As the CrossFit® community has grown, the gymnastics component, which accounts for about a third of the original methodology, has been left behind.
In the early days, everything was new, and it was rare to see quality movements. No one knew how to run correctly, perform the Olympic lifts, swing kettlebells or do handstands. Frankly, it was hard to watch.
Now, we’re in a new era. The massive demand for functional fitness has brought an equal demand for coaches who can teach the common movements. It’s now common to walk into a box and see a full class of people performing high quality clean and jerks, running with a forefoot strike and squatting ass-to-grass. People are moving well.
This quality stops with gymnastics. Gymnastics is one of the highest complexity sports out there – there are simply too many variables in the sport to be able to scale the discipline to tens of thousands of coaches, and hundreds of thousands of athletes, in an eight to 10 year span. To illustrate this lag, Matt Bernstein made a spoof of Coach Glassman’s “Fitness in 100 Words,” with his “Fitness in 87 words,” where he removes these 13 words from the essay: Master the basics of Gymnastics…Presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits and holds.
The general affiliate gym population is hugely underserved in this realm. The vast majority of coaches have not been given the opportunity to understand, much less teach, the mobility, strength and skill that gymnastic movements require.
Well, until now… A number of specialized gymnastics strength curriculum and instructional sites have been popping up online. Here are some of my personal favorites.
1). Freestyle Connection
Freestyle Connection is Carl Paoli’s online platform that “helps people live a more athletic lifestyle.” Carl also teaches a very successful seminar circuit under the same brand. If you aren’t familiar with Carl, he founded GymnasticsWOD and was one of the first people to bring quality gymnastics progressions to the affiliate gym community. He is also the protégé of Kelly Starrett, the founder of mobilitywod.com, and is in many of the early MWOD videos. (disclaimer – I am on the Freestyle Connection team).
GymnasticBodies is founded by ex-junior national team coach for USA Gymnastics, Coach Christopher Sommer. As far as I know, Coach Sommer was the first to bring high-quality gymnastics strength and mobility progressions to the fitness world, period. His article on Dragondoor.com in 2004 kicked off the craze for Gymnastics Strength Training (GST), and he has since developed an entire curriculum of online courses meant to take anyone from their current abilities to the highest levels of gymnastics strength work.
3). Power Monkey Fitness – Monkey Method
Power Monkey Fitness was founded by Dave Durante, an alternate for the 2008 men’s gymnastics Olympic team. Similarly to Carl, Dave decided to target boxes to introduce Power Monkey’s seminars, camps, equipment and online courses. The coaches Dave has brought on board are of the highest quality, and I expect nothing less from his online courses.
4). Body by Rings
Body by Rings is Daniel Vadnal’s latest creation meant to help athletes not only gain strength, but also put on mass with an 18-week bodyweight strength program on the rings. Daniel is known for his YouTube channel FitnessFAQs, and is respected as one of the most advanced, self-taught bodyweight and calisthenic specialists out there. With his formal education as a Master of Physiotherapy, this course is sure to do the trick for anyone looking to safely build functional, athletic strength and mass in the most balanced manner possible.
5). Real Movement Project
Real Movement isn’t solely gymnastics strength-based, but it made the list for the balance of barbell, awkward object and bodyweight strength work that founder Keegan Smith has created. Keegan has worked as a strength coach for some of the top rugby organizations in the world, but more recently became heavily interested in, and knowledgeable about, gymnastics-style strength training and mobility development. Keegan offers one of the highest quality all-in-one programming solutions that I have seen for general athletic development. No wonder it is catching the attention of athletes like Ben Garard and other top Australian athletes.
6. GMB Fitness
Ryan Hurst, Andy Fossett and Jarlo Llano founded GMB Fitness nearly a decade ago. Between the three of them, they have an ex-competitive gymnast, a physical therapist and multiple black belts in traditional martial arts, with MMA experience to boot. GMB’s mission is to help their students increase physical autonomy, and their vehicle is gymnastics style strength training and flexibility development, as well as a few targeted movement courses that draw from their collective backgrounds. This course is great for those who do not need competitive level strength, but want an easy-to-follow, high production quality tutorial style course that will drastically increase the user’s movement capacity.
Bonus – Ido Portal Online Coaching
Though Ido Portal does not have a one-sized-fits-all online program, his online coaching is worth a mention for those who are willing to spend a little more. Ido is the creator of the “movement culture,” and has been referred to as today’s Bruce Lee. He is doing for fitness what Bruce Lee did for Martial Arts – tearing down the walls of sport and specific disciplines, and creating a new, much broader and more holistic discipline that he simply calls, “movement.” As a mover, you’d practice all facets of athletics including strongman, martial arts, parkour, hand balancing, dance, and yoga, to name a few. Ido’s approach is extremely balanced and geared toward the physical attributes that promote better movement.
I have personally met all of the founders of these programs (besides Daniel, but we’ve spoken online multiple times), and can attest to their quality as humans and as coaches. The barbell lifts are great, but being athletic requires more than object manipulation – it requires true control of your body in space. There is no better solution for body control than gymnastics style strength training. I would not hesitate to give any of these programs a shot.
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Manager of Outbound Sales
Outside of his sales role at Zen Planner and his own training in bouldering, gymnastics strength, weightlifting and mobility development, Cody teaches on Carl Paoli’s Freestyle Connection seminar team. He was also the personal gymnastics coach for a handful of CrossFit® Games athletes for the 2013 and 2014 Games, and helped Diablo CrossFit bring three teams to regionals. In the future, Cody looks to push the movement culture to the mainstream.