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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.


Hello DogTowner's,

You may have noticed a slight change in the programming for All Levels classes the last few weeks at DogTown CrossFit.

Not a big change at all. Still a warm up, still lifting, still conditioning workouts.

The change has come in the structure, or class layout on a daily/weekly basis.

There is a warm up programmed for all the classes to start with. It is written on the white board. Work through the warm ups at your own pace, but be efficient so you have time for the fun stuff! As always, please ask your coach if you have any questions regarding the movements in the warm up.

We have decided to re-visit to an old section of classes called "Skills". This section is programmed to allow DogTowner's the time to practice and make advancements in predominantly body weight movements. This section is not for time, but for quality. So please don't race through them. If you have a good grasp on the skills for that given day, ask your coach how to scale the movement to make it more challenging. Conversely, if you are still learning that day's skill, ask your coach for a version of the movement that is more reflective of your current skill level. The "Skills" section is your chance to advance as a CrossFitter. To learn new skills, and to master the basics.

There is still a lifting section. This will never change. So please take that big sigh of relief. The lifting section will focus on the deadlift, back squat, and shoulder press. These are the barbell lifts that make up the "CrossFit Total" and the lifts you will be performing this year at Festivus (the annual DogTown holiday party in mid December.

There is still a workout section. The days the programming includes both a skill section and lift section you will notice a shorter, more intense conditioning workout. The days where the programming allows for a longer workout, that's what you will get.

Hopefully this answers any questions or concerns you may have had regarding the new programming layout.

Feel free to talk to or email Coach Mike or Coach Josh with any further questions.

See you at DogTown and most importantly have fun!
Coach Josh & Coach Mike

For most people, diet and lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight.  If you have spent decades engraining certain habits and rituals, those things don’t simply flip off like a desk lamp.  Despite your strongest intent, the actions sometimes just don’t kick in.  Day after day, month after month, the changes you want to make are staring at you in the mirror, on the scale, in the gym, and even on your dinner plate.


If this sounds familiar, it was for people like you that the paleo challenges, popular among crossfit boxes, were created.  Sort of like the good version of rehab, the challenges are a way to hold you accountable to healthy eating and living for 4-8 weeks.  But unlike a stay at Passages, you get to use your own toothbrush and have full visitation rights. 


This information is probably old news to most of you, so why am I writing this article?  Inevitably, after every challenge I’ve run, there are always a few people that return to their old pre-paleo habits.  Despite SEEING and FEELING drastic changes in their physical, mental, and social well-being, they just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) stick with it.  Why is that?


Usually it’s because they are treating the challenge like a literal competitive challenge.  Something temporary.  They accomplished the goal - or even better, they won a podium spot - and now the challenge is over.  Time to kick the heels up until next year’s paleo challenge.  After all, who cares if they put on some weight or feel a little worse, since they can fix it next time?  Well, it doesn’t take a behavioral psychology Ph.D to see the drastic flaws in this approach.


With the Whole Life Challenge now underway, I wanted to nip this thing in the bud.  As a nutrition and metabolism coach, it’s my job and my passion to get you folks healthy.  Forever.  And this means clearing up a few things about the WLC and paleo challenges.


Yes, these events are based on points.  Yes, you can win.  Yes, I encourage you try to win.  But if you had to choose between winning a 55-day challenge and adding 10 years to your life, which do you pick?  (Hint:  Those extra 10 years are pain-free and disease-free.)


The goal of these events is to CREATE NEW HABITS.  Lifelong sustainable habits.  These 4-8 weeks pull back the curtain on how easily attainable this lifestyle is.  And if you’re not ready to take the plunge and go cold turkey, we’re here to be your support group.  Myself, the other coaches, the other members, and hopefully your own friends and family.  You have a chance to undue decades of damage in just a matter of months.  However…


- If you view this as a competition for points, and not a way to change your life, you will not receive all its benefits.  


- If you think you’re going to create new habits by initially following the “80/20” rule, they will not stick.


- If you don’t give your body a legitimate chance to heal and run efficiently, you will never fully know what “healthy” feels like.


In order to break the rules, you have to learn them.  I am completely supportive of splurging and having cheat meals.  However, the Challenge is not the time for them.  If you’ve been eating a standard American diet, or even what Whole Foods tells you is healthy, chances are your gut, metabolism, and hormones are all out of whack.  You’ve been living with a constant exposure to toxicity that you don’t even recognize anymore.  Use this time to go clean slate and find a new baseline of health.  THEN allow yourself the freedom of splurging.


Almost every client I run a 4-week diet reset with, reports back after his/her first cheat meal: “I felt awful, hungover, and tired.  I was completely out of commission the next day.”  Welcome to exposing a clean system to bad food.  Now you can make an educated decision whether or not splurge.  But you have to get yourself to that point first.


Signing up for the WLC or a paleo challenge is a great first step.  I commend anyone who has done it, for at least taking action.  Now, let me help you do it right.  I have been doing this a while and have guided hundreds of clients through them.  I guarantee I have heard all the excuses and complaints before.  Lay ‘em on me, and I can help.


If you have signed up (or will) for the WLC, there’s no need to register for anything other than Performance Level.  Even that advanced level allows for foods that, in my opinion, should be eliminated during an initial reset.  Scaled levels allow for way too many variables that could be hindering your progress.  In order to maximize results, and sometimes to see any results at all, you have to go in 100%.  Like, stand up from the table and pace around until the cards are revealed - all in.  It takes that kind of dedication. 


“Only those that truly desire something, with all of their being, will seek ways to attain it.”


As always, reach out to us if you need to.  We’re here to help you live longer and healthier lives.


Key Takeaways:

If you have never given much thought to your diet, or are unsure if you’re doing things right, a paleo challenge is extremely useful and can be life-changing.

Use the Whole Life Challenge (or any paleo challenge) as a way to create new habits, not as a temporary competition.

Utilize your support system to stick with it and get you through sticking points.



Coach Elliott