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Adult Gymnastics

Gymnastic Skills Clinic for Crossfitters

There are several tricky gymnastic based moves in Crossfit that you  need to get:

Muscle ups
Handstand push ups
Kipping and Toes to bar

There is a fantastic opportunity, this Saturday,  at Crossfit London in Bethnal Green E2, to have some expert tuition from some of Crossfit London’s top coaches. They will either help you nail these skills, or help you lay the foundations for those drills and practices that will mean you’ll be “kipping and Stuff” in the near future.

Calisthenics and the 90/90 balloon drill

Inevitably the issue of breathing had to come up in our experimental Calisthenics class. Breathing can influence so may aspects of performance, that it’s worth becoming familiar with some of the more  popular breathing drills and concepts.

Increasingly you will see on cutting edged fitness blogs, the 90/90 breathing drill. As a cutting edge fitness class we looked at this skill last night.

The original 90/90 hip lift breathing drill was, to my knowledge, properly discussed by Boyle et al, ( 2010).

90/90 breathing was designed, so they say,  to optimise breathing and enhance posture and core stability. The idea being this would improve improve function and/or decrease pain (Boyle et al., 2010).

Here is a handy dandy “How to do it” guide

 

  1. Lie on your back,  feet flat on the wall, knees and hips bent at a 90- degree angle.
  2. Place a 4-6 inch ball between your knees.
  3. Place your right arm above your head and a balloon in your left hand.
  4. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, performing a pelvic tilt so that your tailbone is raised slightly off the mat. Keep your back flat on the mat. Do not press your feet flat into the wall instead dig down with your heels. You should feel your hamstrings “engage”
  5. Breath in through your nose and slowly blow out into the balloon.
  6. Pause three seconds with your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
  7. Without pinching the neck of the balloon and keeping your tongue on the roof of your mouth, take another breath in through your nose (the first few times you do this is slightly tricky).
  8. Slowly blow out  into the balloon again.
  9. Do not strain your neck or cheeks .
  10. The original instructions say “After the fourth breath in, pinch the balloon neck and remove it from your mouth.Let the air out of the balloon”. Frankly, i just open my mouth and let it fly around the room ( I have a pile of balloons to hand so I don’t have to move to get another one. My girlfriend says this is  annoying.
  11. Relax and repeat the sequence 4 more times.

You can checkout more materials at the Postural Rehabilitation Organisation

The 90/90 rests on a concept  called the zone of apposition (ZOA) of the diaphragm, which is the part of the muscle shaped like a dome.  In simple terms “MORE DOME GOOD”

If the ZOA is decreased the ability of the diaphragm to inhale sufficient air in a correct way is diminished.  This affects the diaphragms ability to build up  intra abdominal pressure.  If the ZOA is decreased The transversus abdominis activation also decreases with a smaller ZOA (Boyle et al, 2010), which again affects lumbar stabilisation ability .

The set up of 90/90 , allegedly aligns the pelvic floor and diaphragm in parallel. This combats any upper and lower cross syndromes, and lumbar extension. This results in  the core muscles being fired which increases the ZOA and adds to core stability. As an exercise in the obvious,  dysfunctional breathing and physical activity  takes up the main breathing muscles and throws the load on to smaller muscles and makes life harder. However, according to Lukas  (2018) there is little evidence in terms of studies to support this, although it sounds like a reasonable assumption. However, the Lukas study does seem to caste doubt on 90/90 as core stabilisation method

“Taken together, the 90/90 breathing seems rather ineffective as a general core activation for a normal workout.” (Lukas , 2018 page 35). but checkout these drills by Buteyko and these other breathing drills

I think some attention to basic breathing drills is probably useful, but its more relevant if you obviously have a breathing disfunction.

Why not practice on the tube (not with the balloon, obviously).

 

References

Alverdes, Lukas  (2018) .Short-term effects of 90/90 breathing with ball and balloon on core stability. Halmstad University

Boyle, K. L., Olinick, J., & Lewis, C. (2010). The value of blowing up a balloon. North American journal of sports physical therapy: NAJSPT, 5(3), 179.

 

COME & CHECK US OUT

Gymnastic strength, calisthenics, asanas

No matter what name you decide to call it, there are movements and static holds that say an awful lot about you. People who can plank, perform a lever, pop out a muscle up, hold a crow and get into the plough – are special.

Mastery of the asanas commonly associated with modern day yoga,  if combined with the famous moves associated with gymnastic strength: the human flag, the lever, the muscle up and the planche, begins the process of building awesome human beings. At CFLDN’s Crossfit Londons Bethnal Greens facility we want all our  athletes to learn how to control and manipulate external weights through regimes such as power and Olympic lifting while at the same time learning to  control and manipulate their own body weight.

Competency in these moves and the bodyweight ones in particular appear at a unique human cross-section. It’s where strength meets agility, flexibility, balance, endurance and mental calmness embraced within the mastery of technique.

Our Gymnastic-based classes represent an amazing challenge. There are, after all, gifts of health and vitality to be harvested.  However, there is a private hell to pass through as each stage is learned: perhaps only made tolerable by working with other committed, lovely people.

 

There is another key that underpins the value of  an asana, gymnastic-based process. You only learn cool moves one step at a time. In a world that worships ease convenience and instant gratification, there is a value in learning how to play the long game.

It develops grit.

It just makes you a better person.

COME & CHECK US OUT

The free shoulder flexibility course

Are you worried about your shoulder flexibility? Well, you are in good company! Many people are in the same boat. Too much hunching over computers and way, way too much texting means your chest is tight, your back is weak and your shoulder “don’t look pretty”.

At Crossfit London, we have years of teaching the Olympic Lifts and Adult Gymnastics to normal members of  the public, so we have developed  (and , to be frank, stolen) all the tricks to help you get a better shoulder position.

Whilst we cannot reproduce, in a single blog post, all of our sneaky shoulder flexibility developing drills and skills ( you have to jump into our classes or get a fabulous personal training session) here are some great drills to begin with.

Its our gift to you

Enjoy

Shoulder warm up

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jP02Bf7WBU&t=54s

Dislocations

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=si9uzGEiCic&t=18s

Shoulder stretch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yLWpWSgAaE

Strength

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REjV2alcRcY

If you find your progress isn’t as great as you had hoped for, or you want help before you start, and on going support,  do book in for a PT, get  a session with one of our therapists or check out our mobility and flexibility classes

Crossfit London is based in Bethnal Green London E2. It was the first ever Crossfit facility in the UK, and remains the biggest Crossfit Gym in London, Its facilities are both gorgeous and stunning

Some foundational work for gymnastic strength

There are many secrets to achieving those sort after gymnastic skills that we all want. There is, obviously, lots of specific work and regular practice. That you’ll do in our regular classes, supported by our teachers. Crucially, however, the human flag, the lever, the planche, the muscle up  and the handstand all require a super conditioned core.

If you want to human flag at parties to impress your friends, or pop up into a handstand to impress, well, everyone, you need  a rock solid core.

The side planks, the hollow hold and the arch hold are essential daily practice. Build up to: getting the full move, then build to  90 seconds in each move, then aspire to achieve 3 sets of 90 seconds.

the foundation of gymnastic strength. A strong core

Our gymnastic strength classes will give you all the regular skills and drills you’ll ever need, but you need to support this with home practice.

Check out our Gymnastic Strength and Adult Tumbling classes  in Bethnal Green E2 click here

Back tuck secrets

By the time you walk into a nightclub and throw a near perfect back truck, you will have spent an awful long time on learning, developing and practicing it. To back tuck, you need a great jump, a great tuck in the air and a rock solid landing. These things all take time and repetitive practice.

That’s the secret.

The problem is everyone thinks this is easy, so most do not approach the subject with consistent intention: you must think in terms of  throwing 10-30 safe back tucks each session and support this by building underpinning drills and skills.

At our Crossfit London adult gymnastic classes in Bethnal Green E2 we try and make sure that the core skills are supported and rehearsed in skill based, but condition building, circuits, like this one: You’ll notice we want to get a nice tall jump, a great snap and tuck, and a solid landing.

Once we have looked at bits of the skill, we give our clients the opportunity to try the whole skill in safety, and in a variety of different ways. As with all sports, progressive practice is the key. You’ll notice the use of a close spot and support in the air.

You can check out our adult gymnastic classes here:

Basics: the common theme in Adult Tumbling.

At our adult gymnastic classes in Bethnal Green E2, we try and get our clients to perform 5 moves: The back and front handspring, the back and front tuck along with the round off.

Whilst we have lots of safe set ups to allow you to have a go at the whole skill, it’s crucial for your training that we develop lots of mini skill circuits. You have to practice the basics as well as do the fun stuff

So,  here is an example of a mini circuit, part of our preparation to develop your  back handspring  in Crossfit London’s  adult Tumbling sessions. Enjoy them. They are building your basics.  Basics build long term success.

Each week we have tumbling  classes on Friday evening and Sunday, early afternoon.

Adult Gymnastics: learning the back tuck

Since 2008, we have been teaching adults how to tumble in our adult gymnastic classes.  We have a wonderful  8000 sq ft facility four minutes from Bethnal Green tube station in London E2.

One of the moves that our adult gymnasts want is the back tuck. Which is great. It’s not over complex, but its performance is often interrupted by fear.

Obviously the learning process begins with the backward roll and is developed by various jump and tuck drills. As with all tumbling the stronger the jump, the better the move. The only draw back is that fear makes most people:

a) cut the jump short
b) throw their heads back
c) open way to early

This back tuck drill (once rehearsed a bit) makes the learner independent of the teacher, offers safe support if it all goes wrong, but crucially, allows the learner to build confidence

For more information about our tumbling, and gymnastic strength classes , where we teach you how to  perform the front and back lever, nail the handstand  and start work on the human flag , do check out our information page. You may also note that there is a free trial on at the moment!

Don’t dismiss the split

By Andrew Stemler
To be  the best Olympic weightlifter you can be, you need to understand one crucial thing.
What the rules  of Olympic lifting actually  are.

Not the rules made up by the coach or some internet commentator, but what the rules really are. Many  organisations and coaches, in  the search for  that new world champion,  simply want to impose a particular type of lifting style on anyone who walks in through the door. If you don’t have the natural attributes of their ideal lifter,  they ignore you.

In this imposition of a style, many coaches seek to exclude, rather than welcome people. No where is this clearer than in the snatch, often totally wrongly , defined as the squat snatch.
Rather than  encouraging pointless online debate  about the snatch performance, read the  actual rules that govern the performance of the snatch  according to  the IWF
“The barbell is placed horizontally in front of the lifter’s legs. It is gripped, palms downwards and pulled in a single movement from the platform to the full extent of both arms above the head, while either splitting or bending the legs. During this continuous movement, the barbell may slide along the thighs and the lap. No part of the body other than the feet may touch the platform during the execution of the lift. The weight, which has been lifted, must be maintained in the final motionless position, arms and legs extended, the feet on the same line, until the Referees give the signal to replace the barbell on the platform. The lifter may recover in his or her own time, either from a split or a squat position, and finish with the feet on the same line, parallel to the plane of the trunk and the barbell. The Referees give the signal to lower the barbell as soon as the lifter becomes motionless in all parts of the body.”
You’ll notice that in receiving the bar,  the words are “splitting or bending the legs”.
The fantastically lovely deep squat snatch, is a thing of beauty, It’s where strength, mobility, flexibility, agility, and let’s face it, awesomeness  blend.  It is, however a specific method used by  strong, mobile, flexible, agile and awesome people . As many people will tell you, if you don’t have mobility and flexibility, as far as the squat snatch goes, you are screwed. Even if you are awesome.
What  the rules mean is you can also  power and  split snatch. The split and power snatch are available to all (well, OK, 95% of people).
So my advice is this.
Focus on the actual message of the Olympic lifts first. Get judged on how much you can lift over your head, not on the method you use. Splitting and power snatches are safe and can be used by awesome strong people who maybe are a teeny weeny bit challenged in the mobility, flexibility and agility department.
Vorobyev states in ” A text book on weightlifting”,  “depending  on the makeup of  anatomico-physiological  and psychological features the  lifter adopts… split or squat and other technical elements”
This doesn’t mean that you cannot have a go, and practice the squat snatch. Maybe it will encourage you to actually do some mobility and flexibility, Maybe you’ll actually try and nail your  over heads squat,  but why not, in the meantime,  make sure you have a great power and split snatch too.

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.