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Jamie

Tumble to strength?

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Jamie

I was just thinking about gymnastics, and a lot of the tumblers from Denmark don't do any type of maximal strength training. An ordinary WU and workout would be: stretching, swinging, running, bouncing on the floor. Then some pushups, crunches, arches and some handstand work.

But some of these guys are very strong and they can do straight arm presses to handstand. They also look ripped and they can do some very cool tumbling skills. So the question would be: Is tumbling a great way to build strength? For sure it is good to build dynamic strength. But does it also build maximal strength?

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Razz

Danish gymnastics is just one of a kind, and not in a good way. On your average tumbling/mini tramp/ rhytmic swing team most people can't hold a 10s HS. The guys that can do the straight arm presses have definately trained for it. However there are some good tumblers doing well on the international scene, but compared to how many actually practices tumbling the average result is not impressive.

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AlexX

I use to be a tumbler and would have to say that is not the norm in my experience. When I was a tumbler I couldn't even hold a decent handstand, neither could most of my teammates unless they practiced on their own. Most tumblers don't even have good vertical jumps (mine was ok but I lifted weights and specifically trained for it). So to answer your inquiry, from my experience if your goal is strength on the rings or handstand presses tumbling is not the way to go about it.

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Razz

Oh and just to add the guys probably look ripped cause they're skinny as hell :D

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Jamie

That's sounds pretty true but some of them can just do amazing stuff anyway. I know it is not a good way to get real strong, but was just wondering if it helps building strength other than dynamic? :)

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AlexX

They are very separate things. Personally I never saw any strength carryover either to leg strength/vertical jump, or any bodyweight exercises. Like I said I was an ok tumbler and still couldn't even do a regular solid handstand (could handstand walk though). You have to remember that tumbling is pure technique and skill very little strength involved, of course the fitter (stronger, more flexible) you are the easier tumbling is but unfortunately tumbling will not help strength gains.

Think of it like other skill sports such as throwing a baseball, playing basketball and golf. Will they make you stronger? No it won't. But it helps to be fit for those sports. A lot of baseball players nowdays are very strong but not from playing baseball itself.

However it seems that you like tumbling. Just because it isn't going to sky rocket your strength gains doesn't mean that it won't be fun. Tumbling is the most fun sport I have ever done and I was in over 5 different sports over the years.

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AlexX

Your post is a valid one and as a former high school wrestler I definitely agree with your point. However the discussion was about maximum strength and tumbling correlation of which in my experience there was none. But the benefits of being comfortable being upside down, more dynamically flexible and generally more aware of what I could do with my body were very useful for wrestling, no doubt about it there.

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Coach Sommer
So the question would be: Is tumbling a great way to build strength? For sure it is good to build dynamic strength. But does it also build maximal strength?

The original premise of whether or not tumbling will build significant levels of strength is accurate and completely separate from the kinesthetic issues involved. Tumbling and other forms of ballistic work (e.g. giants on the still rings) build enormous degrees of connective tissue strength; in fact for more than any other training methodology.

It is important to understand that connective tissue is best strengthened through the use of micro-bursts of pressure/load lasting fractions of a second. For example at the bottom of a giant on rings, the body is exposed to loads of 7-10 times bodyweight for a fraction of a second (It was consistent exposure to these type of loads that was responsible for my being able to perform wrist curls with bodyweight+ for reps later after I retired from competitive gymnastics). Likewise a tumbler may will be exposed to up to 14 times bodyweight during a rebound into a back somersault from backhandsprings (as determined with floor pressure plates during evaluations on National Team athletes at the US Olympic Training Center).

Is this type of ballistic training enough in and of itself? No, it is not. However when combined with a complete conditioning program like the GB WODs that addresses all of the other components of Gymnastic Strength Training™, it is eerily effective.

The catch is that a sufficient base of basic strength and joint prehab must first be established before engaging in this type of training. Otherwise attempting to include these types of ballistic loads into your training on a physical structure that has been improperly prepared will most likely result in injury.

My forthcoming volume The Dynamic Physique covers this topic in depth.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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Joshua Naterman

To add to that, in the event that your body does not get injured you will still be teaching it to perform sub-optimally if you do not have a sufficient strength base. The stretch reflex will be inhibited to allow for more energy absorption since the muscles will have to reduce the load before allowing a rebound, which leads to more ground contact time, which leads to less explosiveness in the rebound, which finally ends in you having taught your body to be less explosive. That's pretty much the exact opposite of what you want from your tumbling.

Tumbling is going to build certain components of maximal strength to a very high degree. The major reason why most won't see a huge carryover to maximal strength in the weight room or most FBE is because of the very limited ROM under load. The body goes all over the place, but if you look at joint angles in the legs and arms there are specific points that the load is received and then translated into upwards motion, and these ranges of motion are very small compared to the FULL range of motion the joints are capable of. However, in that small ROM those muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints are handling multiples of the body weight as Coach mentioned. That's more load than you could ever expose them to under a bar. In the ROMS that tumbling DOES apply those heavy loads to you will see good maximal strength and probably little to no improvement in endurance. A tumbling run is 100% creatine phosphate powered for the shoulders and legs. Until the total time under tension for a given muscle group reaches 8-10s you're not even going to start glycolysis, at least in highly trained athletes. I've never seen a tumbling run where the extremities (arms or legs) were loaded for a total of 8s each. Even the short rest times tumblers take as they set up for the next run are enough to start restoring creatine in the muscles, and the times under tension are so short that they aren't even starting to severely deplete creatine in any one run to begin with.

The components trained are coordination of motor units, reduction of neural inhibition and number of action potentials sent to the muscles. You have to remember that strength is mostly an expression of the nervous system, whether you are talking about "power" or "strength." Those two terms are really just maximal force development in the minimum possible time for a given athlete (power) or maximal force development irrespective of time(strength). Time is the only difference. Both still depend on many of the same factors: coordination of motor units, number of action potentials reaching the muscles per second (or your chosen time unit), and lack of inhibition from antagonistic flexing or tension/stretch sensing components (alpha and gamma neurons, golgi apparatus, and perhaps other things that go beyond my knowledge). These "sensors" are in connective tissue as well as the muscle tissue.

Of course they also depend on physical factors such as muscle cross-sectional area and fiber type distribution, but these are a lesser factor. Muscle fiber types other than 2b can be trained to perform LIKE 2b with training, at least with respect to speed of contraction. 2a can take on so many characteristics of 2b that they can be nearly equal in force production as well with consistent training, but again that is a response to NEURAL stimulation.

If you train your nervous system to perform in a suboptimal capacity it will take a lot of specific motor learning work to restore optimal patterns and performance characteristics. That, in my opinion, is a pretty silly thing to have to do if it can simply be avoided altogether by conditioning the body properly in the first place.

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Coach Sommer
In the ROMS that tumbling DOES apply those heavy loads to you will see good maximal strength and probably little to no improvement in endurance.

This is partially correct; you will see excellent improvements in both maximal strength AND endurance. My oft mentioned story of running 20 miles with no endurance training was purely the result of the dynamic strength I had built through tumbling.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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Joshua Naterman

Absolutely. You know, I was reading some interesting material in the vertical jump program I told you about, and the author said something that made incredible sense to me. He basically said that in the NBA there are a few players that stand out above the rest in terms of their rebound and explosive ability, and these same players are able to stay in for pretty much the ENTIRE game and show no signs of reduction in power output. Most people think this is because of an incredible endurance capacity but it is actually much more a function of an incredibly efficient creatine phosphate system. So what was actually happening was that these players' bodies simply didn't have to rely on the anaerobic or aerobic glycolysis systems anywhere near as much as other players because their creatine phosphate system was so highly trained. Very efficient muscle contractions and short ground contact times made everything from running up and down the court to blocking shots literally cost these players far less energy than the others. I suspect that your body had a similar adaptation. Now, obviously the actual sport training is going to develop the aerobic and anaerobic endurance systems as well, but that development combined with an incredibly efficient CP system is what seems to create the effect of being able to maintain long periods of power output without having to have a supremely developed endurance capacity. Does that make sense? It was a strange concept at first but it actually made a ton of sense to me.

So in the end, you get the same performance characteristics of someone who has a very well conditioned anaerobic and aerobig glycolysis/lipolysis system but through a different mechanism. That means that not only can you perform the same activities they can, but you can also perform feats of explosiveness that are simply out of reach for the true endurance(in reference to the energy systems used, not the distance covered) athlete.

That probably has a huge amount to do with why you had such expansive athletic capability. This is also why there is a lot of research into the effect of power training on endurance athletes. I think it will end up having a much greater effect on running than it will on bicycling, rowing and swimming due to the drastically different ratios of time under tension vs time spend performing the given activity. higher the ration of TUT to time spent the lower the impact of the power training should be, since part of why power training should help distance runners so much (and appears to, according to recent research) is because of the relatively large block of time each leg has to replenish energy stores compared to the time spend exerting force into the ground, allowing anaerobic energy systems to supply a greater percentage of the energy which in turn helps shift the muscle fiber activation from slower twitch to faster twitch even in what appears to be a purely endurance sport. That's a very simplistic explanation and honestly represents most of my knowledge pertaining to this subject, but it has fascinating implications for the future of sports performance training.

The one thing I didn't cover was the incredible tendon conditioning that all the tumblers build, and having such supremely responsive tendons drastically shortens the eccentric phase of amortization, which in turn leads to greater power output AND less energy spent per stride. I think that the value of developing even just the basic tumbling run you mentioned, the round off-back handspring-back tuck, is lost to the sports world. Having that kind of responsiveness would be incredibly beneficial.

Anyhow, that's my opinion based on what I have read so far. What do you think?

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Razz

Very interesting with the CP system being so developed. You could be quite the mean machine if your body could just fill up really fast like that!

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Alvaro Antolinez

That is exactly what happened to my wrists when I tryed basic tumbling on a too soft surface :(. Now I can not perform handstans for some weeks to recover.

EDIT: whow lots of stuff were written before I could finish my post. I was refering to practicing dinamic movements without being properly prepared.

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AlexX

That is a very interesting point about joints being built up from ballistic work. However I was going purely from my tumbling work and my weight training work perspective (during tumbling I only did weights, EDIT: maybe the carryover would be more noticeable with bodyweight exercises). And my conclusion that it didn't effect strength was that I was much stronger than my team mates and able to jump higher because of weight training and not really any stronger than people of similar size and training age as me who didn't do tumbling. However perhaps if my team mates took part in regular strength training sessions they would see accelerated gains when compared to a person that only took up weight training. That would be one interesting study.

Sure do miss tumbling though.

EDIT: Slizzardman what is the vertical program you are talking about?

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Joshua Naterman

I've got "Double Your Vertical" by Luke Lowrey. He's a somewhat controversial figure but the program is very smart. Not too much that I didn't know in terms of exercise selection but the methodology behind what is used and why is very sound. I disagree with the exercise order and have switched it to be more intelligent and take better advantage of CNS potentiation. I also completely changed some of the loading selection techniques as they do not account for individual differences or weaknesses, but all in all it is an incredibly smart program.

I am currently reading the Vertical Jump Bible and it has a lot more history and conversational stuff, and gets into more depth as far as how certain types of training affect different athletic attributes, but is in my opinion a slightly less effective program. Still a very good one, mind you, just not as polished I don't think. One thing that VJB does far better than DYV is to explain some of the importance of scaling your plyometric work correctly. Luke is far better about the nutrition in general, and has taken the knowledge of bodybuilding nutrition and gone to adapt it specifically to performance enhancement. In reality there isn't much of a difference, besides macronutrient levels being kept at a level a non-steroid body is capable of metabolizing. VJB does a better job of describing jumping technique in general.

So as a training program, DYV is much smarter and to my mind and the reviews on the internet more effective. As a jumping resource VJB is better, but a lot of the things like the jumping technique that MAKE it better in this regard can be found for free on track and field websites. One thing I dislike about both books is that they contain no APA references, so you don't know where many of the different ideas are coming from specifically.

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AlexX

Ah thanks, I read the vertical jump bible but actually liked it less than the authors website articles higher-faster-sports.com great articles, at least in my opinion. I'll have to pick up a copy of Lowery's book if its that good. Seen it before but through the guy was one of those gimmicky guys that the internet is filled with (no real bases to this as I just got that vibe from one of his videos).

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Joshua Naterman

I did too, but he mentioned a few things that were really intelligent and rung true. Enough so that, combined with online feedback on basketball forums and other places, I felt like this was something I needed to own. I have yet to listen to the master classes, which supposedly give a "much deeper" insight into the program and how to use it effectively, but the smartest thing he says, and this is something that for some reason is not a part of programs, including VJB even though Kelly specifically mentions this, is that only perfect practice counts. It doesn't matter whether you are doing beginning plyo drills or advanced, whether you are doing light weight lifting or heavy, you only want to perform perfectly. Part of this is neural learning and part of this is limiting the recovery impact, but for a huge number of reasons this is absolutely imperative. Anything with pre-set rep numbers is going to fail in this objective. Neither of these books gets very far into post-activation potentiation, besides Kelly mentioning it briefly in his section on weighted work. Kelly doesn't even begin to delve into hyperplasia, which is a big deal, and his explanation of what hypertrophy is is completely whack.

Next time we train together I'll bring my laptop and you can take a look and see for yourself so you have something of an idea. We'll have fun dissecting what is done right and what is completely ridiculous, because there is some of each in what seems like every program. I can't wait to write one that avoids this pitfall.

Luke has used an excellent program to essentially destroy the ability to pirate his book, ebook pro, and Coach may want to look into this for his future volumes. I actually searched to see if anyone had successfully hacked it, and no one has posted success on any of the hacking forums. Just frustration. Pretty cool, really.

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Jamie

Thanks for the clearing up on this. Especially thanks to Coach for elaboration on this with the giants. I look forward to this book :).

Can I just ask one thing that I am not really cleared on, but think I am. Training for maximal strength and dynamic strength should always be included before your gymnastics workout right? So it will not be nearly as effective to do this after skill training for 1½ hours due to fatigued muscles? Or am I mistaken?

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Coach Sommer

Conditioning may be placed either prior or after training depending on your personal preference. Over the years I have used both with success.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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Philip Chubb

I don't mean to be a necromancer, but slizzardmans explanation of the CP system really caught my eye. How is this system developed strongly? I am assuming things like tumbling runs and senders? It makes me wonder if those NBA players were doing tumbling as warmups...

Lastly, is there any kind of book that explains this in great detail? I would appreciate any reccomendations as I would love to learn more about this.

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Neal Winkler
I don't mean to be a necromancer, but slizzardmans explanation of the CP system really caught my eye. How is this system developed strongly?

I'm not sure what that means. The only way to increase the amount of creatine phosphate in your body is to supplement. There is no type of training that increases CP concentrations.

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Philip Chubb

I am not looking to increase the concentration of it but to make the system more efficient. I am thinking tumbling runs could help this with proper leg strength.

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Joshua Naterman

Efficiency. You can not increase creatine concentrations, but you can a) train the body to replenish somewhat faster and b) you can train the nervous system to be extremely efficient(this is the big one), which drastically reduces the amount of fibers and the time under tension necessary to produce athletic movement. This has the net effect of increasing the body's ability to perform for longer periods of short interval athletic performance (NOT to be confused with constant tension) while being able to maintain a high power output.

As triangle said, supplementation is the only way we are aware of to markedly increase creatine stores. That is a VERY good idea for competitive athletes as it truly gives a big edge to a properly trained athlete.

Tumbling runs would improve your reactive ability tremendously. To improve your explosive ability you really need to be doing many sets of just 2 reps. After 2 reps output drops below 95% of maximal, and you are no longer training for peak efficiency. By ONLY exposing the nervous system to extremely high efficiency it will develop that trait further. Think about it: when you jump for a ball or you make a cut, you are not doing so continuously. You are doing so for one effort, perhaps two if you miss. If you are going for a power kick, you are going to have to reset before you throw another one, and you are looking to cause maximal damage with that impact either way. If you train efficiency to be extremely high in the movements you want to be most powerful, you will develop the ability to repeatedly develop much more consistently high power outputs for longer periods of time.

This is getting into a complex application of strength, efficiency training, and supplementation. Myofibrillar hypertrophy work must be done so that you are increasing the number of contractile proteins that will be innervated. CNS efficiency work must be done so that you develop the ability to a) recruit fibers as fast as possible and b) develop the ability to repeatedly produce high levels of force without fatigue. This is primarily accomplished by reducing the time it takes to produce a given movement of a given magnitude. For example, if you go from taking .3s to take off on a rim touch to .2s you just increased the number of jumps you can do at the same height by 50%. That's a whole frikin' lot man. Same force production, less time under tension. That means more time for replenishment AND less of your 8-9s total(in a highly trained athlete, most people are under 5s starting out) max output time is spent. Together that means you can probably do slightly MORE than 50% more jumps. You spend less of your total creatine stores as you develop the ability to perform this example exercise with less fibers, meaning that you once again increase the number of efforts your CP system can support at a given magnitude.

This applies to every high force sport, whether it is repetitive in nature or not. The big difference between the two is in how much time you spend developing the "power endurance" versus the maximal efficiency. There is always a slight trade-off. A high jumper or long jumper would not want to spend as much time on the power endurance, as many times meets are only 3-5 efforts with time for recovery between them. They would perhaps benefit more from only doing explosive singles and not doubles. That extra 5% matters in single effort sports.

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Neal Winkler
Efficiency. You can not increase creatine concentrations, but you can a) train the body to replenish somewhat faster

I don't think I've ever come across this. Does it work by increasing the concentration of creatine kinase? Do you have a link that discusses this mechanism?

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