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Old 06-01-2006, 01:41 AM   #1
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I wanted to ask everyone some questions in respect to building muscle mass by using rings and general gymnastics conditioning exercises (like handstand push-ups and such).

I've been involved in fitness for quite some time now, and I consider myself to be relatively strong. I can handle the rings no problem, and can do all of the exercises quite well. But for some reason, it feels like no matter how much stronger I get, I barely gain any muscle mass, or I gain some, and then it disappears again.

Now, since functionality is very important to me, that's pretty much the reason I do gymnastics, because I don't just want to go to a gym and pump some iron.. I want to actually be able to do things with my strength.

With that being said, I would also like to gain some mass, just to feel a bit better about myself, because I tend to look a bit too skinny (especially in relation to my height).

Now, before you start going off that it's probably my diet/sleep... I make sure I have lots of protein in my daily meals, and I get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

So with that out of the way, what I do need is to design a weekly exercise plan to maximize strength/muscle gains.

Here's a simple training plan that I designed for myself, but I don't really feel it's allowing me to reach my full potential.

I based it on a Heavy-Light-Medium scheme.. 3 times/week:

Saturday (Heavy Day):
- Ring Flies: 5x3
- L-Cross (?): 4x4 *Feet on block.. parallel to floor (L-sit)
- Cross + Rubber band assist: 4x4
- HSPUs: 4x4
- Ab Grinders: 4x3 (This exercise I like to call "Ab-Grinders".. Just because I'm not rally sure what's the more common name for it.. Anyway it's when you lower the rings just a little higher than the floor, then you assume a push-up position, and extend your arms as forward as possible, lowering your body parallel to the floor. Works the abs and the back mainly)
- Wide Arm Pull-Ups on rings: 3x3 (if on bar, the back of the neck would be touching the bar.. works shoulders a lot).

Tuesday (Light Day):
- Cross + Rubber band assist: 3x3
- HSPUs: 3x3
- Hanging Leg Raises/V-Ups.. as much as possible
- Wide Arm Pull-Ups on rings: 3x3
- Planche/Lever Progressions

Thursday (Medium Day):
- Ring Flies: 3x3
- Crosses (unassisted): 5x4
- Pseudo Planche Push-Ups: 3x3
- Ab Grinders: 3x3
- Planche/Lever Progressions
- Wide Arm Pull-Ups on rings: 3x3

On the other days of the week I have some leg strength, but right now I want to focus mainly on the upper body.

Anyway, just a few general notes about why I designed my workouts as I did:
First of all, I tried to choose the hardest exercises, and to do them without failure, but with more sets. Some exercises are still pretty hard for me to do, so I did a limited amount of sets/reps (for example: Pseudo Planche Push ups 3x3).

Also I tried to maintain the principle that says it is better to do 30 push ups today, 10 tomorrow, and 20 the other day, than do 20 every day. Basically maintaining variety in my training.

Also, I really try to avoid Over-Training (or under recovery as you like to call it), so I cut down on some of the exercises, because it has been a big problem for me in the past. Basically I can really do twice as much work, at least, but I also want to be consistent, and not overtrain and thus having to break my weekly routine (but I feel I'm being a bit over-cautious).

I think probably my biggest problem is the volume, because the exercises themselves are pretty challenging, but since I'm timid of the all fearful "overtraining", I keep my volume down too much. What do you think?

Or maybe I should change my weekly scheme to hard-light-hard? I don't know..

Any changes/advice/critique about my workout plan, and helping me design something better would be greatly appreciated!!!!!!

Oh and I also keep my workouts no longer than an hour..

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Old 06-01-2006, 02:11 AM   #2
Jesse Woody
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Well, first, just "getting plenty of protein" isn't enough. You really need to eat more than your regular maintenance calories in order to put on muscle mass.

Otherwise, I would go with your idea of varying the intensity/volume continuum a good bit. If you are constantly training in the low-rep strength zone, your body will eventually adapt to that type of training and you will quit seeing gains. In order to spur more muscle growth, you need to mix it up a bit to keep your system guessing.

So, depending on how you're eating, you need to up your overall calories (which means more carbohydrates, also, not just extra protein) and find a way to vary your exercises to keep your training constantly changing.
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Old 06-01-2006, 03:17 AM   #3
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Jesse: I actually mentioned the protein bit because it was the most relevant to building muscle, but that doesn't mean I don't keep a well balanced diet of complex carbs, fats, and fresh fruits/vegitables. I've actually gone through great length researching proper nutrition, so I didn't go into the whole topic too much, just because I feel I don't have a problem in that area.

So when I said I get plenty of protein, I meant that in addition to an all-around good nutrition.
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Old 06-01-2006, 05:36 AM   #4
Pierre Auge
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I think that Jesse's point (and Jesse feel free to correct me if I'm wrong here) is that eating the right types of food is only the first step to gaining mass. But if like you said you are consistent in your training and not gaining mass then it is easily assumed that your caloric intake is high enough to maintain your current mass but not high enough to promote "gain". I'm going to stop myself here and let some of the more well versed individuals on this subject chime in but on a last note also consider adding 1-2 hours sleep to your 7-8 hours you're already getting (I'm not messing with you! hehe).
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Old 06-01-2006, 08:17 AM   #5
Elliot Royce
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Check out John Berardi's From Scrawny to Brawny. It spells out a pretty intense program to build mass.

Be careful what you wish for, though. To build 10-20lbs of muscle quickly is going to require heavy weight work and lots of eating, to the extent that you will gain some fat (presumably temporarily). As long as your muscles aren't overloaded in a short period by your activity (heavy lifting vs. gymnastics, sprinting vs. running, wrestling vs. tai chi), they won't grow as much as they could.

But I don't know that you'll be any healthier or happier as a result. I think lots of people would like to have a lean, developed but not bulky body. Just my 2cents
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Old 06-01-2006, 08:26 AM   #6
Kent Sewell
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Coming from a bodybuilding perspective, if you want the size then you gotta eat! It doesn't matter if you have the most balanced and nutritious and perfect diet in the world if you're only eating 1,000 calories. Get my drift? Whatever you're eating, if it's Zone, add more blocks, if you go by calories, add about 500 more, if you go by look and feel on the plate then take what you'd normally eat and then make sure to eat get the idea.

Aim for a pound every week or so. If it's not happening, add more food. You can't add a new wing to a house without more supplies! If you use all the materials every day then there's nothing left over to put towards expansion.

Hope this helps and good luck. There's nothing wrong with wanting to fill out a shirt more.
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Old 06-01-2006, 08:44 AM   #7
Russ Greene
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Think about natural movements. Sprinting, jumping, punching, hiking, a grappling throw, a shot put throw, etc. All your power comes from your hips. The upper body is great to look at and all, but it's not as important for performance as training your hips. If you don't care about that functionality, feel free to ignore the olympic lifts.

As long as you focus on upper body development and bodyweight exercises at the expense of weightlifting and your posterior chain your speed, power, strength, and hypertrophy will be suboptimal. Not only is intense posterior chain strengthening throught weightlifting vital to power development, it can also be a powerful catalyst to musclebuilding. How much so depends on your diet.
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Old 06-01-2006, 09:08 AM   #8
Roger Harrell
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Note that optimal gymnastics training is designed to minimize muscle mass gains while maximizing strenth. Sure mass gains are going to occur, but not to the degree that they would with a somewhat different program. Your posted rep scheme is more towards reducing strength deficit rather than hypertrophy.
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Old 06-01-2006, 09:28 AM   #9
Steven Low
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Like Roger said, if you want to start getting bigger, bump up your reps for every exercise to 6-8 instead of around 3-5 that you have them at now. A lot of rings work is more based on strength gain, but a side effect of that is muscle growth. You will never get huge with rings, but you can develop a good lean body.

I would not worry at all about overtraining if that's really all you're doing. You can make your workouts 3 heavy days if you wanted, and I can almost 100% guarantee you will not overtrain as I didn't when I was doing 3 heavy days m,w,f. In fact, your strength gain may be quicker just because of the CNS adaptions and increased motor recruitment of muscle fibers.

Right now I am getting "bigger" muscle-wise, and I am not keeping track of how many calories I eat at all. The main concentration I am doing mainly 5x5 theraband cross work with a couple of maltese exercises and rows. The rep scheme is kept mainly in the 5-8 range.
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Old 06-01-2006, 02:42 PM   #10
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Roger: Yes, I know that very well, that is one of the reasons I chose to do gymnastics in the first place :-). I'm not saying that I want to become huge and have useless hypertrophy.. as I've mentioned, it's very important for me to have functional strength. But the way I am now is a little skinny.. So I definitely don't want that either. I think gymnasts have very well balanced physiques, and that is really what I'm aspiring for.

Steven: The things is, I read in one of Pavel's books (I think it was "Power to the People!"), that if you want to build more muscle mass the best way to do it is to reduce the reps so you don't go to failure, at the same time increasing the sets (to 10-20).

There was one sentence that summed it up perfectly:
"Heavy but never-to-failure, frequent, and high Volume training Delivers!"

Now, if I do 6-8 reps with these exercises I would really be struggling on the last couple of reps, or in other words, going to failure. It's just really confusing to hear conflicting things all the time.. Could you elaborate more on why this is better than the method Pavel advocated?

And also, wouldn't going to failure each set fatigue the muscles to the extent of overtraining? Or am I just being paranoid again? :-)

On a final note, when you said "You will never get huge with rings".. how come every gymnast who's a rings expert is so huge? (Yuri Van Gelder, Hiroyuki Tomita, Matteo Morandi etc. Or is that what you mean by "lean" as opposed to "huge"? :-) )

(Message edited by ryckman on June 01, 2006)
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