View Full Version : Gymnastic Skill / Strength Template

Joshua Fiebig
08-11-2014, 06:17 PM
This is an excellent template for recreational gymnasts looking to build strength. It is highly flexible, and can be personalized in any number of ways.

Who: Bodyweight specialists, urban gymnasts, traceurs, freerunners, anyone with little access to equipment, etc.

What: A strength-oriented routine, with frequent skill sessions, that can be personalized.

Where: Gym, street, home; literally anywhere based on needs and preferences.

Why: Frequent exposure to skills will hasten progress; strength work will target weaknesses.

A little on the theory and inspiration: Several writers have commented on the need for frequent exposure to skills, often called "greasing the groove" (GtG - Tsatsouline). From this standpoint, strength can been developed like a skill. Building the Gymnastics Body (BtGB - Sommer) recommends working with sub-maximal repetitions, keeping the body and CNS fresh. For the sake of time, skills will performed over 2 sessions (as recommended by Steven Low), and repeated twice each week.

Skill Work

The focus will be on the following skills: back lever, front lever, planche, handstand, and L-sit. The skills will be grouped together so as to allow alternating sets of complementary movements, provide a full-body workout, and permit adequate strength training thereafter.
On a 4-day schedule, the skill sessions can be done as follows:

Monday and Thursday
- Back lever (10 sec), then Pull-up (3 reps) x 5 sets
- Front lever (10 sec), then Single-leg squat (5 reps each side) x 3 sets

Tuesday and Friday
- Planche (10 sec), then Headstand Push-up (5 reps) x 5 sets
- L-sit or Straddle L (10 sec), then Press-to-Handstand (3 reps) x 3 sets

Use progressions for all movements, and rest 20-30 seconds between each pairing. Again, none of the sets should be taken to failure. Stick with the same progressions for at least 4 weeks, but longer if needed. Some days might feel easier than others. Do not use these as an excuse to try crazy variations or volume. Remember, these are supposed to develop strength through familiarity.

Eventually, you can begin to combine some of the pairs, for example: Back lever to Pull-up, Planche to HeSPU (or reverse), L-sit to Press-to-Handstand. These will be especially helpful if you find it difficult to progress a movement. The combinations will challenge your skills in new ways.

Strength Work

This portion can be completely customized, but I have found a great deal of success by keeping things simple (KISS). Access to equipment, and personal preference, will determine the types of exercises you perform. Feel free to change these throughout the year, as variety, or a simple periodized program can help you accomplish different things according to your goals. The template is as follows:

- Lower body bilateral (eg. Squat, Deadlift, Jumps, etc)
- Vertical pull (Pull-up variations)

- Horizontal pull (Row variations)
- Horizontal press / Dip (Bench press, Planche Push-up progressions; Dip variations)

- Combination push-pull / Multi-plane pulling or pressing (Muscle-up variations, etc; or Rope climbs)
- Lower body unilateral (Step-ups, Split squats, Lunges, Single-leg deadlifts or hip extensions, etc)

- Vertical press (Strict, Push press, Dumbbells, Headstand push-ups, etc)
- Curl (Barbell, Dumbbell, Inverted gymnastic, etc)

All of the exercises can be done with weights, bodyweight only, odd objects, or any combination thereof. A number of methodologies can be applied to the movements, such as EMOM, work up to a max, etc. Additionally, traveling need not prevent training, as a set of Rings will allow nearly every movement to be adequately substituted.

Based on your goals and equipment, the exercises can be rotated every week, or monthly. The rep ranges and number of sets should be specific to your goals. Change things often, and feel free to experiment. Even if something works for you, it may not work forever. Periodically give your body some new stimuli.

Joshua Fiebig
08-15-2014, 09:52 AM
There are many ways that such a template can be personalized. Here are a few examples:

Freerunner / Traceur:

Bilateral LB - squat, or sub with precisions and/or flips

Unilateral LB - lunges, or sub with vaults or quadrupedal movement


Bilateral LB - squat, or sub with box jumps
Vertical pull - finger-tip PU, towel PU, fat-grip PU, rock-wall PU, etc

Unilateral LB - weighted step-ups, jumping lunges, etc

Ninja Warrior:

Bilateral LB - work up to a max
Vertical pull - Salmon Ladder, Jumping Bars, climbing, etc

Dip - Spider Climb, Drum Hopper, etc

MPPu - Rope Climb
Unilateral LB - plyometrics, or Quad Steps, Barrel Roll, etc

Vertical press - wall walks, or Body Prop

These are just some examples of athletes who would benefit from a "gymnastics bias" routine, with frequent exposure to skill work, and dedicated strength work.