One of the things many people LOVE about CrossFit is the gymnastics component in training.
From learning how to walk on your hands to swinging on the rings, it can make this style of exercise fun, challenging, AND rewarding!
The flip side to this is that with any new skill, the learning curve can be great, and many people don’t have hours a day to commit to practice.
Here are 5 things you can do starting today to see fast improvements in your gymnastics without adding in a ton of extra work.
Build Strong Lats and Grip
Strength is by far the most crucial part of being good at gymnastics. You can’t have 10 connected kipping pull-ups if you can’t hang on the bar for 20 seconds, and you can’t have a ring muscle up if you don’t have a strong pull-up!
Building a strong upper body and improving grip strength doesn’t mean you have to be adding in tons of extra work. It can be as simple as performing a few rounds of active bar hang in between your sets of back squats, or adding in a 5 minute finisher at the end of the day of farmer’s carries and lat pull-downs.
The key here is consistency – you want to be adding in 5-10 minutes of work 3 to 4 days a week focusing JUST on these two pieces.
Remember strong lats and grip are critical for all things bar and ring!
Build a Strong Core
We all want the fancy stuff, but you need a strong core to make that fancy stuff happen!
Core work does NOT need to be extensive – commit to 40 SLOW and controlled deadbugs a day (do them as sets of 10 as a break from being on the computer) and not only will you see your deep core develop (the most neglected part of our cores!) you’ll also see improvements in hip flexor strength AND improved overhead mobility!
You can also simply add in a few sets of planks 2 to 3 times a week, some hollow and arch holds, or even a finisher of few rounds of v-ups.
Again the key here is consistency – find a routine that you will stick to and commit to making a strong core happen!
How many athletes do you watch finish the workout, put their stuff away, and then head out the door off to their desk jobs or home to sit on the couch? Repeated day after day, and it’s a wonder most of us can put on our shirts without tearing a pec muscle!
Your coach isn’t yelling at you to stretch for their own peace of mind, mobilizing and keeping those tissues loose not only helps prevent injury but allows you to comfortably get into the positions you need to do things like walk on your hands!
It can be as simple as using a lacrosse ball for 5-8 minutes a day (with a big focus on lats, triceps, pecs, and rotator cuffs) or using an app like GoWOD (our personal favorite!)
Have you ever watched a gymnast perform a floor routine? They explode off the spring loaded floor, flying high into the air, catching themselves, and then exploding again to continue their tumble routines. You know what’s needed to make this happen? Power! Lot’s of power!
As adults we often practice “slow and controlled” when learning new skills, both from a standpoint of comprehension, but also from a standpoint of safety, and rightly so. However kipping gymnastics (and even strict to a point) requires learning timing and applying power at the right moment to make the movement easier AND successful.
This is not to say you need to YOLO it over the rings, but rather break down the different movements, isolate and focus on the individual pieces and become powerful in each (the strong drive in a press, a strong and connected hollow/arch on the bar or rings, learning hips up) so that when it comes to connect them you are powerful AND in control.
Performing box jumps, hips to ring, broad jumps, overhead ball tosses, and strict press are all ways to focus on being powerful and explosive which will directly translate to powerful gymnastics! Use these as warm ups and then focus on that same feeling of power production as you practice your gymnastics.
Visualize Successful Movements
This could be a blog post in and of itself (and has whole books written on the topic) for the very reason that visualization is HUGE for helping you reach your goals.
As the saying goes “what the mind can conceive it can achieve”, and as studies show – the combination of visualization combined with practice is one of the most effective ways to guarantee success!
Find some videos of someone you like doing the things you want to do (connected ring muscle ups, effortless handstand push-ups, beautiful and easy bar muscle ups) watch the video and imagine yourself doing the same.
Then as you practice, focus on that success. You are communicating to your subconscious that this is the path you want to take, and by doing so you are putting in the internal commands to make it happen!
Like these tips? Share them with your friends and those you know aspiring to get better at gymnastics!