Artistic Gymnastics vs. Crossfit Gymnastics

Artistic Gymnastics vs. Crossfit Gymnastics This post delves into the fundamental difference between Artistic Gymnastics vs. Crossfit Gymnastics. This post will hopefully give you an insight into how the two must be trained differently and how to ensure you keep your training sport specific. Gymnastics is a great way to build a bullet proof foundation through the development of strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, balance and many other skills over an array of movement patterns and range of motion. It teaches you discipline, dedication and determination. It is, however, of paramount importance to ensure your gymnastics work meets your sport/training specific requirements. This article is going to delve into the differences between Crossfit Gymnastics and Artistic Gymnastics aka what you watch in the Olympics. I hope this post will give you enough specific detail and reasoning to make some good judgment and stem some ideas in terms of how you can adapt your training and optimize your performance. Caveat – Before you read the below, please understand that I’m not for one second implying that being good at Artistic Gymnastics will not help you at Crossfit specific Gymnastics. It is, however, important to understand the differences and how to apply your new found knowledge to training. The Objectives are completely different In Crossfit competition, you are typically completing as many reps as you can or a pre-defined number of reps as fast as you can in any given time, but usually between 5-20 minutes. In Crossfit the gymnastics skills are very basic and typically allow kipping. You are rewarded for your speed, endurance and capacity. Gymnastics in Crossfit can pretty much be summarized by the efficiency of your technique in combination with your muscular endurance, aerobic (and lactate) capacity across repetitive low skilled movements. Don’t be disheartened by me saying the movements in Crossfit Gymnastics are low skill if you haven’t got them all yet, but in reality, compared to a Gymnast, they are very low skill. In (artistic) Gymnastics competition, you are typically performing a 90 second highly skilled routine scored on difficulty and form. These highly skilled routines are across multiple apparatus, of which most are not used in Crossfit. Artistic Gymnastics is very much about your ability to endure and control your bodyweight under tension in high skill movements, and is primarily anaerobic. If we look at the list of Crossfit skills (strength, power, speed, balance, accuracy etc.), things like balance might be on the list but in reality, if we’re honest, when has anything requiring significant levels of balance arisen? Whereas in Artistic Gymnastics it is a very common occurrence and definitely something that needs to be mastered. So, lesson number 1 – be aware of the goal and demands of your sport (in this case Crossfit) and train appropriately. Joining an adult session at your local gymnastics club certainly won’t do you any harm, and if you have time, then by all means do it. However, it certainly shouldn’t be the priority if you want to get good at Crossfit specific gymnastics. Straight arm vs. bent arm strength Artistic Gymnastics is primarily straight arm. Most high skill movements require a tremendous amount of relative* straight arm strength. Even the less advanced skills such as front and back levers, planches, presses to handstands, manna – they’re all straight arm. There is plenty of bent arm work but the majority is straight arm. Crossfit specific Gymnastics is primarily bent arm. For example, HSPU, burpees, pull ups, muscle ups, dips etc. *relative strength, simply put, is your pound for pound strength so is often to referred to with bodyweight movements such as pull ups and press ups – although, these examples are not strictly accurate as they involve endurance as opposed to pure strength but for the sake of this article serve well as examples. Absolute strength is the maximal amount of force one can exert irrespective of bodyweight i.e. a 1RM back squat.  Anyway, back to straight vs. bent arm strength. This is where problems can potentially unfold in Crossfit and sometimes lead to injury. Bent arm strength is far from the best approach to develop shoulder stability (rotator cuff and scapular stabilisers) and develop strong connective tissue (tendons, ligaments etc.). Bent arm strength is only really good for muscular development unless time under tension is added via tempo eccentrics (lowering phase of the movement) e.g. lowering down from a pull up or isometric holds e.g. a chin over bar hold (top of pull up). But again, this still isn’t the best way. Shoulder stability is fundamentally the ability of the rotator cuff and scapula stabilisers to work together to ‘stabilise’ the shoulder. They must work together and be in balance, if one is significantly stronger than the other it will cause an imbalance which creates another issue within itself. A couple of examples of great exercises to help improve shoulder stability, particularly for Crossfit, are ring support hold and swings, and Turkish get-ups. Both straight arm movements. Straight arm strength also hands over well to bent arm strength, but unfortunately not so well the other way around. Straight arm work also tends to be the best way to strengthen connective tissue. It takes connective tissue much longer to adapt and develop than muscular tissue. This means it also takes longer to break down than muscular tissue so you tend to be able to hammer away at connective tissue for longer but eventually you will run into problems including potential injury, which will take much longer to heal. As muscle develops much quicker, it also means that creating an imbalance between muscle and connective tissue strength is easily done. This is one reason you never hear much about steroid use in Gymnastics. The obvious reason is that steroids don’t improve your level of skill. Secondly, they only strengthen muscular tissue and not connective tissue, and as Gymnastics puts lots of pressure on connective tissue it would be a very unwise decision. So, if you haven’t guessed it already, for Crossfit athletes … Continue reading Artistic Gymnastics vs. Crossfit Gymnastics