Coach Sommer

Manna - An Advanced Static Strength Element

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Static strength elements develop the body in ways which quite frankly cannot be built in any other way. The strength developed therein is also applicable in a wide range of athletic endeavors. One of my favorite static strength elements is the manna. Now I am well aware that many people will find the manna to be too challenging; requiring too much effort and too much of a long term commitment to acquire. However, for those few who persevere, in the end the manna provides a impressive overall return on the effort invested; developing a high degree of both static strength and active flexibility simultaneously, as well as substantial core strength. The following is an introductory essay on the development of a manna.

The most common mistake that people make in their quest for a manna is equating it with a simple leg lift. Visually a manna appears to be an inverted L-sit. It seems to require only a simple progression; L-sit to V-sit to manna. In reality, the manna actually contains far more of a "press the hips forward" motion than it does a leg lift. Those who insist on training a manna as though it were merely a variation of a leg lift will always have their progress stall and go no further than a V-sit.

The Progressions for Developing a Manna:

1) Elevated bent leg middle split hold - (see the middle split hold narrative below for additional performance details)

Initially most people will find that they lack the hip strength necessary to lift their legs off of the ground with straight legs. This limitation can be sidestepped by performing a middle split hold up on a bench or chair etc and allowing their legs to bend as necessary. Over time, as your strength and flexibility improves gradually straighten the legs.

2) Low straight leg middle split hold - (see the middle split hold narrative below for additional performance details)

Perform elevated as with the variation above, but now focus on achieving completely straight legs. At first your legs may be below parallel, perhaps even far below it. This is fine. Simply be patient and give your hips time to strengthen and your active flexibility to develop.

3) Middle split hold -

Initially the primary movement which you will use to build a manna is the middle split hold. Begin from a seated straddle on the floor with the legs as far apart as comfortable. This is NOT a passive straddle sit, you should actively be "pulling" the legs as far apart as possible with your hips. Width here is critical; the wider the legs, the easier and faster you will progress with the middle split hold.

Now place your hands on the ground directly behind your legs and next to the glutes. Here comes the hardest and initially the most challenging part of this exercise; attempt to simultaneously lift your feet and glutes off of the floor. Please note; it is incorrect to allow either the feet or the glutes to lift off of the floor first, they must rise together. The legs should also remain horizontal to the floor; neither the feet or the glutes should be higher than the other. Be prepared to spend some time developing this portion of the middle split hold; it will be essential for your later success with the manna. A short cut taken here will result in the ultimate failure of your journey to acquire a manna.

Once you have developed the hips strength necessary to lift the legs correctly, it is time to begin pressing the hips forward. You have probably of necessity been leaning backward and allowing your glutes to rest upon your hands, this must now cease. From this point on, you will always strive to press the hips forward off of the hands. At first, only a very slight movement of the hips forward will require tremendous effort. This is quite normal. It should be noted that during this forward pressing motion, the legs must continue to be parallel to the ground, with neither the feet or the glutes higher than the other. Also during the press forward, the chest and back must remain straight and flat at all times.

4) Elevated middle split hold -

Once you are strong enough to press the hips forward several inches off of the hands while maintaining the legs parallel to the ground, it is time to begin working on elevation. From the extended forward position, press forward harder while now allowing your feet to pull back toward the shoulders. At first, your degree of elevation may be very slight. You can increase your height of elevation by continuing to pull the legs strongly apart and fighting to keep the torso flat. Allowing the chest to "cave in" or back to curl will greatly reduce the height which you will be able to attain.

Elevated middle split holds are where you will spend the vast majority of your manna development time. Of special note here is that you should not allow your legs to come together until you have reached a horizontal inverted position. Bringing the legs together prematurely will greatly increase the difficulty of this movement. Later on you may work on lifting into a manna with a pike, but until your manna is extremely solid, it is best and most productive to maintain the widest straddle possible during the ascent.

5) Manna -

Finally we arrive at the manna. In all likelihood, you will have now spent a minimum of six months and probably a year or more building the strength, flexibility and balance necessary to perform this skill. Continue to focus on and emphasize the fact that during the elevation the higher you would like to lift your legs, the farther forward you must attempt to press the hips.

While working the manna, especially in the beginning, you will develop some spectacular cramps; particularly in the triceps and hip flexors. When these occur, and they will with a sudden and ferocious intensity that will take you breath away, feel free to roll around on the ground, mouth deprecations to the gymnastic gods, massage and/or stretch; whatever you need to do to relieve the cramp. Now it should be noted that only the massaging and stretching will provide immediate physical relief; the rolling around and deprecations etc., which are an important part of gymnastics tradition, primarily provide emotional release as well as entertainment for your workout partners and coaches :D.

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Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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Now this was realy challenging! How many seconds should I be able to hold each progression before I move on to the next progression?

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Coach what is the difference between a Manna with piked legs (well whole body really) and legs pointing straight up, I presume that one is a variation or a progression?

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A high manna is out of reach of all but a very few athletes in the entire world. Ironically, the athlete in the video is also capable of a high manna.

I tend to train mannas by blocks of time rather than for a particular static hold; by that I mean that my athletes will focus on the movement for 5-10 minutes, two to three times a week.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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would you suggest being able to do any particular exercises before starting to train this? e.g support V-sit, pikes (active especially) etc? or training anything to help with this?

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also coach one more thing,

hand placement, does it matter what direction the hands are facing?

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Hi

WOW very cool. That is a sweeeet demonstration of a Manna, very very cool. The manna is definitely in my top 5 favorite skills

Coach Sommer i had a few questions that i was hoping you might answer.

1- Are these the only progressions you do, or are these the just the dominant ones

2- At what stage of development would you introduce the manna development? would you start a new kid into the gym (competitive) on the manna drills straight away or do you do other stuff. What are some prerequisites you believe are necessary before starting to train the manna. such as the gymnast must be able to do splits (box splits), have a tight active compression , a decent L-sit, and good shoulder flexion flexibility (i am aware that shoulder extension is the common term for that range of motion, but i don't think that a correct definition of it based on the anatomical definitions of flexion and extension)

Thanks for posting this essay and vid...once again awesome.

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Btw, he is not joking about the cramps. I remember training these and every now and then my tricept felt like they were going to explode. Not fun :-) Although I didn't see it mentioned in the article, you need to do quite a bit of shoulder flexibility work as well. If your should flexibility is no good you will not be able to reach an attractive (i.e. horizontal) final position. Good luck.

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So basically they do a straddle L by leaning backwards ( that's quite an angle he has there ) and go from there.

Do you require a V sit before hand? Or a straddled V-sit which sometimes I see aerobic competitors or female gymnasts do?

My only experience with this skill and my athletes is when I had natural athletes who could motion into the manna and fall ( typically 6-8yo with really good flexibility in their shoulders both ways and in their pike ). They did not have the strength to hold a V or the manna by themselves but it just came to them when I showed or motioned them through it. Thus I have never trained this skill from scratch nor have I ever been close.

At best I could do maybe a 30 degree above horizontal L with poor shoulder flexion flexibility. While part of it is the lack of training the hip flexors and shoulders till past 20, I have thought tight somethings don't help. For instance I've had an awesome pancake and oversplits from around 5 or 6 but never trained an L sit or straddle L till post 20 and it never came to be.

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No, I do not require a V-sit. This is a common misconception (my apologies) regarding the preparation required for a manna. Of far more importance to the eventual development of a manna is the ability to press the hips forward. All of my beginning athletes immediately begin with the middle split hold.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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Thanks, Coach. I currently don't have any boys to really test this with but I will let my compulsory girls play with this a bit for fun. Their support strength isn't great but they may enjoy it and some do have very good hip flexor engagement/flexibility.

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I worked this with the compulsory girls I was subbing today and was quite impressed. Some of them didn't have the support strength to really hold it but could raise it up quite high.

With some of them I decided to spot, but two of the girls complained about the pressure on their elbows ( they have hyperextension in their elbows ). I also told them how some gymnasts pull this through the manna to a straddle stand on floor or beam. Some of these girls have pretty good behind the back shoulder flexibility ( skin the cat or shoulder flexion/extension on the floor ) and though I probably could have spotted them for fun to the stand, I thought it best not to.

They loved it! Thanks!

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Thanks for the reply Coach.

Here are a few other questions if you don't mind.

Would you start everyone on the floor or on the P-bars/parallets?

One thing i notice from watching the video is that the start where he lifts of the floor he is performing the Middle split hold which you describe? is that correct? That is a huge lean he has, which seems challenging on its own.

But once he starts pressing up, even though it seems that his hips are rising, its more that he is closing his legs (from 5sec in to the clip to 6 sec). There is actually very little hip lift. From 6sec into to 7sec into that is the dominant part of the lift ..where hips his are really rising, but his legs are actually quite cloes together (compared to the initial start position). Is this something you want to see? Or is it simply because the athlete is clearly so comfortable with this exercise that he can close the legs sooner and not be effected?

Thanks

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Here is a vid i think everyone will enjoy

Check out the skill at 0.34sec

Wonder if he can hold it

Enjoy

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serious cramps in my triceps :D

Coach,

I was training my L-sit for the last 6 months or so and worked up to 35/25 second hold. My real goal was to go for a v-sit and I can see that my v-sit has gone up slightly (especially on the parallettes)

My questions:

should one train for a mana and an L-sit/V-sit simultaneously?

I know in your leglift article you mentioned doing one set of leglifts. Do these exercises stack well with that?

I noticed in my own training that after a few weeks of doing 35/25 I started to burn out. How often should one change up the amount of time in a static pose? For example, should one try to do 4 sets of 15 seconds instead?

And finally, if one is able to actually raise up to a low v-sit, would it be more beneficial to just practice L-sit to V-sit leg raises?

Thanks to everyone!

:)

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Hi I can manage an Lsit and a Vsit but was unable to lift my butt and legs off the ground. Any help? I didnt quite understand the progressions. Can someone upload a video of them?

Thanks :wink:

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coach has a video of one of his guys doing a manna

I have a video where I did a low straddle sit at the beginning

try leaning back more

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OK I am confuse how you progress to a Manna. The first one saids to elevate your legs and bent them. I don't understand. So are you hands pressed on the floor withe the fingers facing back but the legs will be bent in an L shape on the chair?

And the second one will I still be using a chair? And this time instead of my legs being in the L shape it will be straight?

And what about the elbow? The guy from the picture looks like his elbow popped out from the other side. I don't want to injure myself doing something wrong. Is it just him or do i have to do some kind of stretching?

Also what is a straddle?

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Can some one show a picture of how to progress? I still don't see how to do it.

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I didn't realize this before now, but in the video, the guy's elbows are double jointed.

So after realizing that the hands point away from the body, i further realized my wrist flexibility for this is really bad. which looks like I wont really be able to work this skill untill im able to get a better backward lean..

Also, is it possible to hit the same muscles by lying on your back?

What I mean is.... Lie flat on your back, arms straight beside you near your hips, bring your legs up into the air straddled. From there try to raise your body up by pushing your arms into the ground while trying to keep your chest from collapsing and legs swaying..

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just place your hands on a higher surface than your legs. set of parallettes or a chair or bench

He has what I call " freak " elbows. Basically naturally hyperextended elbows. Pretty common in gymnastics and amongst all young people. Also common in people who don't work out ( weak biceps ). However, in gymnastics, it's because of all the straight arm work.

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The degree of hyper extension present in the athlete's elbows is NOT because of straight arm work, it is simply whether or not someone already has this type of joint. For an individual with this excessive range of motion in the elbows, it is more of a hindrance when attempting to progress with higher level ring strength elements rather than a consequence of working those elements. It can be done however; the 1988 Olympic All Around Champion, Vladimir Artemov, had the same same type of elbows.

There is also no wrist flexibility requirement for working a manna; you will simply need to spend some time to find your personal preference for hand position. If you find the fingers pointing backwards uncomfortable, experiment with turning them either sideways or forwards. If you find the flat hand uncomfortable, then experiment with either working up on the first knuckle & thumb or all the way up on the fingertips.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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My bad. I thought too much straight arm work without the necessary bent arm work can lead to hyperextension in the elbows. I believe this was a topic discussed some time ago in another thread.

As for this gymnast, I dunno. As I stated, I have come across this in many juveniles, even adults.

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Hyper extension in the elbows is a natural proclivity which some people have and some people do not. Much like most people are to some degree either knock kneed or bow legged; it is also relatively common to find a wide range of elbow joint variations.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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A high manna is out of reach of all but a very few athletes in the entire world. Ironically, the athlete in the video is also capable of a high manna.

I tend to train mannas by blocks of time rather than for a particular static hold; by that I mean that my athletes will focus on the movement for 5-10 minutes, two to three times a week.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

Hey, one question..If that is true..Why are alot of bboys able to do them?(not most of them but a decent amount)..but what i notice is that they do them with legs open.

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