Quality Gymnastics Skills Practice
Written by Nichole DeHart

I love learning new skills. I really love seeing other people learn new skills. It is one of the highlights as a coach, to see someone have that moment when it ‘clicks’ and they figure out how to do something they’ve been working on for a long time. We probably see this the most with movements like muscle-ups, bar muscle-ups, strict handstand push-ups and other gymnastic-type movements.

However, there is something I see all too often with people when they learn a new skill. What is it, you ask? Too much enthusiasm! If you know me, you know how enthusiastic I get about EVERYTHING, so this statement may come as a shock to you. How many of you have seen this: you or your friend just learned how to do your first muscle-up. The next day, muscle-ups are in the workout so you, obviously, want to tackle it as prescribed. Negative!

I see this all the time and it is a huge pet peeve of mine, mainly because you are setting yourself up for failure. Why? Because you just learned how to do a new, complex movement that requires a ton of focus and now you want to do that movement for time and when tired. It is a classic CrossFitter mistake.

This is a hard concept to practice but CONTINUED PATIENCE is what will help you master that skill. For most people (there are a handful of athletes where this doesn’t apply – they are exceptions to the rule), they won’t be able to do the new skill when tired and fatigued a day after they learned how to do the movement. This may sound terrible, and perhaps a little like I am totally deflating your balloon, but your next step is to use the allotted time once used for learning the skill to become consistent with performing the skill.

Using EMOMs for Gymnastics Skills Training

“Well,” some may ask, “how do I work on becoming consistent with the skill?” One very potent way is to do a session like an EMOM (every minute on the minute) type of workout. This is a great way to build in volume but still give yourself enough rest time to recover for the next repetition. This can reinforce confidence in the movement and give you an opportunity to practice good, quality reps.

For example, say I just learned how to do a muscle-up. Wahoo, I am so excited! The next day I may go into training and while Amanda looks tempting to complete as prescribed, I hold back. Instead, I do this:

Spend 5 minutes doing my muscle-up drills and then…

Every 90 seconds, for 6 minutes, complete:

Muscle-Up x 1 rep (working on good mechanics)

Now, once I am able to complete a muscle up every 90 seconds for 6 minutes, then I can progress myself. The next week I can take the time down to 60 seconds for 6 minutes to complete a muscle-up. If I am successful with that then I may go back to my 90 seconds for 6 minutes EMOTM but do 2 muscle-ups per 90 seconds. Now I am building in consistency and volume with the movement.

Using Steady State for Gymnastics Skills Training

Steady state means staying at an easy to moderate pace for your training on a particular day. With our gymnastic work we aren’t going to do exactly that, we are going to play with perceived intensity a bit more and do it for weeks not just a single session.

Start at a challenging – but doable – level with your exercise of choice. We’ll use handstand work as our example. Let’s say I can hold a belly to wall handstand for about 20 seconds in an all-out effort. My goal is to be able to hold a perfect 60-second handstand.

So let’s dive in, the 20 seconds total can be broken up into smaller chunks. We could consider 7 sets of 3 seconds. Five sets of 4. Four sets of 5. Or even 3 sets of 7. And they all get us about 20 seconds of handstand work. With the 20 seconds being split, the training intensity will be lower than consistently doing a max effort handstand. The more sets, the less intense the work will be. I would lean towards 4 sets of 5, but that really is more based on how I like to program, this is a slightly more intense option, but should be completely doable. Read more on using steady state training for gymnastics skills development.

These are just some examples but they can give you a good idea of how to build a session that focuses on developing good mechanics for a gymnastics skill. This doesn’t have to just apply to someone who has recently learned a new skill. I work with a ton of athletes, myself included, who incorporate this type of gymnastics skill work in most of their training sessions. The complexity of the movement may change depending on your skill level but the end result is the same – perfecting a movement to be able to replicate it when under duress.

Continue to work on the skill of the movement and work to be consistent with it. The more quality practice you can get, the more likely you will be nailing that movement when it does come time to test it out in a workout.

Invictus Gymnastics Program

Now that you know how to incorporate extra gymnastics skills work into your regular programming, you just need a gymnastics program to follow! We’ve got you covered there no matter your current level! Our 3-day per week Invictus Gymnastics supplemental program offers three levels of skill work and exercises for every gymnastics movement, every day of the program. You can pick and choose what skill level is right for you for each movement and then watch yourself progress! Need a coach’s eye on your movement? Post a video to the Gymnastics Facebook Group for immediate feedback from Coach Travis Ewart and fist bumps from your fellow athletes from all over the world! This is an ongoing program and you can jump in anytime – see you in the group!

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