PDA

View Full Version : The Myth of Nonfunctional Hypertrophy by Kelly Baggett


Steve Shafley
04-20-2010, 05:28 AM
Kelly is very consistent with the quality of his articles.

http://www.higher-faster-sports.com/nonfunctionalmyth.html

The Myth of Non-Functional Hypertrophy

If you read my articles you know that explosiveness is largely dependent upon strength, and strength is fairly influenced by muscular growth, or hypertrophy. In this article I'd like to address another topic along these lines and this the topic of functional vs non-functional hypertrophy. Non-functional hypertrophy refers to gains in muscle size that aren't associated with an improved capacity to produce force. "Functional" hypertrophy refers to gains in muscular size that improve maximal force production, and thus carry over into the real world. Simple enough.

Manufactured Strength Vs Natural Strength

Before I get into it I'd like to point out that no supplemental training method is perfect and has a perfect transfer to sport. The practice of adding strength and size thru weight training in an attempt to apply the benefits of that strength and size to a sport is effective but it won't ever be perfect. You're basically manufacturing something that wasn't there to begin with - You're allowing your body to adapt to one stimulus and then applying those adaptations to another area. It really is cheating in a way. The only thing that isn't cheating would be actually playing the sport and letting your body adapt naturally. However, we know there are limits to that. But this is one reason why people that have "natural" strength, size, and power will generally have a "functional" strength advantage over those who have to manufacture it. Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, and Mike Tyson rarely if ever lifted a weight. Compare them to muscled up guys like Frank Bruno, Tony Mandarich, and Vernon Gholston. Manufacturing size and strength isn't perfect regardless of how you acquire it, but it beats the alternative and can allow you to compete at a level you wouldn't have.

Myofibrillar growth vs Sarcoplasmic growth

Now that i've got that out of the way, let's talk a little bit of muscle physiology. In a muscle cell you have the actual protein content in the cell, or the myofibrils, and you also have fluid surrounding the protein, the sarcoplasm. Strength is primarily influenced by the amount of protein contained in the cellular filaments, or the myofibrils.

There is a belief in the training world that certain types of training can influence the growth of one of these components over the other. The belief is that heavy low rep weight training favors growth of the myofibrils and builds muscles that are as strong and "functional" as they look, if not stronger. In contrast, higher volume/higher rep training (bodybuilding methods), are often believed to favor growth of the sarcoplasm. Since the sarcoplasm consists of non-contractual fluid it is supposedly possible to gain large amounts of size without any increase in strength. This is deemed to be responsible for the so called non functional strength or "bodybuilding fluff" lended to bodybuilding methods. Muscles that aren't as strong as they look or muscles that are slow and unathletic.

For this reason athletes are often encouraged to train heavy and use lower repetitions in their training. There is a belief that training with higher reps and shorter rest intervals and lighter weights builds only non-functional strength.

What Really Happens

However, when we examine this claim critically, science demonstrates the size of the sarcoplasm is limited by the size of the myofibrils. In other words, a cell can only hold so much sarcoplasm and that amount is limited by the size of the myofibril within it. Additionally, more than a handful of studies have tried to differentiate myofibrillar from sarcoplasmic hypertrophy with different prodocols and loading parameters. In every single one of them myofibrillar growth always comes out well ahead, typically by a 2-3 x margin.(1-5) Thus, it would seem it is impossible to increase sarcoplasmic growth in the absence of myofibrillar growth regardless of what strategies are employed.

This would tend to indicate that sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is mostly a myth. Well, technically it does, but in practical terms non-functional growth does exist, but in my humble opinion it doesn't occur in ways most people think. In the real world non-functional hypertrophy is simply extra glycogen storage. A muscle that has it's energy stores taxed (thru higher volume training) will adapt to store more glycogen, or carbohydrate energy, and this can add a significant amount of extra weight and size.

Fluff and Glycogen

A normal 170 lb male can store about 350-500 grams of total glycogen in his muscles. A 170 lb male whose muscles are trained at fairly high volume can store about double that, or ~1000 grams. Each gram of glycogen attracts 3 grams of water with it, so 500 grams of extra muscle glycogen above average will add an extra 2000 grams of total weight above normal, or about 4.5 lbs. This 4.5 pounds of extra glycogen and fluid will be stored in the muscles and will "appear" to be solid muscle weight, but it's really nothing more than energy and water. Four and a half pounds may not sound like a lot but take a look at a 4.5 lb steak next time you're in supermarket and you can see that's a considerable amount.

Let's say you take take 2 people with 15 inch arms who train with fairly low volume, so their energy stores are never really taxed. Let's say they do something like 5 sets of 3-5 reps for biceps and triceps twice per week. You keep one of them on low volume and put the other one on high volume, something like 8 sets of 10-12 reps twice per week. The guy on the higher volume protocol might see his arms immediately go up an extra 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch over the other guy, because the extra volume taxes the energy stores in his arms to a greater degree and the body adapts to that by increasing the amount of energy that can be stored in his arms. So their arms will be the same size from a myofibrillar perspective and likely be the same strengthwise but the 2nd guy will have more glycogen storage, which makes his muscles look bigger (and may makes him appear weak for his size compared to the other guy).

A person with a 20 inch solid arm who trains with low volume might be able to add a full inch by increasing his volume.

That's not to say that someone training with higher reps can't build plenty of functional strength and size in the process. As long as he trains with progressive resistance his myofibrils will increase in size just as well as the guy on lower reps, he's just more likely to have a nearly immediate extra gain from the increased glycogen storage in addition to that.

With higher volume training the average bro might be able to gain 5-10 lbs or so of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy across his entire body over what he would on lower volume protcols. Cell volumizers like creatine also attract water into the muscle and add to that. Add in steroids (which often increase creatine storage and water retention) and other cell volumizers and it's fairly easy to see how bodybuilders training at high volumes can add a significant amount of "fluff" weight.

So Why Are Some People Weak For Their Size?

Besides that there is one primary reason why "high-rep" guys might appear weak for their size:

A: They rarely practice lifting maximal weights so they're not as good at lifting maximal weights. Maximum strength is a skill that must be practiced, just like sporting movements are skills that must be practiced. You also see this in reverse. If you take a bodybuilder who regularly does sets of 15-20 reps and a powerlifter who regularlly does sets of 1-3 the bodybuilder will have a hard time matching the powerlifteron low reps sets but the powerlifter will likely have a hard time matching the bodybuilder on high rep sets.

It's also worth noting that weight training is only one way of taxing muscular energy stores and stimulating increased glycogen storage. Anyone engaged in more than a few hours of exercise per week, especially a sport incorporating some form of running, is likely already stimulating these adaptations.

Low Reps and Thickness

What about the claim that low rep power training builds dense, thick muscles? Take a look at the neck and trap development of some of the top powerlifters and strongmen. They have a bulldog like thickness to them that you don't see equaled by many other athletes. Many would have you believe this is solely on account of their style of training, but if you pay much attention to the sport you'll also find plenty of people who train the same way and don't have this look. My explanation for this is that naturally strong people tend to gravitate towards strength sports and naturally strong people are typically incredibly gifted for size as well. They have a ton of dormant muscle cells just waiting to explode, much like bulldogs, pit bulls, and boxers are thicker than other dogs. In general people that grow extremely well off of low rep/low volume training are very gifted for size and would have well above average thickness even without any training.

Rep Range and Fiber Type

Another thought is that repetition range influences the type of muscle fiber (fast twitch/slow twitch) that is built. There is some thought that high rep training (anything greater than 8-10 reps) builds slow twitch muscle fiber and should be avoided. However, slow twitch fibers really don't grow much no matter what you do, and the small amount they can/do grow is best stimulated by the same heavy sets that cause "normal" growth, standard sets of 6-12 reps. If that weren't the case then endurance athletes would all be huge. Regardless of how you gain it, any size you gain will be fast twitch related growth. However, there is something to be said that training can influence the quality of fast twitch fiber that you build.

All muscle fibers exist in a color continuuum with some fibers being pure white and other fibers having a shade of red. Think of eating chicken. The dark meat is tender and red while the breast meat is white and tough. Your muscles are the same way. Some are redder or whiter than others. The slowest twitching fibers are dark red while the fastest twitching fibers are pure white. In between those 2 extremes there will be various shades of white and red. What causes the different color is the amount of capillaries running thru the muscle. The redder the muscle the more capillaries (and oxygen) run thru it. The whiter the fiber the less capillaries (and oxygen) run thru it. Fibers can't completely change types. You can't take a dark red (slow twitch) fiber and change it to a pure white (fast twitch) fiber and vice versa. However, you can change the shade of a given fiber type (slow twitch or fast twitch) to either a whiter or redder variant of the same fiber type.

IIA Vs IIX

There are different sub types of fast twitch fibers with some more enduring or more powerful than others. In humans the whiter type II fiber is known as the IIX subtype, the intermediate light red shade is known as IIA. Both of the type II subtypes have equal strength, but the white fibers are more explosive and have no endurance while the redder shades are a bit less explosive with more endurance.

Fiber type------------------------------------Fiber type

<-----IIX---------------------------------------------IIA----->

<-----Whiter----------------------------------------Redder---->

<---Greater explosiveness------------------Less explosiveness-->

<---Less Endurance---------------------------More Endurance-->

The IIX fibers can change into IIA and vice versa, but it's arguable how much this is dependent on rep range. For all practical purposes anything you do that causes muscle breakdown/growth will cause an intermediate shift towards more IIA fibers. Actually activity of any kind tends to promote the IIX to IIA shift, even sprint training. Unfortunately, (and this is one reason why I started off this article by saying that weight training isn't perfect as far as transference) if you train with enough volume to cause muscle growth you train with enough volume to cause the shift. Untrained people actually have more IIX fibers than anyone because they don't do anything, - their fibers have no need for any endurance.

Explosive athletes like sprinters and olympic weightlifters have more IIX fiber than others, but it's likely this is a genetic trait. They start out with more, thus end up with more, as science demonstrates fast twitch IIX fibers convert to IIA with any sorta practical stimulus.

So, if you want to avoid fast to slow fiber conversions you have to avoid muscle breakdown, which means you don't grow at all. Is there any way to create a IIA to IIX conversion? Well, detraining is one way to do it. If you want to influence IIA to IIX conversions you need to keep the volume low and avoid muscle trauma. Strategically timed tapers and incorporation of pure explosive training methods can cause temporary shifts back towards the IIX subtype, which is what athletic peaking and proper periodization is all about. For more info. on that read my Fast twitch Machine Articles.

The Real Value of Rep Range

The point is, functional hypertrophy isn't as dependent on rep range as a lot of people think. For all practical purposes what determines whether you're functional or not is what you do outside the weight room - your movement and skill work. Train with 10 + reps, practice your sport, and stay mobile and you'll likely be as functional as they come. Train with 1-5 reps and do nothing else and you can easily be as non-functional as a muscled up hippo.

Take 2 twin brothers that both play football. Both do skill and movement work year around. Over a span of 3 years one works up to 600 x 3 squat never doing anything more than triples. The other does 500 x 10 never doing less than 8 reps. It would likely be about impossible to tell them apart performance wise.

Another example is strongman training which has really risen in popularity in athletic training circles. Take a look at some of the characteristics of the exercises involved in strongman: Flipping a tire all the way across the parking lot, cleaning and pressing a keg then walking around with it, and farmers carries. A lot of strongman type stuff is a lot closer to the "high rep" side of things as far as time under tension goes. But how many people come out and say strongman training sucks as a strength stimulus for sports?

As long as you use progressive resistance you can build solid (and functional) size doing sets of 1 rep or you can build solid (and functional) size using sets of 20 reps. The lower body, particularly the quads, tend to respond particularly well to higher reps, and the upper rep range is a bit higher for lower body than upper body. Twenty rep squat routines are very effective for legs, but the upper limit for most upper body exercises will be around 15. In either case, providing the volume is equal, reps of 15-20, 10-12, and 3-5 have been shown to result in exactly the same stimulation of muscle protein synthesis. (7) The only real difference between them (besides one obviously using lighter weights) will be with the 15 reps (obviously the higher volume protocol) you tax muscular energy stores so in addition to increasing the protein content you also get more glycogen storage. In either case the primary stimulus (work under load) is the same, the muscles activated are the same, and regardless of rep range resistance training is a supplement, not the primary event.

Best Bang For Your Buck

For growth purposes the best "bang for your buck" rep range is arguably 6-8, or about an 80-85% max load, as it gives the ideal combination of recruitment and metabolic fatigue. You get full recruitment from the first rep and enough time under load to optimize th emetabolic processes contributing to hypertrophy. Higher reps have the benefit of less joint stress while lower reps have the advantage of greater nervous system activation, and also make it easier to keep volume down and avoid growth stimulation, if that is a goal.

I don't want this to sound like I have anything against lower rep training, but there are times when it is advisable for a person to use higher reps due to injuries, age, or equipment restrictions and the practice is certainly permissible. I've known people that only had a given amount of weights at their disposal or they had injuries and were forced to train with sets of 12 or more and were able to gain just fine. My general recommendation for people over the age of 35 is to keep the reps up to 10 or more for upper body so their joints don't take such a pounding.

Don't Forget About Nutrition

Also building size is just as much about how you eat as it is how you train. You can have the perfect hypertrpohy program but it won't do anything in the absence of good nutrition. Do sets of 10-15 while eating to keep your BW constant and all you'll do is get strong, just ask many of the former HIT (high intensity training) Nazis. Do singles often enough while eating like a hoss and you'll get plenty big.

-Kelly




References:

(1) Selective activation of AMPK-PGC-1alpha or PKB-TSC2-mTOR signaling can explain specific adaptive responses to endurance or resistance training-like electrical muscle stimulation. FASEB J. 2005 May;19(7):786-8. Epub 2005 Feb 16.

(2) Stimulation of human quadriceps protein synthesis after strenuous exercise: no effects of varying intensity between 60 and 90% of one repetition maximum (1RM). J Physiol 547.P, P16.

(3) No effect of creatine supplementation on human myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic protein synthesis after resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Nov;285(5):E1089-94.

(4)Coordinated collagen and muscle protein synthesis in human patella tendon and quadriceps muscle after exercise.J Physiol. 2005 Sep 15;567(Pt 3):1021-33.

(5)Protein synthesis rates in human muscles: neither anatomical location nor fibre-type composition are major determinants. J Physiol. 2005 Feb 15;563(Pt 1):203-11. Epub 2004 Dec 20.

(6) Skeletal muscle hypertrophy and structure and function of skeletal muscle fibres in male body builders.

(7) Muscular adaptations in response to three different resistance-training regimens: specificity of repetition maximum training zones.Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Nov;88(1-2):50-60. Epub 2002 Aug 15.

Duke McCall
04-20-2010, 06:17 AM
Thanks, Steve. Excellent read.

John Alston
04-20-2010, 07:54 AM
Good stuff.
basically unless you have a good reason to avoid putting on some size, don't fear the reps and put on some size.

Kevin Perry
04-20-2010, 07:56 AM
Cool, i liked reading that.

Allen Yeh
04-20-2010, 08:33 AM
Good stuff as always.

Garrett Smith
04-20-2010, 09:51 AM
Sounds like the Boring But Big 5/3/1 program would cover nearly all the bases.

Donald Lee
04-20-2010, 10:02 AM
I thought the part about manufactured strength vs. natural strength was interesting. I don't see people talk about that much. I guess people usually call natural strength "raw strength" or "raw power."

Train with 1-5 reps and do nothing else and you can easily be as non-functional as a muscled up hippo.


I experienced that a week ago. I was playing some baseball and volleyball at the park, and I felt like I was fifty trying to bend over and move laterally. Squats and deadlifts had zero transferrence that I could tell...haha.

Alex Bond
04-20-2010, 10:29 AM
I think high reps are great for those who are already strong and want more hypertrophy. The problem is the small guy who wants to get big who tries too many reps and can't progress on the weight as a result. I think of the football playing twins Baggett mentions. I agree a player who squats 600#x3 and one who squats 500#x10 (all else equal) would be roughly equally prepared for the field. The problem is, how do you get a 500#x10 squat? I don't think it will happen for many people if they never did anything less than 10s. It's tough to make week to week or workout to workout progress since if you add 5#, you have to move that extra 5# more times than if you were doing a set of 5, so progress is more likely to be consistent with 5s.

In my personal experience and hearing anecdotes about other people's experiences, I haven't yet figured out a reason to use anything but 5s for most of one's training time when doing the powerlifts.

Brian DeGennaro
04-20-2010, 11:02 AM
I think if you train the big lifts properly you can still be a functional beast without doing more than 5 reps. A set or two of ten thrown in once a month maybe but without going over 5 I'm sure you can do it just by screwing around with volume and rest periods.

Garrett Smith
04-20-2010, 11:32 AM
Depending on the athlete, it would seem to me that there is very much a thing as "non-functional" hypertrophy...gymnasts just seem to be the best example that comes to mind.

Or maybe "non-beneficial" hypertrophy would be a better term here.

Gant Grimes
04-20-2010, 12:20 PM
I thought the part about manufactured strength vs. natural strength was interesting. I don't see people talk about that much. I guess people usually call natural strength "raw strength" or "raw power."

Around here we call that "country strenth" (no "g" for whatever reason). A lot of guys that work on the farms or in the oil fields have never touched a weight...and don't really need to.

Grissim Connery
04-20-2010, 01:54 PM
Around here we call that "country strenth" (no "g" for whatever reason). A lot of guys that work on the farms or in the oil fields have never touched a weight...and don't really need to.

i don't really have any proof of this, but generally i feel that if a guy has strong hands, he's overall a strong dude and most capable of applying and adapting to a lot of tasks. when i think of "country strenth," i think of these guys. i fear shaking hands with an old farmer who's ready to crush my weak, college boy grip.

there's one guy who i train with who just has a brutal strength to weight ratio. i know he's done some rock climbing, but there's definitely a big genetic component. anyways, when you roll with him nogi and he takes a grip of your wrist or ankle, it's his. unless i'm with a really big dude, i never really take a strong nogi grip on my wrist or ankle seriously. when this dude grabs it, i'm like "well damn. that's his now."

John Alston
04-20-2010, 01:56 PM
I experienced that a week ago. I was playing some baseball and volleyball at the park, and I felt like I was fifty trying to bend over and move laterally. Squats and deadlifts had zero transferrence that I could tell...haha.

Felt it myself Sunday on the basketball court. Just need me some more games to get used to that kind of moving, and to find my shot again.

Steven Low
04-20-2010, 05:21 PM
It feels like he's just describing the flipside of his other article on the myth of relative strength. -_-

Jay Guindon
04-20-2010, 06:42 PM
Gymnasts have non-functional hypertrophy?
I asked this same question over at Gymnastic Bodies and they seemed to be under the impression that gymnastic type strength and conditioning is superior to most types of lifting (unless you want to be a powerlifter) because the strength gained through gymnastics movements transfers well to moving external laods and you get really strong at manipulating your body, wehereas being strong at moving external loads doesn't mean you are strong at controlling your body. The example given was that having a big bench press doesn't give you the strength for planche pushups whereas having planche pushups can give you big bench, obviously not a powerlifters bench, but a big bench nonetheless. Another example was gymnasts deadlifting 400lbs first time. For powerlifters thats a weak deadlift, and for some crossfitters too, but since my deadlift is only 280lbs and I train the deadlift to slowly bump it up, thats big to me.
It's also hard to argue that the hypertrophy gymnasts have doesn't somehow lend itself well to movements like inverted iron crosses. Maybe you don't do inverted crosses on a daily basis, but the strength to do an inverted cross surely must have some real world transfer, or functional strenght if you will.
Anyways, I'm not a professional, but I would question that a gymnasts hypertrophy is not functional.

Steven Low
04-20-2010, 06:51 PM
Depending on the athlete, it would seem to me that there is very much a thing as "non-functional" hypertrophy...gymnasts just seem to be the best example that comes to mind.

Or maybe "non-beneficial" hypertrophy would be a better term here.
That doesn't even make sense...

I mean, what part of being able to manipulate your body extremely well is "non-functional"

Regardless of how I hate the word functional...

Being strong and being able to move well. That's functional. Athletes of all sports can do as such... except for swimmers.. they're a bit awkward on dry ground (and vice versa).

Geoffrey Thompson
04-20-2010, 07:02 PM
I think what Garrett meant is that some types of hypertrophy would be nonfunctional for a gymnast. ie, if a gymnast took six weeks to do Super Squats, the added leg mass would probably not be good for his ring work.

Derek Weaver
04-20-2010, 07:48 PM
i don't really have any proof of this, but generally i feel that if a guy has strong hands, he's overall a strong dude and most capable of applying and adapting to a lot of tasks. when i think of "country strenth," i think of these guys. i fear shaking hands with an old farmer who's ready to crush my weak, college boy grip.

there's one guy who i train with who just has a brutal strength to weight ratio. i know he's done some rock climbing, but there's definitely a big genetic component. anyways, when you roll with him nogi and he takes a grip of your wrist or ankle, it's his. unless i'm with a really big dude, i never really take a strong nogi grip on my wrist or ankle seriously. when this dude grabs it, i'm like "well damn. that's his now."

I think Gray Cook has said something similar on a podcast. He's said something to the effect that the number one indicator of overall strength (without actually lofting something) is grip. Not an absolute, but in general it's true.

Steven Low
04-20-2010, 08:19 PM
I think what Garrett meant is that some types of hypertrophy would be nonfunctional for a gymnast. ie, if a gymnast took six weeks to do Super Squats, the added leg mass would probably not be good for his ring work.
Whoops. I see you're right. I feel like a doofus.

To make up for it, watch this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AXWLwf4K_s&feature=player_embedded

Tom Vale
04-20-2010, 11:33 PM
Whoops. I see you're right. I feel like a doofus.

To make up for it, watch this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AXWLwf4K_s&feature=player_embedded

Being "powerlifting strong" is cool, but when I see gymnasts do this sort of stuff I just can't help but feel... weak.

Darryl Shaw
04-21-2010, 03:48 AM
If you take a bodybuilder who regularly does sets of 15-20 reps and a powerlifter who regularly does sets of 1-3 the bodybuilder will have a hard time matching the powerlifter on low reps sets but the powerlifter will likely have a hard time matching the bodybuilder on high rep sets.

As I recall this was demonstrated in the famous Fred Hatfield vs Tom Platz "squat-off".

Brian DeGennaro
04-21-2010, 05:07 AM
I added significant leg mass when I stopped doing gymnastics and to be honest, my planches feel just as "easy" as they did when I was 15lbs lighter. Maybe I'm the exception?

Grissim Connery
04-21-2010, 07:41 AM
Being strong and being able to move well. That's functional. Athletes of all sports can do as such... except for swimmers.. they're a bit awkward on dry ground (and vice versa).

water is my kryptonite. give me any normal physical task and i can have fun even as i mess it up.

my only goal with water is to not drown.

I read an article one time talking about back problems in gymnasts that can occur from excessive hollowing, and they said that swimmers may suffer this same predicament. if swimming can help develop a hollow, could it have any carryover to gymnastics?

Craig Brown
04-21-2010, 08:05 AM
Right on with this! My skinny 23yo son whose been a climber since he was 7 is deadly strong.

Craig

i don't really have any proof of this, but generally i feel that if a guy has strong hands, he's overall a strong dude and most capable of applying and adapting to a lot of tasks. when i think of "country strenth," i think of these guys. i fear shaking hands with an old farmer who's ready to crush my weak, college boy grip.

there's one guy who i train with who just has a brutal strength to weight ratio. i know he's done some rock climbing, but there's definitely a big genetic component. anyways, when you roll with him nogi and he takes a grip of your wrist or ankle, it's his. unless i'm with a really big dude, i never really take a strong nogi grip on my wrist or ankle seriously. when this dude grabs it, i'm like "well damn. that's his now."

Steve Shafley
04-21-2010, 11:49 AM
I disagree with Ido and Chris about gymnastics based training being superior for everything under the sun. In fact, besides some anecdotal stuff, there is nothing that proves it.

First off, while that stuff is, undeniably, cool as hell, it's also extremely time consuming to develop the skills to take maximal advantage of that type of training. Also, gymnastics based training was popular a long time ago until team sports became popular, then training for the sport-specific skills for those sports became more important than mastering the gymnastics skills.

In addition, the number of adult gymnastics practitioners who have become successful at training in that style is very low.

Gymnastics based training might be the shit, but if you take two twins, one doing gymnastics based training and one doing barbell training, then put them out on the football field or the rugby pitch, and ask one of them to run through the other, whom do you think is going to win?

Plus, for the simple task of looking better naked, what do you think, as a member of the modern society of North America (mostly) would be the best way to get there.

1. 10-12 hours weekly of gymnastic training.
2. 2-3 hours of barbell training and 1-2 hours of cardio/metcon?

How about MMA fighting? If you are training 10-12 hours for muscular conditioning via gymnastics movements, then when are you training your sporting skills?

Ido Portal has the leisurely means to travel to Europe and spend months learning from secret circus and acrobatic training masters. Do you? Chris Sommer is a professional gymnastics coach and he and his athletes have access to an awesomely equipped gymnastics facility. Do you?

There's a reason barbell based strength training is use for almost every single sport in the world. That reason is that for the time invested, it works much, much better than anything else.

Garrett Smith
04-21-2010, 12:02 PM
I disagree with Ido and Chris about gymnastics based training being superior for everything under the sun. In fact, besides some anecdotal stuff, there is nothing that proves it.

First off, while that stuff is, undeniably, cool as hell, it's also extremely time consuming to develop the skills to take maximal advantage of that type of training. Also, gymnastics based training was popular a long time ago until team sports became popular, then training for the sport-specific skills for those sports became more important than mastering the gymnastics skills.

In addition, the number of adult gymnastics practitioners who have become successful at training in that style is very low.

Gymnastics based training might be the shit, but if you take two twins, one doing gymnastics based training and one doing barbell training, then put them out on the football field or the rugby pitch, and ask one of them to run through the other, whom do you think is going to win?

Plus, for the simple task of looking better naked, what do you think, as a member of the modern society of North America (mostly) would be the best way to get there.

1. 10-12 hours weekly of gymnastic training.
2. 2-3 hours of barbell training and 1-2 hours of cardio/metcon?

How about MMA fighting? If you are training 10-12 hours for muscular conditioning via gymnastics movements, then when are you training your sporting skills?

Ido Portal has the leisurely means to travel to Europe and spend months learning from secret circus and acrobatic training masters. Do you? Chris Sommer is a professional gymnastics coach and he and his athletes have access to an awesomely equipped gymnastics facility. Do you?

There's a reason barbell based strength training is use for almost every single sport in the world. That reason is that for the time invested, it works much, much better than anything else.
Shaf, you aren't usually one to do this, but you got into the "all-or-nothing" gymnastics vs. barbell thing there.

My program is pretty much BBs for lower body & posterior chain, with mostly basic gymnastic-type progressions for the upper body. Use each one for what it's best at developing.

And yes, I do have access to an awesomely-equipped gymnastics facility, but that's because I made good buds with the owner. :D

However, basic gymnastic strength training to a relatively high level (for non-mutants) requires little more than rings, p-bars / dip bars, parallettes, pull-up bar, and a floor, IMO. I'm doing my planche & front lever work at a local CF tonight, and on the weekend I'll do my second workout in my garage gym. Next week I'll be able to go back to the gymnastics facility, but I don't have to for equipment reasons, it's just a nice change of pace.

Steve Shafley
04-21-2010, 12:59 PM
There's always a continuum.

It's interesting that people would rather practice gymnastics based conditioning movements for a hour or so rather than spend ~10 minutes on the bench press for similar muscular development.

Grissim Connery
04-21-2010, 01:05 PM
i think if you did weighted dips you could get in and out of there pretty fast.

Garrett Smith
04-21-2010, 02:02 PM
There's always a continuum.

It's interesting that people would rather practice gymnastics based conditioning movements for a hour or so rather than spend ~10 minutes on the bench press for similar muscular development.
There's always the X-factor of the coolness of being able to do even basic gymnastics moves. That's a big draw in most cases.

What is the 10-minute bench program you speak of?

Also, a decent hour-long gymnastics program would include pulling and pushing through multiple planes (at least mine would and does). Add those movements with barbells and workouts would seem to become similar in length.

Dave Van Skike
04-21-2010, 02:06 PM
What is the 10-minute bench program you speak of?

.

3 reps on the minute for 10 sets works well for me on squats and presses. in some ways better than 50/20

John Alston
04-21-2010, 02:12 PM
I don't think Shaf was falling into an all or nothing, I think he was making a case for the bells. It's kind of an efficiency thing. Assuming competent training in either domain, you're going to get better adaptations for less effort of learnign the movement from the bells. A power clean can be taught in minutes. Same with the press.
If you're an athlete in most sports you can win some efficiency by keeping your power/strength training less skill intensive. I buy it.
Might we also suggest scaling issues? How would you get a 300lb lineman upper body power from gymnastics as easily as from bells? It's out of my realm, so i'd be happy to hear methods.

John Alston
04-21-2010, 02:17 PM
i don't really have any proof of this, but generally i feel that if a guy has strong hands, he's overall a strong dude and most capable of applying and adapting to a lot of tasks. when i think of "country strenth," i think of these guys. i fear shaking hands with an old farmer who's ready to crush my weak, college boy grip.

there's one guy who i train with who just has a brutal strength to weight ratio. i know he's done some rock climbing, but there's definitely a big genetic component. anyways, when you roll with him nogi and he takes a grip of your wrist or ankle, it's his. unless i'm with a really big dude, i never really take a strong nogi grip on my wrist or ankle seriously. when this dude grabs it, i'm like "well damn. that's his now."

Wasn't grip strength one of the classic weightlifting predictors used in countries that scout for OL talent? I thought it plus vertical leap = great predictability on potential (strength and power revealed before training).

Donald Lee
04-21-2010, 02:17 PM
I agree with Shaf.

1. High level gymnastics moves require high technical proficiency, which is a waste of time for someone training for a sport.

2. Static holds have little strength transference beyond 15 degrees around the hold.

3. Strength training is secondary to sport training.

4. Equipment and spotting is not practical for everyone.

5. Progression with gymnastics exercises is very slow.

Bodyweight exercises can be incorporated into strength training for sports, like Weighted Dips, Weighted Chinups, and various high rep stuff, but that's not really gymnastics.

If you follow the old Soviet model for sports development, that as kids you need to develop a wide base before you specialize in a sport, then something like gymnastics would be very useful for kids. Gymnastics could also be potentially useful for developing strong joints in the late teen population, but I don't see many joint issues in athletes that could have been avoided with gymnastics training. Bicep tendon strains with quarterbacks could potentially be avoided. I'm not sure about shoulder issues, so I can't comment on that.

Coach Sommer
04-21-2010, 05:53 PM
There are several incorrect assertions which have been made that I would like to address.

1) The strength of gymnasts is hardly anecdotal. There have been many eye witnesses verifying the barbell strength of gymnasts when they wander into a weight room. Coach Burgener himself loves to find ex-competitive gymnasts to train in OL due to their impressive strength levels.

However if you find this secondary evidence insufficient and would prefer more direct evidence, please feel free to visit my gym and test my athletes on your own :).

2) Gymnastics strength training has nothing to do with the hours spent achieving high level technical gymnastics skills and is in fact a completely separate component of training; just as it is with any other sport.

3) The tendon and ligament strength developed through static holds is not restricted to only 15 degrees ROM. This is merely a popular persistent urban myth. For example, simply ask anyone who has attained a 60 second L-sit whether their new abdominal strength was restricted to that narrow ROM or rather was applicable over a wide range of a abdominal exercises such as hanging leg lifts. Or better yet, test this out on yourself.

4) It takes no longer to perform the appropriate gymnastics strength exercise than it does a barbell exercise; the GB WODs are a nice example of beginner gymnastics strength conditioning workouts. The issue lies in knowing the correct progressions and programming. But how is that different from having to learn how to correctly use a barbell?


Now, if it is simply a matter of personal preference of barbell over gymnastics strength training; that is a completely separate matter.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer
www.GymnasticBodies.com

Steven Low
04-21-2010, 05:53 PM
The only reason you guys think that you need vast input quantities of time and work into gymnastics is because you don't know how to use proper progressions.

This is exactly why I am writing this gymnastics programming e-book for novice/intermediate level.

I took myself from a 107 lbs skinny to 135 lbs (which is still pretty damn skinny given), but from dipping 10 dips to dipping +190 lbs in about 3 years. I've had one of my guys to cross within less than a year. It's all about properly progressing. Most everyone I've been working with (college aged guys) can do a full back lever within 6-8 months.

We have about 7-8 hours of total practice time a week (11 hours which is 1 hour meeting plus 30 minutes each practice with warmup and meeting stuff) so 2+4*1.5 = 8 hours of practice. Most of the time is devoted to skill work. I take the guys through strength 3-4 times a week for 15-30 minutes. This is not a lot of time, and we can build pretty strong guys with that amount of time.

You don't need to put in massive quantities of time to develop high level strength -- you need to know proper progressions and how to put them together. Yes, weights are FAR superior for lower body strength and development. But I would argue for upper body that a correctly implemented bodyweight strength program can build similar levels of strength to a barbell one in a similar time frame.

Of course, if you're going for more types of impressive balance work such as one arm handstands and what not then you better be sure you're spending zillions of hours practicing them.

Alex Bond
04-21-2010, 06:37 PM
I think part of the problem is that gymnastics gets really hard for big guys, especially with lots of lower body mass. Shaf is not a small guy, and neither am I, and while I've never made a serious effort at any gymnastic progressions, I've got to imagine that they are a lot harder when you start out with 6'2" of height and 240# of bodyweight than when you are short and small. I've seen examples of guys my size doing some gymnastic feats, but I believe them to be the exception, not the rule. This isn't to say that the gymnastic strength progressions wouldn't be helpful, because a big guy who got good at them would be quite impressive, but it does make things more complicated.

Steven Low
04-21-2010, 06:49 PM
I think part of the problem is that gymnastics gets really hard for big guys, especially with lots of lower body mass. Shaf is not a small guy, and neither am I, and while I've never made a serious effort at any gymnastic progressions, I've got to imagine that they are a lot harder when you start out with 6'2" of height and 240# of bodyweight than when you are short and small. I've seen examples of guys my size doing some gymnastic feats, but I believe them to be the exception, not the rule. This isn't to say that the gymnastic strength progressions wouldn't be helpful, because a big guy who got good at them would be quite impressive, but it does make things more complicated.
I do agree fully with your point.

It's harder and possibly more dangerous, but like I've said... that doesn't make it ineffective.

However, the cost-benefit ratio may not be in favor of it if injury is on the line especially with high level athletes.

Steve Shafley
04-21-2010, 07:05 PM
I'm sure it's a lot of proximity bias all over the place here.

I spend ~3 hours a week in a gymnastics facility watching my 6yo daughter practice. There are few things I feel are more valuable, from a physical developmental viewpoint, than gymnastics-based training, for a young person.

Personally, I feel I would be much more likely to injure myself attempting gymnastics-derived strength work than I am utilizing methods with external loading.

What works on 4-14 year old boys is probably not appropriate for a 40 year old man.

Chris: Do you propose that your GB WODs would be appropriate for me?

Steven Low
04-21-2010, 07:13 PM
Consider the quality of your instructors though... do they know what the hell they are doing?

There's A LOT of variation in quality between gyms. A lot. Especially on the S&C front.

Gymnastics progressions that work for 4-14 year old boys are working for my college guys. 50% of whom have never done gymnastics before ever. And also the majority haven't done competitive athletics (a.k.a. were good at high school sports) to any high degree.

May be a bit different for much older guys like you though (and those who weigh significantly more as stated above).

Rasmus Thomsen
04-21-2010, 10:47 PM
There's always a continuum.

It's interesting that people would rather practice gymnastics based conditioning movements for a hour or so rather than spend ~10 minutes on the bench press for similar muscular development.

I'll argue that bulgarian pushups (start in a pushup position with hands turned out, lower with arms out 90 degrees from body and push back up) on the rings will give you an advantage over the bench press there! Once it gets easy add some weight.

Donald Lee
04-21-2010, 11:22 PM
What training do gymnasts do that allow them to DL a lot of weight?

Robert Callahan
04-21-2010, 11:31 PM
This is exactly why I am writing this gymnastics programming e-book for novice/intermediate level

Where/when is this being posted. Gymnastics programing is something I've always been interested in but always struggled with.

Blair Lowe
04-21-2010, 11:55 PM
What training do gymnasts do that allow them to DL a lot of weight?

Swinging on the rings requires a lot of grip strength, especially as your swings turn into ring giants. I'd have to go dig around for the article by William Sands aka the Phd Biomechanics guru of USA Gymnastics that quotes on how much G-forces were generated in an elite level ring swing.

As well, through lever work they develop a lot of strength through their torso in their middle. Telling a gymnast to "stabilize the midline" is comical. Duh.

I had for years heard it was on the order of 6 G's but that article may have stated up to 10.

Of course, gymnasts use ring grips to stay on but early on in their training they do not. In much older times of gymnastics, there was no such thing as grips.

Swinging on a High Bar also generates a ridiculous amount of G-force due to the amount of flex that a High Bar (made of steel) undergoes. A Women's bar also flexes but not as much. Then again, the guys are much bigger than the gals. Think 5'6 150lb- 5'11 180lb male to 4'9-5'3 80-115lb female.

As well tumbling and vaulting is incredibly plyometric. While gymnasts are not in the league of sprinters, they do develop a lot of leg strength and power.

Btw, you can bring up the old Oly Lifter vs other athletic sport test that was done around the 60's or 70's but bare in mind, nobody was tumbling back then what they do today. Of course, there wasn't spring floors either though there was some insane twisting on floor.

Originally Posted by Steven Low
This is exactly why I am writing this gymnastics programming e-book for novice/intermediate level.

Where/when is this being posted? Gymnastics programing is something I've always been interested in but always struggled with.

I'd guess it will be done through http://www.EatMoveImprove.com

Steven Low
04-22-2010, 03:14 AM
Where/when is this being posted. Gymnastics programing is something I've always been interested in but always struggled with.
By the end of may.... hopefully.

Garrett Smith
04-22-2010, 06:10 AM
I'm sure it's a lot of proximity bias all over the place here.

I spend ~3 hours a week in a gymnastics facility watching my 6yo daughter practice. There are few things I feel are more valuable, from a physical developmental viewpoint, than gymnastics-based training, for a young person.

Personally, I feel I would be much more likely to injure myself attempting gymnastics-derived strength work than I am utilizing methods with external loading.

What works on 4-14 year old boys is probably not appropriate for a 40 year old man.

Chris: Do you propose that your GB WODs would be appropriate for me?
If you were a parent at the gymnastics facility on my workout night there, the workout setup you'd see me doing would look a lot more like a push-pull type strength workout than the hours of skill practice your daughter is doing. We're also pretty leisurely about it, with a good JM/DROM warm-up, exercise specific warm-up, workout, and then rehab/prehab afterwards...all within 1.5 hours.

Actually, the main thing I'm looking forward to is my daughter being able to go to gymnastics by herself, so Daddy can get more workout time (and not need any excuse, because I'm watching her!). :)

Steve Shafley
04-22-2010, 07:02 AM
I would actually do something like that, Garrett, but as it is, there's nothing to do for parents but sit and watch, or leave. Last summer I'd throw a kettlebell in the back of the car and do some of that stuff outside.

I think you misread me, Steve. I don't take any sort of class there, they don't offer any.

Garrett Smith
04-22-2010, 07:45 AM
I would actually do something like that, Garrett, but as it is, there's nothing to do for parents but sit and watch, or leave. Last summer I'd throw a kettlebell in the back of the car and do some of that stuff outside.

I think you misread me, Steve. I don't take any sort of class there, they don't offer any.
Depending on the place and most importantly, the owner, you might just check with them if they'd mind you doing a workout in the gym while your daughter is in class. I signed the waiver and everything. If it was worth it to you, you might offer to pay a small fee for the use of the gym.

The main thing that we do is quickly and respectfully move off of any apparatus that the main classes need at that time...basically stay out of everybody's way.

Steve Shafley
04-22-2010, 10:00 AM
Adults are not allowed on the apparatus unless they are also a gymnast or an instructor.

I haven't broached the topic any more than that, but the owner is ~70 years old and very set in her ways.

Coach Sommer
04-22-2010, 01:02 PM
Steve,

If you would like, please come out to the May GB Seminar as my guest and I will see that you get a chance to do some true gymnastics strength training. GB forum member "Slizzardman" who has been doing very well with the GB program will be there as well and would be able to share his perspectives on gymnastics strength training from a big guy's (250lbs) perspective.

I would also highly recommend reviewing Slizzardman's training posts on the GB forum; they are very well thought out and informative.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer
www.GymnasticBodies.com

Garrett Smith
04-22-2010, 01:13 PM
That sucks. The owner of my gym is mid-30s, and he thought it was great that "older" guys wanted to do some gymnastics training. Bit of a different situation than yours.

Steven Low
04-22-2010, 02:58 PM
I would actually do something like that, Garrett, but as it is, there's nothing to do for parents but sit and watch, or leave. Last summer I'd throw a kettlebell in the back of the car and do some of that stuff outside.

I think you misread me, Steve. I don't take any sort of class there, they don't offer any.
Nah, I was talking about the quality of your daughters instructors. They could be awesome or they could be very bad. Unfortunately, there is no gym requirement for teaching different levels or for instructors to have ANY S&C background at all...

Garrett Smith
04-22-2010, 03:07 PM
Coach Sommer,
If Steve doesn't take you up on your offer, I would have no qualms in making the drive up to Scottsdale in his stead... :-)

Steve Shafley
04-22-2010, 04:06 PM
Chris, thanks for the outstanding offer, and I'd love to take advantage of it. I will run the numbers against my budget and see if I'll be able to make it.

Steve Shafley
04-22-2010, 04:09 PM
I see what you're saying, SL.

Plus, I will also review those posts, Coach S.

Patrick Donnelly
04-22-2010, 07:50 PM
Just tossing a few things out there:

1. Weren't, like, three of the competitors at the US women's qualifiers for weightlifting at the 2008 Olympics former gymnasts? I'm absolutely certain Melanie Roach was, and she ended up setting a US record when she went to Beijing. I know that you could make arguments about how competitive women's weightlifting is, but whatever. It's just some info to mull over.

2. I'm with the gymnastics club that Steve L. coaches, and I'll say that while most of our best guys were former gymnasts to begin with, those few who weren't, but still work their asses off, do make very good progress. I'd say I've definitely half-assed my past two years in the club (Steve can confirm, hah), but even I've still gotten a good handstand, a back lever, and a human flag, weighing 210lbs. I'm looking forward to the next year, now that I'm actually getting my head on straight. With any luck, I'm looking at a front lever in a year and maybe a cross a year after that, and yes, that'll be weighing in at 210lbs. I've also done/do some barbell work in unison with the gymnastics club, though that's more just because I enjoy it rather than it helping with the gymnastics. Just saying that it's certainly possible to make progress with gymnastics stuff, even if you aren't athletically gifted or well-proportioned for the sport, and it's definitely easy to have fun with it.

3. Who here is training for some sort of national/international competition? Last I checked, pretty much everyone here is just working out for the hell of it. Yeah, you might be training for a powerlifting meet or a BJJ competition or whatever, but you're only doing those things because they're fun, not because you intend on being the world's best. So, what's all this "transferable strength" supposed to transfer to? Why do you care whether your workout transfers well to some other thing you don't do? Barbells to bodyweight, bodyweight to kettlebells, kettlebells to rugby, who gives a shit? Just have some fun, burn some calories, and keep yourself not-fat.




Anyway, back to the article. That's interesting stuff about sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, really.

Blair Lowe
04-23-2010, 04:51 AM
Man, memorial day weekend sounds like it's gonna be a blast! I didn't know Slizzard was gonna be there as well.

Steve&Garrett- some months ago, a gent around 65 came in and asked if he could participate in the adult class as he was an old time gymnast and wanted to get back in shape and have access to the gym. He told me he wasn't so much as interested in doing skill work but mainly using the equipment for gymnastics strength and also I think, just the feel of being in a gym again.

Our HC, who coaches the women's program but overlooks all programs gave a WTF look after asking what he wanted. I no longer coach the adult classes after I got out of it so I could free up my TuTh nights to do other things. Still, I felt bad for the guy.

I don't think our owners would have cared and my friends I worked out with in Marin (Roger Harrell and Co.) have a couple guys, 3-5 who still do gymnastics and are 50+. Yes, they were doing giants and and flyaways and etc and not just basics. One didn't start gymnastics till 50+ though another was an old time gymnast.

I do know one gymnastics gym nearby that has a bunch of fitness machines and gym area for parents to be busy on so they don't have to sit and watch their kid.

Garrett, your lucky your gym allows adults as most don't over the age of 22 and most don't with that autonomy. I have gotten away with at some gyms but that's mainly because they knew I was a coach elsewhere or at the gym I was at in my offtime and let me play (while some gyms did not even when I worked there-LAME!).

Peter Dell'Orto
04-23-2010, 05:02 AM
Coming into the discussion late but...

Sounds like the Boring But Big 5/3/1 program would cover nearly all the bases.

Yeah, that's what I thought when I read it. It also explains why I did so well on WS4SB. Lifting heavy followed by lifting for reps (anywhere from 6-20+ sometimes) has really done more for me than either lifting just higher reps or just low reps. I'd tried both in the past but WS4SB and 5/3/1 BBB really made a huge difference in my size and strength.


As for the gymnastics argument, I'd love to try some out if I had free time. I'd like to be able to do a front lever or a plance pushup or play around on rings. But who am I kidding? If I had more free time I'd go to MMA class more often. :)

Patrick Donnelly
04-23-2010, 08:03 AM
Don't know I forgot to mention this.

One of my PT clients decided to go the BWE route a few weeks ago. He's hardly doing anything "gymnastic" in terms of routines on apparatus, or flipping, or whatever, but he has been working on his handstand and muscle-up, and he's nearly got the handstand. It's just been roughly 3:00 of wall handstands, three times a week, for the past eight or nine weeks, plus some additional wrist prehab, practicing the kick-up, etc. But he's made very good progress so far and will probably start working on the press to handstand once his flexibility improves. Once again, he's spent less than an hour and a half up against the wall total so far, which really isn't very much.

Now, he's in his mid-30's, so not too old, and has the right build, and was pretty fit to begin with (pulled 3x200lbs on the day he learned the lift), but had never done anything along these lines, and he's making good progress with it. The average Joe would probably need a few weeks of prep work (flexibility, wrist conditioning, losing a bit of that gut, etc.) but it's not like it can't be done.


Lastly, he chose the BWE route for himself, so that goes back to the whole "enjoying it" thing I mentioned before - I actually suggested he try powerlifting, judging from his natural deadlift.

Gant Grimes
04-23-2010, 09:50 AM
Ok, I don't want to poo on the whole "gymnasts make great athletes" line, but here are my generalizations based on personal observation, having done basic tumbling and apparatus as a youngster, having taught kids' gymnastics for a year (so much for quality instruction), and having spent a lot of time being inverted and moving through space (martial arts, trampoline, and diving).

Coach Sommer, Steve, Blair, and other gymnastics folk, please correct me if I'm wrong. My knowledge is limited.

1) Competitive gymnastics is self-selecting to a higher degree than other sports. Sprinting and baseketball can be fun even if you suck at it. Gymnastics can't. Those that can't do it simply quit. Have you ever been surprised by a kid who was completely uncoordinated but worked hard, ate his Wheaties, and turned into a good gymnast?

2) Ex-gymnasts pick up other technical sports (especially weight class) because they are naturally coordinated people, not because they are ex-gymnasts. This follows number one. Those naturally suited to gymnastics are naturally suited to other technical pursuits. Crossover into Olympic lifting is frequently cited. Given the nature of the two pursuits, why should surprise anybody?

At 200 pounds, I could do a triple front somersault on a 3m board, a standing backflip, walk on my hands as long as I cared to, and do 30 muscle-ups (rather kip to support) in about 5 minutes. How much of this is related to trampoline, diving, and tree climbing time as a kid vs. an innnate ability to do this stuff?

3) Gymnastics strength training is inferior to traditional strength training for adults competing in rec sports.--in terms of time and cost. Gyms are easy and inexpensive (unless you want to pay a lot to get weak and vomit). Gymnastics requires access to a good coach (technique AND programming) and gym. It also requires additional skill practice. And you still have to do something for your legs.

I'm a big believer in supplementing my S&C program with gymnastics (it was in my hybrid, and I was one of Coach Sommer's first forum subscribers). I get a lot of tumbling time in judo, and I spend plenty of time on the bar and on rings. And hell, I think it would probably be better in terms of longevity and enjoyment than a lot of pursuits. I'm not bashing it at all. I think it gets over hyped when discussing its transference to other sports.

I'd also like to hear Donald's question about deadlifting answered a little more. Blair discussed grip strength, trunk strength, and plyometric power in the legs, but where is this raw pulling strength supposed to come from?

Gant Grimes
04-23-2010, 10:06 AM
I'm interested in your comments because you're a bigger guy that started gymnastics later in life.

But you lost me here. What were you responding to?

Who here is training for some sort of national/international competition? Last I checked, pretty much everyone here is just working out for the hell of it. Yeah, you might be training for a powerlifting meet or a BJJ competition or whatever, but you're only doing those things because they're fun, not because you intend on being the world's best. So, what's all this "transferable strength" supposed to transfer to? Why do you care whether your workout transfers well to some other thing you don't do? Barbells to bodyweight, bodyweight to kettlebells, kettlebells to rugby, who gives a shit?

If you play a sport for enjoyment, I assume you want to play it to the best of your ability (not sucking at something typically increases enjoyment (outside of CF land)). Adult rec athletes have limited time for S&C (and limited recovery capacity), so transference is key.

And in my sport, if you get your ass kicked, you actually get your ass kicked.

Dave Van Skike
04-23-2010, 10:13 AM
one tag on......leverages.

seems like so much of what drives suitability for a sport is leverages or the proportions of limb lengths. i wonder how many long-leg, long-arm gymnasts and oly lifters go to national every year?

Coach Sommer
04-23-2010, 11:13 AM
Gentlemen, you may enjoy the corresponding discussion on this subject which is currently ongoing on the Gymnastic Bodies forum:

http://gymnasticbodies.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=3905#p29166

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer
www.GymnasticBodies.com

Coach Sommer
04-23-2010, 11:50 AM
I have always enjoyed reading Gant's posts and have often found them insightful. The following are some of my thoughts in regards to Gant's and Dave's comments:

1) Competitive gymnastics is self-selecting to a higher degree than other sports. Sprinting and baseketball can be fun even if you suck at it. Gymnastics can't. Those that can't do it simply quit. Have you ever been surprised by a kid who was completely uncoordinated but worked hard, ate his Wheaties, and turned into a good gymnast?
Actually, yes I have had several. For example, I currently have an athlete who has been training with me for 12 years now. Initially it took him 3 years to learn a cartwheel; THREE years. I was convinced that, while a nice boy, he was never going to move out of Level 4. In fact, as he managed to work his way up the various levels, at each level I was personally convinced that he had reached his ultimate gymnastic potential and would not be able to progress further.

He is currently an older Level 9. In addition he is now a rock solid 185lbs and 5'11".

Now it is of course true, that he is not an international or even a national caliber athlete, but that is also true of 99% of the population in all sports. The bottom line however is that his work ethic, determination and persistence have paid enormous dividends.

2) Ex-gymnasts pick up other technical sports (especially weight class) because they are naturally coordinated people, not because they are ex-gymnasts. This follows number one. Those naturally suited to gymnastics are naturally suited to other technical pursuits. Crossover into Olympic lifting is frequently cited. Given the nature of the two pursuits, why should surprise anybody?
This is true of all sports; the naturally coordinated will always learn physical skills the fastest.

3) Gymnastics strength training is inferior to traditional strength training for adults competing in rec sports.--in terms of time and cost. Gyms are easy and inexpensive (unless you want to pay a lot to get weak and vomit). Gymnastics requires access to a good coach (technique AND programming) and gym. It also requires additional skill practice. And you still have to do something for your legs.
Slizzardman on the GB forum addresses this question quite nicely here (http://gymnasticbodies.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=3905#p29264) and here (http://gymnasticbodies.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=3905&start=15#p29326).

In regards to the extra leg work, it is something that I am beginning to consider as from my conversations with Chinese Olympians the Chinese National Team has implemented full squats to great effect. They have however greatly restricted the volume and frequency (2-3x2-3 once or twice a week with double bodyweight) with bodyweight exercises and plyometrics continuing to be the majority of their leg strength program. In addition they also like to run 3-5 miles and do 400m sprints several times a week.

... seems like so much of what drives suitability for a sport is leverages or the proportions of limb lengths. i wonder how many long-leg, long-arm gymnasts and oly lifters go to national every year?
While there are exceptions, for the most part in order to achieve high level competency as a competitive athlete (by my definition this is being successful at either the international or national level), possessing the correct phenotype for your chosen sport is a nearly a necessity. However when employing a sport for physical fitness these same caveats do not apply.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer
www.GymnasticBodies.com

Gant Grimes
04-23-2010, 02:43 PM
I have always enjoyed reading Gant's posts and have often found them insightful.

Thank you. And likewise. It is good to have you here.

Actually, yes I have had several. For example, I currently have an athlete who has been training with me for 12 years now. Initially it took him 3 years to learn a cartwheel; THREE years. I was convinced that, while a nice boy, he was never going to move out of Level 4. In fact, as he managed to work his way up the various levels, at each level I was personally convinced that he had reached his ultimate gymnastic potential and would not be able to progress further.

He is currently an older Level 9. In addition he is now a rock solid 185lbs and 5'11".

Now it is of course true, that he is not an international or even a national caliber athlete, but that is also true of 99% of the population in all sports. The bottom line however is that his work ethic, determination and persistence have paid enormous dividends.

This is very interesting. I would have conceded Level 3 or 4, but Level 9 with no previous hint of potential is impressive. Was this kid a late bloomer, or did he just develop his skill through diligent effort and mat time (whatever your equivalent term is)?

In regards to the extra leg work, it is something that I am beginning to consider as from my conversations with Chinese Olympians the Chinese National Team has implemented full squats to great effect. They have however greatly restricted the volume and frequency (2-3x2-3 once or twice a week with double bodyweight) with bodyweight exercises and plyometrics continuing to be the majority of their leg strength program. In addition they also like to run 3-5 miles and do 400m sprints several times a week.

That sounds like a Barry Ross-type program to develop mass-specific force without adding body weight? I would imagine that box squats and/or deadlifts + plyos could be used to good effect with gymnasts.

Garrett Smith
04-23-2010, 04:46 PM
I remember a couple months ago, I saw a study in the NSCA's journal saying something to the effect of benefits being seen in the vertical jump starting at around a 2X BW back squat...funny that number is mentioned for the Chinese gymnasts.

Blair Lowe
04-23-2010, 11:50 PM
That sounds like a Barry Ross-type program to develop mass-specific force without adding body weight?

Actually, I've played around with this with my guys because of Barry's article and posts besides my amateur HS sprinting career. Before, I had a selection of dumbbells for them and bodybars (lame). Now, we have a 100lb set for my guys but I do need to get them another bar and probably more weight to run two bars at a time. Another reason is quite often we can't use the area to sprint because that floor space is being used by other groups. As well, glute bridging is too easy with BW alone or even on frisbees and such and we don't always have access to something to anchor their feet under.

I catalogued this on the forum awhile back. It took a backseat during the competitive season because of the need to get routines in at times. Sometimes, my guys were just too tired to lift at the end of the workout and I'd have them do something else. Bare in mind, some of them end practice less than an hour before they go to bed while waking up around 6am.

Unfortunately, I don't have good data on whether their DL improved over time and if their strength did. Some of my guys only come 1 or 2x, a week and some for only 2 out of the 3 hours so it has become quite a management issue to get them to DL when they do come in (the non competitive trainees can select how many days/hours they want to go).

Ideally, they would be working SLS+DL besides sprinting or box jumps/plyo series. I'm hesistant on the squatting because of safety issues, equipment and the fact it may induce more lower body hypertrophy than I'd like.

If we had the time and equipment/space I'd look more into teaching them the olympic lifts.

Some of the boys who attend may never care to compete in gymnastics but they still enjoy training, the social atmosphere (me), and what we work on (acro, strength/power). Possibly creating the ability for them to compete in Oly/Powerlifting may keep them in the gym and program.

Gymnastics can't. Those that can't do it simply quit.

I do see this pop up in my rec classes. I can incorporate as much tramp time, games, etc but hell they just get bored of it if they're not good at it no matter what skill charts are up. I've actually thought about incorporating some martial arts into it to create a hybrid class but it's still pending. I know a similar program that was doing 1/2 karate, 1/2 gymnastics. I could pull any kids who were more into gymnastics into the competitive track while still keeping the interest of those kids who liked gymnastics but also could get more out of it. Unfortunately, I don't want it to water down our gymnastics training due to time or take away talent I'd rather see go into team.

I get a lot of tumbling time in judo

Gant, more than likely you have some athletic ability. Some of the high level Judoka have very high levels of spatial and aerial awareness. I've seen do some stuff in the middle of a throw or air and think WTF. I, however am equally proficient in nearly all the sports I've ever competed (aka equally lacking in ability and talent besides performance).

Dave, to note, there are quite a few men in collegiate gymnastics who are near 6'. One of the top guys on floor in 08 in the Olympics was around 6'. Different events lend themselves to different bodies and of course, gymnasts can tailor their difficulty and moves to themselves. This is the same in judo regarding nage waza.

Patrick Donnelly
04-24-2010, 05:55 AM
But you lost me here. What were you responding to?
To be honest, I sort of lost myself there too. I'm just noting that transference really isn't all that key, since we are not professional athletes. It's still important, but you can pretty much figure that as long as you're getting stronger from whatever you're doing (whatever it may be) it's going to have a positive carryover.

Dave Van Skike
04-24-2010, 10:16 AM
to be clear. i'm not talking about tall people. i'm talking about leverages. i simply don't know but i suspect that long femur/humerus is a disadvantage.

also, "athletic ability" is a retarded term that get's bandied about like it's a defined Thing. there's a ton of factors that might influence a person's natural "knack" for something, and a big one is whether they think gymnastics is fun or they think it's utter jackassery.

the mental game is a hugest factor in sports selection. i've seen so many naturally quick or agile people wash out of sports because they didn't enjoy the training while people like me just keep pecking along not caring whether i'm good or bad, i just like doing it.

Steve Shafley
04-24-2010, 12:41 PM
Barry Ross is whipping that horse until it dies.

Steve Shafley
04-24-2010, 07:32 PM
Chris and Gant: Nice stuff

Blair Lowe
04-27-2010, 05:17 AM
the mental game is a hugest factor in sports selection. i've seen so many naturally quick or agile people wash out of sports because they didn't enjoy the training while people like me just keep pecking along not caring whether i'm good or bad, i just like doing it.

I have often heard stories of many coaches of talented kids who quit because things eventually became challenging at one point and could not be mastered quickly or merely because insane skills were not challenging enough. Not skills mind you, insane skills.