health and fitness blog

Easter weekend didn’t involve enough chocolate for me (I will catch up now I’m home don’t worry!)

Instead I spent the weekend in South Wales at CrossFit ION on a course to become a qualified CrossFit Gymnastics Coach.

The knowledge bombs were dropping like the Blitz and the gym was full of athletes and coaches who started the weekend feeling strong and competent in their movements and left broken but inspired to take their new skills back to their boxes.

So what did I learn? Well, way too much to fit into one blog post..

So I’ll focus on the two most important.

Firstly –

Doing away with ‘Rx’d’ when it comes to training gymnastics movements. If we focus on hitting the official Rx’d standards in our general workouts we compromise proper movement. Yes we may get our toes to touch the bar for toes to bar, or our chin over the bar for a pull-up, and we may well be able to get through a load in a workout, but will this help us improve in the long run? Hell no! Are we moving efficiently and with the correct movement patterns? Most likely not! As coaches, we need to celebrate our athletes achievements of their first toes-to-bar/pull-up/muscle-up just like we would a back squat PR, but not let that follow by ‘Rx’d’ movements with shitty form. If an athlete hit a back squat PR but only just making depth, we would still encourage deeper squats in training.

A number of cues and movement progressions went into a black box to throw out of our coaches bag of tricks and never spoken of again. These included things taught on the level 1 CrossFit course and on the gymnastics course from a few years ago. Why? Because our knowledge is constantly evolving. Not just the coaches in your local box, but the big dogs too! Jeff Tucker, head of CrossFit Gymnastics, adapts the course to grow with his knowledge. Level 1 courses are great but they only have a short amount of time to teach a lot of movements. The more time we have to drill into movements the more specific we can be with how and what we teach.

Let use toes to bar for example. Everyone knows the end goal is to touch both feet to the bar at the same time. This is easier to achieve by aggressively kipping, pulling back on the bar and driving our legs up to get that contact, followed by an aggressive drive back with the legs to cycle into a big arch for the next rep.

However, this switches a core exercise to a back exercise shifting the focus onto your lats and shoulders. If we lose our ego and are honest with ourselves about our abilities we perform scaled down versions of the same movement. The focus is now on a hollow core, a solid arch and only working to a level where those perfect positions are maintained throughout.

I quickly found I cannot perform ‘Rx’d’ toes to bar. I will no longer be performing official ‘Rx’d’ toes to bar until I can do using the correct movement patterns. This may take a little while, but I have drawn myself up a new core programme, I have all the skills and drills to help me develop and the determination to keep working on these progressions until I can. Virtuosity is key.

Another part of the weekend that blew my mind was the bar muscle ups. A movement I’ve avoided for a long time due to fear of falling forward over the bar. A fear I now know was completely legitimate. If you aggressively pull your hips to the bar, then throw yourself forward over the bar the only way you are going to go is forward. It’s simple physics. The same goes for ring muscle ups. Throwing yourself threw the rings is likely to end in falling forward through the rings. If you remain hollow in your kip, push down on the bar to bring your hips up, a slight pull in once shoulders have passed the hands to then push down on the bar the only way you are going to go is up! Makes sense right?

If you see me cheating on my movements you have full permission to kick me!

Secondly –

The importance of a solid hollow position. A hollow body gives us the ability to transfer the energy required of a movement correctly from core to extremity. If we’re soft through our midline our movements will be soft and lacking.

You may be able to perform handstand push-ups or multiple kipping pull-ups without a solid midline relying on shoulder strength, but how soon will that strength burn out? How long until you’re out of training for 6+ weeks with a torn rotator cuff or shoulder impingement?

If we lose our midline on a heavy squat we will crumble under the bar. Maintain tension through the core keeps the body strong, keeps the bar rising and makes the lift easier. The same goes for gymnastics.

Keep the arc of your kip tight; toes pointed, legs long, feet squeezed together, butt squeezed, tension on the bar. Use that elastic energy to rebound back into the hollow for the next rep.

When the muscles works in unison every movement is more efficient and every rep takes a little less energy.

Don’t be too proud to go back to basics. It will pay dividends in the long run!

Contact me now if you would like to book 1-2-1 sessions with a qualified CrossFit Gymnastics Coach!


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