Coach Sommer

Gymnastic Work vs Classical Strength Work

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This is an excellent post regarding overtraining. - Coach Sommer

Gymnastic Work vs Classical Strength Work by Ido Portal

Posted: 21 Jan 2008 05:53 pm

I'm not coach sommer, but I'll try to help out here.

There is a problem with trying to compare gymnastics work and classical strength work in its purest sense. When talking about building up a skill, there is a big technical factor to take into consideration - to a much higher degree than working with weights, and even talking about the free weight movements. Compare the full range-not supported-handstand push ups and military pressing a barbell. The balance, body tension, direction of movement (its not up and down in a vertical line...) are huge requirements.

Sometimes working simpler variations of the movements in order to master those other requirements besides pure strength is helpfull. And if you are not concerned with strength development, your point of view changes as for the number of reps performed. It becomes mainly - perfect practice leads to perfection. (Mind you, its PERFECT practice and not practice) This can lead to a higher rep training, but never even close to failure, and not even close to technical failure.

After you achieve the higher level skill, to a degree that allows you to build volume with it in training, then you can go to lower rep training and work it like you would work a classical strength skill. For example, I can do a full planche for 1-2 seconds, but it doesnt allow me to build volume in training, so I use a straddle version for 5-10 second hold in order to advance. I will use the full planche, once it reaches a 5 second solid hold.

Also, take into consideration, in most movements it is more important to work around the concept of 'time under tension' than the classical rep scheme. sets of 0-20 seconds are used in pure strength work- Minimal hypertrophy and minimal pure-endurance. 20-40 seconds are strength+hypertrophy and some strength endurance. 40 and up becomes more of an endurance activity. Those figures are talking about constant tension on the muscular chain in question. If you do mushroom circles, you pass from one arm to the other, and it is a completely diffrent story.

Gymnastics is a lot more complex than classical strength work. Thank God it is also more rewarding.

Ido Portal

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Well, the main paragraph only really applies to isometric work as opposed to a lot of the other work gymnastics based strength can be derived from. I agree in the extent of said time scale for single sets; however, it does not take into account ample rest times between sets where a total of 60s may be more strength biased (if you were breaking it up into say 10 sets of 6s with 3 mins rest between sets).

Gymnastics is a lot more complex than classical strength work.

I disagree with this mainly because the body is based on the same physiological principles when training with weights as with bodyweight (except the nice extra benefits of coordination and proprioception you gain with bodyweight). Applied correctly with the right progressions, the training is virtually similar and not overly complex. The trick is finding the right progressions though.

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As far as his analysis goes, braindx raises some good points; correct rest periods and a variety of repetition ranges can be applied to gymnastics conditioning with excellent results. However for the rest of the points, actually Ido's summation is more accurate.

Gymnastics conditioning is inherently quite a bit more complex than classical strength training, as is easily shown; it is not merely a comparison of load moved versus load moved. As mentioned, the coordination and proprioception qualities required for executing many gymnastics conditioning elements are substantially more complicated than simple weight lifting exercises. The necessary progressions, in the right order and performed correctly, also constitute an additional complexity to gymnastics conditioning, as opposed to classical strength training where the trainee will simply add additional load to the exercise rather than moving to another variation entirely.

Many will undoubtedly agree, as I am sure that braindx does also, with Ido's assertion that gymnastics is also substantially more rewarding. I personally have been thoroughly enjoying my gymnastics journey for over thirty years now.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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In my post I highlighted a problem area in which highly technical skills, which have a deep learning curve will require more repetitions than you will perform if looking at the skill as a pure strength movement.

In the training log of my good friend and ex-belarrusian gymnast Yuri Raviz there are logged hundreds and hundreds of reps of various skills. Those werent performed to technical failure and were executed with perfection. This ability is built with years of training from childhood and it is not for the begginer, but still, it is a fact.

I did not talk about other scenerios were gymanstics can learn a lot from the science of reps and sets and training methodology, I was pinpointing the grey areas.

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Technical vs. Conditioning

First we will examine the role of repetitive work in the procurement of technical excellence and then how that may or may not be reduced in the pursuit of gymnastic strength training™.

Technical training, in any athletic endeavor, will require literally hundreds upon hundreds of correctly executed repetitions to successfully ingrain the movement pattern - especially with advanced elements. I have personally tracked this with one high-level athlete (a Jr National Team member), where with one advanced skill he was required to perform 10 excellent repetitions each day; five days a week. It is important to note that the 10 excellent repetitions were not inclusive of all the failed or sub-standard repetitions. Some days the 10 perfect repetitions were obtained relatively quickly, other days it took many more turns in order to secure the 10 excellent reps. Regardless, 10 excellent repetitions had to be performed each and every training day. At first advancement and stabilization of the skill was fairly rapid; at a total volume of 500 excellent reps (in this case nearly 3 months of intensive focus), the athlete was capable of correctly performing the skill 8 out of 10 times. It then took another 500 reps to advance to the point where he consistently performed closer to 10 out of 10.

Now, it is clear that for the competitive gymnast high repetitions of skill specific work, across a broad range of skills, is absolutely essential to achieve adequate levels of technical performance. However, for both competitive gymnast and the fitness enthusiast, is this same level of technical refinement and volume warranted or even necessary in the pursuit of gymnastics strength? In my opinion, no. The Gymnastics Bodies program is predicated upon the premise that, in many instances, it is possible to achieve significant gymnastic strength gains by focusing on the inherent developmental qualities within the gymnastic skills themselves, rather than the specific skills.

An extreme amount of effort has been invested in isolating the physiological developmental qualities of many gymnastics skills from the actual skills themselves. In the final analysis we end up with basic strength, handstand work, ring strength and dynamic, plyometric and ballistic elements - all supported within a matrix of active flexibility and joint prehab. Don't be overly concerned about the complexity of the above interactions, I have integrated the various elements for you and distilled the technical elements into their key conditioning components wherever possible; providing suitable substitutions where necessary for the formerly skill oriented elements.

Yes, it was a tremendous job - five books worth actually. And yes, it still surprises me that it can be simply and concisely represented in the Gymnastic Bodies WODs. My new forthcoming article Gymnastics as Conditioning - the Journey explores my training philosophy and how all of this came to be.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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I can´t wait until your books will be out coach! :)

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Coach, you shouldnt have written that. Now I CAN'T WAIT....

:)

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Coach your writing is fantastic.

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Coach, every time you write something I find myself more and more excited to start training the next day, with the new bit of information gained. Thank you so much for your dedicated work to gymnastics and this website! I also find myself more and more tantalized for the books with every post. Can't wait!!!

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I have to say this....I spent 16 years on and off competing in powerlifting...and I'm almost ashamed to say that starting to learn gymnastics skills is much harder than anything that I ever did in powerlifting. It is much much more technical and even some of the easiest skills are difficult at first. At least with traditional weight training you can make the weight as small as you would like, and you can make the increases in very small increments, thereby improving your skill with much small jumps in resistance.

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I read something about that propreoception in a Bruce Lee book once saying it takes 2000 perfect repititions to perform a move instinctively. I realise he was talking about counterstrikes but you can definitely see the cross-over in principal. Takes a hell of a lot of practice! lol

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He was talking about reprogramming an instinctual response.

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Two comments I'd like to make:

Firstly, the outcome of classical strength work v gymnastics work. My personal experience is that the strength acquired from gymnastics work is acquired just as quickly as from other modalities of strength training, that hypertrophy is also acquired as quickly (subject to eating adequately) and that if you are interested in using your strength for something other than picking up weights (Judo in my case) you will find that your athletic abilities are enhanced (due possibly to improved proprioception?).

Bear in mind that I have only been doing BTGB for 8 months, that I have made minimal progress from the most basic FSP's and FBE's and I am 55 years old. In spite of my seeming lack of progress my weight and strength and musculature have shot up.

Secondly, as to the technicalities involved: if you are doing FBE's and FSP's, you start them at a base level to suit your personal skill set. To that extent, FSP's and FBE's in particular can almost be regarded as not particularly technical (E.g., pushups, dips, pullups).

So anyone who wants good all-round strength results shouldn't be discouraged from a BTGB approach by the apparent technicalities. It's only as technical as is required to challenge you personally.

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Two comments I'd like to make:

Firstly, the outcome of classical strength work v gymnastics work. My personal experience is that the strength acquired from gymnastics work is acquired just as quickly as from other modalities of strength training, that hypertrophy is also acquired as quickly (subject to eating adequately) and that if you are interested in using your strength for something other than picking up weights (Judo in my case) you will find that your athletic abilities are enhanced (due possibly to improved proprioception?).

Bear in mind that I have only been doing BTGB for 8 months, that I have made minimal progress from the most basic FSP's and FBE's and I am 55 years old. In spite of my seeming lack of progress my weight and strength and musculature have shot up.

Secondly, as to the technicalities involved: if you are doing FBE's and FSP's, you start them at a base level to suit your personal skill set. To that extent, FSP's and FBE's in particular can almost be regarded as not particularly technical (E.g., pushups, dips, pullups).

So anyone who wants good all-round strength results shouldn't be discouraged from a BTGB approach by the apparent technicalities. It's only as technical as is required to challenge you personally.

Absolutely, this has been my experience as well. The apparent "lack of progress" is just a symptom of how much strength it takes to move from one variation to the next. It's not a little 5 lb jump!

I'm glad you've been enjoying BtGB work and I hope that more people read your comment, it really sums everything up nicely!

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Thanks Slizzardman! Gymnastics began as a means to an end for me, but it's become and end in itself. I think I'll continue with my journey into gymnastics for as long as I can draw breath.

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it really bizarre becasue Andy, you and I became members of this forum on the exact same date and i feel the same way about it. I could not have expressed it better myself

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Yes, that is a happy coincidence!

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So is it possible to combine classical strength with gymnastic, so do you have to choose either or?

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It's possible. The post is about whether or not it's optimal.

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