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

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Old 03-17-2006, 01:36 PM   #1
Ryan Atkins
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Hi everyone,

I've emailed this to some key people but thought others may have some good ideas as well, so:

I've recently been asked by one of the team coaches at the gymnastics facility I work at (www.scampsgymnastics.com) for input on her conditioning program (for Level 6+ girls, including optionals). We talked for about 20 minutes last night before I had to start my class and she seems willing to try some new ideas. There's some obvious things I've already suggested (ditching smith machine squats and lateral raises, not relying solely on moderate speed running for cardio, avoiding training 'phases', etc.), but some issues are still a little fuzzy.

One of the primary concerns is the practice length/frequency - for many, it's five days a week, three hours each practice with the last 30 minutes devoted solely to conditioning. However during their skill training there are usually conditioning exercises thrown in for each event. It's not uncommon to see a 5 or 6 station circuit for an event where only one of the stations is actual skill training. Granted these circuits aren't being completed for time, but it's still a significant amount of work, IMO.

Here are some of my inclinations regarding programming so far. I'd like your input, if possible.

1. Since they're getting a lot of upper body focus during their normal training, I was thinking it might be appropriate to spend a fair amount of time working on hip/leg/ankle extension/explosiveness. Although they don't have bars (outside of the smith machine), a good selection of dumbbells are available (up to 50#, IIRC). Squats, deadlifts and (eventually) snatches/cleans would benefit them greatly, IMO (as well as hopefully cut down on the number of knee/ankle injuries I see at the place). Several dowels are also on-site, making the broomstick mile another option. Step-ups and lunges are already used in their current program.

2. Metabolic conditioning is largely ignored during skill practice and, IMO, poorly addressed during conditioning. One of my goals would be to get them sweating and breathing hard. Thursters, db swings, push-presses, wall-ball, box jumps (onto the rod floor) etc. will come in to play here and, on the days before meets (almost always on weekends), possibly some CrossFit-style bodyweight cardio (along the lines of Cindy/Mary - plain or runny). This idea partly ties in with concept 3 below.

3. Given the fact they've already been practicing for 2.5 hours, a warm-up is largely unnecessary. Instead I'm tempted to design many of the workouts to last approximately 10 minutes, divide the team(s) into two groups and have one group go through the workout while the other watches, counts, corrects for form, etc. Do you think this 'going out with a bang' type thinking is advisable, given the length of their training sessions? The last 10 minutes can be used for cool down/stretching.

4. I'm at a loss as to the appropriateness/frequency/feasibility of maximal effort external weighted training in regards to gymnastic conditioning.

Any feedback, suggestions on these issues or others I haven't addressed is greatly appreciated.

Ryan
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Old 03-17-2006, 07:07 PM   #2
Tony Young
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Wow, Ryan what a great opportunity.

I think you're dead on with #1. The hip/leg/ankle strength can only make them better all 'round athletes.

I like your selection of work in #2.

I think you're putting the conditioning in the right place toward the end of the session. They're for sure warmed up and are so used to the work load they do up to that point that they probably only feel a little more than warmed up. If you have the equipment you might consider head-to-head team workouts. Since gymastics is point-based scoring they might enjoy the direct competition.

I think you put the ME work in the same place in there training day and do it once or twice a week. A strong gymnast is a good gymnast, right?

I'm interested to hear what the gymnastic focused trainers and coaches say.
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Old 03-18-2006, 09:57 PM   #3
Steven Low
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I agree with both your points 1 and 2. Basically for the same reasons Tony said. In addition, with #2 it would GREATLY affect the ability to tumble when tired, which is what happens during floor exercise. I glanced at the website and most of the classes are for younger gymnasts, but it will definitely help them as they improve and get better.

#3 sounds like a good idea as well.. if you can pull it off somehow. I like the idea, but I'm not sure if you can do it with kids or if it would be efficient to just do something like metcon for only 10 minutes. I think the full 20 minutes with the 10 minute cooldown may be more beneficial. By the way, is this going to be a few times a week or all of the time? Regular conditioning is still beneficial, and should not be neglected.

Not sure about #4. Roger would probably have a good answer for this though. Periodization training *could* be applied to help them peak at competitions and whatnot, but you have to know what you are doing.
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Old 03-18-2006, 11:58 PM   #4
Keith Wittenstein
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Is there anyway to get them doing the metcon work somewhere else in their workout and have it more naturally integrated into what they do? For example a workout involving rounds of 5 handstand pushups, 10 skin the cats and 15 squat jumps for 20 minutes? Maybe if you watched some of their practices you might see ways to just up the intensity in certain parts without having to tack on another workout at the end.

It seems to me that it makes more sense to integrate the movements they might already be doing into a crossfit style workout so that they can get there workouts done somewhere earlier in the 3 hour practice.

I also like the idea of the team workouts and competitions. Some "fun" games and competitions at the end of the workout might be a great way to boost energy at the end.

I definitely think you're ideas are good. Keep us posted on how it goes.
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Old 03-19-2006, 02:35 PM   #5
Ross Hunt
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What are the metabolic requirements of competitive gymnastics?

i.e., if you do circuits, would you be doing them to prepare for endurance for the sport-specific, or for general conditioning to allow for more training volume, etc.? How should this consideration influence the duration of the circuits?
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Old 03-19-2006, 11:58 PM   #6
Kalen Meine
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The question I think everyone is slowly revolving around is: Are they so advanced that more benefits will come from anything but gymnastics, like you were saying, or are they so advanced they can't be risked/spend time learning/develop qualities for anything but gymnastics, like Keith was suggesting. Doing anything but squatting, ala Westside, vs. squatting all the bloody time, ala Smolov.

I think the answer is a middle road- teach them and challenge them with as much stuff as you can that they don't do, but use their higher level skills to access more interesting conditioning. In other words, make sure you get them doing thrusters in Fran, because the new stimulus will do them good, but maybe make them L-pullups. Or replace the sprints in Helen with a couple tumbling laps around the floor? In a more general sense, get them up to speed on basic lifts, and then do the WOD, but sub out whatever bodyweight work there is for a smaller number of a harder gymnastic element? Pistols for squats, or maybe flips or tumbling? Kips for pullups? Just in general, give them what they don't have (I think the leg focus is a good plan) but play off of what they do very well.

How much do you think that total time might shrink if more of the non-skill conditioning got lumped into the end? Could the issue of them being tired out for conditioning be reduced by cleaning up the program upstream? I understand it for high-skill events, but I'm just inherent suspicious of a three-hour practice. And if you got better results from higher intensity...

I bet you can be pretty agressive with the ME stuff, at least for stuff that is all about the ground- cleans, snatches, squats, etc. Upper body- hmmm...that's tougher, but also probably not as necessary.

It might be wise to make that conditioning chunk as much about "play" as you can- they've been developing precise and individual skills under intense scrutiny for 2.5 hours, and probably spent a fair amount of timing waiting for a turn with an appartus or a coach. So- anything done as a time, can be done without exceptional headaches, and is done fast and furious.

This sounds like fun. I want people to coach!
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Old 03-20-2006, 09:01 AM   #7
Tony Young
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Kalen,
"teach them and challenge them with as much stuff as you can that they don't do, but use their higher level skills to access more interesting conditioning."

Good stuff! The same would hold true for athletes in other sports as well.

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Old 03-20-2006, 09:42 AM   #8
Roger Harrell
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Kalen, your suspiciousness about a 3 hr practice is valid, but in gymnastics it actually is necessary. The amount of skill development necessary in the sport and inherant cycle time on working the skills for an all around gymnastics does require that much time in the gym for moderate to high level gymnastics. Your insights about conditioning being about play is spot on.
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Old 03-20-2006, 10:07 AM   #9
Ryan Atkins
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Hi everyone,

Sorry for taking so long to get back to this. I've had a busy weekend (new clients, saw my first O-lifting meet, started Krav classes). I really appreciate all of the feedback so far, very informative.

Before deciding to post this to the board, I had sent it out in an email. As a result, there's now good info in two places. I'll try to bring it all together here. Roger had sent me an email earlier that addresses a lot of the issues being brought up by others. I'm going to quote the meat of it to avoid taking anything out of context:

"1. Adding proper squats into their program will help tremendously. I've seen enormous benefit in many gymnasts by adding high intensity bodyweight squats, and moderately light thrusters and the like. Starting to learn the oly lifts will also be good. They will get some conditioning in and it will help in the extension explosiveness as you said. Finding adequate time to practice technique on these will be a challenge. Your focus will need to primarily be on the conditioning aspect and just spend a little time discussing/working technique. Just harp on them while they do it. They are gymnasts, they are VERY used to folks being particular about technique.

2. Metabolic conditioning in many gymnastics programs in the programs that have their stuff together is generally covered in multi-set days. Doing 2-3 floor routines in quick succession is a heck of a met-con workout. That being said, it many, many programs met-con is overlooked and conditioning is focused more on pure strength training. (and not always the best implementation there either). Do the met-con stuff, but do not be afraid to have intense upper body involvement here.

3. Warm up to your conditioning will be unnecessary. Jumping into a 10-15 minute CF style workout as they come off the events is a great way to do it. Hard core burn out at the end followed by stretching.

So you know how I approach gymnastics conditiong. This is generally our day. We'll do the 2.5 hrs of skill development and training, which does include a very high volume of work that would be considered conditioning. Then to start conditioning we'll do some skill specific high load strength training type stuff. Our rings, parallel bars, bar complexes involve 5-15 skills that are basically max effor type things. Iron crosses, presses and the like. Then we'll hit a CF style all out circuit. These circuits are still upper body heavy compared to the CrossFit WODs. Lots of dips, pull-ups, hanstand push-ups, etc. They also have core componants, roman chairs, "gag a giant", v-ups, straight body lifts, etc. and a leg thing or two, squats, thrusters, block jumps (of various types), etc.

Oh, one addition. If you can familiarize yourself with as much gymnastics specific conditioning as you can. Learning how to include presses, and other technique based conditioning in your conditioning is going to be essential.

This has had tremendous results in gymnasts of all levels and ages. The strength complexes will generally be tailored a bit to the specifics of the gymnasts development needs, and the met-con circuits everyone does the same stuff, but of course the more fit have more output during these circuits. It works out very well with groups."




Tony - I had similar ideas with the competition aspect of the conditioning. When I asked the coach, she said it would probably go over well with the older kids, but not the younger ones. We may have to try it and see.

Steven - The conditioning will take place 5 days/week at the last 30 minutes of each practice. From what I understand, it's toned down during the competition season.

Keith - you asked Is there anyway to get them doing the metcon work somewhere else in their workout and have it more naturally integrated into what they do? The short answer is yes. However, I don't think I've seen the quick multi-set routines that Roger refers to being used at my facility.

Kalen - I think somebody's said this before, but are you sure you're only 19?!?!? Your second paragraph, for me, helped to crystalize a few things.

Thanks everyone - I'll update you all if they choose to try out this stuff,

Ryan
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Old 03-20-2006, 11:04 AM   #10
Ryan Atkins
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Larry had also sent me an email (ties in with some of Kalen's ideas nicely and addresses the metcon question Ross raises):

Ryan, I think PVC drills...especially the push press, would be a plus. MHF could hurt the gymnast more than most athletes (think about the takeoff for the handspring and most everything else). Squats, DLs, overhead lifts, all important. Metcon for the gymnast is huge. Many times a gymnast will not pull off a trick later in their routine because they feel spent (think of how a fighter starts to lose steam later in the fight). Feeling strong will help them pull off better tricks later in the routine. Because of their base skill level and ability to learn movement quickly, you could have some real fun with this. Instead of sprinting, you could have them walk the length (or width) of the gym on their hands...do 15 buprpees, walk on hands, 10 kipping pullups, back handspring length of mat, 15 pushups, etc. As usual, this doesn't have to be sport specific, don't make it sport specific. You are correct about the warmup. Have fun!


I'm going to call the coach and have her check out this thread!

Ryan
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