View Full Version : Review of Coach Sommer's " Building the Gymnastics Body "

Blair Lowe
11-18-2008, 08:57 PM
So, after many years in the making and being recently announced last year with the advent of the http://www.gymnasticbodies.com website, and the announcement of the book being finished by the publishers and sent off to the mailing house--- it's here!

After a long, and I do mean long day of work on Monday; I came home to notice there was a package for me on the table. Opening it turned out to be " Building the Gymnastics Body " and the 5 DVD's that go with it in tandem. After cleaning up, I immediately set out to perusing it and going over it while watching " Heroes " to finish about 10:30PM.

Just in case you want to take a look at the Table of Contents, it can be seen here:


Starting with the book goes over the story of how Coach Sommer came to his methods currently from his time as a competitive athlete and his retirement workout methods. Next up a chapter on the necessary tools to train and basic terminology with pictures of all.

For instance there was a progression with the L sit I was not familiar with which is an important go between especially towards working toward a Vsit. Another further explanation of proper voluming and sets which had only been postulated based on prior articles and some of Coach Sommer's posts on his board. A thorough guide on pushups and dips with about half of the variations being intermediary important ones I was unaware of in mastery both of these movements.

Another instance comes to my mind that I had done several of his movements before, when I was considerably stronger in better shape years back but with progressions toward each movement rather than just trying it which worked for me because I was strong enough at the time.

Some epiphanies came about when I trained similar movements, just playing with them which were further explained as to why they were beneficial movements other than my tinkering. While I remember my trial and error, I didn't really have any data of confirming what I thought as to my conclusions of the variations I came up with. Nice to see them again.

All in all, while I was familiar with some of the content, it did well to fill various gaps as well as into programming and why and what haltered my own progress ( besides proper recovery protocols ). Right after the beginning it also went into what the other 4 books are coming to finish the 5 volume set. One is on advanced ring training elements, joint preparation and active flexibility, mastering the handstand, and advanced dynamic strength work programming(?) and drills.

I'll be going over the DVD's probably tomorrow morning as I am feeling the sleep fairy coming on hard as I finish this write-up.

Philip Stablein
11-19-2008, 03:55 AM
Fantastic. I should get my copy within a few days then. Awesome awesome awesome. And thank you for the write up, appetite is whetted.

Jane Michel
11-19-2008, 07:37 PM
Thanks for the review Blair. How useful do you think the book would be for a beginner? I am able to do a couple of ring dips (with rings turned inwards) and pullups, can do wall handstands and L-sits/L-hangs, but haven't achieved a MU, planche or front lever. I am interested in the book but have a feeling it may be money spent on instructions to movements that I may never achieve!

Blair Lowe
11-19-2008, 11:34 PM
Since it focuses on beginning gymnastics, it would be very useful for the beginner. Think of it sorta like Starting Strength for gymnastics strength training. I cannot really think of any book on gymnastics out there that goes over the entirety so well. I know of some mini books by Karen Goeller but they are more to do with women's gymnastics and are not as all encompassing. There are quite a lot of videos I know on gymnastics skill training and some on strength training but none have any programming details nor have I bumped into any in any gymnastics clinics. A lot of gymnastics books I know of love explaining lots of science and have a lot more talking than training involved. Videos as well cannot be used as readily as a book and start really getting pricey in sets.

If you want to train a front lever and planche, they will definitely be helpful, as well as lots of other stuff. Jim's guides on both are pretty good too.

Gittit Shwartz
11-21-2008, 05:41 AM
Thanks for the review Blair. How useful do you think the book would be for a beginner? I am able to do a couple of ring dips (with rings turned inwards) and pullups, can do wall handstands and L-sits/L-hangs, but haven't achieved a MU, planche or front lever. I am interested in the book but have a feeling it may be money spent on instructions to movements that I may never achieve!

Alicia - at Ido's place almost everyone is able to do at least one muscle-up, tucked planche and 30-60 second free-standing handstands. Girls and boys alike.
Ido used a lot of Coach Sommer's material (along with his own) to bring his students up to this level within 2-3 years of training, starting from level zero (i.e. some were not able to do a single pull-up). Keep in mind this was just supplementary training to our sport too, not the main focus.

I'd say these skills are definitely achievable for you :)

Blair Lowe
11-21-2008, 11:00 AM
So have you met, Ido before, Gittit? I might be interested in meeting him one day or like Gregor over on the board there. I might snicker about his hair but I wouldn't have to hold back from contempt like Poliquin.

Gittit Shwartz
11-21-2008, 02:48 PM
So have you met, Ido before, Gittit? I might be interested in meeting him one day or like Gregor over on the board there. I might snicker about his hair but I wouldn't have to hold back from contempt like Poliquin.

Yeah, I'm one of the veterans at his studio - I've been his student since 2001*.

If you can arrange to meet him, it's an experience. He's intense, both creative and analytical, and always willing to share and discuss his knowledge.

Not sure I understand the connection between Gregor, Poliquin, and Ido's hair...:)

* Not always a good student or a consistent one, so any inadequacy on my part should not be attributed to Ido!

Jane Michel
11-21-2008, 10:49 PM
Thanks for the replies Blair and Gittit. I'll start saving up for the book! Need to save up to move to Israel too to train with Gittit and Ido :p

Blair Lowe
11-22-2008, 07:53 AM
Well, I finished the DVD's last night. Pretty neat.

I really wished there was a function to play them all together in a row per each DVD. Manually selecting each is a bit more time consuming. It looks real pretty and I think it was authored on a Mac. I have half a mind to try to create some for myself with the functionality to loop them together, but I probably won't. They would be really good again for teaching the movements to a group. I wouldn't want to bother with the book for groups. It's fine for person to person. They also bridge the book to real life motion if you are unfamiliar with a lot of the content. This is why the book mainly fills the gaps in my knowledge base like it will with some of the other gymnastics coaches I know of or in the CF community ( or StevenLow and a few other of the ex gymnasts [ let it be known at my peak I was just a basic gymnast and it was through training, lectures, and materials I learned a lot more ]).

At one point, I thought, where are rope climbs? That is part of basic gymnastics strength training. Hopefully it's in the book on Dynamic Strength. While many home enthusiasts probably do not have a rope set up at home, it's commonplace at any gymnastics gym and getting there at many CF affiliates.

While it's still aimed at basic gymnastics strength, don't kid yourself. There are some leadups to insane strength like elevators on rings and this one that is just bizarre. You will grin at what Coach Sommer calls "curls." These curls aren't just for the girls.

There are a lot of progressions for things like Chest roll to HS and floor glute ham, I never thought of. However, I'm not the most creative person when it comes to conditioning. When I got into gymnastics, I literally learned from the compulsory book and that's what I did. That was it besides a 30 year old book of pictures about gymnastics. There was another for body flags which I ended up finding myself doing.

There were a lot of dip variations that were neat. Some are kind of insane. Beyond just a ring dip.

Crossfitters will probably be dismayed at Sommer's idea of a kipping MU. This is especially show on video. While my ring kip is pretty lame ( False grip, arch to hollow, pull and push to get up ) it's nothing like a typical CrossFit kipping MU.

There is an interesting tip toward the orientation of the shoulders in pullup and hanging leg lifts. I find it interesting for the latter because it was something I played around with Roger Harrell once. We just shrugged and figured do them regular and the other new way.

Umm, that caps it. I wish there was a way to just play them and loop them because it would be fun to just keep on a dvd player and tv in the gym.

Grissim Connery
11-24-2008, 01:31 PM
i just spent a bunch of money on stuff and wasn't planning on dropping much for a while, but i'm gonna cave in on this one

Blair Lowe
11-24-2008, 02:34 PM
Gittit, Ido Portal is one of the mods and contributors over at gymnasticbodies.com . Apparently he knows and talks with Coach Sommer quite a bit. Gregor is another mod over there.

Ido also seems to have gone through quite a bit of the Charles Poliquin seminars and materials. CP also comes off like an ass, at least to me. Thus, while I'm interested in his material, I can't say I could stand his company for too long.

I am merely snickering at Ido's crazy hair. Reminds me of a lot of capoeistra. I'm just being childish instead of my usual childlike.

Gittit Shwartz
11-24-2008, 09:19 PM
Blair - yes Ido is very much influenced by Poliquin, but I think his work is far more applicable to most folks' goals on here. The "Hybrid Program" by Gant Grimes is pretty much how we've been working for years. The programming is Poliquin, tools are Olympic lifting, gymnastics strength training, a little bit of crossfit and Ido's own masochistic inventions.

Steven Low
11-24-2008, 09:40 PM
Got my copy today.

Definitely a bunch of things to fill in the gaps between progressions for me. Would say "SS for gymnastics" is a fairly accurate representation.

For those interested in learning a lot of the progressions the basic strength moves and stuff I would recommend.

P.S. I will say that the programming section is probably a bit more lacking than most people would have liked. Mostly on different variations you can do in a routine... but no solid templates or anything like those that his gymnasts would follow that encompass everything into one. Of coruse, since everyone is different that would've been futile anyway.

That's why my own "How to construct your own workout routine" is so vague at points, heh.. cause it depends on each person individually and where they're at.



Gymnastics and the strength training behind it is ALL about consistency. Since you don't get the satisfaction of adding weight to a bar to know you're progressing it can be frustrating and you probably want to quit more than with weights. If you're consistent, you can learn and do almost anything given enough time.

Yeah, people want to get to my level of strength (and I'm not even that high on the continuum anyway so it's not that impressive in a huge perspective). But I've been at it for a little over 3 years. All about consistency and working at it bit by bit. I hope to keep working and get the more advanced moves in time! Stay consistent with what you want to learn and do. Seek out good advice from people. Then you'll be able to do what you want to do.