Don’t Wait for the Last Minute to Develop Your Gymnastics for the CrossFit Open!
Written by Travis Ewart

Each year it happens – the CrossFit Open. Each year since I joined Invictus I have seen it come, hang around for a few weeks, watch people beat themselves up trying to improve their gymnastics skills for the CrossFit Open at the last minute – to get just that bar muscle-up or a little bit more fit, and each year I am less than surprised when people approach me regarding their gymnastics skills.

Understanding Where Gymnastics Fits In

I feel that now more than ever people need to remind themselves of the pyramid that CrossFit is based on. If you are not familiar with this, the bottom of the pyramid (the largest part of the pyramid and thus the most relevant category to CrossFit) is nutrition. Next tier up is metabolic conditioning, followed by gymnastics, then weightlifting, and topping the pyramid is sport. Metabolic conditioning, well, that’s still alive and well, and next up in line is the gymnastics tier, and that’s gonna crush a lot of athletes again this year, just like it does every year.

Gymnastics Skills Training for the CrossFit Open

Skills Training is Key to Improvement

I have been a gymnastics coach since the age of 15. I have trained literally thousands of kids since starting my career as a coach, and even though I work with adults, the same principle applies to the training athletes: You have to TRAIN YOUR SKILLS FOR THEM TO IMPROVE. Every year I get a ton of requests to help with gymnastics skills, and most are last-minute, or what I would simply state as “too late”. Giving yourself a week, two weeks, or even a month is just not enough, not even close.

Here’s a list of gymnastics skills (bodyweight skills) that CrossFit endorses. Keep in mind that the standards for these movements can also dictate how they need to be performed in the Open or other competitions, and those standards can change without notice.

Strict ring muscle-up
Kipping ring muscle-up
Kipping pull-ups/chest-to-bar pull-ups
Strict pull-ups
Bar muscle-Ups
Handstand push-ups
Handstand walk
L-sit hold
Pistol squat (single leg squat)
Ring dips
Rope climb

Of course, not all of these things show up regularly, but the sport of CrossFit aims to bring athletes to their greatest athletic potential in literally EVERYTHING. That means that any one of these movements can pop up at any time, with set standards (that may be different than the previous year) and you HAVE to perform them to be in the race! So here you have twelve skills that may or may not be used in CrossFit, and if you want to be competitive, you need to be able to perform all of them and make any adjustments to the movements necessary to satisfy the standard, and sometimes at a moment’s notice.

Sounds a bit daunting, right? Well, it should.

Think back to the past two weeks and ask yourself how often you practiced each one of those skills. Did you skip any? Also ask yourself which skills you still need to train in order to get your first. Are you missing one, two, or more?

How to Improve Gymnastics Skills

Got Those Down? Now Do Them Better

There may be some of you that can check all of these skills of your list, and I’m sure that keeps the stress levels lower during Open season, but we all know that CrossFit is not about doing just one of anything, so now you have to focus on volume and refining your technique to make the work less taxing on you.

For the rest of you, it is important as an athlete to remember that the process of learning new skills takes time, and there really is no time like right now (yes, I mean NOW) because the Open is only weeks out! Just like learning your Olympic lifts, gymnastics skills can be broken down into smaller parts.

The frustrating thing is that you can’t just remove a leg or two to lighten the load and slowly add weight, so it takes some creative coaching and diligent practice to learn or improve these skills. Not to mention that there are just TWO Olympic lifts you need to learn, and we all know how much time you need to devote to learning just those two. Multiply that by how many gymnastics skills there are and it may seem like it’s just too much, and you may feel overwhelmed and not know where to start.

Join our Invictus Gymnastics online program. We know that there are many different options out there to learn gymnastics, but I would like to remind you that you are probably not a gymnast, and we don’t want to train you to be a gymnast; we will train you for CrossFit – that’s it. Twenty minutes of actual work, three times a week, and hit all of the skills above every two weeks.

It doesn’t matter what level your skills are at, we have a way to customize your programming to be just right for you. You get tutorials, video analysis, and an amazing online community, all for helping yourself prepare for what is definitely coming! Sure, you’re going to have to work for it, but you do CrossFit (thus you’re a badass), and this is the step you have to take to being even more badass.



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