Coach Sommer recently posted this about the bench press:
Yes, this is absolutely correct. Regardless of how strong your bench may be, if the proper straight arm strength progressions have not been adhered to and meticulously followed, the super strong bench presser will be no closer to a planche than your average joe who struggles with bodyweight.
I think the point cannot be overemphesized. The simple truth is that high quality bodyweight training, gymnastics oriented strength and ring work is usualy supperior to free weights. (motor unit recruitement)
I know that there are a lot of people here who like to combine the methods (crossfitters, Girvoys and old school strongmen fans) but especialy under the limited work capacity and recovery ability most people present I would not suggest to do that. Not if you are truly after some serious results.
Not that it cannot be done. It is being done daily by many people, but the results are far from optimal. This is the reason you do not see many youtube clips of real straddle planche holds, true front levers, crosses and quality one arm pull ups. People are doing a lot of stuff and they are sending their bodies mixed signals with this kind of aproach. The result? What I'd like to call 'all over the place adapatation'.
Body weight and gymanstics oriented strength and conditioning is comprehensive as it is. Focus your efforts if this is the kind of strength you are after. Dominating your body in space and under gravity is no simple task. It will take years of concentrated efforts to do so. While improving this ability you will also get a very good dominance of external loads, but not vise-versa.
The reason? body weight training is much harder and recruits more motor units in comparison to most free weights exercises and of course to machines and other useless training modalities as well.
Take a look at this data from Charles Poliquin:
Compound vs. Isolation Exercises
(Neuromuscular Activity â€” NMA)
Isolation exercise on variable resistance machine, i.e. leg extension on cam type machine: Cybex leg extension, DAVID leg curl
Complex exercise on variable resistance machine, i.e. leg press on Nautilus machine, LifeFitness incline press machine
Isolation exercise with constant resistance machine, i.e. Scott pulley curls, triceps pressdown on pulley machine
Complex exercise with constant resistance machine, i.e. leg press on standard machine
Isolation exercise with free weights, i.e. Scott barbell curls, lying flyes
Complex exercise with free weights, i.e. snatch pulls, power cleans
Complex exercise with free weights, i.e. power snatch, dips on rings, rope climbing, split jerks
Very few exercises using free weights can be considered level 7. The power snatch does, due to a low enough external load that allows a very high speed and optimal power output.
A lot of bodyweight and gymnastics oriented strength exercises do belong to level 7, though. Notice the dips on rings and rope climbing are mentioned - two very basic bodyweight training exercises. If only they (researchers) had more knowledge about some more advanced variations of this kind of training....
To sum things up:
I know many people like to sell this 'more balanced aproach to training' - using the best of both worlds and enjoying better results, but...
That is not the truth.
The truth is, two years down the line you can have either one of those scenerios:
A.Train the bench press 1-3 times a week and achieve a double bodyweight bench press but no improved ability to control your body in space. (planche, upper body pushing plyometric ability, balance, control and more)
B. Concentrate on gymnastics and bodyweight strength for the upper body and achieve a 5 sec straddle planch, enhanced plyometric ability, flexibility, balance, control and better dominance of your body in space AND a 1.75X bodyweight bench press.
Crossfit people likes to say: 'We do what you do almost as good as you, but you cannot do what we do at all', is there a better way to describe a gymnast??
What do you prefer?
Again, I am not impressed with all those heavy benches, dips and pull ups with 200lbs extra and other traditional feats of strength. To tell you the truth, this stuff is easy in comparison, and I can still perform it without touching those exercises for years. Also, the net is full of such video clips, showing it is not that unique and hard to achieve.
I am impressed by this guy for example, obviously not a gymnast, but someone who made his choice to train without weights and achieved great results. Do you think this guy cannot bench above 300, perform pull ups with extra 100, etc? of course he can. For me, that is optimal use of his training time. Period.
How about his ability to manipulate external load?
Gymnastics and bodyweight strength and conditioning is jack of all trades already. Dont over do it with unneeded concentration on external loads.