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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
     Building the Gymnastic Body
THE SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING
Cover photo: Yang Wei at 2003 World Championships, ©Steve Lange
      Building the Gymnastic Body
T H E S C I E N C E O F GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING




             Christopher Sommer




                 Olympic Bodies, LLC
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.
                  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
                                   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
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
                                 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.




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                               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.




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                  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.




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                               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.



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T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING   V




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CHAPTER ONE
Gymnastics As Conditioning
                              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 .




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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



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                   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



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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.




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CHAPTER TWO
General Information
                                                                                                 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
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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.




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     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.


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                                           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



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                                 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



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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


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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.




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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



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                   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.




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CHAPTER THREE
Basic Strength
                                                                                                    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
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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.




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CHAPTER FOUR
Fundamental Static Positions
                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.




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                             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.




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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




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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:




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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:




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                                 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.




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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.




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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.




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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



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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:




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                                      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-




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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:



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                     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.




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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.




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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



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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:




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                                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



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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




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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:




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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:




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                               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.




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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.




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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



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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:




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                                    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



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                             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;



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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.




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 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.



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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.




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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.




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ing:




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CHAPTER FIVE
Upper Body Pressing
                                                                                                     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
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60                                   BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY


     strength will be. If the initial variations listed are too easy for you, simply
     proceed t h r o u g h the variations until y o u find one that suits y o u r current
     strength level.             Once y o u h a v e found the a p p r o p r i a t e starting point, I
     r e c o m m e n d w a i t i n g until the desired n u m b e r of sets can be consistently
     performed t h r o u g h o u t t h e period of a d a p t a t i o n (see section on p r o g r a m m i n g ) ,
     before m o v i n g on to the next h a r d e r variation in that family of m o v e m e n t s .

     In the interests of achieving at least a small m e a s u r e of brevity in this v o l u m e
     that following abbreviations are u s e d in exercise descriptions:

     FX -   this exercise is p e r f o r m e d on the floor
     Wall   - this exercise is performed using a wall to assist the m o v e m e n t
     PB -   this exercise is performed on the parallel bars or similar a p p a r a t u s
     XR -   this exercise is p e r f o r m e d on the Xtreme Rings




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                                                                                                     61



                        Upper Body Pressing




I  nitially, years ago w h e n I published my first training article, m a n y n o n -
    gymnasts struggled t r e m e n d o u s l y w i t h proceeding directly to tuck planche
pushups.           Since then, for the m a n y fitness enthusiasts w h o follow my
p r o g r a m , I h a v e developed a nice progression w i t h a great deal of variety to
h e l p to ease the difficulty of the transition from s t a n d a r d p u s h u p s to the m o r e
advanced planche p u s h u p variations.


Pushup Variations
Pushups - FX
S t a n d a r d p u s h u p s on the floor are a fine exercise; h o w e v e r I tend to focus on
the m o r e difficult Parallel bar a n d planche p u s h u p s variations that require
m o r e overall strength a n d m u c h less e n d u r a n c e rather t h a n on h i g h repetition
regular p u s h u p s .        That being said, a few times a year, I will h a v e my
introductory Level 4 athletes (generally 6-8 years old) compete in a P u s h u p
War w i t h each other.

A P u s h u p War begins w i t h my dividing a g r o u p of 10-12 y o u n g athletes into 3
g r o u p s . The first g r o u p begins doing p u s h u p s in synch following my r e p
count using slight w o r k / p a u s e m e t h o d to allow everyone to stay
synchronized. Correct execution is m a n d a t o r y , if an athlete fails to do a rep
correctly, he m a y re-attempt it. The athletes gradually d r o p out as they fail to
execute an acceptable repetition w i t h the w i n n e r b e i n g the final remaining
athlete in that g r o u p . After a short rest (10-30 seconds), the c h a m p i o n of the
first g r o u p n o w takes on the entire second g r o u p in another p u s h u p war.
With the goal being to see w h a t athlete can w i n the m o s t p u s h u p w a r s
consecutively. It can get quite competitive, w i t h m o s t everyone h a v i n g a great
time.

O u r record to date is 350 consecutive p u s h u p s . Second place is 300 p u s h u p s .
I k n o w , I w a s shocked as well, as w e r e the other coaches in the g y m (we h a d
quite a c r o w d of spectators a r o u n d us d u r i n g this last battle). The interesting
point here is that the 350-rep athlete is quite strong overall; h o w e v e r the 300-




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62                                  BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC B O D Y


     r e p athlete is only very strong at h i g h r e p p u s h u p s , a n d remains average at
     best w i t h other exercise variations that require m u c h higher levels of strength.

     The lesson here is that high levels of strength endurance are not necessarily an
     indication of high levels of maximal strength. Once y o u reach a n d sustain a
     reasonable level of proficiency w i t h a m o v e m e n t , m o v e on to the next h a r d e r
     variation.




     Difficulty rating:


     Pushups - XR
     A s s u m e a front s u p p o r t on the rings w i t h y o u r a r m s t u r n e d out to
     approximately 45° a n d y o u r feet either on the g r o u n d or placed u p o n a stable
     surface (box, b e n c h etc.) that is the s a m e height as the rings. Make sure that
     the elbows are completely straight in the front s u p p o r t prior to beginning the
     p u s h u p s . If y o u find yourself u n a b l e to m a i n t a i n a straight-arm support, I
     r e c o m m e n d that y o u first take the time to develop this necessary strength
     prior to engaging in the actual XR p u s h u p s themselves.

     W i t h o u t allowing the b o d y to sag or arch, perform a regular p u s h u p . The
     rings m a y t u r n i n w a r d d u r i n g the descent a n d ascent. In all likelihood y o u
     will discover w h a t t h o u s a n d s a n d t h o u s a n d s before y o u h a v e discovered; that
     anything performed on the rings, even s o m e t h i n g as elementary as a regular
     p u s h u p , is substantially h a r d e r t h a n the s a m e variation performed on a stable
     surface a n d will quite likely challenge y o u r stabilizers a n d core w i t h an
     intensity that y o u h a v e never e n c o u n t e r e d before.




     Difficulty rating:


     Pushups - XR Bulgarian
     To perform Bulgarian p u s h u p s on the Xtreme Rings start in a regular front



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                   T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING                                         63


s u p p o r t position a n d t h e n go out very w i d e (as far as y o u feel comfortable) as
y o u descend to the b o t t o m of the repetition. On p u s h i n g back up to the
starting position pull the rings back in.

Be conscientious in n o t allowing the b o d y to arch d u r i n g the b o t t o m of the
repetition. A flat back m u s t be maintained at all times.




Difficulty rating:


Pushups - XR PPP
Begin a p s e u d o planche p u s h u p (PPP) on the Xtreme Rings from a n o r m a l
front support. From there the shoulders lean forward while simultaneously
pulling the h a n d s as close to the h i p s as possible w i t h o u t actually touching
either the hips or your sides. N o w strive to m a i n t a i n this precarious position
while performing a p u s h u p .

Do n o t allow the shoulders to drift back or the h a n d s to drift forward d u r i n g
either the descent or ascent. It will help to focus on a single spot on the floor
below y o u r face a n d strive to r e m a i n directly above it at all times. Unlike the
previous Xtreme Rings p u s h u p variations, the h a n d s n o w stay t u r n e d
o u t w a r d at all times.

R e m e m b e r to not allow the h a n d s to pinch i n w a r d on the h i p s at the b o t t o m of
the repetition, the rings should remain clear of the b o d y .




Difficulty rating:


Pushups - XR PPP plus
These are a nice o p p o r t u n i t y to begin to erode the b o u n d a r i e s b e t w e e n a foot-
s u p p o r t e d planche p u s h u p variation a n d a completely free balancing one.



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The p r i m a r y difference w i t h the XR PPP a n d the XR P P P p l u s is that at the
b o t t o m of the descent, y o u will n o w lift the feet m o m e n t a r i l y clear of the floor.
After a brief p a u s e in the air, r e t u r n the feet to the floor a n d continue w i t h a
n o r m a l XR PPP ascent.

At first y o u will probably find it necessary to u s e m o m e n t u m from the descent
to s w i n g the feet up off of the floor while keeping the a r m s strongly bent, the
h a n d s near b u t not on the hips a n d the chest clear of the floor. If initially the
s w i n g up is too difficult, it is acceptable to lightly t a p one foot on the g r o u n d
to initiate the lift.       As y o u r strength improves, discontinue the use of
m o m e n t u m a n d perform y o u r repetitions m o r e deliberately u s i n g only
strength to pull y o u r feet smoothly up off of the floor.

R e m e m b e r to n o t allow the chest to contact the floor at any time d u r i n g this
m o v e m e n t , nor should y o u r h a n d s pinch i n w a r d into y o u r sides. The fingers
will again either be pointing forward or sideways d e p e n d i n g on y o u r personal
preference.




Difficulty rating:


Pushups - XR PMP
These are extremely challenging. Most people will fail to complete e v e n a
single r e p correctly.      Begin from the regular XR P P P position w i t h y o u r
fingers pointing b a c k w a r d s .    N o w w i d e n y o u r a r m s . Ideally y o u r a r m s
should be out at approximately a 45° angle from y o u r sides. Initially h o w e v e r
y o u m a y find it too difficult to immediately go out to 45° w i d e , so adjust the
angle i n w a r d as needed, attempting over time to w i d e n y o u r a r m s gradually
until y o u h a v e reached the p r o p e r position.

Strive to lean y o u r shoulders forward until y o u r h a n d s are just in front of your
hips, all the while maintaining y o u r w i d e h a n d placement. In reality, initially
a lean of only an inch or so will h a v e y o u desperately struggling not to fall
u n t o y o u r face. The goal d u r i n g this m o v e m e n t is to m a i n t a i n this forward
lean w i t h the h a n d s just in front of the hips a n d a tight hollow b o d y position
at all times.        N o w maintaining this w i d e a r m position a n d forward lean,
perform a p u s h u p .

Do n o t allow the shoulders to drift b a c k w a r d s d u r i n g the ascent. As w i t h XR
PPP, this can be r e m e d i e d by placing a chalk m a r k directly u n d e r y o u r face in
the b e g i n n i n g of the m o v e m e n t a n d t h e n maintaining that position over the



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m a r k t h r o u g h o u t all of the repetitions.

Do n o t arch or sag d u r i n g this m o v e m e n t . My personal preference w h e n
performing these is for toes curled u n d e r rather t h a n pointed.




Difficulty rating:


Pushups - XR PMP plus
R e m e m b e r that the p r i m a r y difference b e t w e e n these   a n d the XR PPP plus is
the angle of the a r m s to the torso. Both variations                  are performed w i t h the
h a n d s back near the hips, h o w e v e r the XR P M P plus            are d o n e w i t h the a r m s
spread out at approximately a 45° angle to the torso.                   This is h o w e v e r a small
difference that causes a giant leap in intensity.

If y o u are not yet strong e n o u g h to smoothly lift y o u r feet u p , r e m e m b e r that
v o u m a y utilize a slight rocking m o t i o n until such strength is developed.




Difficulty rating:


Pushups - wall planche
This is a challenging variation to rate in terms of difficulty as it is quite easy to
perform this m o v e m e n t incorrectly a n d subsequently greatly lessen b o t h its
intensity a n d effectiveness.      W h e n performed incorrectly (i.e. shoulders
b e h i n d the hands), in terms of difficulty the wall planche p u s h u p should
actually be listed just after regular p u s h u p s on the floor. H o w e v e r w h e n
performed correctly, it is m o r e difficult t h a n all b u t a few variations.

For m a x i m u m benefit w h e n performing a wall planche p u s h u p , the shoulders
m u s t at all times r e m a i n in front of the h a n d s . At no point d u r i n g a wall
planche p u s h u p m a y the shoulders drift back either over or b e h i n d the h a n d s .
Ultimately y o u r goal is to lean so far forward (and to r e m a i n there d u r i n g the




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entire repetition!) that y o u r h a n d s are just in front of y o u r hips.

Simply lessening the p r e s s u r e of the feet against the wall a n d thereby
correspondingly r e d u c i n g the a m o u n t of assistance p r o v i d e d easily mitigates
the degree of assistance p r o v i d e d by the wall.

If y o u training situation allows it, it is also possible to perform these on the
Xtreme Rings.




Difficulty rating:


Pushups - wall maltese
The same performance p a r a m e t e r s of a wall planche p u s h u p apply here w i t h
the addition that the a r m s will n o w be placed at a 45° angle to the body.

Do not allow the b o d y to arch or sag d u r i n g this m o v e m e n t .




Difficulty rating:


Pushups - planche
You could consider the planche p u s h u p a s u p e r b e n c h press or a full b o d y
press. If there is a p a r t of the b o d y that is not tense a n d u n d e r strain d u r i n g
these, I h a v e yet to discover it. In addition to w o r k i n g the triceps, chest a n d
front delts, y o u also h a v e a full contraction of the lats, m i d d l e back a n d lower
back as well as the traps. The triceps a n d the forearms are also w o r k i n g h a r d
stabilizing the elbow joint. Core strength is extremely taxed as the u p p e r a n d
lower abs, obliques, serratus a n d h i p flexors all struggle to m a i n t a i n the
elevated b o d y position.

The description of a planche p u s h - u p is fairly straightforward; while in the
planche position of y o u r choice, simply attempt to perform a p u s h u p . To
receive the full benefits of this exercise, be sure (or at least try!) to m a i n t a i n the
h i p s level w i t h the shoulders d u r i n g the descent a n d ascent of this m o v e m e n t ;
be a w a r e that it will be quite a struggle to do so. D o n ' t forget to fully
straighten the elbows at the t o p of the m o v e m e n t .



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If h a n d spotting this element, be sure to hold the athlete at the waist. Do not
spot by h o l d i n g the legs, as this r e m o v e s the stress from the lower-back which
is one of the p r i m a r y areas w h i c h we are attempting to condition w i t h this
movement.

Also notice the degree of forward lean; he is leaning so far forward that his
h a n d s are nearly in line w i t h his hips. This establishing of the correct balance
is a key c o m p o n e n t for the correct execution of planche p u s h u p s a n d other
planche skill variations.

Planche p u s h u p s m a y be performed in a tuck, a d v a n c e d tuck, straddle, 1/2 lay
or even a straight b o d y position. In addition, they m a y also be performed on
the Xtreme Rings. On the rings, they will, however, be t r e m e n d o u s l y m o r e
difficult as d u r i n g the ascent, d u e to the instability of the rings, the a r m s will
h a v e a tendency to attempt to pull i n w a r d m a k i n g it very difficult to attain a
completely locked horizontal planche position; regardless of the b o d y position
being used.




Difficulty rating:




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                                      Dips




M      any notable trainers consider the d i p to be the equivalent of an u p p e r
      b o d y squat. For my athletes, dips are an essential m o v e m e n t a n d w o r k
an incredible r a n g e of the u p p e r b o d y from the triceps to the shoulders to the
traps.

If this is your first exposure to gymnastics style full r a n g e of motion dips,
proceed patiently on e x p a n d i n g y o u r r a n g e of motion. Rest assured that there
is absolutely n o t h i n g w r o n g w i t h exercising the joints of a n o r m a l healthy
b o d y t h r o u g h o u t their n o r m a l range of motion. If however, y o u h a v e b e e n
inactive for s o m e time or exercising w i t h an artificially limited range of
motion, it will be necessary to gradually extend that range of m o t i o n u n d e r
stress (i.e. the w e i g h t of y o u r body). For athletes w i t h flexibility issues
preventing the pain-free use of this excellent exercise, my active flexibility
p r o g r a m for the shoulder girdle as p r e s e n t e d in Liquid Steel will aid greatly in
alleviating this problem.


Dip Variations
D i p s - PB negative
A s s u m e on straight-arm s u p p o r t position a n d then, as slowly as possible,
lower to a b e n t - a r m s u p p o r t position.




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Difficulty rating:


D i p s - PB jumping
Set up the height of the parallel bars or d i p p i n g station so that at the bottom of
the d i p position y o u r feet are in contact w i t h the floor w i t h enough knee bend
to allow a j u m p back up to the s u p p o r t position. Decreasing the assistance of
the j u m p easily increases the intensity of this element.




Difficulty rating:


D i p s - PB
A full d i p is one in w h i c h the shoulders are lowered to the h a n d s . These may
also be d o n e w i t h a d d e d w e i g h t via a d i p p i n g belt, w e i g h t e d vest or ankle
strap.




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Difficulty rating:


D i p s - PB Russian
To execute this drill will require either extended bars on y o u r d i p p i n g station
or a set of parallel bars. Be careful n o t to dip too l o w d u r i n g the u p p e r a r m
s u p p o r t a n d exceed y o u r current level of flexibility as y o u m a y injure yourself
b y overstretching y o u r s t e r n u m .

You will probably find that initially the u n d e r s i d e of y o u r u p p e r a r m s are
extremely tender a n d will m a k e this exercise m o s t uncomfortable. Do n o t
w o r r y ; the excessive sensitivity will soon pass a n d m a y be alleviated in the
m e a n t i m e by the use of knee p a d s at first, followed by wrist b a n d s a n d finally
y o u will discover that n o t h i n g at all is required to be comfortable while
performing this exercise.

Initially it is fine to train these in a fashion similar to the j u m p i n g dips so that
the legs p r o v i d e assistance as n e e d e d . Strive to use as little assistance from the
legs as possible. F r o m the j u m p i n g variation progress to using m o m e n t u m to
carry y o u from the u p p e r a r m position back to the b e n t - a r m s u p p o r t position.
Once y o u h a v e m a s t e r e d u s i n g m o m e n t u m t o complete the m o v e m e n t , t h e n
y o u m a y finally m o v e on to performing this exercise deliberately a n d slowly
w i t h o u t excessive b o u n c e or speed.

As a side note, Russian dips are excellent p r e p a r a t i o n for the rigors of the
transition p h a s e of muscle-ups.         For extensive information on the
d e v e l o p m e n t of muscle-ups, see the section on C o m b i n e d P u l l / P r e s s
exercises.




Difficulty rating:


D i p s - PB Russian L
Perform these as regular Russian dips, h o w e v e r the addition of the L-sit
m a k e s t h e m a great deal m o r e difficult. Do n o t be overly concerned about
y o u r inability to m a i n t a i n a horizontal L-sit d u r i n g this m o v e m e n t . This is a
n a t u r a l consequence of the n a t u r e of the m o v e m e n t .




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Difficulty rating:


D i p s - PB Bulgarian
To establish the correct position for a Bulgarian d i p (so called because it w a s
t a u g h t to me by my friend Krasimir D o u n e v of Bulgaria, the 1996 Olympic
Silver Medalist on H i g h Bar), begin by sitting on a single rail of the parallel
bars. Take the left h a n d a n d place it next to the left h i p in an u n d e r - g r i p
position. Maintaining your n a t u r a l shoulder w i d t h distance a n d keeping your
torso parallel to the rails, reach directly across to the other bar w i t h y o u r right
h a n d a n d grasp it with an over-grip. N o w simply slide your rear off of the rail
into a s u p p o r t position. You will find that y o u r b o d y automatically turns to a
45° angle. Perform the desired repetitions.

On the next set, while getting into position, be sure to reverse the m o v e m e n t s
of the h a n d s so that y o u are n o w facing the opposite direction. This is to
foster a balanced structure w i t h i n the shoulder girdle.




Difficulty rating


D i p s - single bar
A s s u m e a front s u p p o r t position (hands in front of the body) on a single bar
w i t h h a n d s approximately shoulder w i d t h apart. D o n o t lay o n the bar w i t h
y o u r stomach; your h i p s a n d abs m a y b r u s h the bar lightly, b u t all weight
should be b o r n completely by y o u r a r m s . Dip d o w n as far as y o u are able,
aiming to descend to the b o t t o m of y o u r sternum. Press back up to a support.

This m o v e m e n t is excellent for teaching h o w to r e m a i n u p r i g h t d u r i n g the dip.
In addition, these single bar d i p variations n o w allow dips to be trained




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w i t h o u t a traditional d i p p i n g station. Single bar dips can be d o n e a n y w h e r e
that y o u h a v e access to a single b a r such as on a single rail of the parallel bars,
on the t o p of a h i g h bar, on a chinning bar, or e v e n on the bar of a smith
machine.




Difficulty rating:


D i p s - single bar with under-grip
For this variation, simply t u r n the h a n d s to an u n d e r - g r i p . For m o s t people
this variation will be slightly h a r d e r t h a n a regular single bar d i p .




Difficulty rating:


D i p s - Korean
A s s u m e a rear s u p p o r t position (hands b e h i n d the body) on a single bar. Do
n o t allow yourself to sit on the bar. Perform a dip.

These are a wonderful m o v e m e n t a n d are especially useful in t w o w a y s ;
1) The position of the b o d y in front of the bar m a k e s it impossible for the
athlete to lean excessively forward w i t h o u t falling off.          There is literally no
escape from u s i n g correct technique d u r i n g this m o v e m e n t .

2) It provides a substantial active flexibility element for the shoulder girdle.



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This will be especially a p p a r e n t w i t h those athletes w h o are extremely strong
d u e to tight shoulders.

With Korean dips, the b o d y h a s a tendency for the legs to rotate back u n d e r
the bar d u r i n g the descent. This is n a t u r a l a n d quite acceptable. D u r i n g the
ascent, strongly keep the h i p s p u s h e d forward to assist the glutes in clearing
the bar.




Difficulty rating:


D i p s - Korean w i t h under-grip
Utilizing the u n d e r - g r i p will once again m a k e this variation slightly m o r e
difficult t h a n regular Korean dips.




Difficulty rating:


XR support position
A l t h o u g h not technically a dip, XR s u p p o r t holds are a necessary first step for
effectively training XR dips.

Basically a s u p p o r t hold is simply h o l d i n g the b o d y up on top of the rings
w i t h straight-arms. Eventually, to perform these in the m o s t p r o d u c t i v e
m a n n e r , they should be d o n e w i t h elbows straight (remember that almost
straight is still bent) a n d the h a n d s t u r n e d out to 45 degrees. To visualize this,
simply p u t the h a n d s overhead in a chin-up grip and, keeping that grip



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position, lower the h a n d s to the side a n d t h e n let t h e m t u r n in slightly.

Initially there will almost certainly be a great deal of shaking a n d instability
d u r i n g the s u p p o r t hold., especially w i t h those w h o are n e w to strength
training on the rings.             This is a n a t u r a l occurrence a n d will p a s s w i t h
continued training.




D i p s - XR
Ring dips, correctly executed, are a very challenging m o v e m e n t . H o w e v e r the
following tips will h e l p to m a k e their practice s o m e w h a t easier a n d m o r e
productive.

At first, y o u m a y find it necessary to k e e p the rings p u l l e d in very close to
y o u r hips d u r i n g the m o v e m e n t . T u r n i n g y o u r t h u m b s i n w a r d will m a k e the
s u p p o r t position easier, h o w e v e r it will lead to the forearms r u b b i n g on the
straps as y o u m a y already h a v e noticed. Also, at first y o u m a y find it very
difficult to "lock out" or completely straighten the elbows at t h e top of the dip.

In time, as y o u r strength develops, a t t e m p t to m a k e the following
modifications to the ring s u p p o r t position at the completion of the XR dip:

1) Completely lock & straighten the elbows at the t o p of the m o v e m e n t . This
m a y be d o n e while leaning forward a n d h o l d i n g the rings very tightly into the
sides, b u t m u s t be accomplished before a t t e m p t i n g to m o v e on the next
improvements.

2) Sit up straight w i t h no forward leaning or pike in the hips. Do not "hunch";
shoulders should be pulled back, w i t h the back flat a n d the chest slightly
p u s h e d forward.

3) Rotate your t h u m b s o u t w a r d so that the inside-bend of y o u r elbow is
partially pointing forward. This will be by far the h a r d e s t modification to
m a k e as it takes the assistance p r o v i d e d by leaning on the straps away, b u t it
will greatly i m p r o v e y o u r ring strength a n d balance.

4) P u s h the rings farther out from y o u r b o d y so that y o u r a r m s can no longer



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"lay" on y o u r lats. This will also greatly increase the difficulty of this position,
b u t is a necessary strength d e v e l o p m e n t prior to successfully w o r k i n g the iron
cross as is detailed in All Muscle, No Iron.

For those continuing to experience trouble w i t h XR dips, a n d in this category I
w o u l d place a n y o n e w h o cannot perform a ring d i p a n d t u r n the h a n d s out as
described above after a reasonable period of time, back up a n d again w o r k on
static s u p p o r t holds or at least be sure to w o r k on t h e m concurrently w i t h the
XR dips. Unless y o u can come close to achieving a correct static hold, you will
find that y o u are pretty m u c h spinning your wheels w o r k i n g on the h a r d e r
ring d i p variations.




Difficulty rating:


D i p s - XR Bulgarian
Start w i t h a regular s u p p o r t position on the rings. As y o u lower, p u s h the
rings as w i d e out to the sides as y o u feel comfortable (the w i d e r the better to
h e l p p r e p a r e the shoulder girdle a n d a r m s for the rigors of iron cross training
later). To facilitate the w i d e a r m position, d u r i n g the descent allow the t h u m b s
to rotate i n w a r d t o w a r d the torso a n d the elbows to press o u t w a r d .

Your ultimate goal w i t h this m o v e m e n t is to be able to lower to a 90° b e n d in
b o t h the elbows a n d the shoulders. In addition, b o t h the elbows a n d the
shoulders should r e m a i n in line w i t h each other in the same vertical plane of
movement.




Difficulty rating:



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                          Handstand Pushups




H       a n d s t a n d p u s h u p s build t r e m e n d o u s physical power, unfortunately m o s t
        p e o p l e merely dabble w i t h this m o v e m e n t d u e to its extremely
challenging n a t u r e . H o w e v e r , for those few w h o persevere, the benefits are
b o t h d e e p a n d widely applicable to an incredible r a n g e of athletic activities.

The vast majority of n o n - g y m n a s t s confuse a h e a d s t a n d p u s h u p (HeSPU) w i t h
a true h a n d s t a n d p u s h u p (HSPU). The confusion is quite u n d e r s t a n d a b l e as
the t w o m o v e m e n t s are identical except for the range of m o v e m e n t (ROM)
involved. A h e a d s t a n d p u s h u p begins or e n d s either w i t h the h e a d in contact
w i t h the floor or w h e n the h a n d s in line w i t h the t o p of the head. In a true
HSPU, the R O M will require the h a n d s to lower all of the w a y to the
shoulders. T h u s a H e S P U is in actuality only a partial range HSPU. It should
be clearly u n d e r s t o o d that a HSPU is several orders of m a g n i t u d e m o r e
difficult t h a n a HeSPU.

It is also i m p o r t a n t to note that all HeSPU a n d HSPU w o r k should be d o n e
w i t h h a n d s approximately shoulder w i d t h apart, as this is the distance that
our freestanding h a n d s t a n d w o r k will be d o n e with. Yes, it is n o t e d that
m a n y people initially find it m u c h easier to perform HeSPUs w i t h h a n d s
wider, sometimes m u c h wider, t h a n shoulder w i d t h a n d often this excessively
w i d e stance is all that allows t h e m to complete even a single repetition.
H o w e v e r , it s h o u l d be recognized that this is only a short-term concession to
necessity a n d all efforts should be m a d e to n a r r o w the stance of the a r m s to
their n o r m a l w i d t h for a freestanding h a n d s t a n d as soon as possible.


HSPU Variations


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HeSPU - box
D o n e correctly, this is a very beneficial variation that allows the d e v e l o p m e n t
of a h e a d s t a n d p u s h u p w i t h o u t immediately being exposed to the rigors of
full b o d y w e i g h t .

Elevate y o u r feet on a box of such a height that y o u r feet are horizontal w i t h
y o u r h i p s w h e n y o u r h i p s are p i k e d 90 degrees a n d y o u r a r m s are completely
straight. At the same time, the h i p s should also be directly over the shoulders.
N o w simply lower d o w n a n d touch the h e a d to the g r o u n d for the desired
n u m b e r of repetitions.

Do n o t allow the shoulders to "scoot" forward in front of the h a n d s d u r i n g the
Ascent, b u t maintain their position over the h a n d s at all times. Also, the h e a d
should r e m a i n b e t w e e n the a r m s d u r i n g the entire m o v e m e n t . The easiest
w a y to maintain this " n e u t r a l " h e a d position, is to k e e p the ears next to the
arms.




Difficulty rating:


HeSPU - negative
More people h a v e probably e m p l o y e d this drill to develop a h e a d s t a n d
p u s h u p (HeSPU) t h a n w i t h a n y other. It is extremely simple a n d yet quite
effective.

From a h a n d s t a n d , simply lower y o u r h e a d to the g r o u n d . A t t e m p t to lower
slowly a n d w i t h control. The slower the negative, the greater the strength
required.          U p o n reaching the g r o u n d , stand a n d kick back to the wall
h a n d s t a n d for the next repetition.

This variation m a y either be performed on the wall or free standing.




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Difficulty rating:


HeSPU
This variation of HeSPU only requires e n o u g h balance for a controlled ascent,
a controlled descent is n o t required. At the t o p of the m o v e m e n t , y o u m a y roll
out, pirouette or step d o w n .      Kick back up into another h e a d s t a n d a n d
continue for the desired n u m b e r of repetitions.

This variation m a y also be performed on a wall.




Difficulty rating:


HeSPU - elevated
Up until n o w , the focus h a s b e e n on developing e n o u g h strength a n d stability
to safely a n d competently perform h e a d s t a n d p u s h u p s . N o w it is time to
begin develop true HSPU strength over a full r a n g e of motion. Increasing the
range of m o t i o n (ROM) of the H e S P U by only a few inches will result in a
substantially m o r e difficult m o v e m e n t . Using a panel m a t or series of books
will gradually allow the d e v e l o p m e n t of the H S P U R O M from a HeSPU rep to
the full r e p HSPU.

Typically, I prefer to gradually a n d comfortably increase the range of m o t i o n
on this exercise.       Find the r a n g e of m o t i o n at w h i c h y o u are currently
comfortable, a n d t h e n seek to increase that by one inch each m o n t h .

These m a y be d o n e either on the wall or free balancing.




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Difficulty rating:


HSPU - Korean
With a n o r m a l shoulder w i d t h grip, kick up into a n o r m a l h a n d s t a n d on a
single bar. Descend into a full R O M HSPU w i t h the shoulders lowering
completely to the h a n d s . Press back to HS.

These m a y be d o n e either on the wall or w i t h the assistance of a partner. If
y o u h a v e the a d v a n t a g e of assistance from a partner, the partner spotting at
the hips rather t h a n the legs will assist in learning to balance better d u r i n g the
HSPU.

Also it should be clearly r e m e m b e r e d that the p u r p o s e of a spotter is to
provide just e n o u g h h e l p to m a k e the repetition barely possible, n o t to carry
y o u t h r o u g h the m o v e m e n t . Over-assisting, while an often pleasant respite in
the m i d d l e of a difficult workout, will in the long t e r m completely derail y o u r
strength training p r o g r a m .




Difficulty rating:


HSPU - Korean with under-grip
With the exception of n o w utilizing an under-grip, perform as a s t a n d a r d
Korean HSPU.

These m a y be d o n e either on the wall or w i t h the assistance of a partner.




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Difficulty rating:


HSPU - PB Bulgarian
These are the HSPU variation of Bulgarian Dips. Begin facing b o t h bars from
the side. Maintaining y o u r shoulder w i d t h , reach your left h a n d forward a n d
grasp the far bar in an over-grip. Position y o u r right h a n d on the near bar in
an u n d e r - g r i p . N o w kick up to HS w i t h the assistance of y o u r partner. If y o u
h a v e positioned your h a n d s correctly, y o u will find yourself in a HS that is 45°
offset from being parallel to the bars.

Descend into the H S P U allowing the elbows to flare o u t to the sides. Pause at
the b o t t o m a n d then press back out to a HS. Perform for the desired n u m b e r
of repetitions.




Difficulty rating:


HSPU - XR using straps
Initially it will be quite helpful to perform these w i t h the Xtreme Rings
adjusted quite l o w to the g r o u n d . This will m a k e it m u c h easier for y o u to
j u m p up to HS rather t h a n h a v i n g to press up into the HS. Straddle y o u r legs
d u r i n g the j u m p , so that y o u r legs will contact the straps u p o n arriving in the
HS position. Maintain y o u r balance by gently w r a p p i n g y o u r feet a r o u n d the
straps. Do not w r a p y o u r feet a r o u n d the straps too tightly, as this will m a k e
sliding u p a n d d o w n the straps d u r i n g the H S P U m o r e difficult.

To perform the strap XR HSPU, begin from a locked a r m HS w i t h the rings
t u r n e d o u t w a r d . If this t u r n o u t h a s b e e n correctly executed, the forearms will



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be clear of the straps. Descend into a H S P U (allowing y o u r feet to slide d o w n
the straps w i t h y o u a s y o u r u p p e r b o d y descends), p a u s e a n d then p r e s s back
out t o H S . The rings m a y t u r n i n w a r d s o m e w h a t d u r i n g the descent a n d
ascent, b u t s h o u l d t u r n o u t w a r d once m o r e u p o n the arrival back to HS.
Repeat for the desired n u m b e r of repetitions.




Difficulty rating:


HSPU - XR Bulgarian using straps
From a regular h a n d s t a n d support, allow y o u r arms to go out as w i d e as
comfortable as y o u lower to the b o t t o m of the HSPU. As y o u press back to
h a n d s t a n d pull the rings back in to the starting position.




Difficulty rating:


H S P U - PB
Coach M a k o Sakamoto (former 1960s US national C h a m p a n d personal coach
of Olympic Gold Medalist Peter Vidmar) set his record of 163 consecutive (full
range of motion, free balancing on the parallel bars) h a n d s t a n d p u s h u p s w h e n
he w a s 50 years old. N o , he is n o t a genetic m u t a n t ; I h a v e s p o k e n a b o u t this
extensively w i t h Coach Sakamoto. W h a t he is consistent. With daily training,
he increased his HSPUs from 19 reps at 38 years old to those s u p e r h u m a n 163
reps at 50. Today at 60+, he continues to train every m o r n i n g a n d can still
perform 75 HSPUs easily.




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H S P U s are really an incredible exercise; they b u i l d a m a z i n g strength a n d are
easy to do just about a n y w h e r e .

Begin from a freestanding HS on the parallel bars or parallets. As y o u
descend into the HSPU, it is m o s t helpful to allow the s h o u l d e r s to m o v e
slightly forward while allowing the legs to d r o p slightly b e h i n d you. This
adjustment in position will greatly aid in maintaining y o u r balance. P a u s e at
the b o t t o m a n d t h e n press back up to HS, pulling the shoulders a n d legs back
into line as y o u ascend.




Difficulty rating:


H S P U - XR
N o w in addition the b o d y being u n s u p p o r t e d as in PB HSPUs, the intensity of
the HSPUs is exponentially m o r e difficult d u e to the completely unstable
n a t u r e of the rings themselves.

Begin from a freestanding HS on the Xtreme Rings. The rings s h o u l d be
t u r n e d o u t w a r d w i t h the straps clear of the forearms while in the HS.
Descend into the HSPU allowing the rings to t u r n s o m e w h a t i n w a r d as
necessary. P a u s e at the b o t t o m a n d t h e n press back up to HS. R e m e m b e r that
this is a freestanding HSPU; at no time should the legs come into contact w i t h
the straps.




Difficulty rating:




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                         Multi-plane Pressing




T   hese are pressing m o v e m e n t s that deviate from the traditional u p , d o w n
    a n d horizontal pressing classifications; b u t contain at least t w o of these
directions a n d sometimes all three! As such they are especially beneficial for
developing a heightened sense of kinesthetic awareness a n d coordinated
power.

Multi-plane pressing (MPPr) m o v e m e n t s are remarkable exercises a n d are
especially effective for o p e n i n g the chest a n d u p p e r back on those w h o h a v e
h a d their n o r m a l r a n g e of m o t i o n severely curtailed from years of over-
e m p h a s i s on the bench press. Essentially they build balance, agility, active
flexibility a n d strength - all simultaneously.

The following multi-plane pressing variations will only be d e m o n s t r a t e d on
either the floor or the parallel bars. H o w e v e r very a d v a n c e d athletes m a y also
perform m a n y of the following variations on the Xtreme Rings.                      Where
d e e m e d appropriate, specific guidelines for performing an element on the
Xtreme Rings will be provided.            It should be n o t e d h o w e v e r that the
instability inherent in ring w o r k will m a k e performing any of these variations
on the Xtreme Rings especially d e m a n d i n g a n d possible for only a very small
minority of gymnastics strength athletes.


MPPr Variations
Chest roll - H e S
Technically these chest roll progressions, as well as the forthcoming Bower
progressions, are press h a n d s t a n d variations a n d should n o t be included in
this v o l u m e . H o w e v e r d u e to the bent a r m n a t u r e of these m o v e m e n t s a n d
their propensity for b u i l d i n g a h i g h level of b e n t - a r m pressing strength, I h a v e
decided to include t h e m here. They are also quite fun to w o r k a n d are a fitting
introduction to some of the m o r e difficult variations that y o u will be exposed
to in other Gymnastic Bodies volumes.

Begin from an arched front support. N o w forcefully a n d w h i c h as m u c h
speed as y o u can muster, roll d o w n y o u r b o d y a n d up onto y o u r chest while
pressing up just e n o u g h to m a k e it to a h e a d s t a n d . Pause in the h e a d s t a n d ,
t h e n press y o u r h e a d up slightly a n d roll back d o w n to the arched front
s u p p o r t position.



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Difficulty rating:


Chest roll - H e S P U pause
For this variation, after arrival in the HeS (headstand) press on u p w a r d into a
full HS (handstand). F r o m the HS either lower back to a HeS prior to the roll
d o w n to s u p p o r t or lower directly to the roll from HS.

It is not u n u s u a l for it to take quite s o m e time to become comfortable exerting
force while m o v i n g t h r o u g h these positions. At first y o u will be convinced
that y o u h a v e rolled to an inverted position, w h e n in reality y o u are probably
only a little above horizontal.




Difficulty rating:


Chest roll - HeSPU
After initiating the chest roll, n o w press directly up to a HS w i t h o u t the
intermediate step of stopping in the h e a d s t a n d .

Initially it will be necessary to perform this m o v e m e n t w i t h a big roll a n d a lot
of speed. D u r i n g the ascent of the HeSPU, it will aid greatly to think of
pulling the shoulders u n d e r the h i p s as the arms are extending. As y o u r
strength continues to improve, focus on gradually reducing the size a n d speed
of the chest roll to HS.




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Difficulty rating:


Chest roll - planche
E v e n t h o u g h the m o m e n t u m of the roll will be enormously helpful, it will still
be necessary to correctly lean forward a n d extend the a r m s fully in order to
successfully reach the planche position. A t t e m p t to p a u s e in the planche a n d
t h e n roll back d o w n to the arched front support.




Difficulty rating


Chest roll - HeSPU w i t h negative
For this variation, n o w fight to lower as slowly as possible d u r i n g the descent
from the HS back to the arched front support. Be especially vigilant to fight to
m o v e slowly d u r i n g the b o t t o m of the m o v e m e n t w h e n the load is greatest
a n d the m o s t challenging.




Difficulty rating:


Chest roll - H e S P U w i t h negative & static
Once y o u h a v e achieved the ability to roll to h a n d s t a n d a n d descend w i t h a
slow negative, n o w a t t e m p t to m a i n t a i n a static hold at the bottom, of the
descent. From this point on it is only a small step forward to achieving a true
hollow back press.




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Difficulty rating:


Bowers - half
Begin from a h a n d s t a n d a n d t h e n lower slowly w i t h control to a b e n t - a r m
planche b o t t o m static hold. After the static hold, strongly pull the heels
u p w a r d w i t h the back a n d h a m s t r i n g s while pressing u p w a r d w i t h the a r m s
to a h e a d s t a n d .

This m o v e m e n t m a y also be performed w i t h a tuck, a d v a n c e d tuck, straddle
or 1/2 lay in addition to the straight b o d y position d e m o n s t r a t e d in the photos.




Difficulty rating:


Bowers
Bowers are not quite a traditional hollowback press h a n d s t a n d as the lower
p o r t i o n of the m o v e m e n t never goes past horizontal.

Note: If a freestanding h a n d s t a n d is currently b e y o n d y o u r capabilities, y o u
m a y w a n t to h o l d off on the d e v e l o p m e n t of this skill.

F r o m a h a n d s t a n d , lower the b o d y to a 90° b e n t - a r m planche h o l d w i t h a
tightly arched b o d y a n d t h e n press back to a h a n d s t a n d . The slight arch will
enable y o u to keep y o u r heels above y o u r h e a d at the b o t t o m of the
m o v e m e n t , w h i c h in t u r n s o m e w h a t lessens the difficulty of the ascent.



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Beginning from a h a n d s t a n d , slowly lower d o w n to just above the floor.
D u r i n g the descent it is critical to gradually press the shoulders well forward
of the h a n d s in order to maintain balance.         Once at the bottom, the entire
s h o u l d e r girdle, back a n d glutes will naturally contract quite strongly while
y o u struggle to hold the static position.

In order to r e t u r n back to h a n d s t a n d , focus on pulling the shoulders u n d e r the
h i p s as you press back up to h a n d s t a n d . Progress will be m o s t r a p i d if an
assistant is present to gently assist y o u to struggle t h r o u g h sticking points.
H o w e v e r a caveat is necessary here; over-spotting or p r o v i d i n g too m u c h
assistance will drastically curtail y o u r strength gains.                 It is extremely
i m p o r t a n t that the h a n d spot p r o v i d e just barely e n o u g h assistance to
complete the m o v e m e n t .

These m a y be performed on either the floor or on parallets while in a tuck,
a d v a n c e d tuck, straddle, 1/2 lay or layout position; although y o u will find that
the tuck a n d a d v a n c e d tucks are a w k w a r d to perform on the floor.

Very a d v a n c e d athletes m a y also perform these on the Xtreme Rings. It
should be n o t e d h o w e v e r that the instability inherent in ring w o r k w o u l d
m a k e any of the Bower variations performed on the Xtreme Rings especially
demanding.




Difficulty rating:


D i p s - planche
So simple to describe a n d yet so incredibly difficult to execute, planche dips
begin from the b o t t o m - m o s t portion of a s t a n d a r d dip a n d t h e n press u p w a r d
to a planche. Pause in the planche a n d t h e n return to the b e n t a r m support.
Repeat for the desired n u m b e r of repetitions.

Notice the strong lean forward d u r i n g the ascent that is necessary to maintain
the balance of the planche. This changes the d y n a m i c s of the d i p p i n g motion
drastically a n d greatly intensifies the challenge of this m o v e m e n t . In addition,
it will require a great deal of strength to completely straighten the elbows
u p o n arrival at the planche position.




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This m o v e m e n t m a y also be performed w i t h a tuck, a d v a n c e d tuck, 1/2 lay or
lay in addition to the straddle position d e m o n s t r a t e d in the photos.




Difficulty rating:


Erbs
Beginning from a h a n d s t a n d , lower to a planche. On reaching the planche
position, perform a planche p u s h u p . Be sure to m a i n t a i n the same b o d y angle
d u r i n g the planche p u s h u p that w a s present i n the static planche. U p o n
finishing the planche p u s h u p a n d once again reaching the planche, planche
press back to h a n d s t a n d .

Initially there are several modifications that can be m a d e to mitigate the
severity of this m o v e m e n t . First, y o u m a y choose the position that y o u will
utilize d u r i n g the m o v e m e n t ; choose from adv tuck, straddle, 1/2 lay or lay.
Second, it is not necessary to initially lower all the w a y to horizontal on the
planche. That is certainly y o u r ultimate goal, h o w e v e r it m a y n o t yet be
practical. Lower to w h a t e v e r degree of planche y o u are currently comfortable
with. Simply be sure to m a i n t a i n this angle of planche d u r i n g the descent a n d
ascent of the planche p u s h u p .

R e m e m b e r that this is n o t a Bower, the planche p u s h u p should maintain the
angle of the preceding planche at all times a n d s h o u l d n o t finish in a
h a n d s t a n d , b u t back in to static planche.

These m a y be performed on the floor, on parallets or e v e n on the Xtreme
Rings for truly exceptional athletes.




Difficulty rating




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CHAPTER SIX
Upper Body Pulling
                        Upper Body Pulling




 Rphysical p r e p a r a t i o n of the shoulder girdle. Unfortunately it is also a
critical element in maintaining correct strength balance within the shoulder
a n d so neglect of this m o v e m e n t often causes significant shoulder issues after
years of higher level training right w h e n a g y m n a s t is becoming exceptional
strong (planche a n d maltese on the still rings etc.).


Row Variations
R o w s - XR ground
This exercise is simplicity itself. Adjust the height of the Xtreme Rings so that
your glutes a n d back are just up off of the g r o u n d while h a n g i n g w i t h the
arms fully extended. Pull u p w a r d until y o u r h a n d s reach the shoulders.
Focus on keeping the back flat as y o u pull.

If necessary, the intensity of this m o v e m e n t can be r e d u c e d by m o v i n g y o u r
feet closer to the rings.




Difficulty rating:


Rows - XR elevated
The intensity this r o w variation can be increased by elevating the height of
y o u r feet. Initially begin w i t h the feet just off of the g r o u n d a n d gradually
increase that height over time until the feet are s u p p o r t e d at ring height.

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Difficulty rating:


R o w s - XR Bulgarian
Start from a h a n g w i t h a regular w i d t h grip, as y o u pull to the t o p of the
m o v e m e n t pull your a r m s as far apart as is comfortable. As w i t h the other
foot s u p p o r t e d r o w variations, r e m e m b e r to k e e p the back flat at all times.

Begin w i t h the feet placed low on these a n d t h e n gradually increase the height
of the feet as y o u r strength improves.




Difficulty rating:


Front Lever R o w s - tuck
Begin from a tuck front lever position. While maintaining a horizontal lever
position, pull y o u r shins to y o u r h a n d s . Lower back to the tuck front lever
w i t h o u t allowing y o u r b o d y to tilt.    Repeat for the desired n u m b e r of
repetitions.

Performing these on the Xtreme Rings, rather t h a n a single bar, will allow a
greater range of m o t i o n b u t will also incur less stability a n d m a k e the r o w i n g
m o t i o n slightly m o r e difficult.




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Difficulty rating:


Front Lever R o w s - flat tuck
F r o m a flat tuck front lever y o u m a y n o w attempt to pull yourself u p .
Basically this is a horizontal pull-up. It is incredibly difficult to h o l d the h i p
level w i t h the shoulders d u r i n g the pull. As y o u pull u p , y o u r hips will w a n t
to d r o p d o w n a n d as y o u lower, y o u r hips will w a n t to stay elevated. These
changes occur as your b o d y struggles to find an easier w a y to complete the
m o v e m e n t . Maintaining the horizontal position here is the key for exceptional
back development.




Difficulty rating:


Front Lever R o w s - straddle
Straddle front lever pull-ups are essentially a full b o d y weight r o w a n d will
m a k e y o u incredibly sore from h e a d to toe. Do n o t a t t e m p t this m o v e m e n t
until y o u are proficient at b o t h the static straddle front lever a n d the flat tuck
front lever r o w s . Doing so a n y w a y will not injure you, y o u simply will not be
strong e n o u g h to complete the exercise correctly.

This m o v e m e n t is an especially good    overall conditioner for the back, as this
one exercise alone will w o r k the back      completely from the traps to the lats to
the m i d back d o w n to a n d including     the lower back. Biceps, forearms a n d
shoulders are obviously also heavily          w o r k e d . Core strength is once again



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 extremely taxed as the entire m i d section struggles to m a i n t a i n the stretched
 (body) position.

 F r o m the straddle front lever position, begin to pull your u p p e r stomach to
 y o u r h a n d s . Be careful to k e e p the hips level w i t h the shoulders as y o u rise, as
 it is very easy to simply let the h i p s a n d legs d r a g a n d t u r n this m o v e m e n t into
 a simple pull-up. Pause at the t o p a n d extend back d o w n to the straddle front
 lever.




Difficulty rating:


 Front Lever R o w s - half
 Bringing the knees together to a half lay position will significantly increase the
 load on the lower back in this variation. Initially y o u will almost certainly
 find that it is necessary to allow a degree of pike in the hips in order to
 complete even a single repetition of this m o v e m e n t .          As y o u r strength
 progresses, continue extending the hips until y o u are able to perform half
 front lever r o w s w i t h a completely straight a n d extended b o d y .




 Difficulty rating:


Front Lever Rows
Brutal. These are simply b r u t a l a n d an incredible d e m o n s t r a t i o n of core
strength coupled w i t h exceptional pulling p o w e r . This variation will r e m a i n
out of reach for all b u t the strongest a n d m o s t dedicated of athletes.

 Focusing on pressing the shoulders strongly b a c k w a r d while y o u pull u p w a r d
 will help to at least minutely relieve some of the t r e m e n d o u s strain generated
 by this exceptional m o v e m e n t .



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Difficulty rating:




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                                   Pull-ups




P    ull-ups are a staple in m o s t serious conditioning p r o g r a m s , a n d gymnastics
      training, w i t h its s u p r e m e e m p h a s i s on h i g h levels of relative strength, is
certainly no exception. Most gymnastics training exercises a n d skills on the
e q u i p m e n t utilize a p r o n a t e d or over-hand grip; as such, in this section we
will primarily focus primarily on developing p u l l - u p variations. As y o u will
see shortly, I prefer to focus on p u l l - u p variations that e m p h a s i z e a great deal
of core strength.

Besides their effectiveness at building basic strength, I h a v e also found that
w i d e a r m pull-up variations are also especially helpful in helping to p r e p a r e
the shoulder girdle for the a d v a n c e d ring strength elements that will be
forthcoming after an a d e q u a t e foundation of basic strength h a s b e e n
established.


P u l l - u p Variations
Pull-ups - negative
Adjust the height of y o u r Xtreme Rings or single bar so that y o u are able to
place y o u r chin over y o u r h a n d s while in a s t a n d i n g position. Remove y o u r
feet from the g r o u n d a n d a t t e m p t to lower as slowly as possible d o w n to a
straight a r m h a n g b e n d i n g y o u r knees as necessary to avoid contact w i t h the
ground.       Return back to a stand a n d repeat for the desired n u m b e r of
repetitions.

I h a v e found that negative pull-ups are m o s t p r o d u c t i v e w h e n first prefaced
w i t h a 5 second static h o l d at the t o p of the pull-up.




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Difficulty rating:


Pull-ups - jumping
Adjusting the height of the b a r or rings being u s e d can easily control the
intensity of this element, w h i c h in t u r n regulates the a m o u n t of assistance
p r o v i d e d b y the j u m p .

Generally j u m p i n g pull-ups will begin w i t h the Xtreme Rings or a bar set at
less t h a n a r m ' s length overhead. To continue to increase the difficulty of this
m o v e m e n t , increase the height of the rings or b a r o v e r h e a d while in the
standing position. Once the athlete becomes strong e n o u g h to perform 5
repetitions of this m o v e m e n t w i t h the rings or bar set at or slightly above
a r m ' s length overhead, for the p u r p o s e s of Basic Strength, it is time to
discontinue this m o v e m e n t a n d m o v e forward to the next variation.




Difficulty rating:


Pull-ups
These m a y be performed on a single b a r or on the Xtreme Rings. The Xtreme
Rings are especially comfortable as they allow the grip to rotate naturally
d u r i n g the m o v e m e n t .

Begin from a straight-arm h a n g position. If using a single bar, adjust y o u r
grip so that y o u r h a n d s are approximately shoulder w i d t h apart. Smoothly



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pull y o u r chin up over the bar or rings a n d t h e n r e t u r n to a h a n g . Repeat for
the desired repetitions.




Difficulty rating:


Chin-ups - L
A d d i n g an L sit m a k e s chin-ups significantly harder. In fact, the difference is
so staggering for some that they are unable to complete a single repetition,
even w h e n they are capable of a reasonable n u m b e r of repetitions (3-5) on
regular chin-ups.

M a n y people find L chin-ups easier to perform t h a n L pull-ups. The u n d e r -
grip of the chin-ups allows the shoulders to lean b a c k w a r d relieving some of
the strain on the shoulder girdle d u r i n g the ascent.

A tuck L, straddle L or V m a y also be u s e d as desired.




Difficulty rating:


Pull-ups - L
Begin from an over-grip h a n g w i t h the legs raised into a L-sit. Maintaining
the L-sit, pull y o u r chin strongly over the bar. Pause a n d r e t u r n back to a
straight-arm h a n g . The L-sit should r e m a i n horizontal at all times.

A tuck L, straddle L or V m a y also be u s e d as desired.



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Difficulty rating:


Pull-ups - XR Bulgarian
These are performed on the Xtreme Rings.

For XR Bulgarian pull-ups, start n a r r o w a n d t h e n go o u t very w i d e (as far as
y o u feel comfortable) at the top of the repetition. Pause at the top a n d then, as
y o u lower back d o w n , simply allow the rings to come back in to their starting
position. Keep the p a l m s of the h a n d s facing each other d u r i n g the p u l l - u p .

Focusing on simultaneously pulling the shoulder blades d o w n a n d slightly
back d u r i n g the ascent, will m a k e this is an excellent supplemental m o v e m e n t
for iron cross training. At the top of the XR Bulgarian pull-ups, strive to h a v e
t w o 90° angles; one b e t w e e n the u p p e r a r m a n d torso a n d the other b e t w e e n
the u p p e r a r m a n d the forearm. If y o u find yourself w i t h less t h a n a 90° angle
b e t w e e n either the u p p e r a r m / f o r e a r m or the u p p e r a r m / t o r s o ; next
repetition attempt to pull the rings even further apart at the t o p of the
movement.




Difficulty rating:


Pull-ups - XR Bulgarian L
To execute XR Bulgarian L pull-ups simply a d d an L-sit to the m o v e m e n t . All
other performance guidelines r e m a i n the same.



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Difficulty rating:


Pull-ups - w i d e grip
Begin from a w i d e a r m h a n g . To set y o u r grip, use at least 1.5 times y o u r
shoulder w i d t h u p t o d o u b l e y o u r shoulder w i d t h . Pull y o u r chin strongly
over the bar a n d t h e n lower smoothly back to the w i d e a r m h a n g . Focus on
pulling back strongly w i t h the elbows. Notice in the p h o t o s below that the
elbows r e m a i n in line w i t h the torso at the top of the m o v e m e n t .

These will n e e d to be performed on a single bar.




Difficulty rating:


Pull-ups - w i d e grip b e h i n d
M a n y people will find that leaning back d u r i n g w i d e a r m pull-ups helps to
relieve some of the t r e m e n d o u s pressure on the shoulder girdle. There is no
such escape available w i t h w i d e grip p u l l - u p s to b e h i n d the neck.

Begin as w i t h n o r m a l w i d e grip pull-up, h o w e v e r at the top of the m o v e m e n t
a t t e m p t to pull the back of y o u r neck to the bar. A t t e m p t to pull so h i g h that
the base of your neck touches the bar.

These will need to be performed on a single bar.




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Difficulty rating:


Pull-ups - w i d e grip L
E d u a r d o Iarov (coach of the      great Russian g y m n a s t Valeri Luikin a n d current
h e a d coach of the C a n a d i a n   M e n ' s National Team p r o g r a m ) prefers these for
his athletes. He especially            likes the training effect of the w i d e grip on the
elbows a n d shoulder girdle           as a preparatory training element for future iron
cross w o r k on the rings.

A tuck L, straddle L or V m a y also be u s e d as desired.




Difficulty rating:


OAC - assisted
My preference for training assisted O A C s is to u s e the side of the parallel bars;
placing the chinning h a n d on the t o p rail a n d the assisting h a n d on the
u p r i g h t post. The u p r i g h t post is especially helpful in ensuring progress, as it
h a s g r a d u a t e d m a r k i n g s to m e a s u r e y o u r strength increases by. D e p e n d i n g
on the style, a p o w e r rack m a y also be an acceptable training station.

For a right a r m assisted O A C position yourself so that an u p r i g h t post is next
to y o u r left shoulder a n d the rail is directly in front of you. I prefer to begin
w i t h the rail at h e a d h i g h a n d t h e n perform the assisted O A C s w i t h my legs in
a tuck position. Place the right h a n d on the top rail in an u n d e r - g r i p while
placing the left h a n d on the u p r i g h t post. I find a slightly n a r r o w e r t h a n
s h o u l d e r w i d t h grip m o s t comfortable, b u t experiment yourself to find y o u r



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preference.

The height of y o u r h a n d of the u p r i g h t post will d e t e r m i n e the a m o u n t of
assistance that that h a n d is capable of providing. Over time, as y o u r strength
improves, gradually lower the height of y o u r assistance h a n d .




Difficulty rating:




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                                      Curls




T     he Gymnastic Bodies definition of a b o d y w e i g h t curl is an inverted or
      semi-inverted pulling m o v e m e n t that initiates w i t h the h a n d s reasonably
close to the hips. While some of these m o v e m e n t s blur the lines b e t w e e n a
p u r e curling m o v e m e n t a n d a multi-plane pulling m o v e m e n t , they h a v e b e e n
included here as the p r i m a r y e m p h a s i s d u r i n g these m o v e m e n t s is the curling
action.

Also note that for m a n y people, m o s t of these variations will require p a r t n e r
assistance to achieve full range of m o t i o n (ROM).


Curl Variations
Chin-ups - inverted
From an inverted h a n g perform a chin-up.      These are quite difficult; even
very strong athletes will find it quite challenging to pull up to a 90° b e n d in
the elbows.

These m a y be p e r f o r m e d in a tuck, pike or straight b o d y on the Xtreme Rings,
on the parallel bars or even h a n g i n g from the b o t t o m of a set of dip bars. Most
people will find the tuck a n d pike positions to be the m o s t stable. The straight
b o d y variation is performed m o s t comfortably on the Xtreme Rings as the
balance can be quite a w k w a r d on a single bar.




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Difficulty rating:




Reverse Yewkis
F r o m an inverted h a n g lower to a front lever while simultaneously curling the
a r m s to the sternum, do not h o l d this position b u t simply s w i n g back up to the
inverted h a n g . The slower y o u perform this m o v e m e n t , the m o r e d e m a n d i n g
it will be.

Extending the b o d y position u s e d d u r i n g the repetitions can staggeringly
intensify the difficulty of this m o v e m e n t . As always, this m o v e m e n t m a y be
performed in a tuck, flat tuck, straddle, 1/2 lay or layout position.




Difficulty rating:


Reverse Muscle-up - half
F r o m a n inverted h a n g pull the b o d y u p t o a shoulder stand a n d t h e n r e t u r n
to the inverted h a n g . This constitutes one repetition. Use y o u r feet on the
inside of the straps to stabilize yourself. The feet on the straps m a y also be
u s e d to p r o v i d e assistance d u r i n g the lift. You will also find that using a false
grip will allow y o u to greatly lessen the intensity of this already d e m a n d i n g
exercise.




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This m o v e m e n t m a y be d o n e on a single bar w i t h an under-grip, h o w e v e r it is
m o s t comfortably performed on the Xtreme Rings.




Difficulty rating:


Curls - back lever
F r o m a back lever, curl up to a b e n t - a r m s u p p o r t a n d t h e n r e t u r n to the b a c k
lever position. In order to maintain balance d u r i n g the descent, it is necessary
to p u s h the shoulders forward strongly while straightening the arms in order
to finish the repetition in a balanced back lever position.

You will find that a maintaining a partial false grip d u r i n g the back lever
m a k e s the curl substantially easier to execute. As y o u descend once moire to
the back lever, be sure to reset y o u r partial false grip for the next repetition.

This m o v e m e n t m a y be d o n e on either a single bar or the Xtreme Rings.




Difficulty rating:




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                         Multi-plane Pulling




A     s w i t h the multi-plane pressing m o v e m e n t s , the following multi-plane
      pulling (MPPu) exercises are pulling m o v e m e n t s that deviate from the
traditional u p , d o w n a n d horizontal pulling classifications; b u t contain at least
t w o of these directions a n d sometimes all three.



MPPu Variations
Pullovers
F r o m a h a n g , pull y o u r nose to the bar. While maintaining y o u r nose to the
bar, n o w tuck y o u r legs a n d pull y o u r knees up a n d over the bar. Allow y o u r
legs to d r o p d o w n on the other side of the bar a n d shift y o u r wrists to p u s h up
to a support. To complete the repetition y o u m a y either d r o p straight d o w n or
roll forward over the bar, e n d i n g back w h e r e y o u b e g a n in a h a n g position
w i t h straight arms. Repeat for the desired n u m b e r of reps.

This m o v e m e n t m a y also be d o n e in a pike, 1/2 lay a n d layout.




Difficulty rating:




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Naners
Basically N a n e r s are a slightly m o r e a d v a n c e d form of pullovers. Perform a
n o r m a l pullover to a s u p p o r t position on top of the bar. N o w as y o u roll back
forward over the bar, b e n d y o u r a r m s a n d pull strongly keeping y o u r chin
over the bar.       At no time d u r i n g the forward roll will y o u r a r m s straighten.
Allow y o u r legs to s w i n g s o m e w h a t b e h i n d y o u a n d t h e n on the forward
s w i n g go up a n d over the bar into another repetition.

As y o u r strength improves,           decrease the degree of swing w i t h i n the
movement.

This m o v e m e n t m a y also be d o n e in a pike, 1/2 lay a n d layout.




Difficulty rating:


TOPs pulls
Beginning from an inverted h a n g lower to a full vertical h a n g while
simultaneously pulling the chin over the bar or rings. Reverse the m o v e m e n t
a n d r e t u r n back to the inverted h a n g . This constitutes one repetition.

Control the intensity of the m o v e m e n t by adjusting the speed of the
m o v e m e n t (faster = easier) or by a d d i n g w e i g h t at the ankles.

The easiest version of this m o v e m e n t to begin w i t h will entail h a n g i n g
inverted on either the e n d of the parallel bars or on a set of rings. The most
difficult variation of TOPs pulls utilizes a single bar. The single bar forces the
b o d y ' s center of gravity in front of the bar, m a k i n g the stabilization of the
inverted h a n g m u c h m o r e challenging.

This m o v e m e n t m a y be performed in either a tuck, straddle or 1/2 lay or lay
position.

In addition, a d d i n g w e i g h t to the ankles greatly increases the core strength
e m p h a s i s of this m o v e m e n t . The best I h a v e seen is 251bs a d d e d to the ankles
for a solid smooth five repetitions.                 Most people will find 5-101bs quite
challenging.




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Difficulty rating:


Front Lever Pulls - half
Begin by performing a s t a n d a r d p u l l - u p until the chin is over the bar. As the
a r m s begin to straighten d u r i n g the descent, p u s h the shoulders back strongly
while pulling the b o d y up to a horizontal front lever position. A t t e m p t to
p a u s e in this position. Allow the b o d y to d r o p out of the front lever d o w n to a
n o r m a l straight b o d y h a n g a n d t h e n repeat for the desired n u m b e r of reps.

This m o v e m e n t m a y be d o n e either in a tuck, a d v tuck, straddle, 1/2 lay in
addition to the straight b o d y position d e m o n s t r a t e d in the p h o t o s below.




Difficulty rating:


Front Lever Pulls
Start w i t h the chin over the bar. As the a r m s straighten, pull the b o d y up
horizontal to a front lever position. As the front lever begins to fail, let the
legs d r o p back to vertical while simultaneously pulling the chin back over the
bar. This is a single repetition.

This m o v e m e n t m a y also be d o n e either in a tuck, a d v tuck, straddle or 1/2 lay
position.




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Difficulty rating:


Yewkis
Begin from a straight-arm h a n g a n d then perform a pull-up while
simultaneously pulling y o u r b o d y up to horizontal. This will result in a bent-
a r m front lever position. Strive to bring the a b d o m e n as close as possible to
the bar. Beware; it is quite easy to fall into the habit of abbreviated R O M on
this m o v e m e n t .

As always, this m o v e m e n t m a y also be d o n e in either a tuck, advanced tuck,
straddle, or 1/2 lay position.




Difficulty rating:


Front Lever Pulls - circle
For this variation of front lever pull, lift the legs up in a circular m o t i o n as the
torso leans b a c k w a r d into the front lever. Please note that if lifting the legs to
the right, the shoulders will correspondingly lean to the left to maintain
balance a n d vice versa for lifting the legs to the left.

My personal preference is to reverse the circle on each rep, although it is
acceptable to reverse the direction of the circle w i t h each set as well.

It is also quite beneficial to perform this exercise weighted. The athlete below
is capable of performing circle front lever pulls w i t h 251bs on his ankles.



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Difficulty rating:




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CHAPTER SEVEN
Combined Pull/Press
                       Combined Pull/Press




T     hese combined p u l l / p r e s s (CPP) variations are m o v e m e n t s w h e r e a pull
      a n d a press are contained w i t h i n the s a m e exercise. Of particular note
w i t h these m o v e m e n t s is that a correctly structured w o r k o u t utilizing CPP s
allows the time necessary to complete a w o r k o u t to be greatly condensed. In
addition, by the inherent n a t u r e of the m o v e m e n t s , their use will result in the
balanced d e v e l o p m e n t of the shoulder girdle w i t h i n the same plane of motion.


CPP Variations
Muscle-ups - XR negative
Muscle-ups allow y o u to train a p u l l - u p a n d d i p at the same time. They also
i m p r o v e basic coordination by requiring the u p p e r b o d y to function
athletically as a single unit.

For this first variation, beginning from a straight-arm s u p p o r t on the rings,
slowly lower t h r o u g h a d i p to a straight-arm h a n g . Try to go especially slow
t h r o u g h the transition from d i p to pull-up. Think of the negative transition as
that section of the muscle-up w h e r e the b o d y changes from a s u p p o r t to a
hang. Visually it m a y be m o s t helpful to notice that d u r i n g a negative muscle-
up transition, the elbows change from pointing up to pointing d o w n .




Difficulty rating:

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Muscle-ups - XR jumping
I r e c o m m e n d setting y o u r false grip for j u m p i n g muscle-ups, as well as all
other muscle-up variations, in the following m a n n e r : Your grip s h o u l d be
pressing on the ring in a diagonal line from the b o t t o m knuckle on y o u r index
finger, across y o u r p a l m to the heel of y o u r h a n d as well as s o m e w h a t on the
outside edge of y o u r wrist (this is w h e r e those wonderful blisters on y o u r
wrist come from).

In the beginning, y o u will probably find it necessary to keep y o u r elbows bent
in order to m a i n t a i n this grip. As y o u reach the transition point from chin-up
to dip, roll your h a n d s o u t w a r d a n d press d o w n to rotate y o u r grip from a
h a n g to a support.

In the event of getting "rips" or blisters on y o u r wrists from the false grip, a
little athletic tape will take care of the problem.

Every effort should be m a d e to complete the transition w i t h the elbows
pointing " u p " to the ceiling. This positions the b o d y correctly for the d i p
m o v e m e n t to come.

For the j u m p i n g muscle-ups, initially adjust the height of the rings so that they
are just above the t o p of the head. This m a k e s it substantially easier to
m a i n t a i n the false grip as well as greatly i m p r o v i n g the leverage. As strength
i m p r o v e s either progressively increase the height of the rings above the h e a d
or m o v e on to a m o r e difficult muscle-up variation.




Difficulty rating:


Muscle-ups - XR kipping
Essentially this is a muscle-up on the rings w h e r e either s w i n g or a k i p p i n g
action is utilized to m a k e the muscle-up easier to complete. This variation
m a y also be performed on a straight bar, w h e r e it is slightly easier.

It is i m p o r t a n t to note that w h e n utilized as a m o v e m e n t a d d r e s s i n g basic
strength, these d y n a m i c variations, while helpful in facilitating the learning



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curve, are n o t h o w e v e r the ultimate goal in this instance a n d every effort
should be m a d e to progress o n w a r d to the n o n - d y n a m i c muscle-up variations.




Difficulty rating:


Muscle-ups - XR seated
As m e n t i o n e d in the previous variation, there are instances w h e r e the correct
execution of a strict muscle-up m a y n o t yet be possible a n d the use of incorrect
or sub-optimal technique m a y be a necessary evil - b u t these variations should
be v i e w e d as t e m p o r a r y technical c o m p r o m i s e s a n d should be left b e h i n d as
soon as physically possible. A muscle-up is by definition a " m u s c l e " u p , not a
" k i p " or " s w i n g " u p . Seated muscle-ups begin the transition from a swinging
orientation to a strength orientation.

The height of the rings will begin s o m e w h a t above the top of the h e a d a n d
t h e n progress u p w a r d to the current limits of the athlete's strength.

M a n y trainees m a k e the c o m m o n error of looking at the transition phase of a
muscle-up as an unnecessary h i n d r a n c e , one that retards their muscle-up
performance. N o t h i n g could be further from the truth. In fact, the transition
is one of the p r i m a r y reasons for training the muscle-up; it helps to p r e p a r e
the shoulder girdle, chest, lats a n d a r m s for the rigors of the m o r e a d v a n c e d
ring strength elements that will be a d d r e s s e d later in All Muscle, No Iron. My
r e c o m m e n d a t i o n is if y o u are going to train muscle-ups - train t h e m correctly.
If y o u prefer to simply train the pull up or d i p portion of the m o v e m e n t , I
h a v e p r o v i d e d y o u w i t h a m u l t i t u d e of p u l l - u p a n d d i p specific m o v e m e n t s to
choose from.

Unnecessarily speeding or k i p p i n g t h o u g h the transition of a muscle-up is the
same as b o u n c i n g the bar off the chest d u r i n g a h e a v y bench press. It gives
the illusion of greater strength, b u t in reality this is a grave misconception.
Yes, there are a great m a n y exercises w h e r e speed is not only helpful b u t an
essential component; in the long term, h o w e v e r , muscle-ups are n o t one of
them.




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Difficulty rating:


Muscle-ups - XR narrow
The easiest of the h a n g i n g n o n - k i p p i n g variations is to perform the n a r r o w
muscle-up w i t h the h a n d s pulled in t o w a r d the center of the chest. This
variation is so n a m e d d u e to the h a n d s being

At this stage, be sure to u s e a false grip.

Also, in order to build the m o s t strength w i t h this m o v e m e n t , strive to
perform this a n d the other s u b s e q u e n t "strict" muscle-up variations w i t h o u t
piking the hips or leaning the chest forward while the a r m s "transition" from
a h a n g to a s u p p o r t grip. Ideally, the only m o v e m e n t should be a pulling a n d
straightening of the arms.

Once on top in the completed s u p p o r t position, be sure that the elbows
completely lock o u t straight w i t h the h a n d s t u r n e d out to 45 degrees. Until
y o u h a v e achieved a relatively s m o o t h transition a n d the correct s u p p o r t
position, I w o u l d r e c o m m e n d staying w i t h this variation.

By the way, just for fun one d a y I allowed my y o u n g e r athletes to h a v e a
muscle-up contest for reps. Their record for strict muscle-ups e n d e d up being
13 (the top contestants actually d i d 15-17, b u t only perfect repetitions w e r e
counted), w i t h no swinging, no piking of the h i p s at anytime a n d no leaning
forward of the chest allowed, a n d finishing w i t h elbows locked a n d rings
t u r n e d out at the top for the repetition to count.




Difficulty rating:




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Muscle-ups - XR w i d e
This h a r d e s t version of the b o d y w e i g h t muscle-ups to perform is d o n e w i t h
the h a n d s o u t w i d e of the shoulders a n d w i t h o u t using a false grip. This one is
brutal a n d begins to m i m i c the stress a n d strain of performing an iron cross.




Difficulty rating:


Muscle-ups - straight bar
Rings for muscle-ups, while preferable for comfort, are not necessary. It is
also possible to perform muscle-ups on a straight bar. For this y o u will n e e d to
u s e an exaggerated false grip.

At first, y o u will probably n o t be able to completely straighten y o u r a r m s at
the b o t t o m of the m o v e m e n t a n d retain y o u r false grip. This is fine, simply
continue w i t h the m o v e m e n t and, as y o u r strength a n d forearm flexibility
improves, so will your b o t t o m h a n g position.

If y o u are not allowing yourself to kip, the transition from the p u l l - u p to the
d i p d u r i n g a straight b a r muscle-up is also m u c h h a r d e r as y o u are not able to
lean forward. For future training p u r p o s e s however, this is actually preferable
as a perfect muscle-up on the Xtreme Rings d o e s n ' t lean forward, b u t
transitions w i t h the a r m s remaining out to the sides rather t h a n m o v i n g
forward a n d b a c k w a r d .




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Difficulty rating:


Muscle-ups - XR weighted
M a n y p e o p l e on completing their first muscle-up are excited a n d immediately
w a n t to proceed on to w e i g h t e d muscle-ups. A s s u r e d l y w e i g h t e d muscle-ups
are an excellent exercise a n d are, in fact, a staple in the conditioning p r o g r a m
of my a d v a n c e d athletes.      H o w e v e r , for the beginning a n d intermediate
trainee, until all three of the m a i n b o d y w e i g h t muscle-up versions (narrow,
m e d i u m a n d w i d e grips) h a v e b e e n m a s t e r e d w i t h a correct transition a n d
perfect s u p p o r t position, the athlete should forego w o r k i n g w e i g h t e d muscle-
u p s . Only then has a strong e n o u g h foundation b e e n built to that will allow
t h e m to maximize the benefits of the w e i g h t e d muscle-up.

Weighted muscle-ups m a y also be d o n e on a straight bar. The best w e i g h t e d
single bar muscle-up that I h a v e seen is w i t h an additional half b o d y w e i g h t
attached.

Generally I prefer to use a w e i g h t vest, if it h a s an athletic cut, a l t h o u g h
a d d i n g w e i g h t at the ankles w i t h a n y l o n strap will w o r k quite well also.




Difficulty rating:


Ians
Beginning from a rear s u p p o r t on a single bar, perform an u n d e r - g r i p Korean
d i p descent.     F r o m this position, p u s h the shoulders forward while
simultaneously extending the a r m s a n d lowering the b o d y to a back lever. A
c o m m o n mistake is failing to extend the s h o u l d e r s far e n o u g h forward to
achieve a true back lever position d u r i n g this portion of the m o v e m e n t .

F r o m the back lever curl the b o d y up to the b o t t o m position of the Korean d i p
a n d t h e n press back up to support.              Do not attempt to k e e p the b o d y
horizontal d u r i n g the curl, b u t allow the torso a n d legs to d r o p naturally.
Keeping s o m e w h a t of a false grip d u r i n g the lower to back lever, will greatly
facilitate the b o d y w e i g h t curl out of the lever.

This is an unbelievably b r u t a l exercise and, unassisted, can only be performed
by the very strongest of athletes. Most other athletes will h a v e difficulty even



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attempting this m o v e m e n t , a n d this often despite substantial assistance from a
h a n d spotter. The tension on the biceps is quite significant, h o w e v e r so are the
potential strength gains. This m o v e m e n t contains a legitimate b o d y w e i g h t
curl with, no possibility whatsoever of cheating. A d d in the required active
flexibility, static strength a n d pressing strength a n d y o u h a v e a superior
m o v e m e n t effective across a w i d e range of training components.

Great care should be taken to gradually increase the intensity of this exercise.
Steady state training is by far the m o s t effective a n d safest cyclical m e t h o d to
use w i t h this m o v e m e n t .




Difficulty rating:


Roeslers
F r o m a h a n g on the rings, perform a muscle-up that continues into a bent a r m
press to h a n d s t a n d . Initially it is acceptable to perform the press portion of
this m o v e m e n t to a shoulder stand, h o w e v e r this should be discontinued in
favor of a press to h a n d s t a n d as soon as possible. If y o u are not yet proficient
at ring h a n d s t a n d s , feel free to straddle the legs at the top of the bent a r m
press h a n d s t a n d a n d use the ring straps to stabilize the h a n d s t a n d .

These m a y be d o n e w i t h a bent a r m tuck press to h a n d s t a n d , a b e n t a r m
straddle press to h a n d s t a n d , a bent a r m pike press to h a n d s t a n d or very
a d v a n c e d athletes m a y perform t h e m w i t h a bent a r m straight b o d y press to
h a n d s t a n d (hollow back press) as s h o w n in the photos below.




Difficulty rating:


Galimores
F r o m a front lever w i t h a strong false grip, allow the h i p s to d r o p while
simultaneously pulling the b o d y up above the rings a n d pressing into a
planche.     After achieving the planche, reverse the m o v e m e n t a n d descend



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back to the front lever. D u r i n g the descent be sure to reset y o u r false grip as
y o u pass t h r o u g h the transition.

Rings are required for the execution of this element. These m a y be d o n e in
tuck, a d v a n c e d tuck, 1/2 lay or layout positions in addition to the straddle
position s h o w n below.




Difficulty rating:




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CHAPTER EIGHT
Core
                                      Core




I  t h a s become fashionable of late w i t h i n fitness circles to discuss the
   importance of "mid-line stability", h o w e v e r m o s t seek to achieve this by
p r o m o t i n g only full b o d y weight-lifting m o v e m e n t s a n d avoiding all direct
core training. While this a p p r o a c h m a y be a d e q u a t e for other forms of
athletics, it will fall far short of the t r e m e n d o u s midsection strength that is
required to perform even r u d i m e n t a r y gymnastics elements.

Some extremely challenging core exercises, m a n y never before seen by the
general public, are an essential staple in the Gymnastic Bodies conditioning
p r o g r a m . While these m o v e m e n t s m a y not h a v e h a d a great deal of public
exposure, they do h a v e one thing in c o m m o n ; they are brutally effective a n d
u p o n completion, or even attempted completion, will leave no d o u b t in your
m i n d whatsoever of just w h e r e y o u r "core" is located a n d exactly w h a t it is
for.

This chapter on core strength will proceed from V-up, to HLL to lower back to
oblique to straight b o d y variations.


V-up variations
V-ups - tuck
F r o m a supine position (spine on the floor), sit the torso up while
simultaneously tucking the legs up into the mid-section. Return to supine.




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Difficulty rating:


V-ups - straddle
F r o m supine, sit the torso up while lifting s t r a d d l e d legs as h i g h as possible.
Keep the knees straight a n d attempt to m a i n t a i n a flat back d u r i n g this
movement.




Difficulty rating:


V-ups
F r o m supine, sit the torso up b u t n o w m a i n t a i n the legs together a n d straight
rather t h a n straddled. A t t e m p t to pull the legs a n d torso up to at least 45°. Do
n o t allow the back to curl d u r i n g this m o v e m e n t , b u t strive to sit up w i t h the
chin a n d chest held high.




Difficulty rating:


L-sit lift
Beginning from an L-sit position, lift the legs as close to a V-sit as y o u are
currently capable. Lower back to the L-sit. Repeat for the desired n u m b e r of
repetitions.

This m o v e m e n t m a y also be d o n e in a tuck or s t r a d d l e d position.




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Difficulty rating:


V-ups - lift
These are simply v-ups w h e r e at the peak of the ascent, y o u try to press the
glutes up off of the g r o u n d . They m a y range from lifting the tiniest fraction of
an inch off of the g r o u n d or y o u m a y succeed in pressing all the w a y up to a
V-sit.

The p r i m a r y focus here is to strive to press the h i p s forward a n d u p , n o t
merely u p , as this will aid in the d e v e l o p m e n t of the forthcoming Team V-ups.




Difficulty rating:


V - u p s - team
Perform a regular V-up w i t h lift; h o w e v e r at the t o p of the m o v e m e n t rather
t h a n descending, n o w attempt to continue pressing on u p w a r d to a full
m a n n a . H o l d the m a n n a a n d t h e n descend w i t h control back to the g r o u n d .

As w i t h the static m a n n a it is i m p o r t a n t to r e m e m b e r to press the hips
strongly forward in order to m a i n t a i n your balance. If y o u attempt to lift by
higher by leaning backward, y o u will surely fall.




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Difficulty rating:


V-ups - team w i t h single
At the t o p of the t e a m v-up, n o w attempt to perform a single leg lift while
maintaining y o u r torso in a m a n n a position. To m a i n t a i n balance d u r i n g the
single leg lifts, it is i m p o r t a n t to press the h i p s up as well as the leg.




Difficulty rating:


V-ups - team w i t h single & double
N o w a d d a d o u b l e leg lift, to the t e a m v - u p following the t w o single leg lifts.
As this is an exceptionally d e m a n d i n g m o v e m e n t , the height of the lifts m a y
v a r y from initially being barely recognizable to quite substantial for stronger
trainees.

This t r e m e n d o u s l y challenging m o v e m e n t is obviously reserved for only the
m o s t a d v a n c e d of athletes.




Difficulty rating:




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                           Hanging Leg Lifts




H       anging leg lifts (HLLs) are a m a n d a t o r y c o m p o n e n t in my u p p e r athletes'
        training p r o g r a m . H o w e v e r , executed correctly, this exercise will be
b e y o n d the reach of most beginning or even s o m e intermediate trainees a n d
will need to be d e v e l o p e d progressively.

The m o v e m e n t s in the following progression can be d o n e either on a single
b a r or a stall bar. A stall bar is a specially designed piece of gymnastics
a p p a r a t u s that is of e n o r m o u s benefit in a m u l t i t u d e of stretching a n d
conditioning exercises. It is d e m o n s t r a t e d in the p h o t o s to follow. My
preference w h e n w o r k i n g HLLs is to use the stall b a r as it ensures that the
athlete's shoulders will be unable to lean back d u r i n g the m o v e m e n t . This
drastically cuts d o w n on the a m o u n t of h e l p that the lats can p r o v i d e d u r i n g
the leg lift.

If y o u do n o t h a v e access to a stall bar, these exercises can also be d o n e on any
overhead single b a r w i t h or w i t h o u t a partner. Simply h a v i n g someone p u s h
forward slightly on y o u r shoulders from b e h i n d is a very effective substitution
for the stall bar. A great deal of pressure is n o t required, nor is it necessary to
p u s h the shoulders out in front of the h a n d s . Simply p r o v i d e a gentle firm
pressure that prevents the athlete from pulling the shoulders back b e h i n d the
hands.

If training w i t h o u t a partner, in order to get the m a x i m u m benefits from these
m o v e m e n t s , y o u will n e e d to monitor yourself assiduously to m a k e sure that
y o u are maintaining correct form.


HLL variations
HLL - tuck half
F r o m a h a n g i n g position, b e n d the knees a n d lift t h e m up to a horizontal bent



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knee L h a n g . Return back d o w n to a straight b o d y h a n g .




Difficulty rating:


HLL - half
F r o m a h a n g , w i t h straight legs, pull up as close to a horizontal L as y o u can.
Lower a n d repeat. Do not rest at the b o t t o m in b e t w e e n reps; there is a great
difference b e t w e e n one r e p d o n e three times a n d one set of three reps.

Keeping the knees locked will greatly increase the active flexibility c o m p o n e n t
of this exercise.




Difficulty rating:


HLL - V to L
F r o m a h a n g i n g V, lower as close as y o u can to the L a n d t h e n pull back up to
the V. C o m b i n e this exercise w i t h the leg lift to L to develop b o t h sides of the
h a n g i n g leg lift.

At first, y o u m a y only be capable of a very small range of motion. That's fine.
The key here is patience, consistency a n d persistence. Progress is n o t m a d e in
giant leaps, b u t rather in very small, almost immeasurable i m p r o v e m e n t s . I
t e n d to think of each d a y of training as a p a g e in a novel. Taken individually,
each p a g e is so thin as to be almost n o t w o r t h considering. Yet if o n e page
w e r e a d d e d to the total over the course of a year, in the e n d we w o u l d h a v e a




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substantial novel of 365 pages. In my opinion, it is the s a m e w i t h physical
preparation. In fact I h a v e u s e d this exact m e t h o d to develop all of my
c h a m p i o n s b o t h in terms of physical p r e p a r a t i o n a n d technical refinement.




Difficulty rating:


HLL - single leg
Beginning from a straight-arm h a n g , attempt to lift only one leg to the bar. Of
especial i m p o r t here is that while one leg is lifting, the other non-lifting leg
should be attempting to pull as far a w a y from the other as possible. Do not
allow the knees of either leg to b e n d . Return back to the h a n g a n d switch legs.
Repeat for the desired n u m b e r of repetitions.

A d v a n c e d athletes m a y choose to simply switch the legs w i t h o u t returning to
a straight-arm h a n g in b e t w e e n repetitions. To exercise this option, at the top
of the repetition begin to lower one leg while n o w lifting the other to the bar.
If the m o v e m e n t h a s b e e n coordinated correctly, the t w o legs should reach
their n e w positions simultaneously. The torso should r e m a i n stable a n d
relatively stationary d u r i n g this transition.




Difficulty rating:


HLL




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F r o m a h a n g , pull the toes up to the bar. With this particular variation it is fine
to allow the feet to go above the bar. Just strive to k e e p y o u r feet as low as
y o u are able. Also be careful to ensure that the elbows a n d knees r e m a i n
straight.




Difficulty rating:


HLL - under-grip
This variation is not t r e m e n d o u s l y m o r e difficult that a s t a n d a r d HLL; unless
y o u h a v e developed the habit of leaning back a n d pulling strongly w i t h y o u r
lats d u r i n g y o u r h a n g i n g leg lifts. If this is the case, n o w utilizing an u n d e r -
grip will greatly reduce the a m o u n t of assistance that the lats can p r o v i d e
d u r i n g this m o v e m e n t .




Difficulty rating:


HLL - w e i g h t e d at ankles
Finally we arrive at the w e i g h t e d h a n g i n g leg raise. All of the regular
guidelines for a correct leg lift continue to apply; n o w simply h a n g weight on
the ankles to increase the intensity of the m o v e m e n t . W i t h the m o v e m e n t n o w
being d o n e u n d e r load, the t e m p t a t i o n will be especially great to b e n d the
knees - avoid this as it will severely u n d e r c u t y o u r progress.

A n o t h e r c o m m o n mistake here is to a t t e m p t to s w i n g the weight up rather
t h a n lifting it u n d e r control. On some conditioning elements m o m e n t u m is an



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essential component; however, w h e n utilized to build basic strength, w e i g h t e d
HLLs are not one of them.

The sky w o u l d seem to be the limit here, h o w e v e r do n o t p l a n on being able to
pull e n o r m o u s a m o u n t s of w e i g h t in this m o v e m e n t ; the leverage is simply
too d i s a d v a n t a g e d . The m o s t w e i g h t I h a v e seen u s e d is 151bs. for reps a n d
this w a s by a y o u n g l a d y w h o w e i g h e d approximately 1301bs. Generally my
t o p athletes a d d a n y w h e r e from 10-15lbs on the ankles for this m o v e m e n t ,
w h i c h w o r k s o u t to an incredible 15% to 20% of their b o d y w e i g h t .




Difficulty rating:


HLL - weighted at ankles and waist
A n y type of w e i g h t e d belt will w o r k for this variation. If y o u are u n a b l e to
fully lift y o u r legs to the bar, t h e n y o u h a v e chosen a load too great for y o u r
current capabilities. Reduce the w e i g h t y o u are using accordingly.




Difficulty rating:




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                                        Lower Back




M     a n y athletes tend to train the abs a n d the h i p flexors in isolation to the
      exclusion of the lower back a n d spinal erectors. In the long run, this
causes several p r o b l e m s including muscle imbalance injuries a n d the inability
to function efficiently u n d e r load; r e m e m b e r a chain is only as strong as the
weakest link.

In gymnastics, m o s t of o u r e n o r m o u s lower back strength is the result of our
exposure to the m a n y dynamic, plyometric a n d ballistic elements in our
training. These elements h a v e b e e n analyzed a n d distilled into their various
c o m p o n e n t s a n d will be a d d r e s s e d in the u p c o m i n g v o l u m e ; The D y n a m i c
Physique. There are, h o w e v e r , a variety of basic strength exercises that I h a v e
found very useful.

All lower back reverse leg lift variations m a y be d o n e w i t h legs either
straddled or together. The straddle variations will p r e p a r e the hips for the
rigors of pressing o p e n d u r i n g straddle planches, the legs together variations
will allow substantially m o r e resistance to be used.


Lower back variations
Archups
These are an excellent m o v e m e n t a n d are essentially a b o d y w e i g h t good
m o r n i n g . They are my favorite m o v e m e n t a n d h a v e a strong active flexibility
c o m p o n e n t as well as a strength component.

I am n o t sure if it is the decompression inherent in this m o v e m e n t , or
increasing the blood flow a n d mobility t h r o u g h an often an area w h e r e the
focus in m o s t traditional weight training exercises is on maintaining a rigidly
arched position; b u t personally my back always feels substantially " y o u n g e r "
a n d m o r e athletic after a good session of archups.



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They m a y be performed on a p o m m e l horse as s h o w n , on a G H R (glute-ham
raise) or even on a box w i t h the feet secured by a stall bar.




Difficulty rating:


Curl-ups
Curl the spine up one vertebra at a time, like rolling up a string of pearls.
F r o m the b o t t o m of the m o v e m e n t the chin will be the first to curl d o w n a n d
at the t o p of the m o v e m e n t the chin will be the last to uncurl.

Increase the intensity by a d d i n g weight; smaller plates will w o r k better as
they will not interfere w i t h the essential curling m o t i o n of the back.




Difficulty rating:


RLL - in s t r a d d l e
Reverse leg lifts (RLL) are especially helpful for developing the strength
necessary to o p e n the h i p s d u r i n g a straddle planche. As it is a w k w a r d to a d d
weight to these, I usually h a v e my athletes perform these w i t h a partner
s u p p l y i n g d o w n w a r d pressure o n the ankles.




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Difficulty rating:


RLL
In the training of my o w n athletes, I prefer to u s e reverse leg lifts (RLL) rather
t h a n a reverse h y p e r machine. It is time c o n s u m i n g to correctly adjust the
lever a r m of the reverse h y p e r m a c h i n e for each athlete. In addition, the
reverse h y p e r p r o v i d e s far too m u c h of a leverage a d v a n t a g e d u r i n g this
m o v e m e n t . N o n e of these d i s a d v a n t a g e s a p p l y to RLL.

Lay p r o n e across a p o m m e l horse, vaulting table or even a simple w e i g h t
lifting bench that h a s b e e n elevated. E n s u r e that the surface y o u are w o r k i n g
u p o n is h i g h e n o u g h to allow the legs to h a n g d o w n clear of the floor.
Beginning from this position, slowly a n d deliberately lift the legs up to, or just
above, a horizontal position. P a u s e a n d t h e n r e t u r n back to the h a n g .

My athletes usually perform this variation weighted. In comparison to a
reverse h y p e r machine, the leverage of this variation is far less w i t h m o s t of
my older athletes find using 35-551bs quite challenging rather t h a n the 75-
lOOlbs that they w o u l d normally use on a reverse hyper; especially w h e n d o n e
w i t h a slow deliberate t e m p o .




Difficulty rating:


RLL - stall bar
Bend forward and, w i t h the h e a d d o w n , grasp the stall b a r w i t h an over-hand
grip. Lift the feet from the g r o u n d a n d press the hips firmly into the bars.
Keeping the h i p s in contact w i t h the bar, lower the feet to the limits of y o u r
current flexibility, p a u s e a n d t h e n pull the legs up to vertical. Descend back to
the b o t t o m of the m o v e m e n t while m a k i n g sure to keep the hips a n d back
pressed into the bars. This constitutes one repetition.




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This change in orientation of the b o d y greatly reduces the leverage that can be
b r o u g h t to bear by the lower back to this RLL variation. Athletes that can
perform regular RLL w i t h 35-451bs will often find themselves r e d u c e d to 10-
251bs w h e n performing RLL on the stall bar.




Difficulty rating:


RLL - headstand
F r o m a freestanding h e a d s t a n d , lower the feet to the g r o u n d a n d t h e n pull
t h e m back up to a h e a d s t a n d . The feet should only lightly touch the g r o u n d ,
before ascending once more.

These m a y b e performed b o t h w i t h a n d w i t h o u t w e i g h t a d d e d o n a n ankle
strap.




Difficulty rating:


RLL - wall HS
In actuality, this is a press h a n d s t a n d p r e p a r a t o r y element.   H o w e v e r it also
h a s a very strong lower back strength component.

Face a wall a n d set yourself so that your h a n d s are approximately 12 to 18
inches from the wall. D u c k y o u r h e a d a n d lean forward against the wall w i t h
the back of shoulders. With straight or nearly straight legs, m o v e y o u r feet
closer into the wall until your hips are nearly over y o u r shoulders. If y o u r



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flexibility p r e v e n t s y o u from achieving the correct h i p s over the shoulders
position at 12-18 inches from the wall, then m o v e y o u r h a n d s out farther from
the wall, allowing the additional angle of lean to compensate for your
flexibility. The increased angle will increase the stress on y o u r wrists, b u t this
can be greatly alleviated by t u r n i n g y o u r fingers out to the side.

Once in position, w i t h y o u r w e i g h t firmly s u p p o r t e d by y o u r shoulders
leaning against the wall, lift y o u r legs overhead

A d d w e i g h t to the ankles once a reasonable level of b o d y w e i g h t only
proficiency h a s b e e n reached.




Difficulty rating:


Youngs
Begin in a straddle L, t h e n k e e p i n g the hips stationary a n d maintaining the
approximately 45° angle of the back to the g r o u n d , press the legs r e a r w a r d
a n d o p e n the h i p s w i t h o u t allowing either the h i p s or the back to rise.

Initially the e m p h a s i s is on o p e n i n g the hips, n o t on leaning the shoulders
further forward or pressing the h i p s u p w a r d . Focus on m a i n t a i n i n g the
vertical location of the h i p s established d u r i n g the straddle L for the entire
m o v e m e n t . The angle of the h i p s will o p e n a n d the legs will partially extend
b a c k w a r d , h o w e v e r there should be no additional vertical elevation of the
h i p s d u r i n g this m o v e m e n t . On reaching full extension of the hips, r e t u r n
back to the straddle L.

This is a very easy m o v e m e n t to unintentionally cheat on. Extra vigilance
s h o u l d be maintained care should be taken to correctly execute a n d m a i n t a i n
its efficacy.

This m o v e m e n t is extremely helpful in i m p r o v i n g the h i p extension d u r i n g a
straddle planche, an area w h e r e m o s t people are usually extremely w e a k
w h e n b e g i n n i n g planche training. A s y o u r strength improves, y o u m a y allow
yourself to press higher into an actual planche, h o w e v e r , the p r i m a r y focus
should r e m a i n on completely extending the h i p s a n d t h e n r e t u r n i n g back to
the straddle L.



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Difficulty rating:




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                               Obliques




W       ithout constant attention, it is quite easy to overlook oblique training.
        Oblique strength is especially i m p o r t a n t for tumbling, vaulting a n d all
p o m m e l horse skills. In can h o w e v e r , be quite challenging to find a n d utilize
m o v e m e n t s that are effective in strengthening this often-neglected area. That
issue h a s h o w e v e r n o w b e e n resolved for you.

In addition to m o v e m e n t s that directly impact u p o n the obliques, also
included in this chapter are lower back m o v e m e n t s that contain an oblique
strength element.



Oblique Variations
Archups - side to side
Pull up to horizontal w i t h the legs firmly stabilized b e h i n d you.           Now
m a i n t a i n i n g the horizontal plane, m o v e the b o d y from side to side.     In
addition to the side-to-side m o t i o n of the shoulders, also a t t e m p t to curl the
ribs sideways as strongly as possible. The h e a d should r e m a i n in a neutral
position w i t h the chin neither u p nor d o w n .




Difficulty rating:




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Windshield wipers - supine
To b e g i n supine w i n d s h i e l d wipers, lie u p o n the g r o u n d w i t h the arms out to
the side a n d pressing firmly into the g r o u n d . N o w lift y o u r legs until your
feet are pointing to the ceiling; it is i m p o r t a n t for the feet to be directly above
the hips. Lower the feet to the side, attempting to keep the h i p s on the
g r o u n d . Pull back to vertical a n d repeat on the other side.

If desired weight m a y also be a d d e d to the ankles for this m o v e m e n t .




Difficulty rating:


Archups - twisting
A traditional arch-up will lift directly u p w a r d . For this twisting variation
w i t h its h e a v y e m p h a s i s on oblique strength, a t t e m p t to lift u p w a r d as high as
possible at a 45° angle. Return to the b o t t o m of the m o v e m e n t a n d repeat on
the other side. The h e a d should r e m a i n neutral w i t h the elbows pulled back at
all times.




Difficulty rating:


Windshield wipers - half
These are d o n e in a h a n g i n g L-sit m o v i n g the legs from side to side. The
intensity of this m o v e m e n t can be greatly magnified by a d d i n g very small
a m o u n t s of weight to the ankles.




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Difficulty rating:


Archups - circular
Perform as large a circle as possible d u r i n g the ascent a n d descent of the lift.
Switch directions on each repetition.




Difficulty rating:


HLL - circular
Beginning from a hang, perform a HLL in w h i c h the lift the legs ascend a n d
descend in as large an arc sideways as possible. A t t e m p t to k e e p the legs near
the bars at all times.




Difficulty rating:


Windshield wipers




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a n d a r m will PULL strongly on the bar. It is this interaction b e t w e e n the t w o
a r m s individually pulling a n d pressing that allows the b o d y to r e m a i n
m o d e r a t e l y stable in the sideways position.

To perform a negative side lever pull, first establish a solid grip a n d t h e n
a t t e m p t to j u m p to a completely inverted position. You will n e e d to m a i n t a i n a
very firm pressure w i t h the b o t t o m a r m to achieve this. Please note that at the
inverted position, the b o d y will no longer be completely sideways. This is n o t
s o m e t h i n g to be overly concerned about, b u t is something that will occur
naturally as a consequence of the physiology of the shoulders.

If h o w e v e r y o u are n o t yet confident of the security of y o u r grip it is fine to
initially only j u m p to horizontal position a n d attempt to slowly lower back to
a stand. In the early stages of y o u r training, y o u will find it m u c h easier to
perform negative side levers in a tuck, t h e n proceed to a straddle, t h e n 1/2 lay
a n d finally to a straight b o d y position as s h o w n in the p h o t o s below.




Difficulty rating:


Side Lever Pulls
After performing a full negative, y o u m a y n o w a t t e m p t to a d d a pull back to
the inverted support. At first it will be m o s t efficient to utilize a different
position for the negative (i.e. straight body) a n d t h e n a different position for
the pull itself (i.e. tuck).

Experiment w i t h the different b o d y positions to discover the best starting
point for you. Proceed as always from tuck to a d v a n c e d tuck to straddle to 1/2
lay to straight b o d y .




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difficulty rating:




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                                Straight Body




I   n t e r m s of a g y m n a s t ' s physique, the glamour muscles of the a r m s a n d
    shoulders usually get m o s t of the attention; b u t in terms of functionality it is
often the ability of a g y m n a s t to m a n i p u l a t e his b o d y in a laid out, or straight
b o d y position, that m a k e s m a n y of those a m a z i n g skills a n d strength positions
possible.           Straight a r m / s t r a i g h t b o d y strength is a critical a n d often
overlooked c o m p o n e n t of gymnastics strength training. Unfortunately, other
t h a n h a p h a z a r d l y training static planches a n d levers, few u n d e r s t a n d h o w to
a p p r o a c h this fundamental aspect of gymnastics physical preparation.

Straight b o d y elements a n d their variations are particularly challenging
because there is literally n o w h e r e to hide. If y o u h a v e w e a k abdominals; it
will show. If y o u h a v e a w e a k lower back; y o u will collapse. The only w a y to
survive training these elements is to m o v e forward a n d i m p r o v e .

On all straight b o d y w o r k , once y o u h a v e progressed past w o r k i n g y o u r
preferred variation in a tuck position, never again should y o u allow yourself
to curl y o u r u p p e r back d u r i n g y o u r repetitions. It is far m o r e beneficial to
perform y o u r straight b o d y w o r k w i t h a flat tuck t h a n in a layout w i t h a curled
back.

Also do n o t allow the a r m s to press into the sides or lay the a r m s on the lats at
anytime; except for p e r h a p s the r a w e s t beginners w h o are unable to s u p p o r t
themselves in any other w a y a n d even t h e n it should be discontinued as soon
as possible.



Back     p u l l variations
German Hang Pull
F r o m an inverted pike, lower to a G e r m a n h a n g a n d t h e n pull back up to the
inverted pike. D u r i n g the G e r m a n h a n g the knees m a y b e bent b u t the hips
should be flat a n d open.




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Difficulty rating:


Back Pull - negative
F r o m an inverted hang, lower as slowly as possible t h r o u g h a back lever to a
G e r m a n h a n g . F r o m the G e r m a n hang, first pull back up to the inverted pike
a n d t h e n continue on up to an inverted h a n g . Initially it will be easiest to
perform this element in a tuck, t h e n advanced tuck, t h e n as proficiency
i m p r o v e s proceeding on to a straddle, to a 1/2 lay a n d finally to the layout
position.




Difficulty rating:


Reverse Crank - half
F r o m an inverted pike, extend o u t w a r d to a back lever, lower d o w n to a
G e r m a n h a n g a n d then pull back to the inverted pike.

This m o v e m e n t m a y also be d o n e in a tuck, advanced tuck, straddle or 1/2 lay
position.




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Difficulty rating:


Reverse Crank
F r o m an inverted pike, extend out to a back lever a n d t h e n pull up to an
inverted h a n g . Focus on keeping the back flat a n d extended d u r i n g the pull
back u p w a r d to inverted.

This m o v e m e n t m a y be d o n e progressing from tuck, to a d v a n c e d tuck, to
straddle, to 1/2 lay, to straight b o d y . A d v a n c e d trainees m a y also a d d weight to
the ankles using a n y l o n strap.




Difficulty rating:


Back Pull - half
This is my preferred back pulling m o v e m e n t . From an inverted h a n g , lower
to a back lever a n d t h e n pull back up to an inverted h a n g .

This m o v e m e n t m a y also be d o n e in a tuck, a d v a n c e d tuck, straddle or 1/2 lay
position in addition to the straight b o d y d e m o n s t r a t e d in the photos below.




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Difficulty rating:


Back Pull
From a G e r m a n h a n g pull o u t to an inverted h a n g w i t h a straight body. If y o u
find yourself unable to begin the m o v e m e n t , a slight swinging m o t i o n m a y be
u s e d to initiate the lift. This should h o w e v e r be discontinued as soon as
possible.

As always, this m o v e m e n t m a y be performed in a tuck, advanced tuck,
straddle or 1/2 lay position. It should be noted that the positions that contain a
flat-back element will build the greatest degrees of strength w h e n e m p l o y e d
w i t h this exercise.




Difficulty rating:




Front pull variations
Body Lever
Anchor your h a n d s firmly b e h i n d y o u a n d t h e n lift y o u r b o d y u p w a r d until
y o u are solely s u p p o r t on the back of y o u r shoulders. Maintaining a tightly
extended b o d y lower to horizontal, p a u s e a n d then pull back to the vertical
position.




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Do not allow the b o d y to arch or pike d u r i n g the ascent. Do not descend
deeper into this m o v e m e n t t h a n y o u can continue to maintain a straight b o d y
d u r i n g the ascent.




Difficulty rating:


Front Pull - negative
F r o m an inverted h a n g , lower as slowly as possible t h r o u g h a front lever to a
simple h a n g . F r o m the h a n g , pull up in a tuck or pike back to the inverted
h a n g . If necessary allow the arms to b e n d at first, a n d t h e n straighten the
a r m s later once y o u r strength h a s i m p r o v e d .

These m a y also be d o n e in a tuck, a d v a n c e d tuck, straddle or 1/2 lay d u r i n g the
descent.




Difficulty rating:


Crank - half
F r o m a h a n g , lift the legs to an L-sit, t h e n extend o u t w a r d to a front lever a n d
finally lower back to the h a n g .

You m a y of course change the position of the front lever y o u extend o u t into
as necessary. You also h a v e t h e option of utilizing additional L-sit positions
as well.




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Difficulty rating:


Crank
From an L sit, extend out to a front lever a n d then, maintaining y o u r front
lever shape, pull up to an inverted h a n g . Lower back d o w n to the front lever
a n d then r e t u r n back to the L sit. This is one repetition.

As always, the front lever in this m o v e m e n t m a y be d o n e by progressing from
tuck, to a d v a n c e d tuck, to straddle, to 1/2 lay, to straight b o d y as s h o w n in the
photos below.

Additionally, the intensity m a y be likewise be increased by decreasing the
speed of m o v e m e n t or a d d i n g additional weight at the ankles.




Difficulty rating:


Front P u l l - half
From an inverted hang, descend to a front lever a n d then pull back to an
inverted h a n g . Pushing the shoulders b a c k w a r d strongly as y o u descend will
help y o u to strengthen your entry into the front lever.

This exercise m a y be performed in a tuck, a d v a n c e d tuck, straddle, 1/2 lay or
straight b o d y position.




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Difficulty rating:


Front Pull
From a h a n g , pull up t h r o u g h a front lever to an inverted h a n g , p a u s e a n d
t h e n descend t h r o u g h the front lever back to the hang. Focus on keeping the
elbows straight. If y o u find yourself struggling to keep the a r m s straight,
allow t h e m to b e n d w i t h the u n d e r s t a n d i n g that this is only a short-term
concession to necessity.

These m a y also be d o n e in a tuck, a d v a n c e d tuck, straddle or 1/2 lay position.
Once y o u h a v e mastered the basic tuck, strive to keep the h i p s flat at all times
while also allowing no arch in the lower back.

As a miscellaneous aside, m a n y g y m n a s t s w h o are h a v i n g difficulty
performing a straight-arm kip to s u p p o r t on bars are u n a b l e to perform this
exercise w i t h o u t assistance. A short-term focus on this m o v e m e n t will usually
solve the p r o b l e m quite handily.

As always, a d v a n c e d trainees m a y also a d d w e i g h t to the ankles using a nylon
strap.




Difficulty rating:


Whole body variations
Tick Tocks



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Beginning in an inverted hang, lower to a front lever, pull back to an inverted
h a n g , lower to a back lever, p u l l back to an inverted h a n g . This constitutes
o n e repetition.

This m o v e m e n t m a y also be performed in a tuck, straddle or 1/2 lay position.




Difficulty rating:


360 Pulls
Beginning from a straight-arm h a n g , pull the b o d y to an inverted h a n g
position. Lower t h r o u g h a back lever to a G e r m a n h a n g . Pull out of the
G e r m a n h a n g back to the inverted h a n g .   Lower t h r o u g h a front lever
returning once m o r e to a straight a r m h a n g .

As w i t h Tick Tocks, 360 Pulls m a y also be d o n e in either tuck, or a straddle
position. In addition, y o u m a y also choose to use different positions for the
descent and ascent portions of the m o v e m e n t . For example, y o u m i g h t lower
to the G e r m a n h a n g w i t h a straight b o d y , b u t pull back out w i t h a pike or 1/2
lay.




Difficulty rating:




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CHAPTER NINE
Legs
                                       Legs




L   eg conditioning for gymnastics is probably the area w h e r e my thinking h a s
    changed the most over the course of my career. It is also, in my opinion,
the area w h e r e gymnastics conditioning traditionally has b e e n the weakest.
This is unfortunate, as well as unnecessary, as correct leg conditioning for the
attainment of basic strength is a relatively straightforward affair.

The p a r a m e t e r s of gymnastics leg strength training are quite different t h a n
that of m a n y other sports. In gymnastics a h i g h degree of leg strength is
crucial for success, h o w e v e r excessive leg size a n d weight for a g y m n a s t is
simply u n p r o d u c t i v e ballast a n d will actually h a v e a significant negative effect
on gymnastics performance. As such we need legs that are enormously strong
a n d capable of j u m p i n g as h i g h as possible, able to absorb the most violent of
landings a n d yet carry only the m i n i m u m a m o u n t of m a s s necessary to help
preserve that ever-important strength to weight ratio.

In my opinion, it is the combination of basic leg strength with plyometric
ability that gives that greatest athletic return. This is of course true for the rest
of the b o d y as well, h o w e v e r this combination is m o s t easily developed w i t h
the legs. For this reason, this chapter alone in this v o l u m e will contain some
d y n a m i c leg strength variations.

For a variety of reasons I prefer single leg squat progressions w h e n building
basic leg strength; there are a large variety of m o v e m e n t s available, they are
easy to i m p l e m e n t in group-training sessions, different athletes can
simultaneously use w h a t e v e r variation is a p p r o p r i a t e for them, no racks are
required a n d only minimal e q u i p m e n t is necessary.

M o v i n g to a m o r e difficult variation, or h o l d i n g dumbbells or weight plates or
w e i g h t vests or even a s a n d b a g can easily increase resistance. I am only just
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beginning to experiment w i t h s a n d b a g s a n d immediately there are several
noticeable benefits - they are also easily i m p l e m e n t e d into a g r o u p training
scenario, w h e n placed on the shoulder the center of gravity is maintained, no
racks are required, no potential injuries from d r o p p e d weights a n d no
expensive b u m p e r plates are required in order to safely d u m p a weight.

I generally find it easiest for trainees to first build some proficiency in double
leg deck squat variations before proceeding into the single leg squat work.
Also if, for w h a t e v e r reason, y o u are u n a b l e to correctly perform single leg
squats, y o u can continue to m a k e a d e q u a t e progress w i t h the deck squats by
continuing to increase the resistance.

As a general performance note, if y o u r current level of active flexibility is
causing y o u to excessively struggle w h i l e lifting the n o n - w o r k i n g leg in front
of y o u d u r i n g the b o t t o m of a single leg squat, performing y o u r single leg
squat w o r k on an elevated surface can h e l p to alleviate this.


Deck Squat Variations
Deck Squats
Deck squats are essentially a rolling squat variation. F r o m a standing position
simply squat d o w n while simultaneously rolling b a c k w a r d onto y o u r back.
Reverse direction a n d r e t u r n to a stand. The m o m e n t u m of the rolling action
m a k e s this a nice introductory m o v e m e n t for those u n u s e d to the R O M of a
full squat.




Difficulty rating:


Deck Squats - jumping
In this variation, a d d a j u m p u p w a r d as y o u roll back to y o u r feet. To
m e a s u r e performance, I prefer for j u m p i n g deck squats to be d o n e up onto a
box. Simply position yourself so y o u b e g i n a n d finish the roll just in front of
the box y o u are p l a n n i n g t o j u m p u p onto.

Of special note here is that there is a great difference b e t w e e n a h o p a n d a
j u m p . Be sure to execute this m o v e m e n t u s i n g a j u m p . A j u m p begins early in
the ascent a n d continues to accelerate t h r o u g h o u t the completion of the
m o v e m e n t , culminating w h e n y o u leave the g r o u n d forcefully. A h o p occurs
from near the t o p of the m o v e m e n t w h e n the standing m o t i o n is almost
completed. It is m u c h less rigorous a n d will develop far less strength t h a n the



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jump.




Difficulty rating:


Deck Squats - jumping for distance
The e m p h a s i s here is on j u m p i n g for distance rather t h a n height as in the
previous variation. I encourage the a r m s to swing strongly u p w a r d d u r i n g
the j u m p .




Difficulty rating:


Deck Squats - jumping for distance & height
Use the same box a r r a n g e m e n t as for the j u m p i n g deck squat for height; the
u s e of the box will a d d an element of m e a s u r e m e n t to the height of y o u r j u m p
a n d h e l p to keep your level of effort honest a n d consistent. In addition, y o u
will n o w adjust y o u r distance from the box so that there is a distance element
as well as a height element.

In my opinion, it is i m p o r t a n t to p r e p a r e the surface of y o u r box carefully
w h e n y o u are combining distance a n d height into a single j u m p . If y o u are
short on either y o u r height or distance, there is a distinct possibility of
dragging y o u r shins d o w n the edge of the box. If the box is a soft gymnastics
type, this is n o t an issue; h o w e v e r if the box is w o o d e n or metal a missed j u m p
could be quite painful. If a plyometric training type box is all y o u h a v e access
to, be sure to appropriately p a d the edges in s o m e m a n n e r .




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Difficulty rating:


Deck Squats - w e i g h t e d
O p t i o n s for h o l d i n g the weights include h o l d i n g extended o u t in front of y o u
w i t h straight arms, held w i t h bent arms, held into the chest or my personal
favorite of using a w e i g h t e d vest.




Difficulty rating:


Deck Squats - w e i g h t e d jumping
Be careful about a d d i n g w e i g h t too quickly d u r i n g this m o v e m e n t .
R e m e m b e r that the p r i m a r y goal here is to be explosive, n o t to perform a
" g r i n d i n g " type m o v e m e n t .




Difficulty rating:


Deck Squats - w e i g h t e d jumping for distance




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For safety reasons, I prefer utilizing weight vest for this variation.




Difficulty rating:


Deck Squats - weighted jumping for distance & height
Generally my athletes seldom j u m p from farther t h a n 6-8 feet on this
variation. Once that distance is achieved, my preference is for t h e m to focus
on increasing the height of their j u m p .




Difficulty rating:


Single Leg Squat Variations
SLS - negative
From a standing position, simply attempt to lower, u n d e r control, to the
b o t t o m of a single leg squat (SLS). U p o n reaching the b o t t o m of the squat,
r e t u r n to a stand using b o t h feet. As y o u r strength a n d proficiency continue to
i m p r o v e over time, attempt to slow the rate of descent.

If y o u find it impossible to lower w i t h o u t a degree of control or confidence,
y o u m a y find it helpful to h o l d onto to something else d u r i n g the descent.
Stall bars, p o w e r racks, parallel bars a n d even d o o r k n o b s w o r k well quite well
for this.




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Difficulty rating:


SLS - Graduated
We h a v e n o w p r e p a r e d a sufficient strength base to begin w o r k i n g on single
leg squats. D e p e n d i n g on the degree of innate active flexibility that y o u are
bringing to y o u r gymnastics strength training, y o u will either find the single
leg squat variations to be easy a n d natural progressions or a seemingly
endless a n d frustrating exercise in futility. In my experience, these p r o b l e m s
are usually simply d u e to a lack of a d e q u a t e flexibility while in the "hole" or
lowest portion of the single leg squat.

G r a d u a t e d single leg squats allow y o u to progressively extend your R O M by
gradually d e e p e n i n g the squat. You m a y utilize any type of surface that m a y
be height adjusted; panel mates, aerobic class steps or even stairs. As long as
the surface in question, can be methodically adjusted in height over time it
should w o r k fine

Begin by s t a n d i n g facing a w a y from y o u r chosen raised surface. Do n o t
attempt to squat straight d o w n , b u t rather extend y o u r glutes b e h i n d y o u as
t h o u g h y o u w e r e going to sit d o w n on a chair. Initially this will result in y o u r
torso leaning forward, w h i c h is fine. Lower d o w n to the t o p of y o u r object
a n d then r e t u r n to a stand.

A c o m m o n mistake here is to allow the torso to fall forward d u r i n g the ascent,
straightening the legs first a n d t h e n straightening the back up to an u p r i g h t
position. M a k e sure that the leg a n d back straighten in concert, finishing
together a n d not one a h e a d of the other.




Difficulty rating:




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SLS - deck
At the b o t t o m of the squat simply roll back a little onto your rear a n d t h e n u s e
m o m e n t u m to roll forward up onto y o u r foot a n d out of the b o t t o m of the
squat.




Difficulty rating:


SLS
For my athletes, I require a well d o n e single leg squat (SLS) to h a v e the n o n -
s u p p o r t i n g leg extended as closely as possible into a single-leg L position;
b o t h at the top a n d b o t t o m positions.

Success at achieving this position will of course v a r y a great deal d e p e n d i n g
u p o n y o u r degree of flexibility as well as h i p flexor strength.




Difficulty rating:


SLS - jumping
As w i t h the j u m p i n g deck squat, w h e n performing j u m p i n g SLS be sure to
j u m p d u r i n g the ascent, rather t h a n allowing yourself to h o p once y o u h a v e
nearly r e t u r n e d to a stand. Focusing on initiating the j u m p early will h a v e
t r e m e n d o u s long-term benefits.




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Difficulty rating:


SLS - jumping for distance
W h e n utilizing this variation, be diligent in completely extending the leg
d u r i n g the j u m p .

Often I will string these together in a series of 3-5 j u m p s . The athlete w h o
covers the m o s t distance in the set n u m b e r of j u m p s is the winner. I do use
one catch h o w e v e r . All athletes m u s t l a n d w i t h control; if u p o n any of the 3-5
landings they take a small shuffle or h o p , they are disqualified for that t u r n
a n d m u s t start over. Outside of m a k i n g the g a m e m o r e interesting, this
landing r e q u i r e m e n t h a s the a d d e d benefit of greatly increasing ankle strength
a n d stability.




Difficulty rating:


SLS - j u m p i n g for distance & height
To use a box w i t h this variation of SLS j u m p s , initially position yourself so
that while facing the box your straight leg is extended out next to the side of a
box approximately 18-24" high. This will h e l p to minimize y o u r distance
r e q u i r e m e n t in the beginning. As y o u r strength improves, gradually increase
y o u r distance from the box until y o u are able to j u m p w i t h y o u r leg
completely extended directly in front of the box as the athlete demonstrates
below.




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Difficulty rating:


SLS - w e i g h t e d
R e m e m b e r to press the h i p s back strongly as y o u descend into the w e i g h t e d
SLS. Be conscientious in remaining u p r i g h t as y o u ascend. Do n o t allow the
chest to d r o p forward or the h i p s to rise first d u r i n g the ascent; rather b o t h
m u s t rise simultaneously.

Another option to the weight vest is to h o l d a weight plate d u r i n g y o u r SLS
work. In fact, some people will find it is easier to use a w e i g h t plate d u r i n g
w e i g h t e d single leg squat w o r k as the extension of the plate to the front acts as
a counterbalance for the glutes sticking out to the rear.




Difficulty rating:


SLS - w e i g h t e d j u m p i n g
Be conservative in choosing a load for this variation. If y o u find yourself
unable to initiate the j u m p i n g action early in the ascent, the load y o u h a v e
chosen is too great for y o u r current capabilities. Reduce the load a n d focus on
being explosive.




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Difficulty rating:


SLS - w e i g h t e d j u m p i n g for distance
R e m e m b e r that a controlled landing is essential here. If y o u are u n a b l e to land
w i t h stability, either y o u r load is too great or y o u are a t t e m p t i n g to j u m p too
far. If this is the case, reduce either the load or the distance accordingly.




Difficulty rating:


SLS - w e i g h t e d j u m p i n g for distance & height
As a variation, the athlete b e l o w is d e m o n s t r a t i n g the w e i g h t e d SLS for
distance a n d h e i g h t h o l d i n g a w e i g h t e d plate rather t h a n w e a r i n g a w e i g h t e d
vest. If utilizing the weight plate, extending the plate forward as your
descend into the SLS will aid greatly in maintaining your balance. As y o u
begin to explode u p w a r d , pull the plate s o m e w h a t closer into y o u r chest. Be
sure to completely extend the j u m p i n g leg while in the air a n d t h e n re-
b e n d i n g it prior to landing on the box.




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Difficulty rating:


Hamstring Variations
Natural Leg Curls
Begin from a kneeling position. Your feet should be secured either by a
partner or placing t h e m u n d e r a m a t or stall bar. Keeping the hips flat, lower
the torso to the floor as slowly as possible. Use the tips of y o u r fingers to
control the speed of y o u r descent if y o u are n o t yet able to perform these by
yourself. Pull yourself back to a kneeling position by strongly pulling w i t h
the hamstrings. Do n o t allow the h i p s to pike d u r i n g the ascent. This
constitutes one repetition.

As an interesting aside, a friend of mine, R o u m e n Gabrovska - the former
Bulgarian W o m e n ' s National T e a m Coach from the 1970s a n d 1980s, once saw
a girl do 12 by herself, full range of m o t i o n w i t h no assistance from her h a n d s
whatsoever. If that is n o t h u m b l i n g e n o u g h , the Bulgarian m e n ' s record for
repetitions performed w i t h no assistance is 25.




Difficulty rating:


G H R - half
Half G H R (glute h a m raises) begin as a leg curl w i t h the partner securing the
ankles, tilting the hips forward as far as can be maintained w i t h a straight
body, then; while M A I N T A I N I N G the h i p position a n d keeping the back
completely flat (no curling!), lower t h e forehead to the g r o u n d a n d r e t u r n back
to the straight b o d y tilted position. The p a r t n e r can assist in the correct
execution of this m o v e m e n t by placing a shoulder or an a r m b e h i n d the glutes
to p r e v e n t the athlete from pressing the h i p s b a c k w a r d d u r i n g either the
descent to the g r o u n d or d u r i n g the ascent back to tilted position. This




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constitutes one repetition. Do n o t r e t u r n to a completely u p r i g h t position
until y o u h a v e completed all of the desired repetitions.

It is easy to increase the intensity of this m o v e m e n t by simply h o l d i n g a
w e i g h t plate across the chest.




Difficulty rating:


Archups - single leg
Utilizing only one leg dramatically changes the m a i n stress on this m o v e m e n t
from a lower back focus to a h a m s t r i n g focus.      Perform y o u r desired
repetitions a n d then immediately switch legs a n d repeat on the other side.

A d d w e i g h t as necessary to this m o v e m e n t by h o l d i n g a plate either across the
chest or b e h i n d the neck.




Difficulty rating:


GHR
F r o m a p r o n e position, secure y o u r feet firmly b e h i n d y o u a n d then arrange
yourself so that y o u r h i p s are on the e d g e of w h a t e v e r s u p p o r t y o u h a v e
chosen. This m a y be a G H R unit, a box, a b e n c h or e v e n a vaulting table as
s h o w n below. It w o u l d be m o s t helpful, especially in the beginning, if the
s u p p o r t y o u h a v e chosen will allow y o u to grip it s o m e w h e r e nearby y o u r
waist. This will enable y o u to self-spot this m o v e m e n t until your strength
i m p r o v e s to the point w h e r e y o u can perform GHRs unassisted.

D r o p y o u r chest forward until y o u are h a n g i n g vertically u p s i d e d o w n a n d
then, utilizing the lower-back, lift the torso up to horizontal. U p o n reaching




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Horizontal b e g i n to raise yourself to vertical by strongly contracting the
h a m s t r i n g s . Continue curling w i t h the h a m s t r i n g s until y o u are sitting
completely upright. Pause a n d t h e n descend back to the b o t t o m to begin
a n o t h e r repetition.

Alongside w i t h y o u r arms, the speed of your m o v e m e n t can also be a highly
effective m e t h o d of assistance. A d d i n g a little speed or m o m e n t u m will m a k e
the G H R s m u c h easier initially. Simply be conscientious in reducing the
a m o u n t of m o m e n t u m u s e d as y o u r strength increases.

In addition, the m o r e y o u pike the h i p s a n d b e n d forward d u r i n g the ascent,
the easier the leg curl will be. Over time strive to develop the ability to
perform the leg curl portion of the GHR w i t h a perfectly straight b o d y .




Difficulty rating:




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CHAPTER TEN
Program Design Options
                                 Program Design




T     h r o u g h o u t this v o l u m e m a n y u n i q u e a n d never before seen gymnastics
      strength training exercises h a v e b e e n d o c u m e n t e d a n d taught.
Progressions a n d performance caveats h a v e b e e n painstakingly discussed a n d
evaluated. Training these m o v e m e n t s in a n d of themselves can, a n d will,
p r o v i d e excellent gains in overall strength.                    However, w h e n the t w o
c o m p o n e n t s of FSP (fundamental static positions) a n d FBE (fundamental
b o d y w e i g h t exercises) are combined correctly, the results can be substantially
greater t h a n the results of training either one separately.

This final chapter of Building the Gymnastic Body will first examine h o w to
structure static a n d basic strength training separately a n d t h e n detail h o w to
integrate t h e m together for the greatest possible gains.



Static Strength Training
Static H o l d s - simple
Pick a static strength position. W o r k y o u r w a y t h r o u g h the progressions of
that position.         Quick a n d efficient, this a p p r o a c h requires almost no
e q u i p m e n t whatsoever, no p a r t n e r a n d very little time. Yet despite this
extremely minimalist approach, s o m e trainees h a v e reported surprisingly
good strength results from such an extremely abbreviated strength p r o g r a m
that consisted solely of front lever a n d planche static w o r k (please see
A p p e n d i x B).

This m e t h o d of training h a s p r o v e n to be particularly p o p u l a r w i t h those w h o
are n e w to gymnastics b o d y w e i g h t conditioning a n d w o u l d like to insert it
into their existing conditioning p r o g r a m w i t h the least a m o u n t of disruption
to their former training protocol.

Below is a sample static hold p r o g r a m b a s e d on y o u r h a v i n g a m a x i m u m tuck
planche h o l d of eleven seconds a n d utilizing a Steady State training cycle (For
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additional information on Steady State training cycles see the section on
M a n a g i n g Training Intensity). The p r o g r a m could be placed either before or
after their regular training.

1) An eleven second m a x i m u m h o l d divided by t w o equals a tuck planche
"rep" of approximately six seconds.

2) Sixty seconds total w o r k time d i v i d e d by six seconds equals ten sets.

3) You will perform ten sets of six seconds. This is important; at no time
d u r i n g the training cycle increase past a six second tuck planche hold.
Maintain it even t o w a r d s the e n d of the cycle, w h e n y o u are feeling
particularly strong a n d stable at 6 seconds.

4) Try to keep recovery p e r i o d s b e t w e e n the sets reasonably short; forty five to
ninety seconds max.

5) My preference is to perform simple static h o l d training on a Mon, Tue, Thu,
Fri schedule. Although, if y o u are feeling particularly strong one week, a d d i n g
in an additional d a y on W e d n e s d a y is fine. Also if y o u are feeling fatigued or
s o m e w h a t over-trained for any reason, do n o t hesitate to insert an extra rest
day w h e n needed.

6) Your cycle will last a n y w h e r e from eight to twelve w e e k s d e p e n d i n g on
y o u r perceived level of exertion. If y o u are still "working" fairly h a r d to
complete all ten sets at six seconds at the eight-week mark, continue on w i t h
the training cycle for at least another t w o weeks. If still in d o u b t at the ten-
w e e k m a r k , continue for t w o m o r e weeks.

7) At the e n d of the current cycle, test to establish y o u r n e w m a x i m u m tuck
planche h o l d a n d recalculate y o u r planche p r o g r a m for the next training cycle.
For example, if y o u r n e w m a x i m u m h o l d is n o w fifteen seconds, y o u will be
training w i t h eight sets of eight seconds in the n e w cycle.

W h e n y o u are capable of performing a static h o l d for longer t h a n 15 seconds,
y o u should proceed o n w a r d to the next h a r d e r variation; p r o v i d e d y o u can
h o l d that n e w variation for at least three to five seconds. If y o u are unable to
h o l d the next variation for three to five seconds, y o u should continue training
w i t h y o u r current variation while experimenting w i t h the n e w to begin to
establish a foundation of familiarity from w h i c h to w o r k the n e w variation
from.


Static H o l d s - e m b e d d e d
The e m b e d d e d static protocol w a s originally formalized from a
correspondence w i t h Julian A l d a g of Australia. Essentially an e m b e d d e d
static strength training template is w h e r e a progressively m o r e challenging
entry a n d exit into the p r i m a r y static h o l d is u s e d each w e e k of a six to eight-
w e e k training cycle - all the while continuing to maintain the same static h o l d



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time for the length of the training cycle. On completion of the training cycle,
either establish a n e w m a x i m u m static h o l d w i t h that same variation or m o v e
on to the next variation in the progression for that static strength position.

 A sample cycle of e m b e d d e d L-sits
 w e e k 1: j u m p to an L, hold
 w e e k 2: lower to an L, hold
 w e e k 3: lift to an L, hold
 w e e k 4: leg lift, lower to an L, h o l d
 w e e k 5: lift to an L, hold, finish the leg lift
 w e e k 6: leg lift, lower to an L, hold, leg lift back to top from the L
 w e e k 7: pull to inverted hang, lower to an L, hold
 w e e k 8: pull to inverted hang, lower to an L, hold, Crank


A sample cycle of e m b e d d e d Straddle Ls
w e e k 1: j u m p to a straddle L, hold
w e e k 2: lower to a straddle L, h o l d
w e e k 3: lift to a straddle L, h o l d
w e e k 4: forward roll to a straddle L, h o l d
w e e k 5: b a c k w a r d roll to a straddle L, h o l d
w e e k 6: h e a d s t a n d lower to a straddle L, hold
w e e k 7: h a n d s t a n d lower to a straddle L, hold
w e e k 8: forward roll to straddle L, hold, press to HS


A sample cycle of e m b e d d e d Back Levers
w e e k 1: j u m p into a tuck back lever, h o l d
w e e k 2: lower from an inverted h a n g into a tuck back lever, hold
w e e k 3: from inverted pike h a n g press out to tuck back lever, h o l d
w e e k 4: lower from an inverted h a n g to tuck back lever, hold, pull back up
           to the inverted h a n g
w e e k 5: from an inverted pike press out to tuck back lever, hold, pullout to
           inverted h a n g
w e e k 6: pull from a tucked G e r m a n h a n g to a tuck back lever, hold
w e e k 7: pull from tucked G e r m a n h a n g to tuck back lever, hold, pullout to
           inverted h a n g


A sample cycle of embedded front levers
My adjustment to his protocol: (use various front lever pulls)
w e e k 1: j u m p into the tuck lever
w e e k 2: lower from inverted h a n g to tuck lever
w e e k 3: pull from d e a d h a n g to tuck lever
w e e k 4: lower from inverted h a n g to tuck lever, hold, pull back up
           to inverted h a n g
w e e k 5: pull to inverted hang, lower to tuck lever, hold
w e e k 6: pull from dead h a n g to tuck lever, hold, pull up to
           inverted h a n g
w e e k 7: pull chin over the bar, front lever r o w to tuck lever, hold,



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           pull chin back over b a r
w e e k 8: Perform a tuck Yewki to a bent-arm tuck lever hold, lower
           to tuck lever, h o l d


A sample cycle of e m b e d d e d Planches
w e e k 1: j u m p into a tuck planche, hold
w e e k 2: lower from a HeS into the tuck planche, hold
w e e k 3: press up from the floor into a tuck planche, h o l d
w e e k 4: lower from a h e a d s t a n d into a tuck planche, hold, press
           back up to a h e a d s t a n d
w e e k 5: press up from the floor into a tuck planche, hold, press
           up to a h e a d s t a n d
w e e k 6: lower from a h a n d s t a n d to a tuck planche, h o l d
w e e k 7: press up from a h e a d s t a n d to a h a n d s t a n d , lower to a tuck
           planche, hold, press back up to a h e a d s t a n d
w e e k 8: press up from a h e a d s t a n d to a h a n d s t a n d , lower to a tuck
           planche, hold, press back to h a n d s t a n d , lower to h e a d s t a n d




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                        Basic Strength Training




W       h e n building basic strength, it is best to e m p l o y a low repetition, low
        v o l u m e scheme for any given exercise. This general template coupled
w i t h various set construction options will be suitable for the vast majority of
athletes.

Most trainees should p l a n on w o r k i n g in sets of either 3x3 or 3x5; w i t h all of
these being w o r k sets. There are t w o exceptions h o w e v e r to this general rule.
Typically it is best for pre-pubescent athletes to use a very simple template of
1x3-5 reps. While it is true that these y o u n g e r athletes are capable of incredible
gains in strength, the total v o l u m e (tonnage) of w e i g h t m o v e d in higher
v o l u m e w o r k simply cuts too deeply into their limited recovery ability.

There are also other athletes, an admittedly very small minority, w h o
absolutely stagnate w h e n forced to follow low repetition low v o l u m e training.
They require an absolute m i n i m u m of 5 sets of 5 reps d u r i n g their basic
strength training in order to receive the correct neurological stimulation for
their particular physiology. Unfortunately, there is no w a y to accurately
predict w h o will n e e d the additional v o l u m e other t h a n practical experience.

If, after all of the above, additional h y p e r t r o p h y is still required for an
exceptionally slim athlete to be able to perform adequately, a template of 10x3
w o r k sets d o n e every t w o m i n u t e s or a p y r a m i d structure of 12,10,8,6 reps
w i t h increasing training loads as the repetitions decrease will usually resolve
the issue.


Weekly Scheduling
As far as a weekly basic strength training schedule, y o u m a y choose the
training schedule o f y o u r choice; r a n g i n g from M / T / T H / F , t o M / W / F t o
M / T H o r T / F . W h e n deciding o n y o u r schedule, r e m a i n mindful that y o u
will be engaging in a w h o l e b o d y w o r k o u t on each of the training days.

Each d a y of the training w e e k focus on a different a press, pull, core a n d leg
exercise. Set up a rotation that takes y o u t h r o u g h the p r i m a r y planes of



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m o v e m e n t a n d t h e n begins again. For example; training d a y 1 could be a curl
variation, training d a y 2 could be a r o w variation, training d a y 3 could be a
p u l l - u p variation, training d a y 4 could be a M P P u variation a n d training d a y 5
w o u l d begin the rotation again back at curl variations. This keeps the m i n d
fresh a n d e n g a g e d while helping to p r e v e n t overuse injuries.          For basic
strength, it is best to pair exercises a n d t h e n rotate b e t w e e n t h e m rather t h a n
stand a r o u n d while waiting to recover for y o u r next set.

For u p p e r - b o d y work, focus on CPPs, or pair a curl w i t h a dip, a H S P U w i t h a
p u l l - u p a n d a p u s h u p w i t h a r o w or a M P P u w i t h a MPPr; a l t h o u g h any
variation of p u l l / p r e s s w o u l d be acceptable. Leg w o r k should be alternated
w i t h a core exercise.


Set Structure Variations
In addition to the traditional m e t h o d s of simply increasing repetitions or
a d d i n g external w e i g h t to the body, there are also a variety of m e t h o d s for
combining different b o d y w e i g h t exercises to utilize progressive loads a n d
progressive u n l o a d i n g d u r i n g the course of a w o r k o u t .

Traditional
Traditional m e t h o d s of controlling intensity can easily be e m p l o y e d w i t h
b o d y w e i g h t exercises; simply m a i n t a i n the same exercise a n d the same
n u m b e r of repetitions for each of the sets performed. Care should be u s e d to
choose a b o d y w e i g h t m o v e m e n t of the correct intensity.

For this set variation, the s a m e exercise a n d n u m b e r of repetitions will be u s e d
for all sets.


Ladders
L a d d e r s m a y proceed 1,2,3,1,2,3 etc. or 1,2,3,2,1. The first variation allows for
m o r e recovery w i t h i n the l a d d e r set a n d a greater focus on strength
acquisition, while the second places a greater p r e m i u m on m u s c u l a r
e n d u r a n c e . The lower reps in the b e g i n n i n g sets afford a g r a d u a l effective
warm-up.

For this set variation, y o u will use the same exercise for all of the sets w i t h i n
the ladder. Only the repetitions will change from set to set. Be sure to choose
an exercise that y o u find at least moderately challenging w h e n performed for
three to five repetitions.


Gymnastic Bodies Pyramids
GB P y r a m i d s are a m e t h o d of combining b o d y w e i g h t exercises to increase the
intensity of the w o r k d o n e w i t h i n a w o r k o u t from set to set. In this instance
the exercises will change, progressing from easiest to hardest, w h i l e the
repetitions per set also change. The exercises will generally increase in
difficulty w i t h i n the same plane of m o v e m e n t .



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H e r e is an example utilizing HSPU variations
                       *
HeSPU => PB HSPU = > XR H S P U

Another p y r a m i d i n g set example utilizing CPP exercises
n a r r o w muscle-ups => w i d e muscle-ups => straight bar muscle-ups

Generally w h e n using this format use a repetition scheme of 5,4,3,2,1 or 5,3,1
reps progressing from the easiest to the m o s t difficult. Within this template,
consider these repetition n u m b e r s as "slots" w h e r e the appropriate exercise
will be placed.

For this set variation, b o t h the exercises a n d the n u m b e r of repetitions
performed will change from set to set w i t h i n the p y r a m i d .


Gymnastic Bodies Reverse Pyramids
A r r a n g e the exercises from h a r d e s t to easiest. Reverse the u s u a l p y r a m i d
repetition scheme as well to 1,3,5 or p e r h a p s 1,2,3,4,5.

Below is an example of a reverse p y r a m i d w o r k o u t utilizing CPP variations
Galimores => Roeslers => Ians => w e i g h t e d muscle-ups

For this set variation, the intensity of the exercise will decrease a n d the
n u m b e r of repetitions will increase from set to set.


Blended Sets
Blended sets are a combination of various exercises that seamlessly "blend"
into one set. The object is to strive to cover several planes of m o v e m e n t w i t h i n
the context of one set. For the p u r p o s e s of basic strength, we will restrict the
selection of exercises w i t h i n a single set to either pulling, pressing, core or
legs. Generally in b l e n d e d sets, the progression is from most difficult to
easiest d u r i n g the course of the set w i t h the exercises changing from repetition
to repetition.

The following is an example of a pulling b l e n d e d set
1 Front lever r o w then 1 reverse Yewki t h e n 1 front lever pull then 1 L p u l l - u p

The following is an example of a pressing b l e n d e d set
1 XR H S P U t h e n 1 XR tuck planche p u s h u p t h e n 1 XR Bulgarian Dip

For this set variation, the exercises will change from repetition to repetition
within a given set; b u t the overall structure of each set will r e m a i n the same
t h r o u g h o u t the workout.




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                                Integrated Training




T     his is by far the m o s t effective of all of the strength training protocols
      discussed to date. Static strength positions are best d e v e l o p e d t h r o u g h a
combination of static h o l d training a n d the a p p r o p r i a t e p u l l / p r e s s
s u p p l e m e n t a l m o v e m e n t . In addition, p u l l / p r e s s m o v e m e n t s increase in
strength m u c h faster w h e n paired w i t h the a p p r o p r i a t e static hold positions.

To perform integrated training, take y o u r basic strength w o r k o u t that y o u
h a v e designed a n d pair it w i t h either y o u r simple h o l d static w o r k or the
a p p r o p r i a t e e m b e d d e d static work. The static strength w o r k will be d o n e
immediately preceding the basic strength work. A short rest of 30-60 seconds
b e t w e e n the static w o r k a n d the basic strength w o r k is fine.

For example
E m b e d d e d back lever w o r k will be p a i r e d w i t h each d a y ' s pulling variations.
E m b e d d e d planche w o r k will be p a i r e d w i t h the pressing variations.
Front lever w o r k will be paired w i t h the leg variations.
L-sit/Straddle L / o r M a n n a w o r k will be paired w i t h the core variations.

In integrated training, the steady state cycle established for y o u r static
strength w o r k will be set aside in favor of either the PTTP or the steady state
cycle that y o u will be following for y o u r basic strength work.




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                     Managing Training Intensity




T     he p u r p o s e of training is to p r e p a r e the b o d y to be capable of exerting
      greater physical effort. Often h o w e v e r in our zeal to be successful, we
over exert ourselves, often to the point of physical injury, a n d ultimately e n d
up falling far short of our physical potential. More often t h a n not, this failure
to fulfill our potential is not d u e to a lack of effort or a willingness to w o r k
h a r d , b u t t h r o u g h a lack of patience coupled w i t h a "take no prisoners"
attitude.         The following t w o training cycles will h e l p y o u to m o r e
appropriately m a n a g e your training intensity a n d avoid unnecessary d o w n
time.

I r e c o m m e n d that y o u w o r k h a r d , sometimes quite h a r d , b u t reasonably.
After an initial period of adaptation, y o u should be able to finish conditioning
feeling relatively fresh.         In fact, my senior athletes begin their technical
training immediately after their physical p r e p a r a t i o n h a s ended.         At the
b e g i n n i n g of a n e w cycle, this can be rather challenging to say the least,
h o w e v e r the period of perceived stressful adaptation is seldom m o r e t h a n t w o
weeks.


Modified PTTP
PTTP, originally created by Pavel Tsatsouline (his m a n y fine publications a n d
training articles m a y be found at w w w . d r a g o n d o o r . c o m ) , is an excellent
m e t h o d for controlling a n d m e a s u r i n g the intensity of w e i g h t e d w o r k o u t s
while simultaneously allowing for full athlete recovery. A m p l e time is given
for recovery and, correctly i m p l e m e n t e d ; training injuries will be practically
non-existent. The major complaint that most h a v e w h e n i m p l e m e n t i n g a PTTP
training cycle is the relative ease w i t h w h i c h strength is developed. As m o s t



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                                     BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC B O D Y


of the cycle is spent w i t h sub-maximal resistances, the degree of perceived
effort is m e d i u m .

The PTTP cycle is designed for use w i t h w e i g h t e d exercises, h o w e v e r a
simple, yet effective, modification allows the PTTP a p p r o a c h to be u s e d w i t h
b o d y w e i g h t m o v e m e n t s . Rather t h a n adjusting the weight to be u s e d from
w e e k to week, simply m o v e on to a h a r d e r variation of a m o v e m e n t each
week. For example j u m p i n g dips to negative dips to PB dips to u p p e r a r m
d i p s to Bulgarian dips to single b a r dips to Korean dips to XR dips. The key
h e r e is to not perform m a x i m u m efforts w i t h each variation, b u t to gradually
increase the level of perceived effort as the w e e k s progress. U p o n reaching a
w e e k w h e r e the level of perceived effort is too great a n d y o u fail, stop a n d
take a b r e a k from training for the rest of that week. The following w e e k begin
the cycle again, only this time chose an exercise that is at least slightly h a r d e r
t h a n that of your last starting point.


Steady State
Steady State is by far the best training cycle that I h a v e ever d e v e l o p e d for use
w i t h my athletes. It is the e n d result of m a n y years of s t u d y i n g as well as
t h o u s a n d s of h o u r s of practical trial a n d error.

In essence the Steady State training cycle is simplicity itself; only a d d weight,
or a d d repetitions, or increase the d u r a t i o n of a static h o l d or progress o n w a r d
to a n e w m o r e difficult exercise variation approximately every 8-12 w e e k s a n d
t h e n only after the athlete h a s progressed t h r o u g h an adaptive training cycle
of perceived over-load (hard effort), load ( m e d i u m effort) a n d u n d e r - l o a d
(easy effort or recovery). This m e a n s that the training load; i.e. n u m b e r of sets,
n u m b e r of exercise repetitions or the d u r a t i o n of static h o l d repetitions, will all
r e m a i n constant t h r o u g h o u t the entire training cycle. At no time d u r i n g this
Steady State cycle will the level of w o r k be increased.

In my opinion, the m o s t c o m m o n a n d yet serious flaw in the thinking of most
coaches, trainers a n d athletes is that they neglect to allow e n o u g h time in the
under-load, or recovery stage, w h e r e the level of effort is physically perceived
as being relatively easy. This is actually a crucial p a r t of any training cycle,
allowing               the             current            gains              to        be          solidified and      the
m u s c u l a t u r e / j o i n t s / c o n n e c t i v e t i s s u e / c e n t r a l n e r v o u s system (CNS) a n d the
psyche to completely heal a n d recover in p r e p a r a t i o n for the next steady state
cycle of perceived over-load, load a n d under-load.

Beginners often mistake the rapid i m p r o v e m e n t s that they m a k e in l o a d / r e p
increases as increases in strength w h e n in reality their u n t r a i n e d p h y s i q u e is
simply becoming m o r e neurologically efficient t h r o u g h practice. In reality it
takes a m i n i m u m of 6 weeks to see actual physical i m p r o v e m e n t s in basic
strength.




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                  T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING


By constantly a t t e m p t i n g to i m p r o v e from w o r k o u t to workout; m o r e weight,
m o r e reps, m o r e v o l u m e , m o r e speed etc. over an extended period of time, the
athlete will eventually, usually w i t h i n an eight w e e k timeframe, come up
against their current physical limitations. Continued attempts to try to force
the b o d y to blast t h r u these very real physical limitations are fruitless as the
b o d y ' s schedule of regeneration a n d a d a p t a t i o n is set a n d cannot be exceeded.


                     Tissue Type             Regeneration Schedule
                       Platelets                  Every 10 days
                     Blood Cells                 Every 3 m o n t h s
                     Muscle Cells                Every 4 m o n t h s
                      Bone Cells                 Every 2-3 years
               Excerpt from Younger Next Year by Lodge and Crowley


All that will be accomplished by continually struggling to exceed these
biological limitations are a plethora of over-training issues, a m o n g these
being: joint pain, muscle strains, lack of energy, decrease in coordination, lack
of explosiveness, connective tissue issues a n d mental fatigue. In addition,
continuing to p u s h in the face of these over-training issues will often result in
a short t e r m injury, w h i c h could easily h a v e b e e n resolved t h r o u g h r e d u c e d
training or rest, becoming a chronic or p e r m a n e n t physical impairment.

By utilizing a correctly established steady state training cycle, physical injuries
will be practically non-existent as will be mental b u r n o u t from psychological
stress.

Establishing a Steady State training cycle for basic strength is extremely easy.
Simply choose a challenging exercise for a particular plane of m o v e m e n t a n d
t h e n stay w i t h it, performing the s a m e n u m b e r of repetitions a n d sets for the
entire training cycle.

Remember, "Make haste, slowly." The b o d y i m p r o v e s on its o w n biological
schedule. If y o u listen to y o u r b o d y carefully a n d respect its limitations while
challenging it appropriately, y o u will be able to enjoy an almost completely
pain-free a n d injury-free training experience; a n d while continuing to m a k e
excellent consistent gains in strength. R e m e m b e r that Coach Sakamoto built
his incredible record of 163 freestanding HSPU over the course of years w i t h
consistent patient effort, a n d not while engaging in a m a d d a s h to the finish.




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                                  Group Training




T   he Gymnastic Bodies p r o g r a m is endlessly adaptable a n d is capable of
    p r o v i d i n g the a p p r o p r i a t e training stimulus simultaneously to a g r o u p of
trainees w i t h widely r a n g i n g athletic abilities.

In light of this, it is i m p o r t a n t to note that the starting position of the
preceding exercises h a s a great influence on the intensity of any given
m o v e m e n t . For example, L pull-ups could be in either the tuck, straddle or
pike position; w i t h each of the proceeding positions being progressively m o r e
difficult.

In addition, w h e r e in the R O M the exercise begins will also greatly affect the
difficulty of the m o v e m e n t . For example, an L-pull-up that begins each r e p
from the chin over the bar rather t h a n the s t a n d a r d h a n g position is
substantially m o r e difficult., as will a h a n d s t a n d p u s h u p that begins from the
b o t t o m of the ROM. Beginning the repetition count from the m i d d l e of the
R O M is especially useful in a group-training environment.

For example w h e n training a g r o u p of beginning athletes there is usually quite
a bit of variability b e t w e e n their different levels of strength. As such, out of
four athletes all d o i n g 5 pull-ups following my repetition count, t w o m a y be
d o i n g s t a n d a r d pull-ups, one d o i n g tuck L pull-ups from a h a n g a n d the
fourth d o i n g L p u l l - u p s b e g i n n i n g each rep from chin over the bar. In this
instance the stronger athlete h a s a significantly m o r e difficult conditioning
challenge, w h i c h is further exacerbated by his h a v i n g to wait w i t h chin over
the bar while the w e a k e r athletes complete their repetition.




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The above protocol applies to any of the f u n d a m e n t a l b o d y w e i g h t exercises.
O n e individual could be doing tuck leg lifts, another regular leg lifts, t w o
could be doing leg lifts beginning each repetition from the top static position
a n d the final could be doing single leg-single leg-double leg lifts beginning
from the top static position as well.




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                                Appendix A

                     Tips for Increasing Pull-ups
M a n y people believe that an easy w a y to increase your repetitions in the pull-
up is the focus on performing a b o t t o m static hold (the "hang" portion of the
pull-up). I agree. In addition, I w o u l d submit that it is equally i m p o r t a n t to
train the t o p position as a static hold as well.

A few years ago, I obtained a personal best in w e i g h t e d chins (bodyweight
plus 751bs for 1 r e p at 1301bs b o d y w e i g h t ) after being stuck at b o d y w e i g h t
plus 551bs for a n u m b e r of years. The i m p r o v e m e n t came after a couple
m o n t h s of training assisted OACs (see the section on pull-ups) a n d
performing t h e m in 2-3 sets of 1-3 reps w i t h a top static h o l d of 3-5 seconds on
each repetition.

D u r i n g this period, I d i d no w e i g h t e d chins or h i g h r e p pull-ups - just the
p r o g r a m outlined above three to four d a y s a week. In addition to the w e i g h t e d
chin PR, d u r i n g the same time frame, I also performed an easy set of 19 pull-
u p s as a spur of the m o m e n t d e m o for s o m e of my students.

I feel that these results w e r e the result of focusing on the top static h o l d u n d e r
an increased training load (i.e. the one a r m hold). I did no training to increase
my strength in the b o t t o m h a n g position, although I w o n d e r if w o r k i n g b o t h
together m i g h t h a v e b e e n even m o r e beneficial.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach S o m m e r
                                 Appendix B

            Static Strength Only Training Results
While I generally that r e c o m m e n d static training be r e g a r d e d as one element
of a comprehensive training p r o g r a m , static positions can actually constitute
an entire w o r k out in a n d of themselves in a m i n i m u m of time a n d w i t h
m a x i m u m results. The following are one m a n ' s t r e m e n d o u s results from just
three m o n t h s of static only training.

"I'm an a d v e n t u r e racer w h o ' s trying to find simple w a y s of increasing his
strength w i t h o u t h a v i n g to go to the g y m or gaining too m u c h w e i g h t (which
over a 24-36hr race, can really slow one d o w n ) . By the w a y , I think the
a t m o s p h e r e on this b o a r d is great, a n d that y o u g u y s are truly lucky to h a v e
world-class coaches that share their k n o w l e d g e a n d experience freely.

I started w i t h Coach Sommer's b o d y w e i g h t article alone just over 3 m o n t h s
ago, a n d can n o w h o l d a front lever w i t h one leg b e n t (Brad J's variation) for
about 40 seconds, a n d a tuck planche for about 30 seconds before my hips
d r o p lower t h a n m y shoulders.

I h a v e to say that I've already noticed my a r m s a n d shoulders getting m o r e
muscular, a n d my abs a n d wrists feel m u c h stronger (I do the tuck planche on
parallets-like bars).

 In terms of carryover benefits, I haven't d o n e any chin-up training in about a
year, a n d could only do 7 four m o n t h s ago. I tried my m a x last week, a n d hit
15. This is w i t h o u t h a v i n g d o n e *any* chin-up training or even any front lever
p u l l - u p s in that time. Of note is that my m a x while training w e i g h t e d chin-ups
regularly a couple of years ago w a s 18.

 My dips also increased from 8 to 16, w i t h o u t training t h e m specifically or
losing any weight.

My L-sit w e n t from 7 seconds to 30 seconds w i t h no specific training, w h i c h I
believe comes from the front lever, b u t also from the tuck planche, as it
requires one to forcefully contract his abs to tuck the legs u p .

This is also the first time I started the Kayak season w i t h o u t h a v i n g my
shoulders b u r n half-way into my first training session from h o l d i n g the
p a d d l e up (likely d u e to the planche training).

 I'm truly a m a z e d w i t h the results. A l t h o u g h non-adventure-racer friends of
m i n e are getting faster results (i.e. getting bigger) by hitting the weights, n o n e
of t h e m spent as little time as me strength training (2 m i n u t e s p e r d a y total!!!),
a n d I d o u b t they're hitting their stabilizers like I am.

Thanks, Dave



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                                 Appendix C

                    120 Muscle-ups in 15 minutes
The following incident simply confirmed w h a t I h a d previously suspected;
that focusing on metabolic conditioning or strength e n d u r a n c e training is far
m o r e efficient if a solid foundation of basic strength h a s first b e e n established.
In my experience, strength always comes before strength e n d u r a n c e a n d
i n d e e d is the necessary foundation from w h i c h ALL impressive displays of
strength e n d u r a n c e occur.


A Gymnastics Based W O D

On Friday M a y 21 2004, my athletes d i d an u n u s u a l w o r k o u t for the GPP
(general physical preparation) p o r t i o n of their conditioning w h i c h some of
y o u m a y be interested in. In the past we h a v e n o t d o n e any h i g h rep circuit
type training a n d I w a s curious to see h o w they w o u l d r e s p o n d to the
challenge.

After a four h o u r w o r k o u t a n d completing their ring strength training, the
GPP assignment w a s to complete, in 15 minutes, as m a n y r o u n d s as possible
of the following: 10 muscle-ups followed by 20 pause-jump squats. The
w i n n e r w o u l d be the one w h o completed the most r o u n d s w i t h i n the fifteen
minutes.

To avoid traffic congestion problems, the muscle-ups w e r e d o n e on a single
rail of our parallel bars rather t h a n on the rings. A l t h o u g h k i p p i n g w a s
allowed, full extension at the top a n d b o t t o m w a s required in order to count
the rep. The sets could be b r o k e n up as n e e d e d .

The pause-jump squats w e r e simply a j u m p i n g squat w i t h a 2-3 second p a u s e
at the b o t t o m w i t h h i p s parallel or slightly b e l o w the knees. I placed these
here primarily to p r o v i d e a b r e a k for their u p p e r b o d y before the next set of
muscle-ups. (As a side note, t o w a r d s the e n d of the w o r k o u t , one of my
athletes became bored w i t h the pause-jump squats a n d b e g a n a d d i n g a back
flip on the j u m p portion.)

The results w e r e as follows: Chris a n d Greg chased each other t h r o u g h o u t the
entire fifteen minutes, completing 12 r o u n d s each a n d w e r e beginning a
thirteenth r o u n d w h e n the clock r a n out. Chris w a s c r o w n e d c h a m p i o n as he
finished his 12th r o u n d of muscle-ups one r e p ahead of Greg. Greg was,
needless to say, quite a n n o y e d to h a v e b e e n defeated by one rep.

For these t w o y o u n g m e n that m e a n s that in fifteen m i n u t e s they completed
120 single b a r muscle-ups a n d 240 pause-jump squats. They w e r e not




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                              BUILDING THE GYMNASTIC BODY


extremely fatigued a n d w o u l d h a v e b e e n fine h a d I extended the time of the
M e t C o n / G P P conditioning period to t w e n t y minutes.

D a v e y w a s second w i t h eleven r o u n d s completed for a score of 110 single bar
muscle-ups a n d 220 p a u s e - j u m p squats. Davey is the one w h o got b o r e d a n d
b e g a n a d d i n g the back flips to his p a u s e - j u m p squats.

Allan a n d Zach w e r e tied for third w i t h 10 r o u n d s apiece for 100 single b a r
muscle-ups a n d 200 p a u s e - j u m p squats. As an interesting aside, Allan t u r n e d
in that o u t s t a n d i n g performance despite only recently h a v i n g t u r n e d 9 years
old that previous March.

We finished off our w o r k o u t w i t h 50 flairs on the p o m m e l horse. I anticipated
s o m e p r o b l e m s here d u e to s u p p o r t fatigue. The athletes h o w e v e r w e r e in
h i g h spirits from their G P P conditioning contest a n d m a n a g e d to t u r n their
p o m m e l horse conditioning (50 flairs) into another contest to see w h o could
do the m o s t flairs in one turn. Allan a n d Greg h a d a great battle w i t h Allan
eventually coming o u t on t o p w i t h 25. They w e r e h a v i n g so m u c h fun w i t h
their contest that they forgot to stop at fifty.

All in all, it w a s a very p r o d u c t i v e conditioning period that evening. A lot of
specific, as well as general conditioning, w a s accomplished a n d the athletes
especially enjoyed the challenge of something n e w a n d different.

It w a s also an excellent example of exceptional strength always p r o v i d i n g the
foundation for exceptional strength e n d u r a n c e . It is instructive to note here
that d u r i n g our regular conditioning sessions, Greg w a s capable of performing
one strict n o n - k i p p i n g m u s c l e - u p on a single bar w i t h nearly half of his
b o d y w e i g h t attached to him.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach S o m m e r




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                                     Index
360 Pulls, 151
Archups, 132
A r c h u p s - circular, 140
A r c h u p s - side to side, 138
A r c h u p s - single leg, 166
A r c h u p s - twisting, 139
Back Lever, 44
Back Lever - flat tuck, 42
Back Lever - half, 43
Back Lever - straddle, 42
Back Lever - tuck, 41
Back Pulls, 147
Back P u l l s - h a l f , 146
Back Pulls - negative, 145
Blended Sets, 177
Body Levers, 147
Bowers, 86
Bowers - half, 86
Chest Rolls - HeS, 83
Chest Rolls - HeSPU, 84
Chest Rolls - HeSPU w i t h negative, 85
Chest Rolls - HeSPU w i t h negative & static, 85
Chest Rolls - HeSPU w i t h pause, 84
Chest Rolls - planche, 85
Chin-ups - inverted, 103
Chin-ups - L, 98
Curls - back lever, 105
Cranks, 149
C r a n k s - h a l f , 148
Curl-ups, 133
Deck Squats, 156
Deck Squats - j u m p i n g , 156
Deck Squats - j u m p i n g for distance, 157
Deck Squats - j u m p i n g for distance & height, 157
Deck Squats - weighted, 158
Deck Squats - w e i g h t e d j u m p i n g , 158
Deck Squats - w e i g h t e d j u m p i n g for distance, 159
Deck Squats - w e i g h t e d j u m p i n g for distance & height, 159
Dips - Korean, 72
Dips - Korean w i t h under-grip, 73
Dips - PB, 69
Dips - PB Bulgarian, 71
Dips - PB j u m p i n g , 69
Dips - PB negative, 68
Dips - PB Russian, 70
Dips - PB Russian L, 70
Dips - planche, 87
Dips - single bar, 71
Dips - single bar w i t h under-grip, 72
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Dips - XR, 74
Dips - XR Bulgarian, 75
Erbs, 88
Front Lever, 48
Front Lever - flat tuck, 46
Front Lever - half, 47
Front Lever - straddle, 47
Front Lever - tuck, 46
Front Lever Pulls, 108
Front Lever Pulls - circle, 109
Front Lever Pulls - half, 108
Front Lever Rows, 94
Front Lever R o w s - flat tuck, 93
Front Lever R o w s - half, 94
Front Lever R o w s - straddle, 93
Front Lever R o w s - tuck, 92
Front Pulls, 150
Front P u l l s - h a l f , 149
Front Pulls - negative, 148
Galimores, 119
G e r m a n H a n g Pulls, 144
GHR, 166
G H R - half, 165
G r o u p Training, 182
Gymnastic Bodies P y r a m i d s , 176
Gymnastic Bodies Reverse P y r a m i d s , 177
HeSPU, 78
H e S P U - b o x , 77
HeSPU - elevated, 78
HeSPU - negative, 77
HLL, 130
HLL - circular, 140
H L L - h a l f , 128
HLL - single leg, 129
H L L - t u c k half, 127
HLL - u n d e r - g r i p , 130
HLL - V to L, 128
HLL - w e i g h t e d at ankles, 130
HLL - w e i g h t e d at ankles & waist, 131
H S P U - K o r e a n , 79
HSPU - Korean w i t h u n d e r - g r i p , 79
H S P U - P B , 81
HSPU - PB Bulgarian, 80
H S P U - X R , 82
H S P U - XR Bulgarian using straps, 81
H S P U - XR u s i n g straps, 80
Ians, 118
Ladders, 176
L - s i t - P B , 27



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L-sit - PB advanced, 28
L - s i t - P B low, 27
L - s i t - P B tuck, 26
L - s i t - X R , 29
L-sit - XR advanced, 29
L-sit Lifts, 124
M a n n a , 38
M a n n a - high, 39
M a n n a - M S H bent, 36
M a n n a - M S H horizontal, 37
M a n n a - M S H low, 37
Modified PTTP, 179
Muscle-ups - straight bar, 117
Muscle-ups - XR j u m p i n g , 114
Muscle-ups - XR kipping, 114
Muscle-ups - XR n a r r o w , 116
Muscle-ups - XR negative, 113
Muscle-ups - XR seated, 115
Muscle-ups - XR weighted, 118
Muscle-ups - XR wide, 117
Naners, 107
N a t u r a l Leg Curls, 165
O A C - assisted, 101
Planche, 54
Planche - a d v a n c e d frog stand, 50
Planche - flat tuck, 52
Planche - frog stand, 50
Planche - half, 53
Planche - straddle, 52
Planche - tuck, 51
Pull-ups, 97
Pull-ups - j u m p i n g , 97
Pull-ups - L, 98
Pull-ups - negative, 96
Pull-ups - w i d e grip, 100
Pull-ups - w i d e grip behind, 100
Pull-ups - w i d e grip L, 101
Pull-ups - XR Bulgarian, 99
Pull-ups - XR Bulgarian L, 99
Pullovers, 106
P u s h u p s - FX, 61
P u s h u p s - planche, 66
P u s h u p s - wall maltese, 66
P u s h u p s - wall planche, 65
P u s h u p s - XR, 62
P u s h u p s - XR Bulgarian, 62
P u s h u p s - XR PMP, 64
P u s h u p s - XR P M P plus, 65
P u s h u p s - XR PPP, 63




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                         BUILDING T H E GYMNASTIC BODY


P u s h u p s - XR P P P p l u s , 63
Reverse Cranks, 146
Reverse Cranks - half, 145
Reverse Muscle-ups - half, 104
Reverse Yewkis, 104
RLL, 134
RLL - h e a d s t a n d , 135
RLL - stall bar, 134
RLL - straddle, 133
R L L - w a l l HS, 135
Roeslers, 119
R o w s - XR Bulgarian, 92
R o w s - XR elevated, 91
R o w s - XR g r o u n d , 91
Side Lever Pulls, 142
Side Lever Pulls - negative, 141
SLS, 161
SLS - deck, 161
SLS - g r a d u a t e d , 160
SLS - j u m p i n g , 161
SLS - j u m p i n g for distance, 162
SLS - j u m p i n g for distance & height, 162
SLS - negative, 159
SLS - weighted, 163
SLS - w e i g h t e d j u m p i n g , 163
SLS - weighted j u m p i n g for distance, 164
SLS - w e i g h t e d j u m p i n g for distance & height, 164
Static H o l d s - e m b e d d e d , 172
Static H o l d s - simple, 171
Steady State, 180
Straddle L - high, 33
Straddle L - one h a n d center, 31
Straddle L - partial roll, 32
Straddle L - PB, 32
Straddle L - PB b e n t 30
Straddle L - PB low, 31
Straddle L - X R , 3 3
Tick Tocks, 151
TOPs Pulls, 107
Traditional, 176
V-ups, 124
V - u p s - l i f t , 125
V-ups - straddle, 124
V-ups - team, 125
V-ups - t e a m with single, 126
V-ups - team with single & double, 127
V-ups - tuck, 123
Windshield Wipers, 141
Windshield Wipers - half, 139



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           T H E SCIENCE OF GYMNASTICS STRENGTH TRAINING


Windshield Wipers - supine, 139
XR S u p p o r t Position, 73
Yewkis, 109
Youngs, 136




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                               A Special Thanks




A special t h a n k s is d u e to the talented y o u n g m e n of the Xtreme
Gymnastics Optional T e a m w h o over the years h a v e b r o u g h t m y
conditioning ideas a n d p h i l o s o p h y to life.            W i t h o u t their g e n e r o u s
contributions of b o t h time a n d effort, the m a n y illustrations t h r o u g h o u t
this b o o k w o u l d n o t h a v e b e e n possible. T h a n k y o u gentlemen a n d well
done.




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