How do you get ridiculously strong and powerful using minimal kit?
You only have to look at professional gymnastic athletes, male and female to see that they have incredible physiques. They're amazingly powerful, well conditioned and are quite possibly the strongest pound-for-pound athletes that you can find.
When I first started looking in doing some gymnastic movements I wasn't convinced. I thought; 'Those gymnasts you see have all been doing it since they were little children, its not very likely I will be able to do those movements. Plus I don't want to go down to a gymnastics club when I'm not even sure I like it.'
I was also pretty sure that in terms of increasing strength I was better off sticking with heavy weightlifting.
But my curiosity got the better of me and I started mixing some movements into my training. They were fun, challenging, a nice break from normal training and they didn't take up too much time so I thought, 'it can't hurt'.
A little while later I got Building the Gymnastic Body by Coach Christopher Sommer.
In the beginning of the book he describes how, after retiring from competitive gymnastics he didn't really know what to do to 'keep in shape'.
He had never engaged in any structured weightlifting or running programs, just gymnastics.
He also didn't consider himself a particularly strong gymnast compared to some of his team mates.
However, on entering the gym he found that he could:
- Deadlift 2x his bodyweight,
- Military press with 110% of his bodyweight,
- Perform multiple chin ups while loaded with 50% of his bodywight
- Perform multiple Dips while loaded with 60% of his bodyweight,
- and Run 20 miles on the spur of the moment.
Any lifter in the gym would be pretty happy with these results.
So was Christopher, at first.
But then he began to notice that he was getting sore, stiff, slow and tired. Worst of all he noticed that his athletic ability stopped improving and began to slip backwards.
He figured that he wasn't training hard enough, so over the course of 10 years he trained his ass off, changing programs and trying various combinations of exercise routines and styles.
Eventually he decided that he had to go back to gymnastics, but there was no way he could replicate the training of his youth, for a start he didn't have 20 hours a week spare! However after changing his approach to gymnastic training and focusing more on the conditioning aspect rather than the competitive aspects, he realised that he could distill the training down to core components which any fitness enthusiast could utilize in 2-3 hours a week.
Its an interesting argument and he has a lot of evidence and experience behind him. For a start he is a well respected US gymnastics coach.
Now this doesn't mean that everything, everyone else has been doing in terms of training is now wrong.
No two people are the same and what works for one person will not suit the other.
I love weight training, sprints and interval training, I believe in them and I won't be giving them up anytime soon. However I also realise that there are massive gains to be had from training gymnastic exercises. So I have been trying some out!
What I have learnt so far is that most of the movements and static holds have regressions that are accessible to most people.
They require minimal kit, in fact I have been heading down to a local 'trim trail' to perform most of my sessions, and they are fun to do.
With consistent work I have already seen myself progress through several stages on many exercises, each bringing its own sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, increased strength and mobility.
I've also introduced some of the exercises to my clients and as well as seeing them progress and get stronger they love the challenge (you know someone is enjoying training when they send you a picture of themselves doing a back lever on a tree branch while they are on holiday ...you know who you are!)
Below is a video of me performing some of the exercises that I have been working with so far.
Most of them don't look very impressive and I am still working on them but maybe try having a go at them yourself and you will soon see that they provide a significant challenge.
If you fancy mixing some basic gymnastic movements and static holds into your training then drop me a line and we can make it happen.
Train hard, Live happy