I have an incredible friend - flippingwendy on Instagram that was a National Team Member Gymnast and also crossfits. She is big into flipping houses and doing design work (http://www.dwellingstudio.com/). She is easily the most interesting person I know. She likes her site and Instagram account but she is very jealous of mine and wants to take it over because lets face it , its more fun. Here's a great blog she wrote for me which is filled with some great info!
10 Tips & Tricks Gymnasts Use That Will Up Your Crossfit Game
Even though I was a gymnast in my past life, I didn’t walk into the gym fit. I came in out of shape and starting from scratch like most people. However, it didn’t take long in my local box to notice things missing from their training. The WODs were great of course, but I noticed that many people weren’t using a variety of tricks that either come naturally to gymnasts or are drilled into us at very early age. The following are tips you can incorporate into your training immediately and see significant results.
Gymnasts have to remain on the bar for significant periods of time, similar to CrossFitters. In order to do this they are constantly shifting their hands back on top of the bar to prevent slipping off. For gymnasts, this could prevent a fall. For CrossFitters, this could mean more exercises strung together with shorter or zero rest periods. I can never understand when instructors actually teach not regripping the bar. Perhaps this is to save your hands but the truth is that if you have 50 pull ups, your hands are going to be on the bar for 50 reps. What’s the difference if you regrip or jump down and then back up again (and regrip)? Nothing. In order to do this, think about hopping your hands back around the bar when you begin slipping. Appropriate shifting moments are when you are more weightless on the bar. In a both a pull up and toes to bar, it would be when the chin or the feet are lowering from the bar. This is particularly helpful for the ladies with our smaller hands.
Generating Swing With Chest
When kipping, gymnasts don’t focus on the shoulders or hips to create the motion. We focus on the chest. Sure, the hips and shoulders will flex slightly when moving from hollow to arch and back to hollow positions. But as a rule, we think about the core of our body. This creates a fluid swing while giving your shoulders a break until they need to put in the work pulling your body upward. Before you freak out...of course your shoulders are going to do some of the work. You can’t arch your back without your shoulders cooperating. But, as the main focus, it is better to engage your core, forcing your ribs forward and then pulling your ribs together (or in) for the hollow. Imagine someone punching you in your chest and your chest caves in to make the hollow.
Inactive Shoulders During Kipping
Yes I said it. I see people teaching active shoulders during the kip swing which is so foreign to me. As gymnasts we are taught to be long on the bar, sinking down into our shoulders. Our body is stretched in the longest position possible in order to create the biggest, longest hollow and arch body positions possible. Longer positions means bigger more effortless swinging. If your shoulders are active, then they are working non-stop and will fatigue quickly. Whiners and naysayers: I’m not saying swing like a limp noodle. One should still maintain tight and deliberate body positions, but do so with your shoulders relaxed, shrugged up to your ears. Then, on the pull for the pull up or T2B, you’ll create your shoulder angle to complete the skill.
One Step To The Bar
When on a pull up bar, we use our body shapes to create swing which we want directly under the bar. Therefore, taking several running steps before jumping to the bar is not the best idea. If you run 5 steps and jump, you’ll create unwanted momentum and have a back and forth swing under the bar. Great for gymnasts swinging around the bar, not for adults doing a pull up. Instead, take one step and jump up to the bar in a hollow position in order to force yourself directly into the arch of the kip.
Kip and Go
When learning a new kipping skill like a muscle up or pull up, some people like to go on kipping forever. They’ll do 10 kip swings before attempting the pull up or muscle up. Stop this. By the time the skill comes, you’ll be too fatigued and your timing will likely be off by then. Try one or 2 swings into a skill and then it’s go time. It’s enough to gain momentum without tiring yourself out before you even begin.
Rips, as we call them in gymnastics, are one of the first big “accomplishments” for a young gymnast. As coaches, instead of freaking out about our beginner athletes tearing their hands up, we celebrate it as a sort of badge of honor. I mean it sucks, right? But, let’s turn that owie into a celebration of hard work! And what’s the first thing a gymnast does when they rip? TEAR OFF THE DEAD SKIN. A gymnast never lets that skin hang on. Any lingering skin will harden, get snagged or picked on and then the wound tears open even further. Hand maintenance is key.
- Trim the skin away as closely as possible right away
- Clean your hands (THIS SUCKS)
- At night apply ointment and put a sock on your hand. This keeps any ointment from getting all over your bed (and off your hand) as well as keeping your hand moist.
- In the daytime keep your hand uncovered for healing
- In the gym, wear a tape grip. This will protect your hand from tearing again or at least from making a bloody mess all over the equipment
Use Your Good Leg
This seemed obvious to me, but has come up on many occasions in my handstand classes. When doing handstand skills, choose a favorite leg. This is not the same as your writing hand! Try both legs and see which one feels the most stable to kick up into and land back on during a handstand. Which leg do you seem to have more flexibility on? Which leg has more control? Use that one. I usually realize people are using the “wrong” leg when we try cartwheels in class and their off-side cartwheel is better than their good side.
Balance In A Handstand With Your Legs
Gymnasts don’t literally throw themselves into a handstand (unless for specific training purposes). Some CrossFitters treat handstands like a power move. Instead, ease into it. Use your back leg (least favorite leg!) to guide your body upside down into the balanced position. Close your legs together into the handstand when you feel fairly balanced. Slamming your legs together will create unneeded power as well as determine your balance point which likely won’t be overhead as one would like.
Knowing How to Fall
One of the very first things gymnasts are taught when learning a new skill is how fall out of it. We learn to tuck and roll and NEVER stick your arm out to catch yourself. A common concern for most adults learning a handstand is fear that they will body slam if they fall over. This is a legitimate concern! If you fall over, what will you do? There are two good options: cartwheel or roll out. You can learn this by simply practicing cartwheels and forward rolls. Use mats to protect yourself from the hard gym floor. When you fall over on a handstand, instead of body slamming, turn and step down like a cartwheel. Do this before you have lost all strength in the position so you can safely maneuver your hands and feet without crashing to the ground. Try this in a belly to the wall handstand. Turn your stomach away from the wall, step your hand to the side and step your foot down. Rolling out is also an option, but won’t be the most comfortable of landings. I guarantee it’ll be better than body slamming, though.
Gymnasts drill the heck out of skills. To sit there and attempt 5,000 of a skill over and over and miss 5,000 times will get old real quick. CrossFitters will often do the Burgener warm up for barbell exercises. Why then do we think that attempting 5,000 missed muscle ups in a row, without any accessory movements, will create success? Instead, break down the skill. Find 3-4 drills and put them in a circuit. This isn’t for time, it’s just to stay organized and to keep you from standing there wondering what to do next. Do 3-4 rounds. Do it more than once every 3 months. Change up the exercises to keep it interesting and challenging. Continue to do this even when you do have the skill, just like you would with the Burgener warm up and like how gymnasts continue to practice handstands.
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