So as of late, I have had quite a few people asking me about “all that gymnastics stuff” I do. People usually want to know why I am doing what I am doing and if I have an ultimate goal in mind. Why do I do all of that gymnastics stuff? There are a few reasons with the first being that it makes me look cool. Busting out the levers, flags, planches, and the like look pretty awesome on the IG and gets a lot of people asking me about “all that gymnastics stuff” I do. See what I did there?
My body has taken its fair share of wear and tear over the last few decades and was definitely worse than ever coming off of a few weightlifting cycles. Wrist, back, shoulder, hip, and back pain was aplenty. Now, I knew it was probably in my best interest to see a physical therapist and devote a lot of time to yoga, but as many of you already know, I dislike most physical therapists and yoga makes me want to stab myself, and well, we can’t have that.
Gymnastics strength training, especially when working with the Gymnast Method (shameless plug), helped me mobilize and stabilize my back, shoulders, knees, and hips ultimately eliminating and alleviating a lot of the pain I was feeling throughout my body. After coming off of the aforementioned weightlifting cycle, I wasn’t able to perform a lot movements without having to fight through a great deal of pain. I couldn’t snatch, hold a weighted bar in the front rack, or hold a bar over my head without wrist and shoulder yelling at me. Hell, I couldn’t even squat without feeling like my lower back was about to explode.
What drew me to gymnastics strength training was the idea of having strength in flexibility. See, it’s not just about being able to touch your toes, it’s about being able to use your abdominal muscles to pull yourself down into that position, hold that shape in different planes, and use those same muscles to pull yourself out of that position. So it’s not just about stretching certain muscle groups, but stretching them while strengthening and building the opposing muscle groups. What good is all of that flexibility if you cannot apply it to other movements. If you can touch your toes, you should be able to do a strict toes to bar; hell, you should be able to hold one.
Working on compressing my abs in order to stretch my posterior chain is what helped me fix my back and hips. Using the exact same compression while working on pullups and push ups helped me stabilize my shoulders and wrists. As I continued to work on maintaining certain active shapes while moving through skills, I found myself gaining strength in positions I never really thought would be useful. I introduced simple exercises like weighted shoulder dislocates and single arm hangs to help with mobilization and stabilization, and others such as Bulgarian dips to build strength and improve thoracic mobility.
What no one ever really talks about is the importance of building strength in these “unconventional” positions. Building strength in these positions helps both prevent and rehabilitate injuries. I will discuss a lot of the movements another time, and I am sure many PTs disagree with me and the benefits of these exercises, but I have spent the last 10 months or so utilizing these movements and have seen amazing results.
I have never been this flexible and this strong. I first noticed how much strength I gained when I decided to jump in and max out a power clean. I hadn’t touched a barbell in months, I had lost about 18 pounds, and came within 10 pounds of my old max. What was even more remarkable was that there was no strength deficit, it was just my timing that hindered me. I have also seen dramatic improvements in my jiu-jitsu. I am able to apply pressure and resistance through a wider range of motion than ever before.
So what’s the ultimate goal? Knowledge, understanding, and implementation. Working on these gymnastics skills has helped all of us better understand how certain muscles are used and activated in certain postures. This has aided in identifying what may cause the various breakdowns in posture and positioning in others when performing different weightlifting and Crossfit exercises, and has allowed us to prescribe the fixes. I’m sure many of you have noticed all of the extra, exhausting gymnastics skill sessions working their way into the Synapse programming; just our way of keeping you strong, safe, and sexy.