My Foray into Fundamentals of Gymnastic Bodies

After listening to Christopher Sommer’s podcast with Tim Ferriss (in particular, the second one) I determined it was worth the investment to buy one of his programs and follow on. I mean, it wasn’t going to make me any worse at gymnastic movements!

As an industry I’d say we’re way better at coaching weightlifting than we are at gymnastics. We can get our athletes to national level in weightlifting but we’re nowhere near that in gymnastics! Granted, there’s the counter argument that CrossFit and Weightlifting suit each other a lot better and there’s more direct carryover. Also, we don’t produce national level runners, rowers, or swimmers neither. But as has been pointed out, we’re willing to spend hours drilling our snatch (phrasing!) but we don’t do the same for our gymnastic movements.

Sommer initially to me came across as very rigid in his approach. He was doing it right and we were doing it wrong. This turned me off any further investigation of his Gymnastic Bodies courses. But in his second interview, he seems to have mellowed considerably. He understands where CrossFitters are coming from; they kip to avoid the transition in the muscle up, as it’s fatiguing and not a requirement of their sport. I mean, now we need to have strict muscle ups, but for most of CrossFit we didn’t.

His take on injuries really got me. We’re super strong in the gym because we’re so used to straight lines and clear defined boundaries to our movement patterns. But then we go out and play a softball game and twist our ankle, because we’re not exposed to those “awkward” end ranges.

So with a fresh appreciation, and a desire to improve my own gymnastic skills and coaching, we bought the Fundamentals course. Yeah, they make you go through Fundamentals before you get to Foundations!

Essentially, Fundamentals is 4 weeks of them highlighting to you how much of a crock you are 😂 Each week, you follow along with the overly enthusiastic cheesy instructors as the demo the movements for you. There are no set or rep schemes, you just follow along.

Dat Grin Tho!

Dat Grin Tho!

I could see this being confusing for people in the beginning, and I’m honestly not sure how a total novice would handle this. Particularly as you’re starting off you’re probably wondering “is this enough?” each day. But it does build up and you find yourself not only moving better but also thinking about movement in a new way.

What have I learned? For a start, I’ve definitely developed more of an appreciation for flexibility. Not just warming up and hitting a range of motion, but the ability to move and be strong in all ranges. For example, the ape walk and frog jumps I’m “better” at as I’m used to squatting, but the crab walk – JESUS!

My injuries are definitely improving too. I’m feeling better earlier in my training sessions, whereas usually it’s only after a full training session I feel like my body is fully warmed up and ready to rock! Full disclosure, I am working with a Physio to fix my movement issues too. As you can see here, something’s wonky with my overhead squat 🙈

Also, it’s really fun to go back to the beginning and just learn new things again. It’s nice to be a novice and put yourself in a situation where you have no clue what you’re doing. There’s a freedom in that. There’s also a renewed empathy with the beginners that I coach. The “what the hell is going on!” is strong with Gymnastic Bodies!

One aspect I really like is the patience they preach. “It might take you a month, it might take you six months.” Patience. Patience. Patience. It’s a lesson we seem to have to learn over and over, that we can’t rush things, and have to build our ability up in the time it takes. Rushing it only leads to frustration.

As a coach I’ve already started folding a lot of the movements into our warm ups and gymnastic practice. Without much disruption to the “Asshole Programming” of CFI we’ve found it’s started to expose and correct movement issues in the members. So it’s definitely paid for itself!

Their sales and marketing team leaves a lot to be desired. Initially when I signed up I got a lovely welcome email from them asking if we’d any questions. Dutifully I asked had they any advice on integrating GB with CF. Their response…

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But that’s a minor blip on an otherwise excellent program! They’ve just launched a brand new “intuitive” interface as we embark on the Foundations programme, which means all you’ve got to do is login, follow along with the video, then provide feedback on how the workout went. Too easy and they bump it up in difficulty for you next week, too tough and they scale it down. There’s even an option to say you don’t have the mobility for it so they can adjust your flexibility work around certain positions. Very slick!

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I’d recommend to anyone who’s interested to invest the $75 on their fundamentals course, and I’m really looking forward to carrying on the training and seeing how it can improve my CrossFit and overall ability.

2 thoughts on “My Foray into Fundamentals of Gymnastic Bodies

  1. My only quibble would be the repeated extension/flexion of the spine of many of these movements, and even adding weight (Jefferson curl) is unwise. Dont take my word for it or some random self appointed Doctor of pushups but Professor Stuart McGill. He is a real professor of a proper university with his own spine biomechanics lab.

    You can read his books or find interviews on the web like http://themovementfix.com/podcast-ep-13-with-dr-stuart-mcgill/ where the jefferson curl is specifically mentioned.

    His theory is you have ball and socket joints at shoulder and hip so where possible, use movement at those points. The spine is not great for repeated extension/flexion. The more you do it, the more you delaminate your discs. YOu dont need to flex/extend the spine to keep the area strong. Just think of deadlifts where the hip hinges and the spine stays locked using extreme musculature control.

    I tried to politely engage Tim’s guest but just got shouted down, no actual response to the specific claims or reasons why McGill is incorrect. Sure to be a gymnast and do those movements you need to bend the spine but for non gymnasts who arent in a circus, why take the risk?

    I dont see many old injury free gymnasts.

    • Hey Jonathan,

      All I can say is in the 4 weeks there hasn’t been any spinal flexion/extension or Jefferson curls. I have no personal experience with Jefferson curls so can’t speak to them.

      They’re very much convinced of the superiority of their training method, as evidenced by their writings so far.

      On the old injury free gymnasts, are we looking at high-level competitors? To bust out the old cliche, health ends where competition begins, and to be elite level you are going to sacrifice some element of long-term health. But I could be misinterpreting you here.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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