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CrossFit Hackney: Gymnastics: BAS and Hip Mobility

Posted 28th March 2016 by Josh Schouten

gymnasticsgoatPerforming the basics well is by far the best “BANG FOR YOUR BUCK” in most things in life.  This mentality needs to be applied to everything you do in your training.  Everyone should spend time focusing on the basics, no matter how strong, how mobile, or how coordinated you think you are.  CrossFitters love to go to the gym and perform the movements that they are good at.  The barbell lifts are often favourites because most of us can quickly see the improvements as the weight on the bar gradually increases. However, the gymnastics movements are ofter our “GOATS” and so many athletes avoid them due to their difficulty.

GOATS are the Movements in CrossFit that we would rather not see in a WOD. Movements like Overhead squats, pistols, double unders, handstand pushups, pullups and squat snatches. Whatever the movement is, it’s up to you to Master your GOATs

Gymnastics has so many benefits that are transferable to other CrossFit movements, not to mention other sports.  Many of us avoid these movements because they are not easy, because they are hard work and progressions are often slow.  We want that bar-muscle up, we want those stick handstand push-up, we want those effortless toes-to-bar, are we willing to revisit the basics to lean how to perform bodyweight movements correctly? Nobody is too good for the basics, and those who take the time to practice the basics with the right attitude will reap the rewards.  I’m not promising a strict handstand push-up or a stick bar-muscle-up, I am however promising improvements in your overall strength, movement quality and efficiency.

The next Gymnastics Phase starting 31/March/2016

Why do so many CrossFitters struggle to perform high volume push-ups and strict pull-ups?  Why are we awesome with a barbell and yet we struggle to perform high volume body weight basics? How often do you load the barbell with your body weight?  When the weight gets heavy the technique becomes far more important and understanding movement efficiency is critical here.  We need to dedicate time to being awesome at the basics.  Jumping straight into the advanced movements without building the base is going to get you nowhere fast… possible an injury or a horrific selfie video of “my first bar-muscle-up disaster in the CrossFit Open”  (and we wonder why CrossFit gets bad publicity)… this shit make me angry). Drop the ego, and lets get the real work done so that we can improve our strength, mobility and motor control and earn that muscle-up.

Decreased Leverage is the Key to Bodyweight Success

Instead of increasing weights or adding weight to the body, gymnastics and other bodyweight sports provide structured progressions through which the stimulus on the muscles can be increased without increases in mass. This is achieved through increasing or decreasing leverage.

Decreasing leverage in exercise is primarily employed through two different methods.

1. Changing the body position is the obvious way to decrease leverage. For instance, both planche and front lever have changes in body position to make the exercise more difficult.


When extending the body position, the center of mass (COM) is shifted further away from the fulcrum (joint angles). This increases the torque which is the force applied around an axis of rotation. Since our bodies are built on leverage methods (muscles move our bones), all forces on the muscles can be thought of in terms of torque on the muscles at certain joint angles. This is the basis of biomechanics.

2. Muscles are strongest at near resting length as that is the point where the most muscle fibres overlap to assist contraction. Therfore, if we lengthen or shorten a muscle and then place the same load on the body, we are effectively requiring more force from the muscle in a weaker position.

Typically this can be seen with more advanced strength moves on rings where the arms are held in straight arm position. The straight arm position places the biceps as maximal length and thus requires significant amounts of strength and mass to perform the skills safely.

Increasing the total number of repetitions increases muscle endurance and not necessarily overall strength! Repetitions are often not the answer here. Those who correctly develop bodyweight strength primarily stick to the lower repetition ranges just like training for strength in barbell lifting. The quality of the movement is far more important than the repetition of the movement.

The BAS Work

We will starting a new Gymnastic phase this week that will be focusing on the basics of pushing and pulling movements, Bent Arm Strength (BAS).  Over the coming months the program will make steady progressions towards the more typical upper body pushing and pulling movements in CrossFit (Dips, Handstand Push-ups, Pull-ups, Muscle-ups).  For those aiming to achieve these movements, or get closer to these movements,  now is the time to get involved in the Thursday Gymnastics sessions.

The Hip Mobility Work 

The Gymnastics classes will also include some eye watering hip mobility work.  We squat, we deadlift, we snatch, we clean & jerk all the time.  When did you last stretch you piriformis, hamstrings, adductors, and/or iliopsoas?  These muscles often get tight and can impact our ability to squat deep and cause knee, back, hip, ankle and even shoulder pain. Improving and maintaining hip mobility will increase performance, strength and longevity. Can you really afford not to be mobile in the hips when they impact everything we do in and outside of the gym?

Don’t miss the first few weeks of the gymnastics classes, as the base strength and mobility established in these classes will be critical to the months ahead. Our aim is to keep the classes open to all abilities and scale the movements as required.  Everyone will have work to do on their pushing and pulling strength and the coaches are here to help you improve on your individual weaknesses.  Don’t worry if you can not do a single push-up or pull-ups as you will be the one making the most progress for taking part in these classes.   If you are a push-up master or a pull-up king there is plenty of improvements to be achieves in revisiting the basics for a short period of time.