high The h i g h straddle L is exceptionally difficult a n d very few athletes will ever possess the combined strength a n d flexibility of the back, h i p a n d shoulder girdle to be able to successfully perform it. O u t of the t h o u s a n d s of athletes I h a v e trained, only t w o w e r e able to execute this element. Once in a regular WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  42. 42. 34 BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY straddle L, n o w a t t e m p t to lift y o u r h i p s to shoulder high by pressing y o u r h i p s back a n d u p . Your forward lean will increase as y o u r hips go higher. U p o n reaching the correct position, y o u r knees will be higher t h a n y o u r elbows. Be sure to m a i n t a i n the correct position for y o u r legs, if y o u feet start to d r o p b e l o w the level of y o u r knees, y o u are attempting to go too h i g h for y o u r current level of strength. Difficulty rating: WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  43. 43. Manna W atching s o m e o n e perform a m a n n a seems to blur the b o u n d a r i e s of w h a t we h a d t h o u g h t w a s physically possible. In fact, in most gymnastics p r o g r a m s a r o u n d the country the m a n n a is a relatively rare skill a n d considered s o m e w h a t exotic. Even a m o n g our U.S. Olympic level athletes there are only a few w h o can do the m a n n a correctly. As I mentioned, the m a n n a is generally a rare skill; except in my p r o g r a m . A b o u t 75% of my senior athletes can perform a m a n n a ; w i t h several of those also w o r k i n g on developing a solid h i g h m a n n a . Are they all exceptional athletes? Unquestionably s o m e of my athletes are incredibly talented, h o w e v e r m o s t are simply persistent w i t h average talent and, m o s t importantly, a solid w o r k ethic. Rather t h a n all exceptional athletes, w h a t I h a v e developed is an efficient a n d effective m e t h o d of b u i l d i n g m a n n a s . The best w a y that I h a v e found over the years to build a m a n n a also h a p p e n s to be the simplest a n d most straightforward. It does h o w e v e r require great dedication; for m o s t people 1-2 years of consistent practice will be required to develop the m a n n a . H o w e v e r , w i t h patience a n d a lot of sweat, m a n y of the people w h o follow my p r o g r a m diligently will i n d e e d succeed in developing a m a n n a . The reason m o s t people fail to develop a m a n n a is d u e to a flawed u n d e r s t a n d i n g of the actual m o v e m e n t itself. The c o m m o n belief is that a V- WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  44. 44. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY sit is a preliminary step along the r o a d to a m a n n a . As such, they build up the strength necessary for the V-sit, w h i c h is essentially a leg lift on the h a n d s a n d t h e n subsequently fail to build up the extension strength necessary to succeed at the m a n n a . In my experience, the correct p r i m a r y focus for developing a m a n n a is forward extension of the h i p s in front of the h a n d s ; or m o r e simply stated - p u s h i n g the hips forward in front of the h a n d s , not on lifting the legs. Quality w o r k on the various progressions is essential for being able to eventually build up to this skill; for a m a n n a there are no shortcuts. You m u s t go t h r o u g h the progressions patiently a n d thoroughly. The Progressions Manna - M S H bent The m a i n d e v e l o p m e n t a l exercise for b u i l d i n g a m a n n a is the m i d d l e split h o l d (MSH) held in a horizontal position. H o w e v e r , for m o s t people the H M S H is a very challenging position a n d will n e e d to be built up to gradually. For that reason, we will begin our quest for the m a n n a , w i t h the bent leg m i d d l e split hold. At first y o u m a y n o t be able to m o v e the h i p s forward off the h a n d s a n d wrists, especially while m a i n t a i n i n g straight legs. Therefore we will ignore the straight legs for n o w a n d focus solely on b u i l d i n g our introductory s u p p o r t strength for this skill. Using the e n d of the parallel bars, parallets or even t w o chairs sit w i t h y o u r h a n d s directly b e h i n d y o u r glutes. N o w lift off of the bars while simultaneously attempting to p u s h the h i p s forward off of y o u r wrists. Do n o t allow the knees to lift above the h i p s , b u t keep t h e m b o t h parallel to the floor at all times. At this time, raising the knees m a y only be d o n e w i t h an a c c o m p a n y i n g lift of the hips. Constantly strive to p u s h the h i p s further a n d further forward in front of the wrists w h i l e maintaining the parallel position of the knees a n d hips. It is essential on this m o v e m e n t as w i t h all of the progressions in the m a n n a series, to k e e p the back as flat as possible at all times. Keeping the back flat allows the chest to r e m a i n elevated, w h i c h is essential in eventually achieving the top position of the m a n n a . Difficulty rating: WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  45. 45. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING 37 Manna - M S H l o w Once y o u are able to press y o u r hips forward off your wrists in the bent leg m i d d l e split hold, y o u m a y m o v e on to the straight leg version. Initially, do n o t be overly concerned about y o u r feet being below horizontal (sometimes far below!) w i t h this variation. You will find that straightening the knees greatly increases the strength d e m a n d s on y o u r hips. A c c o m m o d a t e this by allowing y o u r legs to d r o p as l o w as necessary in order to succeed in y o u r static hold. As y o u r strength improves, gradually attempt to perform this static h o l d w i t h higher a n d higher legs, until y o u achieve nearly horizontal legs. Difficulty rating: Manna - M S H horizontal The horizontal m i d d l e split h o l d is the position that y o u will s p e n d at least 90% of your developmental m a n n a time in. Most people will fail in the d e v e l o p m e n t of a m a n n a simply because they w e r e too impatient to s p e n d the requisite a m o u n t of time developing the H M S H . Be sure to w o r k in a clear area, w h e r e y o u have r o o m to roll b a c k w a r d if necessary. N o w simply sit on the g r o u n d w i t h y o u r legs straddled (apart), the w i d e r the better. You should actually feel y o u r hips actively pulling y o u r legs as w i d e as possible a n d t h e n striving to pull t h e m w i d e r still. C o n t i n u e to feel // ,, this p u l l i n g d u r i n g the entire m o v e m e n t . Be p r e p a r e d for major cramps in y o u r h i p flexors, h o w e v e r the w i d e r a n d m o r e stable your legs are, the easier a n d quicker the d e v e l o p m e n t of the m a n n a will be. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  46. 46. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY N o w from the straddle sit on the floor, place y o u r h a n d s b e h i n d y o u r legs right next to y o u r hips. W i t h the a r m s straight, once again strive to p u s h the h i p s forward off the wrists. W h e n d o n e correctly, y o u r legs will lift off the g r o u n d as y o u r h i p s m o v e forward. On lifting y o u will naturally w a n t to allow the feet to lift above the hips. This is incorrect. It is essential on a t t e m p t i n g to rise up into position that the h i p s a n d feet stay level w i t h one another. U n d e r no circumstances allow the feet to either raise above or d r o p b e n e a t h t h e hips, they s h o u l d r e m a i n level in relation to each other at all times. Difficulty rating: Manna N o w that a basic foundation h a s b e e n laid, w o r k on the M a n n a itself can begin. This is a very challenging position a n d can take years to develop. It is, however, w o r t h the effort. The majority of the c h a m p i o n s I h a v e developed over the years h a v e h a d solid m a n n a s . The strength that this position develops is transferable to a w i d e range of gymnastics skills. Allan Bower in a Manna at 7yrs old Allan is now 13 years old and a 5 year veteran member of the US Jr. National Team In appearance, the m a n n a resembles an inverted L- sit. To execute a m a n n a correctly requires t r e m e n d o u s triceps a n d shoulder strength as well as excellent lower back strength a n d flexibility. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  47. 47. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING Start w i t h a H M S M on the floor. Emphasize h i p s in front of the h a n d s . A c o m m o n misconception on the m a n n a is to think that the position is achieved by leaning b a c k w a r d s while a t t e m p t i n g to lift the legs. Actually the m a i n focus should be keeping the h i p s pressed forward. Great pressure will be felt on the triceps a n d back of the shoulders; initially severe c r a m p i n g of the triceps is not at all u n u s u a l . As y o u r strength improves, continue to press y o u r hips further in front of y o u r h a n d s . This will result in y o u r h i p s gradually rising higher a n d higher. A t t e m p t i n g to raise the h i p s by leaning back rather t h a n pressing the h i p s forward will result in a total lack of progress on this skill Do not lean back, nor should y o u allow y o u r h e a d to fall back. This is ineffective a n d will result in a great deal of w a s t e d time a n d effort. To increase the height of y o u r m a n n a , simply p u s h y o u r hips forward. Keep y o u r legs pulled as w i d e apart as possible. Do n o t try to lift your legs at the expense of pressing the h i p s forward; this will simply stop y o u r m o t i o n at a V-sit. As y o u continue p u s h i n g forward a n d y o u r strength increases, y o u r legs will naturally rise higher. As time passes, y o u will achieve a straddled 1/2 V position a n d t h e n finally a vertical straddled V. Do not give in to the t e m p t a t i o n to focus on lifting the legs, continue to focus on pressing the hips forward; this is essential. Do n o t bring y o u r legs together until y o u h a v e reached a horizontal m a n n a position. Bringing y o u r legs together p r e m a t u r e l y increases the difficulty of the element a n d will greatly increase the time required to master this position. Difficulty rating: Manna - high If the m a n n a is a rare skill, the h i g h m a n n a is nearly non-existent. In fact, other t h a n my o w n athletes, I h a v e personally only seen one other in competition. An extremely stable m a n n a is a m a n d a t o r y r e q u i r e m e n t for even attempting WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  48. 48. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY the h i g h m a n n a . To proceed to the h i g h m a n n a from the m a n n a , focus on lifting the legs while also simultaneously lifting the hips. The tendency is to concentrate on the leg lift only and, w h i l e it is true that the legs do travel farther t h a n the h i p s , the h i p s m u s t rise also in order to enable the m a n n a to lift higher t h a n horizontal. The higher the legs a n d h i p s lift, the farther forward the s h o u l d e r s m u s t press in order to compensate for the change in the center of gravity. Difficulty rating: WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  49. 49. Back Lever T he back lever is usually one of the first "real" gymnastics strength positions that m o s t people are exposed to. It is a little bit exotic a n d forces y o u r b o d y to exert strength in a position that m o s t people d i d n ' t even k n o w they could get into. It is very good for building shoulder girdle strength a n d will absolutely crush the core a n d lower back of the beginning gymnastics strength trainee. The back lever is also a necessary stepping-stone t o w a r d building the straight leg front lever a n d eventually the straight leg planche. In fact, in my opinion the back lever n e e d s to be established before a planche will be successful. Once a strong back lever is developed, the planche progression will proceed m u c h m o r e rapidly. The following progressions m a y be performed on the Xtreme Rings, a single rail of the parallel bars or even any overhead single bar. Just be careful that the area y o u are w o r k i n g in is safe a n d appropriate for this training. The Progressions Back Lever - tuck F r o m a n inverted h a n g , while keeping y o u r back r o u n d e d w i t h y o u r knees held tightly into y o u r chest, a t t e m p t to lower y o u r hips b e h i n d y o u to a horizontal position. In all probability, at first, y o u will only be able to d r o p d o w n slightly before being at the basic of y o u r strength. A t t e m p t i n g to lean forward d u r i n g the back lever variations will greatly aid y o u in maintaining the back lever. In the beginning, squeezing i n w a r d w i t h the a r m s into y o u r lats will also be of great assistance to you. This practice h o w e v e r should only be u s e d in the beginning w h e n necessary a n d should be discontinued as soon as possible. A c o m m o n mistake by beginners is to squeeze one lat h a r d e r t h a n the other WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  50. 50. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY resulting in a b o d y position that is s k e w e d sideways. As for the grip, this is a personal choice, h o w e v e r I r e c o m m e n d p a l m s d o w n rather t h a n p a l m s u p ; unless there is an injury that n e e d s to be t a k e n into account. It is t r u e that p a l m s up will place less stress on the biceps, b u t the p a l m s d o w n will b u i l d greater biceps strength in addition to allowing the athlete to transition into a n d out of the back lever from other positions m o r e efficiently. A n d m o r e importantly, this p a l m s d o w n grip also helps to p r e p a r e the biceps for the strain later on of XR planches a n d iron crosses. Difficulty rating: Back Lever - flat tuck To initiate the flat back, from the tuck back lever extend the h i p s back while simultaneously lifting the shoulders a n d p u s h i n g b a c k w a r d w i t h the h a n d s . Be careful to m a i n t a i n a horizontal position. Difficulty rating: Back Lever - straddle There are several options for entering a straddle back lever. Probably the easiest for beginners is from the flat tuck back lever simply extend the legs o u t a n d to the side. M a k e sure to continue to lean forward strongly w h e n WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  51. 51. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING extending the legs behind. Keeping the h e a d neutral (neither tucked d o w n nor lifted u p ) will aid in m a i n t a i n i n g a flat back d u r i n g the straddle back lever. As progressing to the tuck back lever substantially increased the intensity of the load on the back, the straddle back lever will once again be a q u a n t u m j u m p in intensity of load. Do n o t u n d e r any circumstances, allow yourself to train the SB w i t h less t h a n a totally flat back. If at anytime, the flat back position is lost, immediately r e t u r n back to the 1/2BL to p r e p a r e for the next attempt. Difficulty rating: Back Lever - half From the straddle back lever, b e n d the knees while simultaneously bringing the legs together. In the final position, a half back lever will continue to maintain a flat back a n d hips, b u t n o w the calves will be vertical w i t h the feet pointing at the ceiling. The tendency here is to allow the hips to close, thereby reducing the strain on the lower back, b u t also greatly lessening the strength gains from this m o v e m e n t . Focus on maintaining a flat back w i t h completely o p e n hips. Difficulty rating: WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  52. 52. 44 BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY Back Lever F r o m the half back lever begin to gradually extend a n d straighten the knees. Once again the h i p s will struggle to close d u r i n g the extension, do not allow this to h a p p e n . There is no n e e d to immediately go to a fully extended position. Build up to this over time as small shifts of even a few inches greater decrease the leverage of the m o v e m e n t , subsequently greatly increasing the training load on the shoulder girdle a n d lower back. Difficulty rating: WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  53. 53. Front Lever B ecoming proficient at front levers will h a v e a strong carryover effect to m a n y b o d y w e i g h t skills; especially skills involving core a n d pull-up strength. The reverse is h o w e v e r not true. O n e evening I h a d a static L-sit contest w i t h my s o m e of my athletes. Allan held a 60-second L that night; despite our never w o r k i n g extended h o l d L-sits by themselves. We do h o w e v e r focus strongly on front levers. Allan is quite proficient at t h e m a n d can hold a 10-second front lever. A n o t h e r athlete, Josh, h a s a strong straddle planche (19 seconds), b u t n o t a strong front lever, a n d the a t t e m p t at the 60-second L-sit crushed him. For the front lever series m a k e sure to use a shoulder w i d t h o v e r h a n d grip (fingers pointing away) as this will increase the a m o u n t of lat p o w e r y o u can exert d u r i n g these exercises. Also, as w i t h the u p c o m i n g planche series, it is very i m p o r t a n t to keep the elbows straight, as b e n d i n g the elbows will greatly lessen the intensity of these exercises a n d thereby dramatically lower the s u b s e q u e n t strength gains. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  54. 54. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY The Progressions Front Lever - tuck While h a n g i n g in an o v e r h a n d grip (i.e. w i t h fingers p o i n t i n g a w a y from you), b r i n g y o u r knees to y o u r chest a n d t h e n strive to lift y o u r h i p s in front of y o u while at the same time leaning back w i t h y o u r shoulders. At this time it is fine to allow y o u r back to curve as y o u learn a n d b u i l d strength in the m o v e m e n t . Your goal is to eventually be able to pull y o u r h i p s up to horizontal or level w i t h y o u r shoulders w i t h an approximately 45 degree angle b e t w e e n the a r m s a n d torso. This is however, a very difficult position for beginners a n d y o u will probably n e e d to build up to it gradually. At first, simply lift y o u r h i p s as h i g h as y o u can. Difficulty rating: Front Lever - flat tuck Once the tuck front lever feels firmly in control, it is time to m o v e on to the flat tuck front lever. As w i t h the flat tuck planche, the m a i n difference here is the "flat" back. This position will cause all of the muscle fibers in your back to fire as they struggle to h a n d l e the load of your b o d y w e i g h t . The contraction will be intense. Your goal is to eventually be able to pull y o u r hips up to horizontal or level w i t h y o u r shoulders w i t h an approximately 45° angle b e t w e e n the a r m s a n d torso while maintaining y o u r "flattened" back. To achieve this position, think of pulling y o u r s h o u l d e r s back a w a y from y o u r h a n d s while a t the same time pressing y o u r h a n d s d o w n t o w a r d s y o u r hips. Be sure to r e m e m b e r to keep h i p s shoulder h i g h a n d elbows tight a n d straight. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  55. 55. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING Difficulty rating: Front Lever - straddle F r o m the flat tuck front lever position, begin to carefully a n d slowly extend y o u r legs out from y o u r chest. As w i t h the planche, the w i d e r your legs are spread, the easier the transition from the flat tuck front lever to the straddle front lever will be. Strive to maintain your "flat" back position. If y o u are unable to do so, y o u are too far extended forward a n d n e e d to pull y o u r legs back a bit. D o n ' t forget to keep the shoulders pulling back a n d the h a n d s pressing d o w n . Difficulty rating: Front Lever - half For m a n y trainees there is significant j u m p in intensity w h e n progressing from the straddle front lever to the front lever. The half front lever is an excellent intermediate step. As w i t h most of the preceding variations, the half front lever continues to be held w i t h the hips a n d back flat, h o w e v e r n o w the legs are b r o u g h t together WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  56. 56. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY b u t w i t h the knees b e n t at 90° (in this position the feet will be p o i n t i n g d o w n w a r d to the g r o u n d ) . Bringing the legs together greatly increases t h e work-load on the lower back a n d shoulder girdle, h o w e v e r it is still significantly less t h a n that of the full front lever. Straightening the angle of the knees, while continuing to m a i n t a i n the flat hips, will, over time, gradually increase the difficulty of this m o v e m e n t . Difficulty rating: Front Lever D e p e n d i n g on y o u r individual strengths, yes it is quite c o m m o n for front levers to completely trash y o u r core. R e m e m b e r that y o u are s u p p o r t i n g the entire w e i g h t of y o u r legs a n d mid-section w i t h an extremely d i s a d v a n t a g e d lever. In b o t h instances of either core or s h o u l d e r / g i r d l e failure, the feet will sink d o w n t o w a r d s the g r o u n d . The p r i m a r y difference is that w h e n the core fails, y o u will unable to m a i n t a i n a flat back (straight body) position resulting in either an arched back or pike in the hips. In the case of shoulder g i r d l e / l a t s failure, y o u will be able to r e m a i n straight & flat b u t unable to keep y o u r feet elevated. Difficulty rating: WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  57. 57. Planche O bviously, for those of us w h o are m e r e mortals, it is not possible to simply r e m o v e the legs from the floor a n d go directly to the planche. addition, there are those w h o w o u l d quibble w i t h the planche being included In in a list of fundamental static strength positions. H o w e v e r it m u s t be n o t e d that this is a n o t a ring planche a n d that w i t h the p r o p e r progressions a n d patience, this position is attainable by a reasonably fit, h a r d w o r k i n g athlete. While w o r k i n g the various planche variations, strive to h o l d the hips level w i t h the shoulders. As w i t h the front lever, m a k e sure that the elbows are straight. Bending the elbows greatly lessens the intensity of these exercises a n d will significantly slow y o u r progress. A r m s that are almost straight are still bent, so be diligent a n d keep t h e m straight. Patience a n d perseverance are p o t e n t tools. Progress on the planche is most often m e a s u r e d in m o n t h s , not weeks. Don't get too caught up in minutiae or trying to progress as quickly as possible. It is also important to r e m e m b e r that straight-arm strength is a completely different animal t h a n b e n t - a r m strength a n d the only w a y to develop it is to progress t h r o u g h various straight-arm movements. O n e final general note on planches; w h e n training on the floor, hand positions on the planche series exercises are completely optional. Some prefer fingers forward, others to the side, still others feel that fingers pointing b a c k w a r d at a 45° angle to be best. Some swear by s u p p o r t on fingertips (my personal favorite) a n d others w i t h the h a n d s completely flat. Just experiment a n d find the grip that y o u prefer. If y o u find that a flat h a n d s u p p o r t on the floor is too uncomfortable for y o u r wrists, these progressions can also be performed on WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  58. 58. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY parallets, on p u s h u p bars or e v e n on a set of kettlebells. The Progressions Planche - frog stand Begin this position by a s s u m i n g a full squat a n d placing y o u r h a n d s on the g r o u n d directly in front of y o u r feet. By directly, I m e a n right next to y o u r toes. A r r a n g e yourself so that y o u r knees are resting against y o u r bent elbows. N o w gradually lean forward taking y o u r weight b o t h u n t o your h a n d s a n d also u n t o y o u r knees b y leaning t h e m o n y o u r elbows. Using your knees on y o u r elbows will allow y o u r legs to h e l p y o u r shoulders bear the load of y o u r b o d y w e i g h t . As y o u continue leaning forward y o u will eventually be able to r e m o v e y o u r feet completely from the floor a n d hold yourself up w i t h only y o u r h a n d s on the floor a n d y o u r knees on y o u r elbows for support. Balance is also a key to this exercise. As y o u first begin to learn h o w to lean forward in this position, y o u will often probably overextend a n d fall forward. D o n ' t w o r r y , h a v e fun w i t h it a n d enjoy s o m e n e w training. Some pillows placed in front of y o u will h e l p to cushion any crash landings. Notice that this is the only static position in our planche progressions w i t h b e n t elbows. Difficulty rating: P l a n c h e - a d v a n c e d frog s t a n d For m a n y trainees, a d v a n c e d frog stands are a necessary intermediate step to the prior to beginning to successfully train the tuck planche. Initially frog stands are m u c h easier t h a n tuck planches d u e to the fact that utilizing the knees on bent-arms allowed the legs to s u p p o r t a great deal of the b o d y ' s weight. With the future tuck planche, the majority of the stress will go directly to the shoulder girdle. For m a n y non-gymnasts, the j u m p in intensity b e t w e e n these t w o exercises can be extreme. A d v a n c e d frog s t a n d s help to ease this transition considerably. In an a d v a n c e d frog stand the knees continue to be braced on the arms; WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  59. 59. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING h o w e v e r the elbows h a v e progressed from a bent to a straight-arm position. In this position the a m o u n t of help that the knees can p r o v i d e is minimized as y o u are simply leaning o n the straight-arm rather t h a n being p r o p p e d u p b y the b e n t elbow. Utilizing the a d v a n c e d frog stand also allows the increase of intensity on the shoulder girdle to be m o r e gradual. It is i m p o r t a n t to emphasize keeping the a r m s completely straight d u r i n g the a d v a n c e d frog stand. Allowing the elbows to b e n d removes stress from the shoulder girdle & elbow joint, w h i c h is exactly w h e r e it n e e d s to be in order to continue m a k i n g progress t h r o u g h the planche progression. Difficulty rating: Planche - tuck The m a i n difference b e t w e e n an a d v a n c e d frog stand a n d the tuck planche is that y o u r weight will n o w be b o r n e solely by y o u r a r m s a n d shoulder girdle; the knees are no longer allowed to p r o v i d e additional support. Once again begin in a full squat a n d place your h a n d s next to y o u r toes. N o w , as in the frog stand, lean forward taking all of y o u r w e i g h t on y o u r a r m s a n d shoulders alone. Do not use y o u r knees on y o u r elbows for assistance. H o l d i n g the knees tightly to the chest will m a k e this exercise easier. At first y o u m a y only be able to briefly rise off the g r o u n d . Do not be overly concerned. It will p a s s w i t h time a n d continued persistent training. It bears re-mentioning however, that a correct tuck planche is executed w i t h the hips shoulder high. D e p e n d i n g on y o u r initial strength levels, it m a y take quite s o m e time to reach this level of development. Simply continue w o r k i n g the position, striving to lift y o u r h i p s to shoulder high. With consistent practice it is possible to increase your strength in static positions relatively quickly. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  60. 60. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY Difficulty rating: P l a n c h e - flat t u c k Once y o u feel comfortable w i t h the tuck planche, y o u can increase the difficulty of this exercise by progressing on to the flat tuck planche. The p r i m a r y difference b e t w e e n the tuck a n d flat tuck planche is the position of the back. N o t e that in the tuck planche the back is curved, while in the flat tuck planche the back a p p e a r s flat. While h o l d i n g y o u r h i p s shoulder high, try to extend y o u r h i p s back b e h i n d y o u until y o u r back is flat. This "flattening" will greatly increase the intensity of the tuck planche. In fact, I think y o u will be extremely surprised at h o w m u c h h a r d e r such a small m o v e m e n t can m a k e the tuck planche. Difficulty rating: Planche - straddle Once y o u h a v e m a s t e r e d the flat tuck planche position y o u are r e a d y to w o r k on the straddle planche. Finally! After m o n t h s of h a r d consistent w o r k the e n d is n o w in sight. As w i t h the other planche variations, while learning the straddle planche, it is also beneficial to practice tuck planche p u s h - u p s at the s a m e time; one will build u p o n the other. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  61. 61. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING From the flat tuck planche position, begin to extend your knees b e h i n d y o u from their position on y o u r chest. Balance is critical here. As y o u extend y o u r legs farther behind, y o u will also h a v e to lean a little farther forward to compensate. The w i d e r y o u r legs are, the easier the straddle planche will be. H o w e v e r for those p l a n n i n g to progress to the straight planche in the future, as y o u get stronger in the straddle planche, y o u should increase the difficulty by bringing your legs closer together. Make small adjustments from w o r k o u t to w o r k o u t trying to either increase the length of your static h o l d or the extension of your position. Do n o t try to increase b o t h at the same w o r k o u t . BE PREPARED - just a small m o v e m e n t will greatly lessen y o u r leverage on this exercise a n d m a k e the m o v e m e n t m u c h harder. A d v a n c e d athletes m a y enter the straddle planche either from a straddle L or lowering from a h a n d s t a n d . Difficulty rating: Planche - half The 1/2 Planche will greatly intensify t h e stress on the lower back while in the planche position c o m p a r e d to that of the straddle planche. It will still, however, be significantly less t h a n that of the planche. The same general performance guidelines for the p r e v i o u s planche variations continue to apply here; lean forward strongly, k e e p the elbows locked w i t h the hips a n d back flat. The p r i m a r y difference of this variation is that n o w the knees will be b e n t w i t h the calves in a vertical position w i t h the feet pointing at the ceiling. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  62. 62. BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY Difficulty rating: Planche The planche m a y either be arrived at from a straddle planche or a 1/2 planche. If from the straddle planche, simply b r i n g the legs gradually together. Be diligent to avoid letting the h i p s pike as y o u b r i n g the legs together. F r o m the 1/2 planche, slowly extend the knees t o w a r d a straight b o d y position. Once again, do not allow the h i p s to pike d u r i n g the extension. M a n y will find that the lower back is the w e a k link in extending the legs d u r i n g any of the m o r e a d v a n c e d planche variations (straddle, 1/2PL a n d PL). M a n y lower back exercises are p r o v i d e d in the section on core strength training. In addition, I h a v e found that kettlebell/ d u m b b e l l swings are also an excellent s u p p l e m e n t to planche training. This w a s something I discovered quite by accident; I u s e d d u m b b e l l swings to rehab the lower back of one of my athletes a n d after a 6-week period we found that he could n o w perform a solid straddle planche; w h e r e previously this h a d b e e n b e y o n d his reach. In retrospect, he h a d the shoulder girdle strength, b u t not the lower back strength necessary to reach full extension. The protocol u s e d on the d u m b b e l l s w i n g s w a s quite simple; perform a set of 10 d u m b b e l l swings on each a r m followed by several m i n u t e s of rest, for 3-4 sets, 2-3 times a week. This w a s of course in combination w i t h the rest of his training. WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  63. 63. T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRA ing: WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM
  64. 64. CHAPTER FIVE Upper Body Pressing
  65. 65. 59 Fundamental Bodyweight Exercises This 14-year-old physique has been developed solely with gymnastics conditioning B asic strength is the ability to generate m a x i m u m physical force utilizing a m o v e m e n t that is non-inclusive of a dynamic, plyometric, ballistic or a d v a n c e d lock a r m strength element on the rings. Gymnastically, w i t h i n the limitations previously specified, it is the ability of the b o d y to exert force t h r o u g h o u t a full R O M a n d all p r i m a r y planes of m o v e m e n t . The fundamental b o d y w e i g h t exercises (FBE) in the r e m a i n d e r of this first v o l u m e h a v e b e e n selected to h e l p establish a balanced foundation of basic strength. W h e n engaged in the d e v e l o p m e n t of basic strength, I strive to m a k e my athletes so strong in training, that e v e n operating at 70% of capacity, they are far stronger t h a n a n y o n e else on the competition floor a n d capable of h a n d l i n g m u c h higher levels of technical gymnastics. For the fitness enthusiast, rather t h a n success on the field of play, a solid foundation of basic strength will be the g a t e w a y w h e r e b y they m a y safely a n d effectively access the t r e m e n d o u s benefits inherent in d y n a m i c a n d a d v a n c e d ring strength w o r k . As the p r i m a r y p u r p o s e of the exercises presented in this v o l u m e is to b u i l d basic strength, I h a v e found a d h e r i n g to a set scheme of 2-3 sets for 3-5 reps to be the most beneficial in achieving my training goals. Once an athlete is capable of performing m o r e t h a n 3-5 repetitions on a given exercise, the exercise being performed is no longer developing basic strength. After an appropriate w i n d o w of adaptation to consolidate gains, the athlete should progress forward to a m o r e difficult variation. As always, it is impossible to distinguish w h a t everyone's starting level of WWW.GYMNASTICBODIES.COM

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