View Full Version : Integrating Barbell and Gymnastics Strength Training

Daniel Shields
05-29-2010, 02:47 PM
This post isn't necessarily related to GPP, but it involves mixing modalities so this seems as good a place as any to put it. I've been doing a simple Starting Strength style linear progression program for the past few weeks and absolutely loving the results. However, I'm very interested gymnastic bodyweight strength training and would like to incorporate it into my routine. I am having a good bit of difficulty in figuring out the best way to do so.

1) One of the things I like most about linear progression with weight lifting is that it gives you clear, unequivocal feedback each time you pick up the barbell that lets you know if you're on the right track. One of my worries is that the feedback with gymnastics strength training is less clear and quantifiable which might lead to difficulties tweaking the volume to my recovery capacity. How realistic is this worry and how can I work around it?

2) The other thing I like about weight lifting is that programming is very straight for with it. Five reps is five reps. But with static positions there seems to be a bit more ambiguity. I often see 60 seconds of total time under tension prescribed in however many sets of individual holds it takes to reach it. Is this appropriate for a complete novice? How do I measure the duration of my holds? How closely does my total time under tension need to approximate 60 seconds?

3) Should I only stick to squats, deadlifts, and olympic lifts with a barbell and do all of my upper body work with gymnastics, or would integrating bench and overhead pressing be beneficial?

4) With gymnastics, should I focus on a small number of exercises at a time, or should I try to develop a number of skills simultaneously? How do I go about choosing the proper exercises? It is my understanding that most positions have a complement which should be developed simultaneously to avoid muscular imbalances, such as handstands/manna. What other exercises complement each other and need to be practiced in conjunction?

5) When programming workouts, should I mix pulling and pushing work into each workout, or should I focus on pushing one workout and then pulling during the next workout?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Donald Lee
05-29-2010, 03:17 PM

That should give you some ideas.

Daniel Shields
05-29-2010, 04:37 PM
Thanks for the link to the article, and a huge thanks to Steven Low for writing it. I like his idea of using only movements rather than isometric work. In addition to building strength in a greater ROM, it solves my problems with programming. I'm just going to aim for 3x5 like I do with barbell movements. Right now the template I've doodled up is as follows:

Planche Pushup Progression
Front Lever Pullup Progression
Inverted Pullups
Ring Dips
Overhead Press

Adding in mobility work as a warmup before each workout, and handstand practice, l-sit practice, and support holds as much as I feel up to.

I think this sounds like a complete, well rounded program. If there is anything I've overlooked or could improve, let me know.

Garrett Smith
05-29-2010, 05:22 PM
The biggest thing you've overlooked is some S.M.A.R.T. goal setting. I can't find any goals in what you've typed.

"Getting stronger" doesn't work for this so well, as if you gain 5# on your squat, well there you go. Goal reached.

Especially with gymnastics, pick some goals and some dates, or you'll just flounder around.

Daniel Shields
05-29-2010, 05:53 PM
Thats part of the difficulty I am having that I tried to indicate in my first post, and is one of the reasons I'm apprehensive about switching to a gymnastics oriented program. With weight lifting its quite simple. My goal was to add a certain amount of weight to my lifts every workout, but with gymnastics it is much less straight forward. Some potential goals seem to stand out, but I don't know how to set a realistic time frame for achieving these goals. This is particularly difficult because I've never made a serious attempt at bodyweight strength training, so I don't have any prior experience to use a frame of reference to predict how quickly I will progress.

Gavin Harrison
05-29-2010, 06:02 PM
If your goals are as simple as size and strength, then adding weighted dips and chins will jive better than doing leverage progressions in gymnastics. If you want to be good at gymnastics, heavy squatting and dead lifting are somewhat contrary to that goal. Similarly, being light enough to do the gymnastics stuff is somewhat contrary to the goal of having a big squat and dead lift.

Daniel Shields
05-29-2010, 06:12 PM
At the moment I don't have any sport in particular, and primarily work out because I enjoy it and for the general health benefits. That said, the two sports that most interest me the most are martial arts and parkour, which both seem to favor a balance between lower and upper body strength and well developed proprioception.

I suppose ultimately the question is how much I would have to sacrifice on each end to develop moderate proficiency in both leverage upper body work and heavy lower body lifts. I have seen some some very large guys do some very impressive gymnastics, so I know it is possible. Of course genes play a big role here, and thats a factor thats hard to account for.

Steven Low
05-29-2010, 06:45 PM
So what are your questions now that you are looking to do a movement based gymnastics based bodyweight program?

What is your height and weight? What can you do right now?

Where do you want to be?

Daniel Shields
05-29-2010, 08:32 PM
I'm 19 years old, 6', and 190lbs (according to my scale, but I don't look quite that big so it might be miscalibrated)

Deadlift: 195x5
Backsquat: 175x5
Bench Press: 135x5
OH Press: 105x5

Bar Chinups: 5, legs still with full elbow extension at the bottom and chest to bar
Ring Curls: 5, hands below waist
Ring Dips: 4, hands to armpits

I can only hold the tuck variations of planche, front, and back levers for a few seconds at a time.

I would be happy to achieve a muscle up, press to handstand, and front and back levers, while maintaining a solid vertical jump and enough ability to to lift heavy objects to be useful on moving day. I would be ecstatic to achieve a planche and iron cross.

If I decide it would be beneficial to my goals, it would probably be relatively easy for me to tweak my bodyweight up or down as I have good discipline and my diet is already composed primarily of raw plants anyways, so its mostly just a matter of adjusting my milk and peanut butter intake.

As far as questions, what factor come into play when choosing between weighting dips and progressing to a different variation? Similarly, with Inverted Pullups, how do I increase the difficulty? It seems that there is room to expand my range of motion. Should that be a primary concern over increasing reps and load? To progress with chinups, should I begin adding weight, performing them more explosively, or a combination of the two? Is working handstand holds to develop balance and overhead press to develop shoulder strength a valid way of working towards a handstand pushup, or should I be working on piked handstand pushups instead? How do I know when I'm prepared to begin working on Manna progressions?

Gavin Harrison
05-29-2010, 09:27 PM
One other random question, what's your build like. Classic ecto (Tall, long limbs, short torso, small joints)? Or something more moderate? Not that it makes much difference, I'm the same height, but weigh a bit less, classic ecto, and have slightly better lift numbers ;P

You might consider 5/3/1, and use the gymnastics stuff as your assistance on upper body days. Also, dead lifting on a separate day might help that lift go up some for you, compared to after squatting heavy.

Brandon Oto
05-30-2010, 08:10 AM
I would finish your SS before you start screwing.

Daniel Shields
05-30-2010, 09:15 AM
Having had more time to reflect, I suspect you're probably right Brandon. I think I need to develop patience and consistency more than anything if want to achieve success. For the time being I'll stick with SS until I exhaust my linear progression, and work in handstand practice, l-sits, and support holds as much as I can without interfering with my ability to add weight every workout. I'll diet to maintain a weight that would be agreeable provided I decide to adopt gymnastics after the linear progression is exhausted, and take the time to do some more in depth study of gymnastics training so that when I do begin I have a much more clear idea of how to do so effectively.

Steven Low
05-30-2010, 01:12 PM
Linear SS is fine.

Just do some 5-10 minutes handstand practice 3-5x per week though. You don't want to jump straight cold from weights stuff to bodyweight. It will take a bit longer to acclimate than you would want because you don't have the proprioceptive "feel" of the exercises unless you actually practice the exercises.

Handstand work is a decent compromise and won't significantly tax your recovery too much as long as you keep each rep submaximal and focus on quality.

Doing some low intensity handstand work concurrently with weights is a good compromise until you've exhausted linear gains.

Brandon Oto
05-30-2010, 08:16 PM
A linear progression for a true novice is such low-hanging fruit that it's madness not to grab it up if you're a human being. There's nothing that can't wait for that.

Blair Lowe
06-02-2010, 03:05 AM
How do I know when I'm prepared to begin working on Manna progressions?

Forget about manna till you can do a straddle-L. On that note, you need to be able to do a decent L-sit before you even think about manna. Shoot for 60s.

Similarly, with Inverted Pullups, how do I increase the difficulty?

Simply, you pull higher. Straight body is a tad more difficult than tucked.

70'sBig has a basic strength and Oly WL program. You could train that if you wanted to train the Oly lifts. Makes sense if you want to have a vertical. There is a lot to be said about just doing SS till you peak out.

Note that Olympic WL is hip dominant and that is detrimental combined with the fact that you are tall.

As for the levers, do them if they make you happy but having a solid body lever and L-sit and HS are more beneficial in the beginning.

Press HS is merely about working the HS and then the Headstand presses into the HS negative presses.

Steven Low
06-02-2010, 05:19 AM
L-sit --> straddle L --> manna MSH hold