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Adult Gymnastics

Understanding the Mid-line

Understanding the Mid-line

The much misunderstood “core”. It might be the most misunderstood structure in the body. There is no way that I can make a real dent on the whole subject in one short post but hopefully I can elucidate you in some small way.

When the average person thinks of “core” (which is actually a great term which has unfortunately been bastardised to the extent that it actively annoys me) it’s usually just abs on their mind. Which is fine, abs are cool, they look great and the 100% have a role to play in performance and aesthetics.

BUT,

Abs and core are not synonymous.

You know that the core is way more than that. When I think of what core training involves I block it as everything above mid thigh and everything below the shoulders (abdominals in the front, paraspinals and gluteals in the back, the diaphragm as the roof, and the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the bottom, inside all of this there is 29 separate pairs of muscles that help stabilise the spine and pelvis (2)). Another way to look at is everything that isn’t peripheral. Whilst I like to define it as above (mid-thigh to shoulders) for ease there is a very strong argument, which I wholeheartedly support, to include the muscles of the jaw and neck into the core, the reason why I’ll cover below (way below, I can already tell I’m going to get carried away.)

Before I go any further into it though what the core is we need to define it’s role as best possible within the confines of this article.

THE ROLE OF “THE CORE”

Whilst there is no common consensus on the exact anatomy, physiology, and methods of how to evaluate a clients “core” functionality, the role on the core is undeniable in terms of proper load balance in the kinetic chain, maximising a persons functional range of motion (proximal stability = distal mobility (7)), providing a base of support for maximises force production as well as protecting the joints by decreasing/minimising joint load, shear, compressive, and translational forces throughout the body (1,2).  From a performance point of view it’s easy to see that there is a huge benefit from training “core stability” but one of the most common pathologies we come across as coaches is a client with lower back pain.

Punjabi has described clinical instability (i.e. instability when there isn’t a structural defect cause which may necessitate surgical intervention) as “the loss of the spine’s ability to maintain its patterns of displacement under physiologic loads so there is no initial or additional neurologic deficit, no major deformity, and no incapacitating pain”(3). Clinical lumbar instability in this sense has been cited as a significant cause on lower back pain (4, 5). A meta-analysis of 39 (this is good) randomised trails that investigated treatment of chronic low back pain of non-specific origin with an exercise intervention found a “beneficial effect for strength/resistance and coordination and stabilisation exercise programs over other interventions (6). It’s worth noting in the same meta-analysis that they found little to no benefit from combining the strength/resistance work with “cardio”. From a purely anecdotal point of view with evidence I’d suggest that this is down to people losing pelvo-lumbar control when one hip is in flexion and the other extension (assuming that the cardio prescribed is running, x-trainer, cycling, swimming) and the stability in around the hips and lower back, so as you’re teaching a more stable, controlled lumbar and hip complex with the strength work you’re teaching a less stable/more unstable hip complex at the same time which results in a conflict of adaptation (the adaptation being what any intervention is actually about) and no real change hence no alleviation of lower back pain symptoms. Again, complete conjecture on my part and would need further study.

Riiiiight, I’m aware that this is getting on a little bit. So a really quick round up of this so far:

  • Core means everything which isn’t arms and legs (and even then it’s a little bit of legs).
  • Building a strong core is hugely important for increasing your CrossFit performances.
  • There is a statistically significant benefit on lower back pain from consistently performing core stability exercises.

More than Sit-Ups and the Breathing-Bracing Continuum,

Looking back to developmental movements when, as babies, you first started moving, the first thing that happened was you start wriggling around like a madwomen and learning to, at a very basic level, activate and control all the muscles above. To quote directly from the work of Kobesova and Kolar,

“This allows for basic trunk stabilization, a prerequisite for any phasic movement and for the locomotor function of the extremities.“(9)

So we know that not only is core stability a prerequisite for movement (from crawling, to walking, to gymnastics and lifting) but on top of that recent research into the “mind-muscle connection” shows that by  understanding what muscles we’re trying to activate, including there position and function, can improve the contraction and activation (10,11).

To start to delve into how we might address “core training” we need to move to a slightly more global view of what the core musculature actually does. As noted above above the core consists of:

  • abdominals and accompanying fascial complex in the front,
  • paraspinals (think lats, spinal erectors (lumbar and thoracic ), traps as a whole and rhomboids) and gluteals in the back (personally I’d like to include hamstrings in here as well),
  • the diaphragm as the roof,
  • the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the bottom including
  • internal stabilisers of the spine and pelvis (External and internal obliques and Transverse Abdominus (TvA), Mulitfidus, Quadratus Lumbrum (QL), Psoas, Illiacus (preferably not to be thought of combined with Psoas (8)), and various ligamental structures that I’m not going into right now).

I’m our case we’ll move away from specific muscle action as soon as possible but before that we need to have an idea about what muscles are working and where they are so we can address bracing and core stiffness with some specificity as well as improved performance

*NOTE: It’s our responsibility as coaches to educate our athletes as much as will help them. I’m not saying they need to read something like this but whatever you can do to help them understand why they’re doing something is a big deal and will help create buy in and trust.*

When anybody talks about core stability a huge part of this can be perceived as “bracing”, defined as:

“anything which imparts rigidity or steadiness”

or

“to furnish, fasten, or strengthen with or as if with a brace.”

“to fix firmly; make steady; secure against pressure or impact”

“to make tight; increase the tension of.”(12)

Whilst it isn’t an exact comparison to what we’re talking about it nicely gets across the message that when we talk about bracing and core stability we are really talking about increasing rigidity,pressure, and tension throughout the body.

And here is finally where we can talk about application!!

When you ask most people who lift about bracing you get a lot of big breathes into the stomach, which is okay. It’s like having half the answer and is way better than hollowing which is, frankly, detrimental to sports performance (13). Application for you is tuning up or down the stiffness you’re creating as it’s applicable to you goal. If you’re doing a 2000m swim then maybe you don’t need to create the same tension as you would for a maximal loaded carry.

I know this isn’t super actionable, at least not straight away, but with some practice and consistent employment of the principles you can learn where and when certain levels of bracing is appropriate. More importantly you should now understand what you’re trying to achieve and why.

References:

  1. Kibler, W., Press, J. and Sciascia, A. (2006). The Role of Core Stability in Athletic Function. Sports Medicine, 36(3), pp.189-198.

  2. Akuthota, V., Ferreiro, A., Moore, T. and Fredericson, M. (2008). Core Stability Exercise Principles. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 7(1), pp.39-44.
  3. Panjabi, M. (2003). Clinical spinal instability and low back pain. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 13(4), pp.371-379.
  4. Delitto A, George SZ, Van Dillen LR, Whitman JM, Sowa G, Shekelle P, et al. Low back pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2012;42(4):A1–57. doi:10.2519/jospt.2012.0301.
  5. Long DM, BenDebba M, Torgerson WS, Boyd RJ, Dawson EG, Hardy RW, et al. Persistent back pain and sciatica in the United States: patient characteristics. J Spinal Disord. 1996;9(1):40–58.
  6. Searle, A., Spink, M., Ho, A. and Chuter, V. (2015). Exercise interventions for the treatment of chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Clinical Rehabilitation, 29(12), pp.1155-1167.
  7. Mattacola, C., Kiesel, K., Burton, L. and Cook, G. (2004). Mobility Screening for the Core. Athletic Therapy Today, 9(5), pp.38-41.
  8. McGill, S. (2009). Ultimate back fitness and performance. p.78.
  9. Kobesova, A. and Kolar, P. (2014). Developmental kinesiology: Three levels of motor control in the assessment and treatment of the motor system. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 18(1), pp.23-33.
  10. Calatayud, J., Vinstrup, J., Jakobsen, M., Sundstrup, E., Brandt, M., Jay, K., Colado, J. and Andersen, L. (2015). Importance of mind-muscle connection during progressive resistance training. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(3), pp.527-533.
  11. Critchley, D. (2002). Instructing pelvic floor contraction facilitates transversus abdominis thickness increase during low-abdominal hollowing. Physiotherapy Research International, 7(2), pp.65-75.
  12. Collins, W. (2011). Collins dictionary. London: HarperCollins.
  13. McGill, S. (2009). Ultimate back fitness and performance. p.75-76.

Why Shouldn’t You Just Go It Alone?

If you’ve come to a few classes chances are you appreciate the value of having support in your training. But why do we need a helping hand as human beings? Here are some tips to help you out:

1. 86400. That’s the number of seconds in a day. And if you do a training session just going through the motions that’s 3600 seconds you will never get back. Make sure every second you are progressing the most you can

2. Making mistakes yourself sucks. The advantage of learning from others is they have done it before, failed before and can save you the stress, time and possibly injuries. Failures are natural and useful but the more you can second guess the faster you can go

3. We are programmed to survive and reproduce. That’s the only thing our instinct helps us do – everything else we learn. Trouble is, we have every opportunity to learn the wrong way as the right. Getting support means you receive the right information
4. Life is hard. We get tired, in motivated, that lure of a party invite when we know we should be training. The more this comes up, before you know it you’ve fallen out of habit. Get someone who cares you being there as much as you do and you will keep doing the thing you love.

5. Which brings us to our last point – people you pay pay attention. This is more about getting support of a class or coach compared to a friend. You want someone who cares you progress more than you do or the interactions can be sporadic or unsustained. Paid help means both of you get serious.

Whether it’s in a class or 1-1, getting support takes more guts than going it alone and can be the smartest thing for your Crossfit and gymnastics.

If flexibility is that missing key in your training data bank, book into our flexibility class or try a 1-1 by booking a free taster session here:
https://10to8.com/book/qwzphv-free/191921

Best Stretches For Back Pain

Back pain is only too common, with as much as 4/5 people in the U.K. experiencing it in some form. Throw In deadlifts, weighted crunches and somersaults into the mix and you have a concoction of potential for aggravation.


What’s the fix?
Pain remedy comes in two forms – prevention and cure. In the realms of cure you may want to veer towards osteopathy, physiotherapy or chiropractic help so this article will focus mainly on the prevention side. If in doubt always consult your doctor.

Having said that, the following stretches will provide some relief from existing pain, and may help to overcome the smaller niggles.

The easiest and most holistic method what I term the ‘dangle’ or hanging stretch.

  1. Take a deep breath and on exhaling reach towards your toes.
  2. Starting out you may want to have a slight bend in your legs or even rest some weight on a small footstool through your hands.
  3. Over time your aim is to hang free with your legs straight but not hyperextended.
  4. The key here is to use gravity to do all the work, the longer you hang the more flexible you’ll get and better relief with less future pains. Anything from 1-5 minutes is a good time here


The alternative is to hold onto an object and pull your back out specifically:

  1. Find an object between hip and shoulder height. The closer your arms are to your torso the higher it will target your back, the closer your arms to your ears the lower so choose your height accordingly
  2. Lean off your object and pull while simultaneously pushing the point in your back that’s sore as far from the object as possible
  3. Vary your arm and body angle to work different sides
  4. If working your lower back tilting your hips underneath you will improve the stretch

Prevention comes in two forms. Having over tight hamstrings (the back of your legs) may be a cause of back pains so work on your flexibility using the back and leg stretches above.

An imbalance between hips and hamstrings can be detrimental as well so work the front with stretches such as these:


While flexibility plays a part good core strength is key.

You may be thinking ‘Olympic lifts DO work the core, but these will only work to an extent and some direct core work is necessary.

Arch holds for the back and plank and dish holds for the front help build core tension so your back isn’t under as much stress when lifting heavier weights.

You can find these exercises in our gymnastics strength classes or ask Your Crossfit coach for ideas.

Work your flexibility and core strength regularly to reduce your chances of back pain, while implementing the above stretches to catch any niggles early.

You’ll many more injury preventative and feel-good stretches in our flexibility classes, or if you have problem areas and are concerned why not book into a free 1-1 taster here:

https://10to8.com/book/qwzphv-free/191921

by Felix Leech
Flexibility Coach at Crossfit London / Crossfit SE11

How to Get Your Bridges Faster With Less Pain


Holding a gymnastic bridge holds a number of benefits, from building a strong back for overhead squats and opening up doors for gymnastics moves like walkovers and back handsprings.
Doing these stretches in the wrong way though can put your back out so read through as it will have a big impact on your long term training health.
OK first a slight terminology detour. When people talk about bridges and cobra stretches they talk about having a flexible back – but in fact it’s your ABS that are being stretched. So our focus here is to increase the flexibility in the stomach area.
Which brings us onto our first point:
1. Realignment. Whenever you stretch your abs you put pressure on your spine. A slight pinch feeling in your back is normal especially when doing bridges, but it needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Follow every bridge with some form of forward bend. This can be bending down to touch your toes, doing the same while seated, or grabbing a fixed object and pulling away as pictured.
 

2. Next most important step is to keep some tension in your core. Squeeze lightly in your abs, obliques and back while doing the bridge and you will protect your spine from over compression. This holds true however far you progress your bridge, as you want your strength to hold you in position and not your anatomy.
3. Breathe and stay relaxed. Breathing will naturally help you relax which will reduce pain, discomfort and slow progress. Breathing isn’t so instinctive when you go into a bridge though. Breathe through your chest make a conscious effort to breathe to avoid holding your breath.
4. Know the right kind of pain. A burning sensation in your shoulders and stomach is normal but sharp pains are bad and it’s likely you’re pushing it too far or in the wrong position. Some sharp pain in your back is unavoidable but be sure to release it using 1.) above.
 
Follow these tips to progress your bridges and backward bending faster and more sustainably. You’ll achieve better results in the long term.
If you are ever unsure if you are doing these right or want expert guidance come to a flexibility class as we cover bridges every week.
Or, for quicker results and less injuries in your training join a free Get Flexible & Feel Fantastic 1-1 taster by booking here.
Felix Leech
Flexibility Coach
Crossfit London / Crossfit SE11

I’m too old for tumbling and gymnastics

To be a competitive gymnast, 2 years old is too late to start.

Actually, you probably need to be born into a gymnastics family and weened at the side of a tumble pit to be world class.

That obvious, but sucks for us normal people who fancy having a  back tuck, a handstand or a back handspring.

Why should being 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60, be a reason not to get loads of fun from a tumbling session.

Ok, let’s be honest! If you start late, you probably are not going to the Olympics. But stuff the Olympics, wouldn’t it be so cool to do a standing back tuck, a  handspring or a handstand.

Well, we have been teaching adults how to back tuck, handstand, bridge and do lots of cool stuff since 2008. We have invested in the specific equipment to make it safe, and we have the drills and skills to help you achieve these skills.

But you cannot just rock up to our level 2 tumbling classes and expect to throw a back tuck: you need to forward and back roll, handstand and learn how to jump. Really, so much of gymnastics and tumbling is about jumping.
That’s what we teach in our level 1 tumbling class, and starting next Sunday we have scheduled an extra level 1 class at 1 pm at railway Arch 3  Gales Gardens E2 0EJ, for the whole of June.

The aim of our level 1 classes is to get you basic skills and get you to our level 2 classes ASAP. Some will do 1 lesson, others 4 or 5. The teacher will guide you.

Stop dreaming, start living: BOOK NOW

Click Here

Try Something Over And Over But It Just Doesn't Work?

Trying something new but it just hasn’t worked?
 
Chances are it isn’t entirely your fault.
Most of the things we do we do out of habit. We are, as one wise man once put it, a result of not what we do but of our habits.
Making a change therefore takes a change in are habits – and therefore getting a new PB or following a new training regime becomes easy.

Habits control our behaviours without us even knowing. Take for example what you eat for breakfast. Do you eat, the same thing more or less every day for breakfast?  Pretty much right? How long has that gone on for?
When most of us make our breakfast we don’t think about what we’re doing. Our brains go into autopilot, we boil the kettle, pour out the same amount of cereal or whatever that routine might be. Our subconscious mind kicks in, we switch off and let the habit do the work.

Now let’s say we want to learn something new like kicking into a handstand. We get into position, hands on the floor. But – we then switch off. Whenever we kick into a handstand, we get scared, tell ourselves it’s too hard, and our legs barely leave the floor. This continues long enough that a habit forms and left unchecked we do the same thing over and over.

To do something different we need to consciously THINK what we’re doing. Break it down, ask for advice and follow step by step until we learn the pattern.
After a while a new habit of the right technique forms and then – ONLY then – we can switch off.
So next time you face a challenge take a step back and focus on what you’re doing to avoid old patterns repeating. Before you know it, your habits will be working for you.
Build more good habit and make things easier in our flexibility class.
Or, for a speed boost in your flexibility and injury proofing book a free 1-1 taster session here:
https://10to8.com/book/qwzphv-free/191921
 
By Felix Leech
Flexibility Coach
Crossfit London & Crossfit SE11

I don't want to do that, it's too hard!


I don’t want to do that, it’s too hard!
Whenever we face something we’ve never done before, that’s often the response we get in our heads.
This is our comfort zone.
After all, who doesn’t like to be comforfable? This is an instinct that has been wired into.our brains to fullfil the human body’s one purposes – to stay alive.
Trouble is, being comfortable doesn’t get us great abs, PBs and cool gymnastics pictures for our Insta account.

The fun stuff is OUTSIDE our comfort zones. So to be better in ourselves, we need to Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.  And reap the rewards of more confidence, pride and a shot of adrenaline that gets us hungry for more.
So how do we get to that place of Euphoria when we have to climb a mountain first and where we are is actually pretty cosy and comforting thank-you-very-much?
First step is to start small. One of the last articles on scaling will help with this.

Find someone who knows what they are doing to support you, such as a Crossfit coach or gymnastics instructor. They can guide you through, give you tips and they will keep you from doing anything stupid.
The key is to test your limits but not go outside of them – no prizes for jumping out of an airplane without a parachute.

Finally, learn to enjoy that butterfly feeling when you’re treading into the unknown. The more you anticipate it as the next step, going upside down or bringing a heavy bar over your head will be all part of the fun of it.
For more chances to break out of your comfort zone and get the flexibility you need to do so, jump into one of our flexibility classes.
Or, if you want to get flexible quicker or avoid pain and injuries, try a 1-1 by booking a free session here.
 
Felix
Flexibility Instructor, Crossfit London, Bethnal Green E2

Does harder faster stronger mean better flexibility?


Keen to get flexible? Really keen? Then listen close.
All the time I people stretching and making one simple mistake. They want it TOO BAD.
Now enthusiasm isn’t a bad thing, nor is intensity. They’re both great. They just need to be used in the right way.
Intensity is something you have to be very careful with. When doing a stretch it’s important not to go too far too soon. Muscles, much like a rubber band, will tear and break of taken beyond their limit too quickly.

As you may have picked up from earlier articles, the key is to relax. Focus your INTENSITY on relaxing as much as you can. Once you do that, apply the following things:
1. Listen. If it hurts in a sharp stabbing sensation, back off slightly. Your body is the greatest teacher.
2. When stretching with a partner, keep talking. They can’t feel your pain so speak up if they’re applying too much pressure. Stubbornness won’t help when you get hurt.
3. Go slow into and slow out of a stretch.
4. Be patient. Great results come but only by allowing your flexibility to take the time it needs to.

Remember that all good things take time, and only with that time will they really be amazing- flexibility is certainly one of them. Not only will you make gains in your range of movement and cut out the injuries but you’ll also then grow your patience – double win!
Enjoy the beauty of watching your flexibility gains grow over time in one of our flexibility classes.
Or if you keen to get results quicker and with less mistakes try 1-1 training- book your free 1-1 kickstart session at
https://10to8.com/book/qwzphv-free/191921/
Felix Leech
Stuntman and Flexibility Instructor
Crossfit London / Crossfit SE11

Does harder faster stronger mean better flexibility?

Keen to get flexible? Really keen? Then listen close.
All the time I people stretching and making one simple mistake. They want it TOO BAD.
Now enthusiasm isn’t a bad thing, nor is intensity. They’re both great. They just need to be used in the right way.
Intensity is something you have to be very careful with. When doing a stretch it’s important not to go too far too soon. Muscles, much like a rubber band, will tear and break of taken beyond their limit too quickly.
 

 
As you may have picked up from earlier articles, the key is to relax. Focus your INTENSITY on relaxing as much as you can. Once you do that, apply the following things:
1. Listen. If it hurts in a sharp stabbing sensation, back off slightly. Your body is the greatest teacher.
2. When stretching with a partner, keep talking. They can’t feel your pain so speak up if they’re applying too much pressure. Stubbornness won’t help when you get hurt.
3. Go slow into and slow out of a stretch.
4. Be patient. Great results come but only by allowing your flexibility to take the time it needs to.
 

 
Remember that all good things take time, and only with that time will they really be amazing- flexibility is certainly one of them. Not only will you make gains in your range of movement and cut out the injuries but you’ll also then grow your patience – double win!
Enjoy the beauty of watching your flexibility gains grow over time in one of our flexibility classes.
Or if you keen to get results quicker and with less mistakes try 1-1 training- book your free 1-1 kickstart session at
https://10to8.com/book/qwzphv-free/191921/
Felix Leech
Stuntman and Flexibility Instructor
Crossfit London / Crossfit SE11
 

I'm too inflexible to try Yoga or a flexibility class!


“I’m too inflexible to try Yoga / a flexibility class.”
It sounds backwards doesn’t it. Surely that’s why you need to come to a class?
But I get this statement a lot.
And yes, with good reason. If you can’t touch your toes isn’t a splits class going to be out of your depth? Or a bridge class knowing your tight shoulders?
Fortunately not. This is where scaling bears it’s fruit.
Crossfitters reading this will know scaling well. You do a workout with 100 pullups but know that with your max 4 reps completing in several minutes is an impossibility.
So you scale. Make it easier so it’s something you CAN do.
Those who are willing, will find a way.
Luckily fhe same works in flexibility.
Lets take the bridge as an example. A mean fear when your shoulders force nothing less than a 90 degree bend in your elbows. While your hear practically sweeps the dust off the floor.
So we scale:
1. Firstly you will need a partner. For sole traders out there, a chair can work depending on the shape, but a breathing obstacle works better and can be recruited with a suitable dose of chocolate.

2. Warm up suitably and do some preparatory stretches of your shoulders (find some examples in our flexibility class)


3. Start your bridge position lying on the floor, heels tucked to your backside withe feet on the floor
 
4. Your partner stands facing you with feet at your shoulders either side of your head
5. They then walk out at a 45 degree angle from your shoulders, starting 1 foot away
6. You grab hold of their ankles, elbows pointing up

7. Your partner supports underneath your shoulders, while you push off your hands and feet into a bridge
8. If unable to lock out your arms, bring your head to your chest and lower down, have your partner walk out a bit more from your shoulders then try again

9. Stretch out your back after you finish
10. Scaling like this you can hold and work on a proper locked out bridge, and work towards doing it solo
 
Come to the flexibility class for a full breakdown of this and more shoulder stretches.
Or  if you’re keen to get flexible quicker or prevent pains and injuries, try a 1-1 by booking a free session here:

https://10to8.com/book/qwzphv-free/191921/