Having bodyweight goals with barbell routines

Handstand Parallettes

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

So we arrive at integration. How to incorporate these more complicated movements into our existing barbell routine. This is where the fun begins, where critics and naysayers will get in line with admirers and most everyone who watches you train, will have an opinion. You are now separating yourself from the other gym-goers. This can be a fun experience, as some people are very impressed by the exercises you do; but it can also be a bit tiring when you, for the tenth time, try to explain to the meathead, which muscles this exercise is training, and if that succeeds, then follow it, by telling him why you do it. Focus on movements over specific muscles can make some people look completely disorientated. But the great thing in this world, is that both of you, can be on the perfectly right track, towards your goals. So no need to discuss which approach is superior.

As I briefly touched upon, in the last part, you would put the exercises that have the highest priority on your long term goals, at the start of your workout. This is not something that is unique for bodyweight/gymnastics(BG) hybrids, but rather a basic element of good programming. Start with the things which have the highest priority for you, whether this is a 250kg deadlift, a straight arm pike press, one arm HS or 100 meter sprint times. When both your body and mind are fresh, your performance will be superior and your ability to learn and adapt, is at its highest.

When I say start with, this of course means after, you have done your proper warm up. You can have a very generic warm up, you do each time, and you know, will get you warm. But I always strive to make the warm up, specifically aimed at the workout, I have that specific day. This means, that if I start my workout with for instance, standing overhead press and deadlift, before moving on to bodyweight exercises, my warm up, would be geared towards the barbell exercises, that I start with. Therefore in that case I would use a specific barbell warm up routine I have developed. If I would start of either in rings or doing some handstand press, then my warm up would consist of shoulder mobility and some shorter freestanding handstands(HS), just to get a feel of it, and get both my body and mind geared towards the exercises I have lined up.

Whatever your approach is, the takeaway point is; do some sort of warm up that is geared towards, what you are warming up to do. I could sit 10 min on a stationary bike and be “warm” when I am done, but I would probably still need some specific warm up sets before my freestanding HS would be consistent. Even though I have a super stable freestanding HS, I will still wobble and not feel totally in control, before my core is warm, wrists and shoulders have been stretched and I have had a few freestanding HS. If you are a beginner, this “problem” will magnify, so keep your preparation in mind.

Now to give a few specific examples on how I would go about integrating bodyweight/gymnastics(BG) into my workouts.

For 4 months, leading up to february this year my main goal was to increase my overhead strength, as I was part of a hand-to-hand act, that was due to be shown in february/march. My secondary goal was putting on some lost muscle mass to my back.

Having established these goals as primary, it was pretty easy for me to start my two weekly workouts with standing overhead press and deadlifts. I used wendlers 5/3/1 template for these two lifts in that period, with great results. Then following these lifts I would do some “maintenance” BG work with rings. Maintenance, because in that period, I did not push through, to come closer to having an iron cross or planche on rings, as this was not my primary focus, but I kept working on my straight arm strength(SAS) and ring skills, so my performance on these, did not delude that much.

Following that period I had 5,5 weeks of preparation for a crossfit competition, where I totally skipped BG, because my main goal at that point was CF; just to one more time, underline the fact, that your goals should dictate your workouts.

Now I am back to working on my BG goals, which are iron cross and straddle planche on rings, I will still keep standing overhead press, as this has just become one of my favorite barbell exercises, and makes my shoulders even stronger. As I am still an aesthetics-guy, deadlift might stay as well, but might be swapped at times, for some other good mass builder for the back, like pendlay rows or the like. Or maybe just changed slightly to snatch-grip deadlift, in order to put more stress on the upper back. But now, I will only do these barbell movements once a week, keeping the other training day pure BG, and I would consider splitting them; keeping standing overhead press in the start and deadlift at the end. My reasoning for doing this would be, that my performance on standing OH press will decline dramatically by being at the end, but my deadlift(with mass as opposed to strength as goal) will not suffer from being in the end.

The day that had the barbell movements, would then consist of BG movements that supplemented my iron cross and rings planche goal, but a little less demanding than the “pure” BG-day. This would be done by doing feet supported iron cross pull outs, instead of unsupported. It could be doing tuck ring planche training, instead of advanced ring planche. But just keeping in mind, that going all out several times a week, may lead to injuries as your joints and ligaments, may not be able to regenerate. I am not saying that this approach will keep you injury free, but having the thought in your head, may serve as a good pointer, steering you clear of some nasty surprises.

The second training day, would then be pure BG, and this focus would be right from the warm up. Doing shoulder mobility, making sure that my wrists were properly warm and flexible, then followed by some handstands.

Today I did L-sit – pressing as high as possible and then going from there to bent arm pike press to HS. I have reached a point where I can do these without going all-out, and they just make for an awesome bridge between warm up and the main exercises, as they work your core, your shoulders in full range of motion and your concentration, as you need to balance, while doing them. As soon as you are able to do these, either on parallettes or between some step boards, then have them as a stable part of your workouts. Your shoulders will thank you for doing so, and your press proficiency will skyrocket.

I followed those, by doing L-sit iron cross pull outs to advanced tuck planche. I knew that now my shoulders and entire body was ready for some serious beating. I do them by lowering as far as I am able to on the iron cross, then reversing and pressing/leaning into the advanced tuck planche. Apart from this being an awesome exercise as it works my two primary BG goals, the pure feeling of pressing through straight arms and moving your body around those straight arms, just makes you feel absolutely awesome – it suddenly feels like you are within ring-gymnast territory, in a way that bent arm ring movements are not able to replicate. SAS takes a long time to build, but the payback, makes it all worth it!

Today these were followed by L-hang to wide grip L-sit muscle up, then strict chest to bar wide grip pull ups, and finally snatch grip deadlift. Normally, I would have put something like wall planche push ups, in before the snatch grip deadlift, but running low on time, they were left out.

This was just some examples, to give a little insight, on how you could incorporate BG into your barbell routine. As I wrote this I actually thought about doing some more examples in the format of; if your goals are this and this, I would program like this etc. Then choose some of the most common goals like muscle ups, front and back lever, press handstands and the like. Now the idea is written down, and then I can consider doing it in the future.

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