View Full Version : Asking for help in gymnastics training program design

Garrett Smith
12-12-2008, 11:25 AM
Hi all,
I'm trying to put together my new gymnastics training regimen. I'm not necessarily looking for sets/rep prescriptions, just some generalities in the approach, since gymnastics training can be so different than other types of strength training. I don't want to make this first post too long, so if you have questions, please ask.

I have two days a week devoted to gymnastics training. One day is at a real gymnastics facility, one day is at my home garage gym.

Current main goals I'm working towards, along with where I'm at in the progression:

Front lever (I'm at an extended tuck easy, almost to a straddle)
Back lever (I'm at a straddle, I can barely maintain the proper for a second)
Mushroom circles (I'm decent at floor bucket circles)
Straddle press to handstand (I can do it with my head pressing against a wall)
Planche (I can almost get an extended tuck planche)

So, those are the goals I'd like to reach. I have all the equipment in my garage gym to work on all of the above goals, of course the gymnastics facility has all that and more.

I'd like to have the actual workout portion be an hour, with 15 separate minutes for warm-up.

Programming ideas? Exercise order? Eccentrics, if so, at the start or the end? I ask because everything I'm working towards is so upper-body dependent. One thing may (will?) sabotage another within the workout, obviously starting with the least "sabotaging" stuff will let me do more things better later in the workout. As I came to gymnastic training in my 30's, I have no idea what the order would be...

I have a weight belt for weighted chins and dips (no p-bars at home, only rings).

Do I need to decide on priorities in the above list to facilitate the fastest achievement of each one? I'm finally asking this because, while piddling around has gotten me decently far, I'd like to approach at least my garage gym workout with more structure.

If there are threads where much of this has been answered, please point me in that direction. I feel that progressions for each one of the above items has been elucidated previously, however, the "magic in the mixing" is something I haven't come across much.


Steven Low
12-12-2008, 12:25 PM
I'll be back in about 4-5 hrs. If no one else answers your Q's I'll get on them then.

jake oleander
12-12-2008, 03:10 PM
what does your training look like now and is there any reason in particular you want to go about over-hauling it?
seems like you have a very good general idea of what youre doing. but i think to properly give you good advice we need to know what your current training consists of... are you just doing statics??
i would guess that your training so far has been giving you progress, because most 30 year olds are not capable of the progressions youve attained!
i think the most effective gymnastics strength programs include both traditional workouts with sets and reps (i.e 5x5 cross press) AND the use of strength routines.
another key is knowing which stage of a move/what exercise is best for you at the moment. you should make it a priority to achieve the more basic moves first. if i were you i would make it an absolute priority to get the full back lever ASAP (im assuming you can muscle-up) from there you have the foundation of the most basic rings strength routine- the 360 pull...

Garrett Smith
12-12-2008, 03:48 PM
I feel like I don't have enough structure in my workouts. My current gymnastics-oriented workouts have been one day a week in the gym, doing whatever I feel like (no direction whatsoever), some handstands at work, and anywhere from 1-3 days of various types of yoga.

I'll type in my ring routine later, I usually do that at least once per gym workout.

I can muscle-up, bar and rings. Rings with very little "kipping" movement at all.

I don't wish to be impatient at all. I simply am looking for a more concrete direction to pursue in my current goals. This seems like a harder concept to grasp for gymnastics than with other strength pursuits, likely due to the huge balance/coordination requirements along with massive strength in "new" types of resistance.

I also have heard that very little if any programming info is in Coach Sommer's book, or I would have bought that already.

About the back lever, since I'm so close to getting it, that did make sense to me to "finish" getting it as one of the first things I do. So, I assume that means putting them towards the front of the workout. Is there something else (like handstand practice) that I should still be doing before that, due to a higher balance component? These are the kinds of things I'm wondering about.

Steven Low
12-12-2008, 08:37 PM
1. Work circles and straddle press handstands/negatives as your skill work or stuff them into your warmup.

I don't know what other kind of warm up or skill training you do... but you need to put in the time with these. They're more geared towards skill much like handstand work so you really gotta focus in on them and aim for high quality reps with sufficient time to recover. That will be up to you to figure out how much work you want to put in with them.

2. Back and front lever are similar. I'm not sure how much you're strength training at the moment but you can work both in one workout. Same with something like planche and HSPUs/dips or something.

I'd recommend 2 statics and then 2 dynamic exercises at least at first. One from each pushing and pulling categoties. Possibly more volume later depending on if you need it.

For example:
50-60s total of static back lever + static planche work
3x5 of HSPUs + front lever progression pullups

If you need more volume after that you can add it. Modify the sets and reps as necessary to your ability level according to aim at the best progression you can do. For instance, if you can do tuck lever pullups but only 3 reps then do that for 5 sets or so instead. If you're working with HSPUs and can do 8 then perhaps do something more dynamic such as L-sit press to shoulderstand press to handstand and reverse for 3x5.

Of course, this is my personal approach. Here's people trying to mess around with the programming from the book:

Blair Lowe
12-12-2008, 11:30 PM
I take it you'll be training the circles 1x a week at the gym and bucket circles at home ( unless you make yourself a mushroom ).

I did my usual posting way too many drills and progressions for circles last week on gymnasticsbodies forum somewhere. Oh, hell, I'll post it here.


About midway down the page. I need to recreate my circle progression guide which is based off Vince Miller and Dave Juszczyk'shttp://gymsmarts.com/gs_prsearch.cgi?action=DispPR&pid=28 clinic from congress a few years back besides whatever I have picked up. While those names aren't super big in the MAG world, at least you know it isn't something I made up myself.

Look up Sommer's wrist prevention exercises on the board there if you really want to get into circles. Your adult wrists will take a beating getting on apparatus, especially circle work otherwise.

Do your warmup and make sure you work L sit and straddled L sit in your WU. Doing the hip flexor heel lifts and hip flexor heel lift for time are good progressions, especially if you want to make the press HS much easier. Working a nice solid HS will make presses leaps easier with a mixed progression of wall HS and enough kick to HS attempts ( at least 10, maybe 15 after WU ).

I'd work the lever stuff after the skill work like press HS and circles or maybe back to with the planche progressions.

Sommer's book gives a clear detailed look at progressions. For the programming it gives a guide but you have to input what you want to work on and use the model. It does not have plan A for planche/lever and plan B for this and that. Way too movements and too many differing goals in what people want.

I would of course write up a pyramid or progression list. Do this or else you will get many wtf comments and my look of disdain followed by disinterest in helping one train. I wouldn't leave it so open-ended but this is also part of my men's gymnastics curricula from day 1 to intermediate team. Then again that's my program for gymnasts and I run it how I see fit and there really isn't any but, and's, or if's about it. If they are in my program, this is what we/I do. Rather I and any of my subordinate coaches would do.

Sommer didn't decide to do this and I think there would be so many different goals it would have doubled the size of the book if you had to write a, do this program for planche, this one for OAPU, this one for OAH, etc.

Garrett Smith
12-13-2008, 10:30 AM
Thanks for the help guys!

I will write up a plan and post it here soon.

Garrett Smith
12-16-2008, 12:07 PM
Just posting some initial thoughts:

I've found I don't get good productivity at all without a good solid warmup.

Warmup stuff:
Wrist prehab from the youtube videos (1 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2w1PeSR8G4) 2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzHxFUyoGio), plus some other Z-Health wrist stuff, I like my wrists)
Foot drills and some gastroc/soleus stretching
Dips and pullups, done in an easy # of reps
Planks, front/back/sides, maybe 30sec. each one
Hip flexor heel lifts for reps, both straight and straddle
Walking mushroom circles at the gym, bucket circles at home
10 free kick to HS attempts

(***Blair, I do have a mushroom at home as well)

I liked Steven's workout suggestion set-up as a starting point:
50-60s total of static back lever + static planche work
3x5 of parallette HSPUs + front lever progression pullups

Blair, I will type up some progressions and add them to this thread later. For now, I want to try this basic setup tomorrow. I think it's pretty much going to kick my tail.

Steven Low
12-16-2008, 01:15 PM
Sounds good.

Remember, modify the amount of reps based on the intensity OR increase the intensity to get a certain number of reps. Gotta keep yourself working hard to progress but stay away from the failure at all possible if you can (if you're working out 4-5 days that is).

For strength stick in that 1-5 rep zone. Well, mostly 3-5. It's hard to truly max with bodyweight exercises besides with statics.

Garrett Smith
12-16-2008, 02:01 PM
My general schedule is going to be:
Monday - OL
Tuesday - Yoga
Wednesday - Gymnastics
Repeat for Thurs., Fri., Sat.

Active rest through hill walking one or both days of the weekend. So only two days of "devoted" gymnastics training a week.

We do a good bit of handstands at the yoga class on Friday, lots of other general shoulder work.

Chris H Laing
12-16-2008, 04:25 PM
No conditioning?

And Steven is probably gunna tell you you need more gymnastics work :p

Garrett Smith
12-16-2008, 05:23 PM
No specific "conditioning", other than some HeavyHands and some hill running from time to time. I don't care that much for it, I've also had to repair too many "metcon maniacs" adrenals from too much of it.

Come to think of it, my "Jedi Training" yoga-ish class has a decent amount of conditioning.

Either way, I'm happy with my plan. I'm not trying to beat the world in anything real soon...

Steven Low
12-16-2008, 05:46 PM
I would do more gymnastics work... everyday... especially with skill work like circles, handstands and such. But yeah, that's up to you. :)

Blair Lowe
12-16-2008, 06:08 PM
not enough HS work, shame-shame-shame. more press HS of some variant and wall HS or HS walking.

I would say keep the mushroom circle walks for home and get on pommel horse and work basic swing. Yes, it doesn't seem to be exactly double leg work but I think learning to coordinate single leg swing will help you learn the rhythm of double leg swing ( then again, one of the little guys can do circles but has pretty crappy single leg swings ). Also, it's bloody hard.

You're going to a gymnastics gym and not practising any PB swing. shame-shame-shame. If you're not interested in PB, I don't blame you, but PB swing to HS is a fundamental that helps with a lot of things besides basic strength like PB walks.

I think Steven and I would be dismayed unless you're working tap swings on rings. However, if you're wary of your shoulders, that is a bonafide concern.

Video 2 of wrists is ok, video 1 done correctly is far more useful. In fact this is the Men's Future Stars warmup series ( basically the men's versions of TOPS which is an adjunct to training towards being an elite ). While most of the boys performed the series poorly, it has been talked about at Coach Sommer's and refilmed and posted.

As for gymnastics I'm a big fan of a body lever hold and superman hold off pommel horse or vault for teaching proper shapes. I like putting them in the warmup besides the bottom of the pistol and assisted pistols or pistols. One of the first warmup drills is holding the bottom of the pistol with or without assistance for 15-30s. Same with L's and straddle L's.

Please do a cartwheel sometime. I try to follow a cartwheel a day keeps the frowns away.

Garrett Smith
12-17-2008, 06:29 AM
Thanks for the further input guys. I was pretty sure all I had to do was post up what I was thinking of doing in order to get more focused input...

I did not mention that I do try to get in some HS work every day at the office. Both face-to-wall (usually to get my form down and warm-up) and freestanding.

Blair, I asked the main coach at my gym about learning ring swings and he told me they were hard on the shoulders. That made me lose all interest right there, I like my shoulders. Knock on wood, I've never had any issues with them.

I did want to include some pommel at the gym. Will do. I'll work in some PB, maybe the end of the warm-up with some PB walking (instead of dips) and some PB swings.

I'll add some of those things to the warmup (pistols and shape holds).

I'll plan on adding in some basic tumbling and tramp in between the upper-body-heavy stuff.

I had been doing many of the things you mentioned, Blair, in the workouts before. I had little to no direction then so progress seemed haphazard. I'm going to make notes from this thread tonight to take to the gym and start feeling out the new setup.

Thanks again, this is exactly what I was looking for.

Blair Lowe
12-17-2008, 11:15 PM
I could probably write up or possibly send you corresponding links on the web per apparatus if you want.

A good ring swing requires flexible shoulders. Most beginners swing through their upper torso ( diaphraghm/arm pit area or in their hips ). Until you start ring action, it doesn't engage the shoulders much unless your shoulders are very tight. If you can extend your arms vertical without arching your back or opening up your chest, you have good flexibility. If their is a shoulder angle, you might feel some tightness, especially in the rotator cuff areas. This isn't as affected as much in a tap swing on bars just because.

Roger Harrell used to have a dandy of a PB walk. Do 1 dip, walk the length, do 1 dip. Now either do as many of these as possible or do 2 dips on the second walk, 3 on the 3rd or you can also start the beginning with 3 or 5 dips, etc. Dip swings are good too.

Tramp work is pretty much all the " cardio " gymnasts need.

Garrett Smith
12-18-2008, 05:30 AM
The long "warm-up" and short "workout" last night went very well. Will post here later. Thanks again for the help, it felt so much more productive.

That wrist pre-hab helps so much in "waking up" the wrists for handbalancing.

And yes, cartwheels were done...

Garrett Smith
12-18-2008, 04:59 PM
Here's the workout:

Blair Lowe
12-18-2008, 08:38 PM
very cool. I used to have one workout plan that was sort of all the basics in the toolbox when I didn't have time for a workout to work on skills. Basically basics and conditioning. Generally, and hour+.

I use the wrist prehab for everything from gymnastics to crossfit workouts, and especially any BB or Oly lifting to typical martial art training.

Garrett Smith
12-19-2008, 04:48 AM
The wrist prehab is awesome. Both my friend Steve and I really noticed it in our handstands--much smaller balance checks both over/underbalance.

The "warm-up" was ~50 min. "Workout" was about 15-20.

Grissim Connery
12-20-2008, 02:12 AM
i've tried a bunch of different approaches to coach sommer's book so far.

of the static holds he shows (planch, both levers, L, Straddle L, manna, and handstand) i try doing in a sequence now with about 8 seconds per hold for whatever level of sommers' progression i'm at. i'll repeat this sequence a few times, so it's kinda like a round of statics but i take a break afterwards. each hold doesn't necessarily get a whole minute of attention (except for handstands), but i prefer to work these everyday if possible so i don't like to spend too much time.

for his exercises, i do a 3x3 superset of push/pull and then leg/core. for example i will do 3 reps of a HSPU variation, 3 of a pullup variation, 3 reps HSPU, etc. until the 3x3 is done. then i will do the alternated leg/core. i'm considering combining all 4 into a massive 3x3. once these become easier, i plan do make them into ladders.

then i generally do some kind of metcon w/ KB's

i'm just following the basic idea of pairing opposite pulls/presses. so HSPU/pullup variations, pushup/row variations, and dip/curl variations. thus the cycle repeats after 3 workouts.

there's so much variety that i'm not going to focus on the multi-plane pulling or pressing until my statics are more developed. the same goes for combined pull/press, but i'll keep using muscle-ups for metcons.

warmup is a bunch of BJJ stuff.

Grissim Connery
12-20-2008, 02:28 AM
i just read that post on the gymnasticsbodies forum. apparently coach sommer is gonna start posting WOD's. i think i'll just chill with those when the time comes.

whatever the outcome, i'm still gonna juggle that kettlebell...

Steven Low
12-20-2008, 10:06 AM
Whatever works for you.

I tend to prefer my routines be more focused than that, but hey if you're seeing the strength/fitness benefits then that's awesome.

Garrett Smith
12-21-2008, 07:09 AM
2nd workout, done in my garage gym: