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Old 04-05-2006, 04:06 AM   #1
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Hi Everyone,

I've come a long way ever since I first started training, in terms of knowledge and understanding on how to train right, eat right, rest etc.

Even though I've gained a lot of knowledge and understanding, and I constantly read and learn more and more, there's one thing that still eludes me in terms of my own strength training program.

I'm still not sure about the whole rest to training ratio. I've recognized and corrected a lot of mistakes I've been doing over the years, mostly having to do with over-training, meaning that now I limit my strength routines to no more than 3 times per week, with at least one day off between every session. And I limit my number of sets to only 3-6 sets per exercise, with maximum intensity in each set.

Even though I applied all these principles to my strength training, I still feel that I overtrain all the time. For example, I would do a great workout one day, where I feel strong and fresh and do all my sets and reps easily. Now, I eat right, and I give plenty of rest time in between my next workout, but I still feel weaker and less energetic when I perform it.

Now, I'm asking this question from a gymnastics viewpoint, since I'm only training in bodyweight exercises (i.e handstand pushups, dips, pull-ups, v-ups etc.), and I also have about 3 gymnastics practices per week, 3 hours each.

How should I train? I'm getting really frustrated from this, because I hear everywhere of people training 3 times per week, sometimes even 4 (especially gymnasts), and they all see great results, and I do the same thing but I always feel as though I only get results if I do 1-2 training per week, and have at least 3-4 days off in between.

Do I need to limit my strength routines even more to see good results? How do you guys train? How much intensity do you exert in each workout so that you can train consistently 3-4 times per week and see optimum results?

Here's an example of the current training plan I've designed:

1. Tuck sits on Parallettes: 10 sec, 10 sec, 10 sec (3 sets)
2. L-Sits on Parallettes: 10 sec, 10 sec, 10 sec (3 sets)
3. Pike press to handstand on Parallettes: 5 reps, 5 reps, 5 reps (3 sets)
4. Forward Planche on Parallettes: 10 sec, 10 sec, 10 sec (3 sets)

5. Handstand Push-Ups on Parallettes: 7 reps (warmup), 9+1, 6+1, 5+1, 6+1, 2+1 (6 sets total)
** The "+1" indicates a final rep to failure (where I couldn't lift myself up again)

6. Normal Push-Ups on Parallettes: 5 reps (warmup), 8+1, 6+1 (3 sets total)

7. Pull-Ups: 5 reps (warmup), 15, 10, 13, 9, 10 (6 sets total)

8. Wide-Arms Push Ups: 10 (warmup), 26, 25, 22, 22 (5 sets total)
9. Wide-Arms Push Ups on Parallettes: 8+1, 8+1, 7+1, 6+1 (4 sets total)

10. V-Ups: 10 reps (warmup), 23, 16, 22 (4 sets total)
11. Back Raises: 70, 50, 50 (3 sets total)

I give about 2-5 minutes of rest between each set in any of the above exercises.

Thanks for any advice you can provide!! Especially if you're into gymnastics yourself :-)


(Message edited by ryckman on April 05, 2006)
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Old 04-05-2006, 07:26 AM   #2
John Velandra
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Post your diet and daily schedule for a couple of days. Put it in word format and upload it. From there people will get a better idea and can offer a better response.
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Old 04-05-2006, 08:02 AM   #3
John Seiler
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I see two problems off the bat. You mention that you are using maximum intensity on every set of every workout. That's not only not necessary, it's counterproductive. You''ll notice that even on our ME days, which aren't that frequent, we are ramping up to max efforts on singles.

Also, it looks like your workouts are lasting well over 90 minutes on short day!? If so, you are in cortisol pergatory. During a workout, testosterone and GH ramp up quickly while cortisol ramps more slowly. After 45-60 minutes, testerone and GH drop off dramatically while cortisol continues to rise. This creates a catabolic (muscle-wasting) environment. Try to avoid working past 45-60 minutes. If you have to keep the total workload that high, break it into more days or multiple workouts per day.
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Old 04-05-2006, 08:53 AM   #4
Roger Harrell
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Gymnasts can often train 6 or 7 days a week and 4 hours a day, but most of that is skill development. There are significant loads during skill training, but done properly it can be maintained. The conditioning generally is done in 30 minutes. As has been stated so many times here on CrossFit, "overtraining" should be restated as "under-recovery".

Make sure your diet is as good as possible and you are getting enough sleep. Also, ramping up to the consistent intensity level takes time as well. I can't come anywhere near maintaining the training load I had in college. If I jumped back to that level all at once I'd run into problems quickly. If I ramped it up (and had the time) I could get there again.
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Old 04-05-2006, 09:07 AM   #5
bill fox
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2 things:

Gymnast,as Roman said, are doing alot a skill training. To take that a step further, much of that training is "dynamic" and doesn't require the "tension" that everything your doing does. This ties into John said about ME work. You have no DE day, so to speak.

And I'm a huge believer in John's second point. I'm doing all BW stuff and training 6 days a week, but usually 30 minutes and never more then 45.

Mix in some easier stuff and break it up into shorter sessions. Those gymnasts have been building that work capicty since they were 5.
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Old 04-05-2006, 09:55 AM   #6
Steven Low
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Hmm, it really depends on how you want to train. I do maximum effort for 2 days a week and relatively light work another 2-3 days a week because of my schedule. I am in show season with Gymkana (promote drug free living with exhibitional gymnastics to middle and high schools), and I balance this with school so I am in the gym Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Monday and after shows on Friday are my ME effort days since I have a day or two to rest after each of them. In any case the exercises I am working on currently are:

front lever pullup progressions
planche pushup progressions
weighted rows
cross training: pullups & some theraband work (access to rings)
rings flys

light days has some of the above as well as:
pullups (weighted)
dips (weighted) or on rings
rope climbs

My sets usually have a max of about 10 reps and as little as usually about 5 (besides ab and back work). The nature of progressive loading helps to cut down on the total reps which helps a lot.

I also DL about 2-3 times a week and do tabata squats am also starting to do some squat jumps with weights as well. Direct ab and back work is also done then as well.

Now, I don't really know if this is the most efficient or best routine really, but it has been working very well for me in terms of my sleep and nutrition. In combination with my gymnastics training (9 hours a week like you), I have been able to get very close to the cross as well as get through quite a few progressions of the planche & front lever and get a bunch of freestand HSPUs without directly working on them.


Now that you have a little bit of idea of what I do, I'll try to help you critique your routine.

As John said, you don't HAVE to go maximum intensity and to failure for every set in your workout. This will work for some but not for others. Real gymnasts can benefit from the type of metabolic conditioning that crossfit provides to become really fit. I am not that in shape myself in terms of metabolic conditioning, but I am somewhat strong for my bodyweight which is mainly what my workout routine reflects. I have been slacking off on parts of my light day routines (which is more CrossFit in nature), so that's where my lack of overall conditioning and endurance stems from.

I am pretty sure you are not overtraining because even though your volume is high for lots of the exercises, you aren't really doing that high intensity exercises. Although it might be the case if your sleep schedule and diet are irregular. I have gone on a M,W,F training schedule before training to failure and that has been fine for recovery. I feel it might be better for you to do what I am doing -- going 2 days for maximum effort and intensity and then another 2-3 days a week should be doing relatively light work (as well as abs, back).

Okay, critiquing your routine:

1. Tuck and L-sits are good as are V-ups. You might also want to bring in hanging leg raises. High reps are going to get you endurance and a bit of strength, but the majority of strength in the abs will come from total body tension exercises like doing front lever progressions or starting to weight exercises like hanging leg raises.

2. Pike presses.. good. Do you do these freestanding or with a wall? Anyway, it is good to keep these. I was doing about 30 freestanding straddle presses per day before my schedule got hectic and it really gave my shoulders a strength boost.

3. HSPUs are good. You don't always have to train to failure for at least the HSPUs. If you stop a few reps short of failure, then you can get more volume in for your sets which may be beneficial since you are not past 10 reps yet.

4. Planche work is good. You might also want to add in some front lever work as well. These two exercises along with the cross have boosted up my strength big time.

5. Regular and wide pushups are not needed IMO. Direct tricep work should come from exercises that give you more intensity such as what you are already doing with HSPUs as well as dips and possibly planche progression pushups. I only do HSPUs, dips and adv. tuck planche pushups and my triceps strength is increasing fine. I can even see increases in mass as well. The only type of real pushup I do is ones that are leaned over to the point where I do them my shoulders are stressed very heavily like doing planche pushups.

6. Pullups are good. You might want to start weighting them as they look like they are getting too easy.

Overall, you are just going to have to find a balance. Like John said before, try to limit your workouts to about 45-60 minutes. Mine usually go to about 70ish min, but I am trying to get them done faster now :-). I think going to a schedule like mine 2 ME days and 2-3 light days might be better for you. When training gymnastics, you need to be conditioning everyday to help build up your capacity for a volume of work to become fit, but also have some sort of training mainly focusing on raw strength.

Therefore, this is my recommendation (kind of a schedule that is similar to mine) as it addresses becoming fit as well as incorporating pure strength training:

For focusing on raw strength, you need to start doing exercises with progressions like our good old planche and front lever progressions. A weight belt will also come in handy for exercises like dips, pullups, etc. I made a makeshift on out of ankle weights and a spotting belt at the gym I work out -- it weighs approximately 30 pounds and looks retarded, but I think it's awesome. For this, you want to pick out about 4-6 exercises that you can train that can be progressively loaded. I usually do these to failure or to the specific goal of reps I have planned out for each exercise. I usually start out with 5 reps on each progression (usually about 3x5) and work my way up to 10 reps. Once I can do 5x10, I usually am strong enough to advance to the next progression. :-)

Now as for the other days, these are the days where you can do the higher volume exercises. This can also be your time to do metcon workouts and increase your overall fitness if you potentially superset a lot of the exercises. Most of the endurance ab and back work should be done here. Pick out about 8-10 exercises that you can do back to back to back stopping a few reps short of failure on each set. Eh, this really can be done many different ways so you might want to take some other people's advice into account here as well. Crossfit principles would work well here.

The ME days usually make me sore afterwards. The lighter days will make you sore at first, but just push on through. They will eventually get to the point where you will not be sore from them -- this is when your fitness level increases and can do larger volumes without your body experiencing soreness or burnout. I don't know your schedule in the gym, so I won't really speculate as to what you can do. Right now my "heavy days" (e.g. strength training) are on Monday and Friday as I have already said. Then I do my "light days" on usually Wed or Thurs and then pick one day on the weekend. It works pretty well imo.
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Old 04-06-2006, 03:52 AM   #7
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Hey Everyone!

First off I would like to thank you all for taking the time to reply to my post, it really means a lot to me! Especially Steven, whose post turned out to be longer than my own :D

You really changed my entire perspective on the whole topic, and it looks like I'm gonna have to restructure my entire workout plan, first and foremost by limiting my strength routines to 30-45 minutes (which is GREAT because it's a real pain training for 3 hours straight!!!), and by reducing my ME days considerably!

However I still have some questions about some of the concepts you guys mentioned.
First, I'm still relatively new to crossfit so you're gonna have to bring me up to speed about some of the terminology you used:

John: I sort of got what you wrote, but could you please clarify exactly what you meant by "we are ramping up to max efforts on singles". Does that mean that you focus more on the intensity of each rep, but limit the amount of reps you do in each set so you don't reach failure?

Also, could you please briefly describe for me what "cortisol" is? In terms of what is it's role/function?

Bill: I figured that "ME" stands for "Maximum Intensity", but what does "DE" stand for?

Steven: Ok, I got a lot of questions for you buddy! :D

First off, that's great advice about limiting my ME days to only a couple of days a week, and as much time in between. I'm definitely gonna start implementing that immediately.

I'd also appreciate your perspective on what you consider to be a "ME" workout, in terms of:
1. How many sets you perform on each exercise;
2. How do you define maximum intensity, is it a. doing multiple reps until failure, or b. increasing the load by use of a weight belt or such, and then training to failure (in other words, is ME defined by the resistance of the exercise, or by doing it to failure, or is it a combination of both?).

Another thing I would like to know is, how do you define "light days", is it simply doing the same exercises, only limiting your number of sets/reps in advance so you don't reach failure? If so, by how much do you limit them (i.e. how many sets.. how many reps..)? Also, I got a little confused when you mentioned that your light days consist of weighted pull-ups and dips, which actually increases the intensity because of the added weight, so how is that defined as being "light"? :-) I'd appreciate it if you clarified that for me...

Also, as I've mentioned before, I am still relatively new to crossfit, so could you please explain some of the terminology, like what is "DL", "metabolic conditioning", and "metcon workouts"?

About my own routine, those aren't actually all of the exercises that I do, it was just a sample workout which more or less reflects what I mostly work on. I do however also incorporate coach Sommer's forward Planche and Lever progressions, although I have to admit I'm still only at the beginning stages of those. And I also do hanging leg raises as well, although I think I will focus on them a little more from now on.

2. I do the Pike Presses starting from an L-sit on the Parallettes, without the use of a wall. I can't necessarily do all 5 of them all the way to a handstand, so I just lift up as much as I can in each rep.

3. I'll keep that in mind! :-)

4. Specifically about the cross.. How do you perform the progression? I mean I usually just lower myself as much as I can and stay in the position until I can't hold it anymore, and then I would rise up again by pulling my hands back together. I heard somewhere that you should only maintain the static hold for about 3 seconds, and then lift yourself back up, regardless of whether you can still hold it or not. Does that have any truth to it? Because the whole theme here is to limit my work, and again I don’t want to push it too hard like I usually do and see crappy results because of it.. :D Also, how many sets should you usually do when training the cross on rings?

5. About the pushups, I found that the wide-arms variation is very beneficial for my lats (the back) and chest, so that's why I do them... you think that's unnecessary?
As to the "regular" push ups on parallettes (where your arms are just slightly wider than shoulder width), I found those to be really good for an overall shoulder/triceps workout, so I usually do a couple sets after finishing with my HSPUs to add some variety. That's actually something I picked up from the "Parallette training guide" on Jay Thornton's site (

6. I've recently started to increase the speed on my pull-ups, as I've heard that it increases the intensity. They are indeed getting relatively easy to perform.. I find myself able to do 20+ in one rep on a good day, so I think I really should start weighting them as you said.

Another thing I'd also like to know a little more about is the concept of progressions. Well, not so much to "know more", but rather clarify a couple of things... When you are referring to progressions with exercises such as dips, pull-ups, hanging leg raises etc. Is the progression here in terms of adding more weight after you've achieved a certain training goal? And also, is that part of the ME days, meaning that doing progressions is only part of raw-strength building, where you only do those to failure?
In addition, I'd also like to know, what is the role of some of the progressions in the static positions (front lever, planche) in terms of ME training: Are they a part of the ME days, or are they more of an endurance building exercises that can be done daily (like abs and back)?

I think that about covers it... Man, those are a lot of questions! I hope I'm not pushing it here.. :-)

Any response would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks again!


P.S – Cool flares on pommel there Steven! ;)

(Message edited by ryckman on April 06, 2006)
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Old 04-06-2006, 04:53 AM   #8
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P.P.S - A small correction.. "ME" stands for maximum effort! That's what I meant to write :-)
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Old 04-06-2006, 12:45 PM   #9
John Seiler
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Hey Roman,
This is a pretty good link that will describe cortisol better than I would.
Cortisol in itself is not bad; it's necessary. However, excess cortisol brought on by extreme stresses leads to a number of undesirable effects. One of these effects is to put the body in a catabolic state; losing muscle, not recovering, etc.

What I mean about our ME days is that
a.) our reps are far lower; somewhere between 7 and 14.
b.) we're only maxing on one lift.
c.) We ramp up weight and intensity to warm up our tissues and our neurological pathways. For me, only one of those reps is a true maximum effort.
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Old 04-06-2006, 02:33 PM   #10
Rene Renteria
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I'd also appreciate your perspective on what you consider to be a "ME" workout, in terms of:
1. How many sets you perform on each exercise;
2. How do you define maximum intensity, is it a. doing multiple reps until failure, or b. increasing the load by use of a weight belt or such, and then training to failure (in other words, is ME defined by the resistance of the exercise, or by doing it to failure, or is it a combination of both?).

Re: programming--I’ve been trying to figure this out for myself recently.

Density training was discussed by Josh Everett, among others, in this thread:

In it (scroll down in the discussion) he gives a link to a doc that has some great ideas for weight, rep, and set schemes to use.

Coach Rutherford has put together the “ME Black Box” (search the message board and check out the Performance Menu issue in which he discusses it) program that is to be used on every second WOD day. It uses rep schemes of 5-5-5-3-3-3 one cycle followed by 3-3-3-1-1-1 the next for an upper, lower, and whole body exercise.

Mark Rippetoe talks about programming for strength in Starting Strength. In it he recommends using work sets at 3 sets of 5 reps for the squat, press, bench, and clean, and 1 set of 5 reps for the deadlift, which is more taxing. The sets before these work sets should be warm up sets and not too close in weight to your 5RM or only doing them for a couple of reps if the weight is closer to your 5RM. You don’t want to fatigue yourself in your warmups when what you need to do is apply maximum force during your work sets. If you want to add some volume to build work capacity, lower the weight for them (“back off sets”). He also says 5x5 is an excellent way to build strength with some hypertrophy. He stresses that the program depends on increasing the weight when you can and making sure to complete all the reps of the sets. (If you’re not completing them, the weight is too heavy, and you’ll get stuck at that weight. The idea is that the body must lift heavier weights to “know” that it needs to adapt by getting stronger.)

He knocks down the idea of “pyramids”, where you build up the weight progressively, because by the time you get to your heaviest set, which is the stimulus your body needs to adapt to lifting heavier weights, you’re too fatigued to lift it more than once or twice, when you should be just lifting the heavier weight more times for the stimulus that provides.

I haven’t figured out how I’m going to continue yet, but I have been making strength gains using ME Black Box recently, although I was starting from a rather poor base.

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