Moving on from basics, starting on straight arm strength.

Planche leans

This is fourth part of a series of posts about going from bodybuilding/barbell training to bodyweight/gymnastics(BG), the first part is here, second part here and third here.

Now moving into the more advanced and fun parts of bodyweight/gymnastics(BG). Here you are no longer only looking for complementary exercises. You may still have aesthetics/bodybuilding rather high on your goals list, but they now also include some sort of BG movements. The picture above, is from a workshop I had, where I taught some CF instructors about gymnastic strength moves. The girl, is showing a perfect planche lean, which I will talk more about towards the end of this post.

A very common movement to have as a goal could be the muscle up. I wrote some key notes, about what will get you your first strict muscle up, here, there is no ground-breaking, one-step fix-it-all trick, in that post and if you ask me there should’nt be. There can be people very close to having their muscle ups, that by a few pointers, finally are able to obtain the movement. But my point is, and I cannot stress this enough; once you move past very basic BG movements there will be a learning curve. There will be exercises that you get the first time and some you may not get; even after a full year. But your focus from this point on should be:

Quality over quantity.

You are, for the great majority of exercises, now no longer only working with strength. You will need balance, you will need coordination, you will need courage; simply pushing on can for some movements be detrimental. You need to leave your ego at the door, which for many would be one of the best thing they ever did, to enhance the results of their training.

Giving the handstand(HS) as an example – I will do an entire post or two on handstands, later on – but if you in your training, has moved from wall to freestanding HS, and last time you were training, it came rather easy and you had quite a few good 2-3 sec freestanding HS. But this time you just keep falling over, not having the feel for it at all – then STOP. Go do something else, there is a time to push, and there is a time to abandon. If you learn your body that when the pressure get’s a little too hard on your fingers, then you let go and either pirouette, or roll forward out of your handstand, then this gets hardwired into your brain and you will be learning ”bad behaviors”. For everything skill-based; make sure you opt for quality.

With more advanced movements, comes also the issue of preparing your joints and ligaments for either more strain or working in completely new ranges of motion. They can be trained to be extremely strong, but they do not regenerate as fast muscles. One of the areas where this especially get’s important is on the issue of straight arm strength(SAS). SAS comes into play on things like front and back levers, straight arm planches and of course the manifestation of SAS – the iron cross.

I would love to be able to tell you, that within 4 weeks of doing this and this; you would be able to get the iron cross. But realities are, that most of the guys who try go get it, never will. You will most likely need close to a year of preparation, of your elbow joints and shoulders, before you can even, work with high enough volume, to train seriously towards the iron cross. Skipping the long preparation will, for the majority of people, leave them injured. But hey, I am no oracle, you could be a unicorn and obtain a perfect, straight arm iron cross within 6 months of training – if you do, please tell ME how.

When working on your SAS remember this every time:

Almost straight; is still bent!

Consistency every time. A good way to get started working on SAS, and get a feel of what it really is; is by doing straight arm planche leans. They are a pretty simple and basic exercise, but you still need to keep a few things in mind, to reap the right benefits. What you should notice, from the video of me doing these a couple of years ago, is that I keep my arm absolutely straight. Before I lean, I pull my shoulders down towards my waist, and push as far out towards the floor as possible. The same, as if you stood tall, put your hands out in front of you, pulled your shoulders as far down as possible and then pushed as far out as you could, with your hands, while still keeping the shoulders down. This is the correct starting position, from there you slowly lean forward until you can feel the strain on your shoulder and bicep. Do NOT lean to far, as you’ll most likely faceplant. Just a slight bit of lean is needed in the beginning, before the pressure is felt. At all times remember to keep your arms absolutely straight! As far as your hands on the floor, turning them a bit outwards, so that the thump is pointing straight ahead is recommended – you can however turn your hands all the way backwards if you want, this will result in even more pressure on the bicep.

A good way to start trying these are to have them in the start of your workout, right after you did your warm-up. You need to be focused in order to use the right muscles, so a tired mind after a full workout, is not recommended. In fact anticipating a bit on next chapter of this series, I would recommend you to keep all skill-based exercises at the beginning, right after your warm-up. Whatever is at the top of your priorities training-wise – keep it at the beginning where both your body and mind are at peak effect. Do 4-5 sets of 10-15 sec holds the first weeks. Do not rush towards increased lean. There are a few way to attack these, as far as long term programming goes, which I will discuss later on, because the same things applies to front and back levers and more advanced static holds.

Originally had planned to do this entire series in 3 posts, but they just keep filling themselves, with what I consider important facts, and as I sit here thinking about it, I will probably struggle to keep the rest of the info within 2 posts after this one. Next time I plan on talking programming and how you implement these new BG exercises into your existing program.

Continued here

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