“Suddenly We Were Aspiring Gymnasts.”

Craig’s comment from a couple posts ago got me thinking. First the comment:

Interesting to see your followup comments about body weight exercise and injury. After reading the previous post, I looked at the GMB site and saw a lot of gymnastic looking stuff. My first thought was how rough some of those things can be on the shoulders. Shoulders are to gymnasts as low backs are to deadlifters, an endless source of worry.

Thanks Craig. First my original follow up:

I think the GMB guys would say 2 things: 1) They’re not gymnasts, in that they’re not even approaching things that actually count as a Gymnastic move until their level 2 programs. They blend multiple disciplines.

And 2) you have to factor the fact that gymnastics is a full-time job, wrecking the shoulders is a risk because they’re the lynchpin of the movement. It’s a volume issue, not necessarily a modality issue.

Effectively you’re making the inverse association that people make regarding Michael Phelps, swimming, and leanness. Neither are accurate.

I wanted to expand on that point a bit. First, GMB will tell you that they aren’t gymnasts. Sure they’re gymnast inspired, but they combine yoga, calisthenics, and low level gymnastics stuff into their programs. You can learn to do some pretty cool stuff, especially compared to just squatting a bunch of weight to impress gym junkies (if that’s your thing, cool).

But this speaks to a larger point: namely that the moves themselves are inherently dangerous. Some of them have the potential to be more problematic than the others, certainly. This is the cost/benefit analysis that you make when doing anything. For example I want the skill of a bent arm stand, so I accept the increased risk of, say, busting my face compared to a standing press.

It’s also worth noting that the reason gymnasts shoulders are an endless source of worry precisely because of the volume they work with. Twenty plus hours a week of skill work on top of strength work would ruin most shoulders. Further, they’ve proven they can tolerate the volume if they’re at the Collegiate/Olympic level. The problem wasn’t the mere presence of a “gymnastic move” but the volume of its use. The GMB programs might be 3 hours a week, tops, of moves that also include things that aren’t gymnastic in difficulty, again like yoga. As noted, it’s the inverse of people thinking that merely swimming will make them lean like Michael Phelps, not the fact that he’s swimming 8 hours a day at peak training.

But if I’m looking at the industry as a whole, there’s an element of at least including some amount of bodyweight training in routines, both because it’s damn fun, and it’s user friendly/cost effective. The title of this post is from Chris over at Conditioning Research when talking about Coach Sommer’s first articles and how “everyone” became “aspiring gymnasts.” Maybe not, but at least a few cool moves spice up the routine and gain some fun skills.

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