The Gymnastic Solution:
By Thomas “Dusty” Hyland / CF Dogtown and Instructor for CrossFit Gymnastics
Epilogue by: Coach Jeff Tucker
I started gymnastics for CrossFit class a year and a half ago at CrossFit Culver City, and now we host it Thursday nights at DogTown CrossFit in Culver City. I know also work with Coach Jeff Tucker in the gymnastic trainer course for CrossFit - What was and still is shockingly apparent is the lack of pre-requisite strength in most of everyone that comes to class. However the people that have stuck with the classes and learned form the gymnastic courses, is that they have progressed very well. I just didn't realize how glaringly horrific that lack of upper body strength is. I have "ELITE" level Crossfitters who come to class for the first time and struggle with 5 ring dips! Right now the Muscle Up is the benchmark in CrossFit land as to whether you are an elite athlete or not, more ore less (This is certainly debatable). Well, there are certain levels in life and in training, that if you skip come back to bite you in the ass. There is a reason why gymnasts are so good at body weight exercise workouts. The same reason that wrestlers are amazing and have a leg up in the metcon arena and in general mental toughness...years of training. Wait did you hear me? I said YEARS OF ELITE INTENSE TRAINING. Can you learn the movement of a muscle up? Can you understand the mechanics and make it repeatable? Absolutely. However, it is going to take a level of work and commitment that you may or may have not realized as of yet. No weekend seminar or certification is going to prepare you for the rigors that befall the shoulder girdle, the wrists and the rest of the body. Injuries and wear and tear may and will plague you. I'm not saying it is impossible, just really really hard.
There is a reason why there are not a lot of adult elite level gymnasts. They burn out, quit, and learn to hate it and or most likely get hurt. What’s awesome is, Cross Fitters more than ever seem up to the task! I just want people as we move forward to still respect skill progression while developing the strength for any move they wish to set as a goal. Slow down and think about what the next logical step is in their training and listen to their coaches and more importantly their bodies. Sounds simple right? Not so much all the time. I am hearing about injuries left and right popping up all of over the place due to folks seeing a movement and attempting to perform them but without having the goods when it comes to hitting such strength moves. We are not in the business of hurting people, CFHQ Gymnastic coach Jeff Tucker regularly states, “ learn the movement, but have the pre req strength for the movements attempted”.
As CrossFit explodes, let us as Trainers and Educators tow that technique line. Hey folks, lets just try and keep the stupidity in check. Remember just because it looks cool doesn't mean you should be up on the Rings doing it quite yet until you understand the movement and strength requirements. You don't just get up and do the movements; you work toward them and accomplish them with ever-persistent work in placement of limbs, core, strength, and spatial awareness.
I am excited at the possibility that CrossFit training has afforded the Gymnastics Community and ever thankful that I can be a part of a group that can help people rediscover fitness and stretch their limits within CrossFit. We have an opportunity to redefine health and fitness for a new generation and expose those to gymnastic forms. However, let's not forget the thousand steps it takes to learn a new skill--let alone taking it from a static plane to a dynamic one like the Rings. To quote one of the greatest coaches of all time "Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail." -John Wooden.
Epilogue: CrossFit Gymnastic Coach - Jeff Tucker
I appreciate and agree with every word Coach Dusty has written to in this article and shared with you. We often discuss the importance of having goal setting, and plans to achieve those goals. My biggest issue in the community we have – is someone sees a new shiny thing and is instantly gravitated towards it with reckless abandon. Let me make it simple for you all as in an example of a video placed out there recently where an athlete was used to show back tucs within comparison to hang power clean strength. It is a good fun video and has a great way of extrapolating the power clean move in comparison to a vertical jump and set used in a back tuc. But just because you have a big power clean, does not mean you can do a back tuc in 13 minutes - Yes it is an awesome and fun video to watch and yes we enjoy seeing fun flips in the air but what is the rush. Does coaching now need to be for time? But lets be real here – spatial awareness is a huge factor in back tucs, so too is body awareness, as forms in tumbling can go awry very quickly – and all the hang power clean strength in the world wont stop gravity if you decide to open your body too early, or you panic and land on your neck causing serious injury. This is my biggest fear – and it played out when a young Aussie trainer recently looked at this video on line and he attempted the movement, only to break two cervical vertebrae. He had no coaching, no training, and certainly no game plan – he just thought that because he could power clean more than the guy demoing the video – that life is all good. Not true and shame on him, he is healing nicely by the way.
My biggest hope for anyone – if they want to learn a skill is that that learn sometimes faster is not always better when trying to learn how to perform a movement. Strength will serve you well when attempting as will knowing how to use those strong CrossFit muscles as you teach them the muscle memory for the movements you set as goals. Most of what we perform and teach is disadvantaged leverage and at times it is extremely hard on connective tissues – take care to not overload them too soon. The biggest mistake I have seen in our community is after learning a move – is when we over train it. “Over training is under recovery” according to Mike Bergner – so try and use some common senses there as well.
Set some goals, get some training, and learn these body movements.