Look, it’s no secret, gymnasts, both men and women have some pretty amazing bodies. Not just that, but how they’re able to manipulate those bodies through space, making the hardest of moves seem effortless, just absolutely astounds me.
When it’s all said and done… Gymnasts look like bodybuilders. They have very defined muscles and extremely low body fat levels. Gymnasts train for strength, power, balance, coordination, agility and conditioning…. they train for the specifically for the sport in which they’re competing.
They train for “Performance” in their sport, rather than “trying to lose weight” or “lose fat.” However, you must realize that the “gymnast body” is a side effect of this style of training.
So, how can you start to build your own “Gymnast Body?”
Here are 4 Steps to start training more like a gymnast today:
NOTE: this article is in no way discounting the years of hard work and dedication that gymnast and other athletes of all levels put in to their training.
STEP #1: YOU BETTER BE CONDITIONED.
Gymnasts are some of the most conditioned athletes in the world. Even though their routines are shorter in duration, because of the complex, powerful moves they routinely perform, a lot of energy is expended in making it look so effortless and fluid.
For this, gymnasts need to be both aerobically (with oxygen- think marathon) and anaerobically (without oxygen- think sprinter) conditioned. To do this, we’ll look at two different styles of cardiovascular training.
First, you’ll need to perform Low Intensity, Steady State (LISS) forms of cardio. This is the typical workouts most people think of when they hear the word “cardio.” Here we’re talking about jogging, walking, stair climbing, elliptical, and swimming. The whole idea here is to build your aerobic endurance by getting your heart rate elevated to approximately 50% up to maximum 65/70% of your max heart rate for the duration of your workout, roughly 30-60 minutes.
Here’s a simple formula to find your max heart rate:
220 – (your age in years) = Max Heart Rate (HRmax)
For example, for me: 220 – 33 (yrs) = 187 beats per minute HRmax
From there, to find my percentage of let’s say 65% =
187 bpm x 0.65 = 121 bpm. So, for this given workout, I would try to keep my heart rate around 121 beats per minute for the duration of the session.
LISS workouts are not only great for aerobic endurance, but also will help you manage your weight, they’re good for your heart, and are easy enough for everyone to do… aka WALK PEOPLE!
The second form of cardio we’ll add in is more intense and is designed to help you build power, keep your body fat levels low, and get you ready for the short intense bouts of exercise that gymnasts put themselves through during competition.
This is called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), also known as simply “interval training,” or “spring training.”
This style of training has gained a lot of popularity over the recent years in the general population especially with the rising popularity of Crossfit and other Boot Camp styled workouts. However, it has been used in the athletic world and arena for quite some time.
HIIT gets it’s name from the program design itself where you are encouraged to push your body to near maximum effort for a very short burst then allowed to recover before repeating this process for a given number of sets or time.
For example, you can easily perform a HIIT session on a treadmill like this:
Walk for 90 seconds | SPRINT for 30 seconds | Walk for 90 seconds | SPRINT for 30 seconds…. and repeat this series for “x” number of sets or for “x” minutes.
Because of the higher level of intensity with these workouts, most HIIT sessions are shorter in duration than there LISS counterparts. These workouts are great for building anaerobic conditioning, as well as getting lean and mean and increasing overall power output throughout your body!
STEP #2: BUILD YOUR CORE.
Gymnasts require outstanding core strength. During events, gymnasts must use their core to pull and push themselves in different directions. This style of training gives gymnasts defined core muscles as well as complete control over their bodies. You must keep in mind that these amazing athletes are performing some of the absolutely hardest maneuvers and making them look easy! This takes amazing inner/core strength and control to make things look so effortless.
To get started, begin performing core conditioning exercise drills such as leg lifts, crunches, planches and even handstands against a wall (when you’re ready).
These drills will strengthen the core and define the abdominal and lower back muscles.
Personally, I like to add some of these basic moves, (i.e. planks and other low impact core moves) into my warm up routines prior to my strength sessions; as well as use different core circuits as “finishers” for my workouts too.
Here is an example of a “Core Circuit Finisher” you can use as a finisher to your next strength training session:
Toe Touches x 20 reps
Bicycle Crunches x 30 total
Right Side Plank x 30 sec | Left Side Plank x 30 sec
*perform 2-3 sets with 60-120 seconds rest between sets.
STEP #3: PERFORM BODY WEIGHT MOVEMENTS.
Gymnasts are not only ripped, but they also have complete awareness of their bodies. As mentioned, they’re able to perform some of the hardest maneuvers imaginable and make it seem almost easy. This takes a great amount of body strength and control as well as a complete sense of self as it relates to their bodies moving through space.
Plus, let’s face it, there are not a lot of barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells being used during meets! Don’t get me wrong…. I love lifting weights and use all these tools and even more, but there’s something to be said about knocking out some good old fashioned sets of push ups, pull ups, sit ups, squats, and sprints.
Gymnasts are known to regularly perform body-weight training routines as part of their training programs. These exercises are used promote muscle growth throughout the entire body.
The best part?… Body Weight Training is not only beneficial to the Olympians in Rio right now, but also the general fitness enthusiast. These exercises and routines are relatively easy to learn and require little or no equipment beyond a chin-up bar and some floor space.
So next time you’re at the gym (or even at the house) build a workout around only using your body for the weight and challenge yourself to get a good sweat in without ever even picking up a dumbbell! You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how efficient this style of training is.
Here is one of my favorite, and challenging, body weight movements only workouts:
*Perform 10 reps on each movement in a circuit like fashion with little to no break. Then repeat for 9 reps each; then 8 reps;… keep descending on reps until you perform only 1 rep per movement of:
Pull Ups (or variation)
STEP #4: GET SEXY FLEXY.
While you’re getting lean and mean, let’s not forget to take time to focus on getting flexible too. What can bend will not break. It’s a common flaw with a lot of programs out there where people only focus on strength and conditioning and don’t take enough time to work on their recovery and flexibility.
This can be as easy as making sure to stretch every day for a few minutes. Or take it to the next step by adding in a yoga or pilates class in a couple of days per week.
Adding in these workouts will not only help you recover and aid in your range of movement (aka flexibility); but During these sessions you spend a lot of time holding your body in a static position and progress to other positions. This promotes extreme strength and stability throughout the entire body both anteriorly and posteriorly. In addition, they’ll trash your core and work your lower back/hips thoroughly.
I challenge you big bodybuilder types out there right now to hit up a yoga session next week and let’s see how big and bad you really are!
NOW, LET’S SEE WHAT A WEEK’S SCHEDULE COULD LOOK LIKE USING THESE FOUR STEPS:
||Body Weight + Core
||Body Weight + Core
||Body Weight + Core
There you have it. Four steps to start your own gymnast styled training routine. Now train hard and go for the GOLD!