For me, gymnastics represents the best and worst of all fitness activities.
The benefits are almost endless: it’s cool, it’s great for real flexibility, it makes you strong, sleek, sexy. Did I mention it’s cool?
The problem is that we have already skipped ahead too far. So, what does gymnastics at Crossfit London actually means for you as an adult beginner?
This article assumes you are an adult, a beginner, with no prior gymnastic experience. If you were back flipping as a child, the chances are that you can pop along to an open adult gymnastic session (try the East London Gymnastic centre), and in a room packed full of “adults”, if you can find the space, attempt to practise your flip and back somersault.
I’m going to argue, that if you weren’t tumbling as a child, and you are getting on in years ( anything from 23 years onward) the chances are that unless you have a clear definition of what you want to achieve you will fail, be disappointed and risk hurting yourself.
I have mentioned the concept of youth several times, and that’s not me being arsey because I’m so old (ok, it’s partly being arsey because I’m so old), it’s just that at a young age you don’t have the fear factor, and you can be easily spotted i.e. an adult can safely guide teeny kids through the motions. Believe me its not too easy to spot a 14 stone rugby player through a back flip (without injury to either party).
It is my opinion, having spent five years as an (erratic) trainee adult (45 to 50 years old) gymnast with a variety of personal coaches and open lessons, you (adult beginner) should limit your aspirations to those moves you can with the right amount of strength easily control. Predominantly I’m talking about basic strength gymnastics on the floor, on rings, or on the bar, and handstands.
This we teach at Crossfit London.
We teach you how to handstand (and the forward roll to get out of it), planches, muscle-ups, the crucifix (but mainly just progressions leading up to it), L-sit , rope climb, and a whole host of supporting drills and progressions. The latter mainly because the transfer to “real stuff” is fabulous. And by “real stuff”, I mean your handstand improves your press, the muscle-up means you can get up and over stuff, the planches mean your shoulders are really strong. Did I mention that it’s all really cool?
I would say that for most people the flips, tumbles, etc. are too fast to learn in a decent time frame, and are not safely practised outside a matted area and/or tumble track. As such they are excluded from our gymnastic syllabus.
Time after time I’ve seen adults at Capoeria and Parkour lessons beat themselves up bcecause they can get nowhere near a move that the guy who has just joined got straight away. What they didn’t realise was that the new trainee happened to have10 years of youthful gymnastic experience!
So what about Crossfit London’s meagre agenda? Why would you bother?
Well, the skills are fairly safe and once learned can be practised almost anywhere, although you need to buy a set of rings for £50 so you can practise at home.
They develop your balance, co-ordination and agility in a realistic time scale. Child gymnasts can easily knock up 15 hours of practise a week. If you are training thee to four hours a week and have the normal adult targets (health, weight loss, looking sexy, etc.) there is no point in committing yourself to a skill that requires time you haven’t got.
The handstand, for example, can be practised anywhere.
The back flip (which we don’t teach)? Well, you need a soft surface, a tumble track, or in my case a deep foam pit!
Part of the magic in some of the moves we have chosen revolves around inversion. You will develop a whole range of spatial comprehension (just the other way up), and the fact that your centre of mass bounces round your body means your core is well and truly getting activated.
In the handstand I cannot think of a single muscle (that I’m bothered about) that isn’t involved!
The handstand is also your personal fear factor. For many the actual thought of all your weight resting on tiny hands that up till this minute have been used as a back drop for diamonds or a pint of lager can be terrifying. Thankfully we have all the tips and hints to help you over come your inner demons and build your strength, flexibility, balance, and bravery(stupidity?)
We want the muscle-up because it expresses your strength (or the strength it will train you to own), but also because the skill can be broken down and trained (pull up, dip, transition) with each of the breakdowns being valid strength and conditioning activity in its own right.
These skills also make you strong, coordinated and agile. Not at all bad, really.
Our reality is that we are not trapping you into a narrow skill set. Our classes cover a wide variety of varying skills (weightlifting, powerlifting, rowing, running, sprinting, box jumping, etc., etc.) so we don’t let you make a claustrophobic training box for you to obsess about two or three skills. Our gymnastcic training is scattered through our classes in 5 and 10 minute chunks, in between other stuff.
You need to remember that we are the underpinning strength and conditioning regime that should be at the heart of everyone’s fitness regime. Crossfit London supports your sport, be it martial arts, football, running or gymnastics (that’s why our membership options are so flexible). It’s your coaches’ job to set you the fussy drills you need to succeed at the specifics of your sport. It our job to deliver to your coach, partner, employer, or commander a fit human being. The moves we have chosen, do this beyond doubt.