Gymnastics, the hidden gem in CrossFit

CrossFit characterizes fitness as the ability of an athlete to be equally dominant in gymnastics, Olympic lifting and multi-modal sprinting. This means that CrossFit workouts test metabolic conditioning (“cardio”), gymnastics and weightlifting through a variety of movements to forge the fittest men and women in the world. In today’s post we are going to focus on the element of gymnastics, a component most of us love to hate but quickly become addicted to once we start gaining a few meters on our handstand walks or nailing our first ring muscle-ups.

What exactly is gymnastics? Well, in CrossFit our use of the term refers not only to the traditional sport we see on TV but to all movements focused around full body control. This includes yoga (e.g. pigeon pose, downward dog or crane stance), climbing (e.g. rope climbs, bar work etc.) and calisthenics (e.g. push-ups, pull ups etc.). By incorporating these various movement styles, the CrossFit gymnastics style aims at building strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, agility and accuracy. In addition, by spending focused time improving your gymnastic skills, you will improve your overall health and fitness and significantly increase your weightlifting and overall exercise performance.

How do you incorporate gymnastic training? The core gymnastic movements for any CrossFit workout are built on air squats, pull-ups, push-ups and dips. These movements are considered your basics and you can never be too good at the basics. For instance, if you haven’t perfected the air squat and you attempt a heavy overhead squat… well needless to say, you are playing with fire. This is where the principle of progression comes in. Far too often we see newcomers walk into a CrossFit gym where longstanding members are performing advanced movements and before we know it their ego has taken over and they are trying to out competing members who have been doing these advanced movements for a long time. Inevitably this leads to injury, extreme muscle soreness and overall discomfort. Instead we urge everyone, from first time CrossFitters to veterans at the sport to keep practicing the basics. Our coaches often start the group classes with a thorough warm-up and skills session. This is not the time to show-off how quickly you complete the movements but rather a time to really focus and understand the movements and how your body feels in these positions. This will allow you to know how to correctly adjust your body during the actual workout to reduce the risk of injury and achieve your optimal performance. For progressions we suggest that you start off simply, e.g. doing ring rows and slowly increasing your rep count. When you can easily complete 15 ring rows move onto banded pull-ups. Following the same pattern until you can move onto strict pull-ups and eventually kipping pull-ups. If you have any questions regarding progressions feel free to chat to one of our qualified coaches who will be happy to help you identify your current standards and help you reach your full gymnastic abilities.

Why should I incorporate gymnastic training? Skills training in gymnastics focuses on body weight and controlling your body weight as a resistance. This translates into improved coordination and control using safer movements while still making huge fitness gains. For example, by learning how to control your core while performing movements you’ll minimize the risk of lower back injuries, improve posture and become stronger overall. Several gymnastic movements mimic weightlifting movements. This means that you can increase your range of movement, learn how your body moves during the movement and increase your strength in those movements in a controlled, safe way before attempting your lifts. Once you step up to the barbell again you’ll notice the increase in form, strength and overall performance. Trust us, you don’t want to underestimate the gains from gymnastics!

Yours in fitness,

CrossFit Uhuru

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