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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 10-21-2005, 03:12 AM   #1
Kent Sewell
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Coach Sommer and Roger,

I'm curious as to why it seems like when most gymnasts end their days as competitive gymnasts, they stop any form of gymnastic training altogether. I remember reading about some male gymnast who has retired recently, and he plans on "keeping in shape with weights" as opposed to say, still working on the rings and going through the more simple strength elements along with press handstands and the like. I suppose it is more simple and time efficient for them to not continue doing gymnastics as a non competitive adult since they've technically peaked out, but it just seems odd to me that they just give up practicing the sport. Arnold didn't stop lifting after he retired from bodybuilding.

All of us at Crossfit hear about the benefits of gymnastics and for any of us that have actually received formal training or seen the benefits of L-sits, planches, levers, and handstands, it really seems like an incredible way to stay fit and functional...yet the only people I rarely hear stories of non-competitive, retired gymnasts banging out skills at the gyms they coach at. I can only think of Roger who still practices gymnastics regularly.

What gives?
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Old 10-21-2005, 08:08 AM   #2
Mark Gebhard
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IANAG nor do I know any competitive gymnasts, but I can think of two pretty good reasons if this is actually the case. One, if they've been at the top for awhile and could do the really difficult stuff, it would be kind of depressing to see those skills and strength slowly slip away. Instead, they can move to something else and not really look back. Two, competitive gymnasts usually have been training for many hours a week for almost their entire lives. I'm sure by the time they end their careers, they're ready for a change. But this is entirely speculation, I'm not even sure how true it is that they completely give up gymnastics.
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Old 10-21-2005, 08:55 AM   #3
Nick Cummings
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The concept of diminished returns might come into play on this one. I have heard that gymnastics requires you to condition yourself to be able to do the gymnastics ie. practicing the skills will not keep you in a good enough shape to do them well. I would expect it to take a lot of time to practice those advanced skills and maintain the strength and conditioning needed to perform at their level. I doubt someone can go from an olympic gymnast to unable to perform basic gymnastic moves like handstands etc. Will he lose his advanced skills on the rings and pummel horse? Most likely gradually over time. But is it worth it functional strength wise to maintain those advanced skills?
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Old 10-21-2005, 09:36 AM   #4
Larry Lindenman
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I went to my high school gymnastics coaches 50th birthday a few years ago. He was my coach in 1983 and 1984. He invited everyone who he either coached or who he was teammates with in high school or college. I saw a lot of old friends and teammates and some 50 year old former gymnasts. I have to say, this was the most in shape group of men and women, in their 40s and 50s I have ever seen concentrated in one area. Not one person was overweight. Everyone branched out to other sports, most were very successful. When I was a highschool gymnast I trained approximately 3 to 4 hours a day with Sundays off. Mostly skill work with conditioning thrown in. Unless your a coach, you mostly do not have access to the equipment...or the time to keep your skills up. But gymnastics translates well into all other sports: Strength, balance, kinesetic sense, functional flexibility, and just sheer guts. I also find most gymnasts have a dare devil streak and take chances with their bodies. A lot of gymnasts go into adventure and climbing sports. Bottom line, such concentrated focus for a number of years, coupled with a lack of access to equipment = gymnasts using their developed skill in another sport.
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Old 10-21-2005, 09:37 AM   #5
Larry Lindenman
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Sorry, he was my coach in 79' 80'...guess I feel younger than I actually am.
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Old 10-21-2005, 10:30 AM   #6
Christopher Sommer
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As with any other athlete, life tends to get in the way. For many, the emphasis has for so long been on performing on an extremely high technical level, that they discount the physical benefits of the training and so they mistakenly move on. The time necessary to maintain high level technical skills may no longer be accessible in a life filled with work, family and other commitments; however gymnastics conditioning takes no longer than any other conditioning program.

Times have certainly changed, and in my opinion not entirely for the better, with our sole emphasis being on high level competitive gymnastics. Historically gymnastics was pursued primarily for health and strength reasons; not simply as a forum for a select few to showcase incredible technical elements. (However this is also a problem with society across the board; how many thousands/millions now prefer to simply watch rather than participate?)

Functional strength/athletic ability is functional strength/athletic ability and is quite separate from whatever level of technical expertise may be achieved with it. Consider the phenomenal physiques of many of the great Japanese competitors from the 50s, 60s and early 70s. They were supremely strong, agile and powerful; yet their level of technical gymnastics, by todays standards, was intermediate at best.

It is also quite possible to maintain quite a strong level of gymnastics strength and ability well past what is commonly believed today. In the past many men competed into their late 30s and beyond; at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Masao Takemoto won the gold team medal and the silver medal on the horizontal bar, while finishing 5th in the All-Around -- all at the age of 41.

John Gill remembers seeing a photo of an older man, in the early 1960s, at a competition in Europe performing an iron cross and simply being listed as the oldest competitor - at 60 years of age.

Coach Sakamoto set his record of 163 consecutive (full range of motion, free balancing on the parallel bars) handstand pushups when he was 50 years old - . Today at 58, perhaps 59 now, he continues to train every morning and can still perform 75 HSPUs easily.

In my opinion, it is not so much that gymnastics can not be pursued as a healthy life time endeavor, but that our societies' collective opinion of what constitutes health and fitness has become skewed.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer
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Old 10-21-2005, 01:58 PM   #7
Tyler Hass
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I'm in a college gymnastics club and some of our members did gymnastics when they were kids, but have not stepped in a gym in 7+ years. It's amazing how quickly it comes back to them. It's also impressive what some of them accomplished during their time off from gymnastics.
One girl went to the world championships as a ski jumper. Was a state champion diver in her first season of diving and set her high school pole vault record. She always did some gymnastics, throughout. There were others who were state champions in this or that, but had discontinued gymnastics. One got into X-country running freshman year of college and quickly became the top runner on the team. She got bored with that and came back to doing gymnastics.
It is interesting to see gymnasts train in a commercial gym. When it comes to lifting weights, they really have no idea what they are doing. I see a lot of pink color-coded dumbbells being lifted for high reps and a lot of machine work. I hate to see them waste their time like that and then complain that weight training is useless for gymnasts.
However, there were two japanese gymnasts who had the right idea. Keep in mind that neither of them weighed more than 160 lbs. And both were at least 5'9. One of them could bench 300 for reps. I saw the other one do incline presses with 100 lbs dumbbells for reps. When they did pullups, that was even more impressive. They took turns doing pullups with 90 lbs extra. They were doing multiple repetitions. When they were warming up with 45 lbs, they were just goofing off and laughing. I kept watching. After this, they did handstand pushups on the dip/leg raise stand, freestanding with no spot. They wrapped up their work-out with some backflips in the stretching area. When they left the gym, they received a standing ovation.
I got to know both of them a bit later on. One was a high school age national champion in Japan. He said that rings was his worst event because he is weak! He hadn't competed in 2 years. The other one had only started gymnastics in high school and trained for about 3 years before coming here for school. He was incredibly strong and everyone thought he was some kind of freak. However, he confessed to me that on his first muscle-up, he needed not one, but two coaches pushing him as hard as they could to get him over the rings. He just worked hard at it and liked training strength elements. One last thing, I went to a few bars with these guys. They received more free beer than all of the hottest girls put together. They had some interesting bar tricks... The one I remember most vividly was when Hajume did a handstand on spinning bar stools. He could transfer from both stools to one and then do a full spin. Unfortunately, did see him wipe out once. Of course, that just earned him a lot more free beer.

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Old 10-21-2005, 08:24 PM   #8
James R. Climer
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What guidance can you suggest for me to give the 4-yo neophyte in the avatar at left to get him started on progressions? I have limited access to any programs where I live and what is nearby is only open during 'banking hours'. So I will have to get him, and eventually his 1-yo brother, started at home.
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Old 10-22-2005, 03:21 AM   #9
Alexander Karatis
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Wasn't Coach Glassman into gymnastics as well? His take on this could be interesting...
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Old 10-22-2005, 09:54 AM   #10
Kevin Roddy
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Tyler - Awesome story! Just goes to show you. I'll pass on the free beer, but the strength is amazing, no doubt.
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