Jump to content
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
Sign in to follow this  
LJoll

Tips for a beginner

Recommended Posts

LJoll

Hello. I'm 18 years old and am interested in gymnastics strength and fitness training. Over the last week or two I have been working on a few exercises and have a few questions about how I can improve. So far the main exercises I have focussed on are the planche and front lever progressions (as outlined by Coach Sommer), hand stand push ups against a wall and the L-sit.

I am practicing the handstand against a wall in a narrow corridor, so that I can work on my balance without the risk of falling backwards or forwards. I am not yet able to do a full push up, so should I be mainly focusing on keeping myself right (which I can probably do for about a minute at the moment), negatives, half push ups or a bit of everything?

I am finding that I have some wrist pain when I do handstands or attempt a tuck planche. Is this causing permanent damage and how can I avoid this pain?

I find that when I practice my tuck planche, I have a tendency to lift my hips and then keep lifting until I'm almost pressing to a handstand. Am I making a fundamental mistake, or do I simply have to concentrate more or keeping my hips level?

When I practice the front lever, I find it hard to create the 45 degree gap between my arm and my body. When I try to pull my arms down my hips come up (a common theme it seems). Is this simply a matter of centres of mass which will fix itself when I progress to fuller levers or am I making mistakes?

I have had a fairly bad diet for a while, but am trying to sort that out. After reading around a little I have tried cutting down on my carbs, which is ok but I'm finding them difficult to replace. I have very little body fat as it is and I could probably do with a higher protein intake. Would you suggest taking protein power in order for me to increase muscle or is that frowned upon in the gymnastics world? I am more interested in building body strength than size and it is obviously important for me to be generally healthy (I fear I may have been over training recently in my enthusiasm).

I live in central London and will be spending a lot of the time in Cambridge. Does anybody know of instructors or gymnastic schools in the areas?

I have found Coach Sommer's articles and many of the posts on this forum infinitely valuable in informing and inspiring me. Thanks for that and thanks again if anyone chooses to take the time to reply to my jumble of loosely related questions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ari
I am practicing the handstand against a wall in a narrow corridor, so that I can work on my balance without the risk of falling backwards or forwards. I am not yet able to do a full push up, so should I be mainly focusing on keeping myself right (which I can probably do for about a minute at the moment), negatives, half push ups or a bit of everything?

A bit of everything. Are you doing these on parallettes that enable you to get a full range of motion (similar to that of a military press) or are you just doing them on the floor? If you are just doing them on the floor, these are not handstand push-ups, but headstand push-ups, which are a very different thing.

I am finding that I have some wrist pain when I do handstands or attempt a tuck planche. Is this causing permanent damage and how can I avoid this pain?

It would be helpful if you could elaborate, but if it seriously worries you, talk to your doctor, or describe the pain very clearly to Coach Sommer and ask for his opinion, if he has the time to respond.

I have had a fairly bad diet for a while, but am trying to sort that out. After reading around a little I have tried cutting down on my carbs, which is ok but I'm finding them difficult to replace. I have very little body fat as it is and I could probably do with a higher protein intake. Would you suggest taking protein power in order for me to increase muscle or is that frowned upon in the gymnastics world? I am more interested in building body strength than size and it is obviously important for me to be generally healthy (I fear I may have been over training recently in my enthusiasm).

Do not bother with supplements unless your diet is already near perfect. Supplements enhance an already effective nutrition scheme - they do not replace one. I wouldn't bother with protein powder if you are not trying to get big or seriously need it as a meal replacement.

Don't worry about overtraining. If you feel terrible, your performance worsens, you get sick and you don't have enthusiasm to be training, you are overtraining. I don't think this is happening to you. If it were, I don't think you would be fearing it were, you would know it were.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
George Launchbury

Hi LJoll,

Firstly, welcome to the forum.

Don't worry about overtraining. If you feel terrible, your performance worsens, you get sick and you don't have enthusiasm to be training, you are overtraining. I don't think this is happening to you. If it were, I don't think you would be fearing it were, you would know it were.

That's not overly responsible advice. Overtraining per se means so many things, and also includes making sure you don't do any damage to yourself. By the time you get pain from overuse, you have already been injured for a while. I recall that connective tissue heals 1/10th the speed of muscle tissue ...so you don't want this to happen.

Take it easy, start out slowly and ramp up your training load. If you are getting stronger, and not having any issues with aches and pains, slowly up your volume/intensity a little. Err on the side of caution, and read some of the threads on 'cycling' dotted around the forum. You'll also find various approaches to improving your headstand pushups, and then handstand pushups once you've managed that.

There is also some good stuff on wrist conditioning and pre-hab. If the pain is bad, see a doctor/phsio/etc ASAP. When I started out, push-ups were almost too painful to bear ...but following Coach's advice enabled me to train handstands/HSPU/Planche progressions etc. with no wrist pain within a relatively short time (maybe a little ache afterwards if I'm on them for minutes at a time, which might be expected since I weigh over 210lbs).

No offense, but have a read around regarding your other questions, and then maybe ask each question seperately and clearly, as it's a little overwhelming to try and answer too many at once. :)

Best Regards,

George.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
LJoll
A bit of everything. Are you doing these on parallettes that enable you to get a full range of motion (similar to that of a military press) or are you just doing them on the floor? If you are just doing them on the floor, these are not handstand push-ups, but headstand push-ups, which are a very different thing.

In that case I think I'm doing headstand push ups.

It would be helpful if you could elaborate, but if it seriously worries you, talk to your doctor, or describe the pain very clearly to Coach Sommer and ask for his opinion, if he has the time to respond.

I often feel a slight discomfort around my wrist, but I occasionally get an extreme pain that last about 30 seconds and then goes away.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
LJoll
No offense, but have a read around regarding your other questions, and then maybe ask each question seperately and clearly, as it's a little overwhelming to try and answer too many at once. :)

Best Regards,

George.

Sorry. I realized that might be the case, but I didn't want to clutter the forum with a million different threads. I thought it might be easier for people to comment on individual points, rather than addressing the whole post question by question.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ari
That's not overly responsible advice. Overtraining per se means so many things, and also includes making sure you don't do any damage to yourself. By the time you get pain from overuse, you have already been injured for a while. I recall that connective tissue heals 1/10th the speed of muscle tissue ...so you don't want this to happen.

No. Overtraining is a very specific concept that I think you are misunderstanding. Christian Thibaudeau does a better job than I ever could of explaining it here: http://www.t-nation.com/readArticle.do?id=1442461 (might not be work/family safe). In light of that, I seriously doubt LJoll has been overtraining. Overreaching, maybe, but that is not necessarily a bad thing at all, provided the resulting fatigue is managed correctly.

As an aside, the section on plyometric training in that article is also quite informative.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
George Launchbury

Ari,

No. Overtraining is a very specific concept that I think you are misunderstanding.

On closer inspection, it appears we have a confusion in terminology. LJoll actually said "I fear I may have been over training", not "I feel I am suffering from Overtraining". So I made a mistake in not noticing you were answering a question that had not been asked. And admit I mistakenly used the word Overtraining instead of "Over training" in my response.

To most people (as Christian states) over training would mean training too much, or probably more acurately under-recovering. The most important message that people (especially beginners) should take away is that it is bad to over train/under-recover to the extent that you become injured or suffer from Overtraining which is best managed by prevention (proper goal setting and periodisation - not waiting until it happens and then having to recover. Safety first.

I stand by my statement that your advice was not overly responsible. You must agree that it is easily possible to injure yourself from under-recovery without noticing any signs of Overtraining?

George.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ari

Well, as long as people take time off when they start to feel their performance worsening, start to lose motivation, etc, I think most people will be fine, especially if they are training for gymnastics strength (a primarily neural capacity), rather than solely for hypertrophy (creating as much muscle damage as possible). When you are training gymnastics skills, not trying to damage your muscles as much as possible, you must keep perfect form and stay very far from failure. If you do this, injury specifically from training too much, is not a great concern. By contrast, doing endless drop sets with very heavy weight on the bench is asking for it.

Personally, I train very instinctively, when I even get the time to train, so if don't feel like training, I don't. I also don't follow set/rep schemes, I just train certain skills until I feel I am no longer making much progress in a particular session. I train skills when I can throughout the day, not necessarily within a specific hour long workout. Because of this training method, it's very hard for me to come anywhere near training too much, but even when I do, I just take a few days off until I feel better.

Even earlier this year, when I was training kyokushin karate twice a week, judo twice a week, spending about an hour riding my bike to uni or martial arts training each day, in addition to some very high volume and high frequency hypertrophy training, I felt great. The key was to get enough sleep, eat decently and take a day or two or even a week off when I felt I needed to.

So basically, my view is that if your diet and sleeping patterns are in order, you listen to your body and train gymnastics skills as skills, not a means to inducing muscle damage (I think it would be rather difficult to progress at gymanstics if you did, anyway), injury from training too much is not a great concern.

Free weights are a different matter, however.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Coach Sommer

Ari, you are confused my friend. Gymnastics strength training is hardly "primarily neural capacity", unless of course you are doing it incorrectly.

Increased neural capacity does not allow the young man in the following video to perform Bowers, it is pure raw strength.

Nor are weights superior in their efficacy for building strength and the subsequent necessary gains in hypertrophy. Either method is effective, if you are properly conversant with the tool you are attempting to use.

I will however stipulate that weights are much simpler to use, as you may stay with one exercise variation rather than progressing through a series of movements that continue to escalate in difficulty and intensity. Gymnastics strength training is far more involved than a few pushups, or muscle-ups. It is also something that very few people outside of the elite coaching ranks understand. However this is not the dead end that it used to be; the sharing of this information is the overall purpose of this website.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ari
Ari, you are confused my friend. Gymnastics strength training is hardly "primarily neural capacity", unless of course you are doing it incorrectly.

Increased neural capacity does not allow the young man in the following video to perform Bowers, it is pure raw strength.

I am under the impression that strength is a neural capacity, a skill. It is your ability to recruit muscle fibres in order to support or move a load. To oversimplfy, this can be increased by improving neural efficiency, maintaing neural efficiency and increasing hypertrophy or increasing hypertrophy and improving neural efficiency.

This is why some bodybuilders have impressive hypertrophy but lack strength and why it is possible to increase strength without hypertrophy (combat sportsmen, olympic lifters and powerlifters, all athletes who have to make weight, strive for this).

This is also the explanation for the stories you hear of mothers whose children are trapped under heavy objects (pylons and cars are common culprits) being able to free their children - their nervous system is infinitely more efficient and hence their strength is infinitely increased when enhanced by adrenaline.

Nor are weights superior in their efficacy for building strength and the subsequent necessary gains in hypertrophy. Either method is effective, if you are properly conversant with the tool you are attempting to use.

I definitely did not mean to give the impression contrary (well, I think gymnastics is superior to free weights for the upper body, as you seem to agree, but that is another discussion).

When I speak of 'traditional hypertrophy training', I do not intend to suggest that it is best for achieving hypertrophy - far from it. I am simply referring to the methods traditionally used with the aim of inducing hypertrophy (3x8-12, etc). No judgment is implicit in 'traditional' (well, maybe a negative judgment, but again, that is another discussion).

I will however stipulate that weights are much simpler to use, as you may stay with one exercise variation rather than progressing through a series of movements that continue to escalate in difficulty and intensity.

Further, I would suggest that this is why Gymnastic Strength Training™ is much safer than strength training with free weights, and one of the many reasons I feel it is more rewarding.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
George Launchbury

Hi Ari,

Could you clarify if you're suggesting that Coach is wrong in his statement that: Gymnastics strength training is hardly "primarily neural capacity"? It's probably not the case (that would be crazy), it just sounds a little like you could be? It's hard to tell as I find your writing style a little erratic to follow in longer posts (not a criticism, just an observation).

Regards only training neural capacity for strength: I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty sure it's not possible to increase strength significantly (through training) without gains in hypertrophy, since the training methods that increase neural capacity will also lead to an increase in myofibrillar hypertrophy.

Types of hypertrophy

There are two types of hypertrophy in muscles - sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and myofibrillar hypertrophy.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy

The amount of sarcoplasmic fluid in the muscle cell increases, with no associated increase in muscular strength.

Myofibrillar hypertrophy

the number of myofibrils (made of contractile proteins: actin and myosin) increase, adding to muscular strength with a small increase in muscle size.

If you don't think that hypertrophy occurs naturally (i.e. not intentionally) as a part of Gymnastic Strength Training™, how would you explain the physiques of competitive gymnasts? ...especially those who specialise in the more strength-dominant events, where bodyweight is a major factor?

Regards,

George.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ari
Could you clarify if you're suggesting that Coach is wrong in his statement that: Gymnastics strength training is hardly "primarily neural capacity"? It's probably not the case (that would be crazy), it just sounds a little like you could be? It's hard to tell as I find your writing style a little erratic to follow in longer posts (not a criticism, just an observation).

Regards my writing, I'll try to keep that in mind.

I'll try to restate my previous post as best I can.

I have realised that my definition of muscular strength in my previous post was wrong. I defined strength relative to a muscle's size, not its actual strength. While finding the source of a point I make below, I stumbled across Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky's own definition (to be found in Science and Practice of Strength Training), which I think should do just just fine: "the ability to overcome or counteract external resistance by muscular effort; also, the ability to generate maximum external force".

Strength, as per this definition, is limited by the number of muscle fibres that can be recruited to overcome this external resistance. Hence, strength is increased by increasing the number of muscle fibres that can be recruited. See, it is possible to have, for the sake of discussion, 500 muscle fibres, but only have the neural capacity to recruit 250 of them. So, as I stated in my previous post, strength can be increased by maintaining this level of neural efficiency (50%) and increasing total muscle fibres, maintaining total muscle fibres and increasing this level of neural efficiency (to, say, 75%) or increasing total muscle fibres and neural efficiency.

Hence, relative strength (for sake of clarification - strength relative to bodyweight, the sort gymnastics seeks to develop) is developed by training the central nervous system to recruit as many muscle fibres as possible. This is achieved by performing as many perfect repetitions as possible, which tends to lead to a higher volume of work, which leads to fatigue of the muscle fibres, which leads me to my next point...

Regards only training neural capacity for strength: I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty sure it's not possible to increase strength significantly (through training) without gains in hypertrophy, since the training methods that increase neural capacity will also lead to an increase in myofibrillar hypertrophy.

As Zatsiorsky writes in Science and Practice of Strength Training, a muscle fibre must not only be recruited in order to induce growth - it must be fatigued. Hence, training with a low volume will increase the nervous system's ability to recruit a muscle fibre, but it will not cause sufficient fatigue for growth to result.

Because gymnasts seek to improve their strength as quickly as possible (well, I'm assuming they do), they perform as many *perfect* repetitions as possible as often as possible. This then leads to a sufficiently high volume of work's being performed to result in fatigue of the muscle fibres and therefore, growth potential (I say growth potential, not growth, because growth will obviously not result if sufficient rest is not taken and appropriate diet is not followed).

For more on viewing strength as a motor skill, see Charles Staley's 'A Thinking Man's Guide to Sets and Reps': http://www.t-nation.com/readArticle.do?id=459418 (I have been alerted that some may not find T-Nation work/family safe, so proceed with caution).

If you don't think that hypertrophy occurs naturally (i.e. not intentionally) as a part of Gymnastic Strength Training™, how would you explain the physiques of competitive gymnasts? ...especially those who specialise in the more strength-dominant events, where bodyweight is a major factor?

I never sought to suggest that Gymnastic Strength Training™ didn't lead to hypertrophy. It most definitely does.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
George Launchbury

Hi Ari,

Thanks for the clarification, and well put.

I was wondering where this discussion was going ...and I'm glad to see it draw to a close with your clear and well-written explanation. I might be mistaken, but I think it pretty much sums up all our viewpoints nicely, and I imagine that a number of people will find it very useful in furthering their understanding.

Best,

George.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ari

Great!

I do hope others find it useful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pdpbanks

Great discussion, gents!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
LJoll

Thanks for the advice and the resulting discussion. I've taken a break today as I'm finding that I'm starting to lose my strength. I've got my advanced tuck lever going well and am still working on the tuck planche. While I seem to have a fairly strong core for my bodyweight, I've noticed that my sides are incredibly weak. I struggle to do the most basic parts of the side lever progressions. Does anybody have any good, easier side exercises other than twisting crunches?

It would be great to know the basic structure of the training the Coach gives to his athletes (or that takes place at any serious gym), but it seems like that might be something we'll have to wait for in the book.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×

Important Information

Please review our Privacy Policy at Privacy Policy before using the forums.