The need for immediate gratification in training is a big problem.
As hard working as most gym rats are, the truth is that, deep down, we’re all looking for a quick performance fix. It’s hard to ignore the promise of a shiny new skill or goal. The urge for the rapid fix is always alluring, but the best things are worth working hard for.
Some things need to be earned.
It’s easy to covet the skills of another athlete, but what we often fail to acknowledge are the years of training, discipline and hard work it takes to actually get there. The push for rapid outcome and improvement causes massive amounts of needless frustration.
We get impatient when the quick fixes don’t feel so quick. We think about throwing in the towel too soon. Everyone feels this way from time to time. What you have to do is constantly remind yourself that it’s the journey that carries value, not any particular outcome.
Refined skill is not something you discover. It’s built one day, one session, and one movement at a time. I love gymnastics training because it enforces the importance of hard work, patience, focus, and process. One thing must follow the other, and at no point can you abandon your roots or your fundamentals.
If you can keep refining the basics as your skills improve then you can achieve an optimal result. BUT, it takes time and close attention to detail to get there.
There’s nothing more fundamental than the hollow body position.
Proper hollow body position is critical in both gymnastics and weightlifting. The problem is that it’s also commonly overlooked in many boxes, or worse, it’s taught incorrectly.
It’s important because it enables the body to act as one big solid piece of muscle. To achieve that effect you have to focus and engage the entire body, achieving active tissue tension from your fingertips all the way down through your toes.
Work on extending the arms overhead while hugging the ears. Keep the shoulder blades elevated above the floor, the ribs tucked towards the hips, and your belly button pulled towards the spine. The pelvis should be posteriorly tilted, which will pull the lumbar spine into the floor. Squeeze the glutes hard, straighten the legs, and make sure the heels stay together and elevated with the toes pointed.
Why point the toes?
Pointing your toes is not just for aesthetics. It keeps the rest of your body in check. If you have “dead fish feet” hanging off the end of your legs, chances are you’re not as tight as you should be. Always remember to point and squeeze!
At my gym, Dynamis CrossFit, we have some strict but obtainable standards for the most basic movements like the push-up and pull-up. The goal isn’t to be mean or discourage, but rather, we’re trying to keep our athletes healthy and help them build the prerequisite strength that will carry over to more advanced movements.
Remember, one thing follows the next. Get as strong as you can on the basics and real progress will follow.
This is how we teach movement.
We start with a strict hollow body push up with the elbows in, making sure the chest is the first thing to touch the floor and the last to leave. Of course, full hollow body position has to be maintained throughout the entire movement. If an athlete is not able to hold form we simply raise the height of the hands to a bench or a box without ever altering position.
For kipping pull-ups we’ve set a prerequisite set of five strict, hollow body pull-ups with the elbows in. This frustrates some, BUT it is my job as a coach to keep my athletes safe and make them strong before adding unnecessary strain or risk. Their desire to achieve quicker GAINZ doesn’t matter.
I remind my athletes that our number one job is to get them strong, healthy and happy, and then keep them that way. When they are aware of that goal they trust the process more, which makes my job much easier.
One of the biggest milestones for us is when an athlete can perform three to five strict hollow body pull-ups. By that time they’ve earned both physical and mental strength. They are ready to take on more complicated movements with confidence. That’s priceless.
If you haven’t mastered static holds, start now.
Holding positions is a great way to improve stability and performance across all gymnastics and weightlifting movements. It’s also a tremendous way to improve posture and overall back health.
Remember, the more time you spend under tension, the more strength you will build. This higher the tension the better. Try adding some static holds to your weekly programming, slowly increasing the frequency of practice as you go. I think you’ll get a lot of benefit from it.
Here are my top 8 positions. The first 4 are all on static planes – the floor, bars, parallettes, etc. Move on to 5 when you feel ready for the dynamic plane, the rings. Practice these positions as much as you can to build comfort and proficiency. Take your time, it will come.
From the foundation up:
This are simple drills that are worth mastering. If you put in the time you’ll perform at your best.