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Clay Shelley 08-19-2006 08:15 PM

I'm probably going to start training to do an iron cross soon, but before I started, I wanted to ask a couple of questions.

I've heard of people having elbow soreness from doing an Iron Cross with straight/locked arms. It's my understanding that this is correct form. Does this damage the elbow and the tendons/ligaments around it? Or is it simply a matter of them strengthening to accomodate the load?

I'm 17, and would like to be able to use my arms with little pain when I'm 60. I'm not going to be competing, so I could care less about the correctness of the movement, but I want to get the strength benefits without having to worry about damaging my elbow joints. Would doing this with my arms slightly bent be a better option?

Pierre Auge 08-19-2006 10:17 PM

The Cross isn't really a particularly functional movement. But if you are intent on training it this is what I will say. Practice it, and stop at discomfort to avoid PAIN. Discomfort is good it means you are applying effort. PAIN means you are about too or already have caused damage. Use your own good judgement. The cross is hard elbow soreness will occur thats life.

I do weighted muscle-ups rather than a cross much more functional.

Steven Low 08-19-2006 11:34 PM


I worked all of last year to obtain a cross. And here's what I've learned, discovered, know, etc.:

I am a former gymnast (and still do exhibitional gymnastics) so I know a thing or two about technique and skills in gymnastics. Yes, the cross is meant to be done with locked straight arms, shoulders rotated forward and thus elbows pointing semi downwards. This puts a considerable amount of shear stress on the elbow which WILL give you tendonitis if you don't take the exercise slow. With the right progressions and rest, you can avoid developing tendonitis. I had no tendonitis when I was doing cross workouts 2x a week; however, when I stepped up the cross training to 3x a week, I start to develop tendonitis after about a month or so. So yes, you can condition your tendons for the load, but you have to listen to your body. If there is pain, immediately cease and desist the exercise and try to do a similar exercise that doesn't put as much stress on the tendon so you can still practice the move. Like all strength moves, you can injure yourself if you push beyond your limits, but if you listen to your body and train correctly, you can eliminate injury (well, freak injuries happen but are highly irregular). Everyone will have different limits on how much they can optimally work an exercise so you have to experiment a bit to find your niche.

P.S. if you want, I can post a guide I wrote up on developing the strength for a cross from a semi-conditioned person starting. I wasn't very fit in terms of gymnasts then, but I wasn't a total chump either.



The cross isn't that functional a movement, but in terms of using the actual movement itself, it has helped occasionally when I have to lift myself over wide spaces which can happen during Parkour or rock climbing.

The cross will, however, build incredible upper body strength that is functional though. I've never done weighted pullups in my life and I'm sure I could do more than 50 pounds attached to me. I've done weighted dips 3 times in my life and can do 70 pounds for 8 reps developed from non-functional exercises like planche progression pushups. Functional strength is functional strength, even if it developed from a seemingly non-functional exercise. Therefore, while it is not a functional movement, you can't dismiss it because of that. If we did that, we would dismiss planche and front lever training as well as they aren't functional either, but I am sure that tons of CFers would agree that they are useful to develop both strength (and as a side effect muscle mass) and have added them to their gymnastics skill training.

Brian Sullivan 08-20-2006 08:22 AM

Hi Stephen - I think your iron cross guide would be very welcome.

Steven Low 08-20-2006 08:45 AM

Should be the top post of the page: asc&start=180

Clay Shelley 08-20-2006 09:25 AM

I already had your Iron Cross guide - Good stuff!

Would bending the arms slightly take some of the load off of the elbows?

Brian Degenaro 08-20-2006 09:57 AM

If you read the guide, it says to not bend the elbows to reduce the stress, simply reduce the volume and stress of the exercise to protect your elbows. Bending the arms will not stress the muscles used most actively in the cross.

Steven Low 08-20-2006 05:51 PM

Bending your arms would take a bit of the load off of the elbows; however, as I said in the guide that if you can't then cut down the volume and start doing other elbow conditioning exercises. Bending your arms will also stress the lats more and take the load off of the chest which isn't good, and it will put your shoulders in an awkward compromised position. In addition to that, it stresses poor technique, and you will find that you will have lots of trouble trying to progress to straight arms AND any other straight arm exercises because of your tendency to bend your elbows after emphasizing that. DO NOT BEND YOUR ELBOWS. If anyone insists on bending their elbows to train, I would suggest that they should drop cross training.

Roger Harrell 08-21-2006 08:01 AM

Fully concur with Steven. No bent elbows, instead reduce load/ROM. I haven't read Steven's post over at powerathletes... so I don't know if this is mentioned, but working back lever's with hands suponated also helps towards developing the strength for an iron cross.

Brian Degenaro 08-21-2006 10:17 AM

So that's why my cross strength gets better and better each week. That's interesting to know.

Steven Low 08-21-2006 11:15 AM

Haha, I didn't even think about that Roger. I'll add it in if you don't mind. :-) I didn't really go into that much detail about conditioning the elbows though, but I can see how it does both as the lats are recruited a large amount in the back lever.

Roger Harrell 08-21-2006 11:34 AM

Yeah it's really interesting how the cross, back lever and maltese all really tie together. I've worked with several gymnasts who have worked crosses some, worked a ton of back lever stuff and suddently been able to do an Azarian roll without any specific work on the skill. It's so nice when that happens.

Steven Low 08-21-2006 12:08 PM

Haha, well I guess that means I think I'll have to do some hard back lever work then so I can do an azarian too! :-)

Pierre Auge 08-21-2006 08:53 PM

I concur with your points and stand corrected. You made some good points dude.

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