A lot of us are impressed by gymnastics in CrossFit! Ring muscle-ups, HSPU, butterfly pull-ups… When it comes to real life, are these movements even functional, and why would we want to learn them?

1. The base of gymnastics

Children are sent to gymnastics or ballet from an early age. Apart from parents who secretly hope for their kids to become Olympians, most think of these activities as good for their kids’ bodies. During those classes, they learn good posture, move their bodies, point their toes, learn discipline and socialise. The hollow and arch, plies and folds can create a base for future adults’ positions whether they pursue a professional career in sports or not.

Why did we stop using these positions? Not enough time to practice and desk jobs are the main reasons. Yet when starting CrossFit, we are amused and drawn into them. “I haven’t climbed a rope since I was 9, and I had so much fun!” I have heard some members say after a gymnastics class.

What comes out from climbing a rope? A lot of fun, sure! But also the confirmation that we are still agile, coordinated, balanced, and strong as adults. These are the basics which our bodies crave to remain healthy.

2. Not all gymnastics movements are necessary

Some movements like the butterfly pull up have been created purely for competition. They don’t exist anywhere else than in CrossFit.

But most gymnastics movements in CrossFit classes are a derivative from the sport of gymnastics, and that’s important to acknowledge. Gymnastics in CrossFit is tailored for the sport and is constantly evolving because it is a brand new sport. The way we teach a HSPU or a BMU will change in 6 months and that’s okay.

It’s not always a great idea to compare the class environment to what the Games athletes do on the competition floor except when it comes to this mentality: every rep from beginning to end HAS to look impeccable. If right now you are doing jumping pull ups, do them well and close to perfection. Create a solid base for your gymnastics.

3. Strict before kip

Kipping movements are dynamic movements. They require joint stability and muscle strength to avoid overuse injuries. For that reason alone, getting strict movements first is necessary.

How many should we get before kipping? It will depend on the coach, but a good rep is better than multiple medium reps. One strict pull up perfectly executed can get you to start kipping, The same applies to Strict HSPU and Ring muscle-up.

Keep in mind that the more strict reps you can perform, the more kip you will be able to do, with great form and less risk of injury.

4. How to improve your gymnastics skills outside of the gym

Gymnastics has skills which you can develop in the gym of course but also outside! We are more than ever sitting down, hunched over looking at the computer or our phones at work, at home, or on the street. Our necks, shoulders and hips are stuck all day long in the same position and we expect to revert these positions for an hour at the gym. That doesn’t make any sense, does it?

What if we were more mindful of our posture while sitting, waiting for the bus, or even sleeping! It’s the small things overtime which can make a difference.

I would recommend without even thinking of stretching and getting a mobility app to check how you sit. Are your feet flat on the floor, are your eyes looking straight into the computer, are you standing tall. Even better, are you working from a standing desk?

While you are standing up, waiting for the bus or tube, what is the position of your hips, are you leaning towards one side more than the other?

Check your sleeping position, are you a side sleeper and if so, are you squashing your shoulder? Perhaps you could look into a pillow made for side sleepers?

All these small details help, not only to get better at gymnastics but to avoid niggles and movement compensations.

If you need more tips or have any questions, find me at the gym and ask me! I would be delighted to help you!

Coach Tam