So how do you attack the bodyweight/gymnastics movements? What is a good way to start? And probably even more important, are there any bad ways to start, that you may want to steer clear of? Starting with the latter – I actually think there are bad ways to implement BG, into your routine. But more on that later, let’s start with the basics and most simple.
A lot of BG exercises have the pleasant commonality, of setting very low demands on equipment. A very large part of exercises, can be done on the floor, without any equipment at all. Add a pullup bar and the possibilities expands, add … – and yes, you’ve got it. Where I am going with this is; you can start with absolutely nothing and get good results. However if your goal is to do a mini-ring routine and your local fitness center does not have rings, then do not let that stop you – go buy some, and bring your own rings with you to the gym. I bought mine from ringtraining.com they are their Elite Rings, which has the nice feature of ”fixing” the strop at the top of the rings, keeping the rings, from spinning inside the straps. But any sorts of rings will do, search and you will find. I have trained with rings for probably 3-4 years now, where most of the time, they are submerged from the pullup bar, at the cable cross tower in my gym. I plan on giving tips on how this can challenges your exercise-selection; not having full height rings, and some tricks to do exercises, that otherwise would seem impossible; but they are for another post.
Now how do you go about implementing BG exercises. As I see it, you have a few options. You can choose to look at them as complementary exercises to your existing program, you can have a specific exercise/trick as your goal, thereby having this dictate the exercise selection or you can perhaps be limited by your lack of equipment, that despite my rant above, of course is a valid excuse – to an extent. Will, determination and creativity is going to get you a long way.
Let’s start by looking at ways to implement BG exercises as complementary exercises. The way to do this, is by looking at which muscles are involved in doing what. This is a very common way to look at exercises, from a bodybuilders perspective. There are basically either isolation or complex movements. Everyone is pretty much preaching; do your basic complex movements, squat, deadlift, bench press, dips etc. and then isolation movements for lacking bodyparts eg. curls for biceps, etc. As a beginner the entire ”why-do-what” can be rather hard to understand, especially if you aren’t that good at your body’s bio mechanics. But now moving to BG, it becomes even harder to determine which exercises do what. If you want to incorporate BG as complementary exercises then; where can I find an BG exercise that for instance works my bicep?
To answer all of that really short and superficial; most BG exercises are complex – near full body exercises. They of course, target some muscles/joints more than other, but as you now need to move your body around in space, you are activating a way higher percentage of muscles, than you would sitting in a machine, laying on a bench, or even standing for that matter. Therefore looking at BG exercises as complementary, to an existing barbell routine, can be rather tricky. You won’t find that many resources helping you, since looking at the exercises from that perspective, is rather uncommon practice in the gymnastics world. What you will see however, is actually the other way around; you can find ringgymnasts using dumbells or barbells to target specific muscles that needs extra work, for them to be able to perform certain movements. Which kind of sums up one of the key differences between gymnastics and bodybuilding. In bodybuilding you look at specific muscles and in gymnastics you focus on movements.
But closing it at that, I would not have given you that much value, would I. There are some exercises you can do with BG that target rather specific muscles. You still hit a lot of other muscles, but they can still be used as isolation movements and give a lot of bang for the buck!
Closing this chapter of the series then, is a little video of me performing a couple of real basic ring-exercises that you, without much preparation and instruction can implement and use in your existing routine. But as most of you are probably looking for more advanced exercises I plan to look at them next time, when the focus shifts from complementary/isolation exercises to more movement-based. I added these two as I haven’t seen them mentioned that many places. Apart from these, ring pushups, flyes and inverted rows are also exercises that you can implement without much prior knowledge and get good results.
A few notes specifically for the video. The reverse curl is an absolutely fabulous exercise. Where a ”normal” standing curl are rather easy in the first part of the movement, then becomes harder as you are halfway through and finally gets easy at the top as you finish the ”pulling” part of the movement; this curl instead is just incredibly hard every inch of the movement. As you may notice, I move my feet a couple of times; this shows how you make the exercise easier. I move my feet so that my body becomes more upright, thereby making it easier to do the curl movement. Moving them in the opposite direction, straightening my lower legs and even elevating my feet makes it incredibly more hard to do. The same applies to the triceps extension, where I also go from having a ”false grip” to normal finger grip in the last two reps. The latter makes for a longer lever, and therefore harder on the triceps – this, together with your ability to scale with the feet-position gives you almost unlimited scalability.
Next chapter, we are moving to the more fun exercises/movements, or at least some of the movements, that are both more fun to look at and more challenging to do. As said earlier by next time changing our focus from specific muscles, to specific movements and positions.