ULTIMATE FITNESS

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The word ‘gymnastics’ comes from the Greek word ‘gymon’ which means naked, and naked was the way in which athletes competed and trained in ancient Greece, but don’t get too excited, women were not allowed to take part in ancient games, neither as competitors nor spectators. Not many sports can boast such a wide range of abilities as gymnastics. Within the three main gymnastic disciplines, there are 15 individual events, each with its unique thrills & challenges. The opportunities are endless. Also, considering the fact that gymnasts as competitive athletes never exercise for cosmetics or appearance, you have to admit they look pretty good, especially some of the ring performers whose bodies even some of the bodybuilders wouldn’t be ashamed of.


Nothing Like Starting Early

When we usually look at different hobby that we want to promote on our kids, gymnastic isn’t always the first idea that comes to our minds. Believe me, whether you want your kid to be a tennis player or MMA fighter, gymnastics is the sport to  start with. Our kids need it anyhow, current level of physical education in English Schools is appalling and will lead our children to being physically disabled. I remember the times when gymnastics used to be taken seriously, you could even repeat your grade at school if you didn’t achieve required grades. Today ? Health & Safety, yes, kids are not supposed to climb those good old manila ropes and learn basic rolls because it is too dangerous. Nowadays, in some schools, kids play golf as the part of  their PE lessons, it is not a joke, 15 year olds are not able to run or do a forward roll, but they know how to swing a golf club.

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Apart from great social interaction and discipline, this sport will develop motor functions, balance, speed, agility and physical strength in your kids like no other activity. It will also teach your kids individual responsibility, self-confidence, improved mental focus and concentration, courage and competitive prowess. It takes a lot of confidence, good judgement and determination to execute a routine successfully under the pressure of judges, coaches or spectators. The use for these skills we can find not only in other sports, but also in every day life.

Why Start Early?

The earlier the better? In some countries kids start as early as being 18 months old. There are a few reasons why starting early might be a good idea.

  1. Kids are easier to train. They don’t have as many mental blocks, they simply have less fear than older kids.
  2. Kids will learn skills much quicker at the young age. It is like learning two languages at the same time, easy and natural if taught early, quite hard for adults. Introducing motor skills consistently is very important to achieve a full potential. Missing the opportunity to introduce motor skills when the child is ready to learn them, is as bad as introducing it too early. Basic motor skills are combined to build upon and master more complex skills.
  3. Ligaments and tendons (where the true strength comes from) are best strengthened at the young age, when they are flexible and supple. It will take much longer to acquire strength for an iron cross at the age of 30 than at the age of 10.

Gymnastic For Sports

The greatest advantage of conditioning your body through gymnastic is its functionality and ability to transfer it to many other sports. Have you ever seen an Olympic wrestler’s or weightlifter’s gymnastic abilities?, you might ask, why would you train gymnastics for weight lifting ? well, there is many reasons for that, and you will figure it out the farther down this page. Gymnastic conditioning for sports might not be so popular in the western countries, perhaps because coaches  lack the knowledge and training, but in Eastern European block, it’s been a part of compulsory curriculum from the very beginning of the athletic career of many competitors coming from different sports. You will not find many athletes as complete as gymnasts are. Gymnast will easily replicate any kind of exercise that different athletes specialize in, while they might not be able to do the most basic gymnastic skills.


Ultimate Power

For most people gymnastic strength is nothing more than sit-ups, pull-ups, dips and endless number of push-ups. Great, maybe for general fitness or endurance, but of little value in building real strength. Here it is where you couldn’t be more wrong. Apart from being explosive, flexible and dynamic, they are incredibly strong, yes, incredibly strong with unrivalled functional and static strength abilities. It is not unheard of gymnasts bench pressing or squatting two times their body weight or more without even touching an Olympic bar before. Many times they simply come close, match or even beat some of the athletes at their own game, while others are not able to perform their easiest skills, or even a single muscle-up which is considered 0 – level skill in gymnastics.

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Method

In gymnastics, instead of lifting heavier weights to progress and increase the strength, you will work through certain progressions where you will have to manipulate: 1- leverage, 2- range of motion, 3- momentum, 4- speed and 5- time under tension. It is a very specialized training programme that will require from you time, discipline and total dedication. Sometimes it will take months or years to work through the various progressions and see significant increase in your strength. You can not underestimate this training, you need to take it step by step and never rush through your progression. For example the elbows, biceps and shoulders need a special pre-conditioning prior to beginning strenuous iron cross training. Your attempts to train some of the routines without preparation, will quickly end up in a very long set off due to various injuries.


Health Benefits

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I have to worry you here, she is 86 and can really hold this position, and you thought you were strong :) With progressive development and well planed training, you will improve your joint health, muscular development and cardiovascular fitness. By using weight bearing activities such as in gymnastics, you will also slow down functional decline and bone loss, reducing at the same time risk of osteoporosis. Training gymnastics also encourages eating a well balanced & healthy diet.


Risks

“Many injuries and very dangerous”, some people say. Please, don’t attempt those acrobatics in your backyard on your own. It is a very safe sport as long as you learn it under a professional eye, get a coach. Apart from that, every sport, especially on the competitive level, carries some risk of an injury. Being an Olympic Wrestler, I have many chronic injuries that will stay with me for the rest of my life, but I can still do 15 muscle-ups or hold front lever for 5 seconds, and with the full confidence I can say that I am twice as fit and strong as an average gym member who is 15 years younger than me. Sport is a great adventure which is worth all the sweat & blood.


Gymnastic Conditioning For You

Although most of us will never achieve those highest graded strength feats in gymnastics, with hard work and dedication some of the skills are within the grasp. They also require little or no equipment beyond a chin-up bar, parallel bars, a pair of rings and some floor space. Be consistent and patient and sooner or later you will be rewarded with greatly increased strength and unique athleticism, and don’t get discouraged if you do not have that perfect light  gymnastic body frame, there are out there pretty heavy guys who can hold an iron cross or do one arm pull-ups. As I’ve said before, it is more than doing an endless number of push-ups or pull-ups, you will need a knowledge or a coach. In the future you will also find many gymnastic strength exercises tutorials on this website, but for a more detailed experience, a great place to start with is Coach Sommer’s gymnasticbodies.com, a great website with a forum full of knowledge from experienced athletes. Beginners might have to do their homework first to figure out exercises & progression instructions posted on the forum, or might have to buy Sommer’s foundation series which will take them step by step through gymnastic conditioning. One more thing, it’s fun, I think you’ll find it really enjoyable.


ARTISTIC GYMNASTIC EVENTS


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Artistic gymnastics typically involves women competing in uneven bars, balance beam, floor exercise, and vault, and men competing in events like floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar. Let’s browse the menu and look closer at each of the events.



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