Hey John,

A question about gaining relative strength (I’m 5’11” 26 years old, a soft 210lbs):

For about 8 months now I’ve been cycling through the poweroly lifts about every 2 weeks. Doing a 5RM then 3RM then 1RM each 2 weeks (so I start over about every 6 weeks) I have been making very steady gains in absolute strength.

I’m coupling gymnastic movements with different lifts and doing a few ‘max rep’ sets or ‘max weighted’ attempts and I’m just not seeing as much steady progress as I’d like. PR’s are infrequent.  I’m in the transition between beginner and intermediate per CF Seattle’s client rating system

Do I need to train these movements more consistently?  I do a 5-10 min met-con WOD every other strength session, should I make those more gymnastic biased?  I’m in the process of leaning out and have about 30ish lbs to go is that what’s holding me back?  Started 100% Paleo recently and am likely still adapting.  Any thoughts would be appreciated.  I’d also love to hear about what you, as such a big guy, have done to train gymnastics movements.

-Aaron in Alaska


Aaron – The first problem that hits me is when I hear a beginner cycling through a bunch of movements, if you want to get stronger, stick to the basics. We do five basic movements on a linear progression with our beginners: Squat, Press, Deadlift, Bench and Power Cleans. That just happens to be the amateur program you see for CrossFit Football. Nothing fancy, no percentages, just 5 lifts basic lifts a week and adding weight to the bar every time you lift. Beginners get brutally strong and put on some muscle.

As for the gymnastics movements, I would say if you want to get better at them you are going to have to prioritize them in the program. I never accidently got good at anything, it always involved work. It wasn’t by chance or a stroke of fate that I had the skills to play in the NFL, there was a lot of practice and repetition in the skills/movements to be able to do them fast and effortless.

You need add them to beginning of your workout in the form of skill work and warm up. You need to create metcons around the gymnastics movements and do them everyday. You have to realize if you want to get good at something you have to do it over and over again, no one or two times a week. I am talking about obsessively practicing several times a week. Last year I posted an article on the SoCal S&C website about the mastery of a task/skill coming after 10,000 hours of practice. I found a website that gives great background on what it takes to master a skill and 10,000 hours of practice. Here is a link to the information concerning Mastering a Skill.

Where I can not help you is with the gymnastic progressions or coaching, as that is outside my scope. I am just a meathead after all. But what I can do, is point you in the right direction.

When I started CrossFit I found some great gymnastic articles in the CrossFit Journal called the Russian Warm Up and Learning the Front Handspring. When I googled gymnastics and CrossFit a bunch of gymnastics stuff by Coach Chris Sommer came up. He runs a site called Gymnastic Bodies and has a book called Building The Gymnastic Body. I clicked on the site and seemed to be full of good recommendations on coaching, movements and progressions.

Here is the PDF The Russian’s Gymnastics Warm Up and the PDF Learning The Front Hand Spring from the CrossFit Journal.

Your only other options are Tucker’s CF Gymnastic Cert or the yellow pages under Gymnastics and see if there is a local place that offers coaching for adults.