Gymnastics for CrossFit
What is gymnastics?
Gymnastics is moving the body. Any type of movement that is expressed without the use of external weight and uses bodyweight only is classed as gymnastics. Whether that be a burpee, air squat or a handstand.
How will gymnastics help my CrossFit?
The CrossFit pyramid is an excellent reference point as it displays priority of principles. At the bottom (most important base) of the pyramid we have nutrition followed by metabolic conditioning, gymnastics, weightlifting then sports. This labels gymnastics as our third to top priority, and for good reason. Gymnastics is the most bang for your buck. Proprioception, coordination and strength. Not to mention its extremely fun and aesthetically pleasing.
* The ‘Fitness Pyramid’ as explained by Greg Glassman – the originator of CrossFit.
Gymnastics and the importance of proprioception
Gymnastics is by far the most important of movement that teaches us proprioception. What is proprioception? Proprioception refers to the body’s ability to sense movement within joints and joint position. This enables us to know where our limbs are in space without having to look. An athlete with greater proprioception will take to skills and new movement patterns a lot faster, such as complex movements like olympic weightlifting and the general arsenal of CrossFit’s skills.
Coordination and how it helps you
Coordination is the ability to use different parts of the body together smoothly and efficiently. Just like when you see Camille LeBlanc Bazinet repping sixty chest to bar pull ups unbroken. Other than muscular endurance the main component for this impressive feat is her second to none coordination. Which is unachievable without great proprioception. Her ability to know where her limbs are without looking at them relates to her proprioception, coupled with coordination, being able to link efficient movement and the outcome is previous mentioned feat. Efficiency is something we as CrossFitter’s can never get enough of as it allows us to get more work done and use less energy (in other words getting a faster Fran time with less pain) and when it comes to momentum focused movements in gymnastics efficiency is our number one priority and how does that not relate to CrossFit? If I have learned to be more efficient with my toes to bar, enabling us to get more reps, without making strength gains then imagine if we couple that with strength gains! More efficiency = less energy used and more work done = more reps. More efficiency + more strength in correct movement patterns = way more reps with less effort. How is that not appealing?
Gymnastics strength training
Most of us can name some gymnastics strength training that we already do in CrossFit such as strict handstand push ups and strict pull ups. When was the last time, if ever, you trained your front lever or straddle l-sit? These movements are not just cool to be able to perform, the strength required for these movements will have a huge carry over to everything else you do. If you have the back and core strength to hold yourself in a front lever imagine using that strength when trying to keep the bar close to your body in a clean, or the core strength in stabilising your midline in the bottom of a max squat? What about holding a straddle l-sit? The strength needed for this movement comes from the hip flexors and abdominals (top of the legs and stomach). Having trouble getting your toes to that damn bar? Imagine if after one cycle of gymnastics strength training you could do strict toes to bar!
Gymnastics is fun and exponentially rewarding
Giving someone a workout is one thing, teaching someone how to move and why is another. Gymnastics training can be done with simply a floor. At most a pull up bar with rings and a wall and you have all the equipment you will ever need for it. Having the knowledge and tools to take our training anywhere and at any time.
Is gymnastics for everyone?
Like every movement we perform, everything we do can be scaled meaning that yes gymnastics should have a strong place in everyone’s training schedule.
The larger the base of the pyramid the higher it can be built.
How does this quote relate to gymnastics and CrossFit? We are all aware that having a larger foundation allows for a taller tip but why is gymnastics closer to the foundation and not the foremost loved olympic weightlifting? As I have already touched on proprioception, coordination and strength and their importance so I will move now to virtuosity. What is virtuosity? A favourite in coach Glassman’s vocabulary is simply defined as, doing the common uncommonly well. As it correlates with the discussion of foundation an example is, if an athlete is truly virtuous in their pursuit of basic fundamental movements then their journey will epitomise that of a path with many doors. If you are chasing virtuosity with your air squat how will that relate to your back squat? Have you achieved true mastery of the basics before moving on or did you rush your air squat practice because it was boring and you wanted to test your max clean and jerk? Virtuosity is a term that we should be chasing in all of our movements that relates directly to the pyramid quote. Do you see athletes with a weightlifting background pick up gymnastics fast? Not really. Do you see gymnasts pick up weightlifting fast? Yes. Why? Proprioception! Lets take Alec Smith as an example, Alec Smith is the younger brother of 2015 games champion Ben Smith. Alec is a former competitive gymnast and is recently being renowned for his lifting numbers. How does this work? Olympic weightlifting requires a lot of strength but also a lot of technique, as mentioned earlier the importance of proprioception and its role in learning new skills is a direct reflection on Alec’s ability to learn great olympic weightlifting technique in a short period of time. Alec’s background is ingrained in his learning and has become natural for him to chase virtuosity. It is easy to turn up to the gym, hit your percentage numbers, eat big and get strong. It is very difficult however to become a virtuous mover in all that you do, and the continued theme of the day; imagine what happens when you couple them both together…….