For those looking to compete in the sport of crossfit, becoming efficient at the gymnastic elements is essential. For those of us who are just trying to lose a little bit of weight and look better naked………well, did you ever see a gymnast with rubbish body?
Crossfit uses gymnastics as one of the foundational elements, alongside weightlifting and traditional cardio methods. Most of us are pretty familiar the Crossfit Pyramid and we can see where Gymnastics fits within that, what most of us don’t see is why.
Underpinning every WOD, every movement and every session your coach gives you, is something you are possibly less familiar with, but is key to making sure that Crossfit works.
Mechanics – Consistency – Intensity.
In simple terms, move well, do it often and then do it fast, because guess what, moving fast but shit, is still shit. In reality this is a bit of a sliding scale and how each athlete develops is a trade off between the three, as one increases it’s likely the previous will breakdown slightly, but this is how we develop.
How does this relate to gymnastics?…. Mechanics, how the body moves through space without an external load, is gymnastics. Think back to the first thing most of us looked at in Crossfit, it was the Air Squat, moving your body with good mechanics through a range of motion. Essentially, perfect practice and mastery of gymnastic basics will improve athletic performance in all aspects of Crossfit.
One of the key points of performance for almost all movement, is the development of power from the core to the limbs. Hands rip when you do pull ups, struggle to press overhead, lose your midline when squatting, weak core! Alright, the hands ripping isn’t quite as true as the other two but it plays a part. Gymnastic conditioning places a huge emphasis on not only core strength but on the ability to generate power by transitioning through the gymnastics shapes of hollow and arc, think kipping pull ups and TTB.
Finally, very little matches gymnastics in terms of development of the four neurological aspects of fitness; coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. Try handstand walking without improving your balance or doing a muscle up without coordination and spatial awareness, it’s pretty tricky!
There are many different types of gymnastics, from the classical disciplines of artistic gymnastics seen at the Olympics to the acrobatics of Cirque du Soleil and many things in between. Gymnastic movements have been used as part of military training programmes since the days of the great armies of the Greeks and the Romans.
When it comes to crossfit, we define gymnastics as any situation in which you are moving your body through an extended range of motion without an external load, performed with or without equipment such as parallettes, rings and pull up bars.
You’re already doing a lot of these elements in your daily crossfit classes or a scaled variation of them. The difficulty is trying to establish the best possible positions during the speed of a WOD just isn’t realistic, yet we still try and this reinforces those shitty movement patterns.
My aim with the gymnastics classes, which run on a Tuesday and a Saturday is for you to relearn the correct movement patterns, build strength in the right positions and give you an insight into drills and exercises that you can practice in a non-fatigued environment.
If you take anything from the last 5 minutes of reading I really hope it’s that EVERYONE needs to be doing gymnastics. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to be handstand walking, doing muscle ups and 50m backflips for time, but we should all be moving our bodies through a range of motion on a regular basis. Who knows, maybe in time you’re the person walking on their hands at the wedding or maybe you’re just not struggling to get up out the chair when you’re 80. The point remains the same mastery of movement, spatial awareness, balance and strength are the cornerstones to athletic performance.