Sunday, 14 August 2016

Gymnastic training – Overcoming hurdles

I mentioned in my review of Gymnastic bodies that there are some mobility hurdles which can be really difficult to pass; in this post I’ll expand a bit more about what those hurdles are and how to work on them.

I found that in training gymnastics there were some very big hurdles which stopped me in my tracks and forced me to address them; sometimes this can take more than a year. I met these hurdles while using the Gymnastic Bodies courses, but I suspect in any system you use you will hit a hurdle of some kind. The three hurdles I encountered (in order of decreasing difficult) were a lack of mobility, a lack of strength and a lack of movement control.

I think a big part of this is that when doing standard weight training one can just put a little more weight on the bar each week. When you hit a plateau, de-load and work your way up again, or move to a different alternative movement for a while. You can get really strong just chipping away like this with fairly simple methods before you need to get a bit fancier than 3x10 and 5x5.

Gymnastics is quite different, a more difficult movement may require vastly more mobility, a new motor pattern, or you may uncover a weakness you never thought of. I suspect if you have your own coach you could overcome these hurdles a lot faster with individualised training and someone cracking the whip, but when you are on your own if can present quite a challenge.

The fact that these hurdles exist and can hold you up for up to a year or more can seem like a reason to steer clear of gymnastics style training but it should be the opposite. You should search out these hurdles; they expose you at your weakest and if treaded correctly will make you a great deal stronger.

Lack of mobility

Got to get the work in
In both Foundations and Handstand there are sections that I just cannot continue until I gain the required mobility. The strength components are easy, the mobility not so much. As I said in my first post I didn’t utilise the forum and the coaches there, but really these mobility sections just require some really solid work. You have to be consistent and push hard on your mobility but it’s still going to take a long time before you can get moving again.

I have also found there are some stretches I just couldn’t do to begin with. Some had regressions I could use and some didn’t. This left me floundering a little bit until I gained mobility though other stretches, until I was able to get into position to use the stretches I was having trouble with. This can be really frustrating but you have to stay the course, keep working hard and consistently to make progress. I also find that when you can finally do the stretch you previously couldn’t it opens up a huge area for rapid progression which is exciting and vindicates all your effort.

Lack of strength

This one is mostly a lack of strength endurance, which with simple exercises can be really frustrating. I talked about getting past this hurdle in my last post. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to over a year. It’s boring and frustrating but worth doing.

Lack of movement control

Not perfect but not bad
This rears its head when you encounter a movement you have never done before which may require a movement pattern you’re not familiar with. In strength training I have found the movement pattern may not even be complex, just totally novel and it’s enough to stop me in my tracks. For example when I was training Convict Conditioning 2 reached the first levels of the human flag, but I just couldn’t get it. I was strong enough, but I had never held that position isometricly and just couldn’t fire the muscles right. To finally ‘get’ the movement I did negatives. I would jump up above the position, and do my best to control the lowering. This took a month or more, but I was finally able to hold the position. In these circumstances I have found negatives and/or isometrics work well for building some familiarity with the movement pattern in questions, and for me it takes just over a month to finally get the movement before I can start to groove the pattern in.

So those are the areas which I have found to be difficult to overcome in my gymnastics training. They are frustration at the time, but hard work pays off and it makes improving all the sweeter. I’d be interested to know when hurdles you have encountered in your training and what you did or are currently doing to get past them.


  1. Hello

    This was an interesting read now, I have played around with the GB program before but hadn't made much progress dues to time issues. You mentioned that when you overcame one hurdle (Strength or Mobility) you made quick progress. How much of a jump did you notice? Also how are your joints feeling after the two years?

    Great blog by the way!

    1. Hi, one example of a big jump was that in mid September (2015) I finally passed HBP PE2, and by late December (2015) I had passed HBP PE7. So nearly two years stuck on one PE then I passed 5 in 3 and a bit months. I then got slowed down PE8 which is a tricky movement to get the hang of. So big jumps are totally possible.

      Joints are really good. The wrist prep from the handstand course has really been a huge help. Before I started if I got wrist locked at BJJ my wrist would be swollen and sore for over a week. Now it doesn't cause me an issue (still have to tap). I never really get sore joints other than my knees but I know the cause of that pain and I'm working to fix it (weak external rotators)

      Thanks for the great comment.

  2. Hi,I enjoyed the reading!
    I have been wanting to start with GB but found conflicting opinions, mostly around progression, I have been doing bodyweight training for strength lower reps, is there a better program nowadays? if not, what else beside f1 would you say is essential?

    1. Hi Sorry I missed this comment. I think the foundations program is very good and well worth the money, in fact I'll be buying F3 soon.

      The program starts by building a more endurance base and strengthening of the joints with higher rep work before moving to low reps for more strength work. It also take into account different muscle groups doing better under different rep schemes ie higher reps for abs.