T Nation

Anyone Got An Iron Cross?


just wondering,

does anyone here on T-Nation have a solid iron cross? if so, what methods did you use to work up to it? ive been using half-cross pullups, where one arm pulls regularly and the other extends straight out and i hold it staticly for time, and repeating.

additionally, whos got a full planche or a full front lever? im up to the advanced tuck version of each of those.

just trying to stir up some gymnastic spirit




I am still working on my tuck planches, so this is way in the future.


thanks for that link


I don't have a full cross yet, but I've been working on partials on a set of rings I built. I'm in no way a gymnastics coach, nor am I a gymnast, but I'll tell you what I've been doing to work up to that skill (by the way, nice on the half crosses. I can't do those yet). I first started by doing a dip on my rings up to a support, then locking my arms in the proper alignment for a cross and slowly increasing the distance between my hands and my sides.

When I got to the point where my strength or form was about to fail, I'd pull back in to a support. Over time I've increased the range of motion. Another method I've tried is jumping. When I stand on the floor and grab my rings, arms out to the sides, my hands are about head height. I set my arms and wrists appropriately and pull down (I believe the full move is called a butterfly, sort of an iron cross pullup)while jumping. The stronger my pulling gets in this motion, the less thrust I provide with my legs.

Hope that may help.

My tuck front lever is coming along much better than my planche. I can do 5 or so tuck front lever pullups, and a few straddle front lever pullups. I've also been working one leg tucked, one leg fully extended, but I have trouble keeping my arms locked out.

The planche I have a tough time judging my body position ( I really out to set up that video camera I bought and film myself so I can see instead of trying to check my reflexion in the glass door), but I think I have a pretty solid tuck (not quite the advanced tuck though). I have to do them on parallelettes or my dip stand because I have a recurring ganglion cist in my right wrist.

It severely limits the range of motion of my hand and is quite painfully. It's not always there, but when it is it really sucks.

I really enjoy bodyweight/gymnastics training. I'd love to know how many others there are out there in T-Nation land. It would be good to share ideas and routines here and there.

Take it easy


thanks for the input. ive also been spreading my hands apart from the support, seems logical enough. butterfly pullups are ridiculous. if my thinking is right, its essentially a straight arm pullup, and ends at the iron cross. thats quite awhile off for me

nice job on the straddle lever pullups, i cant quite straddle it yet. i can do tuck lever pullups though, and the one leg version.

im really trying to get a good planche, to the point where i can hold it long enough to start doing a decent set of pushups in that position. need some work though

keep it comin


I'll I've got is an advanced tuck lever. My front shoulder strength used to be absolutely abysmal; now it's getting better. Handstands, handstands, and handstands.

For me, nothing can match the psychological arousal of taking a heavy weight from floor to overhead, but there is something uniquely thrilling about gymnastics that has no analog in weightlifting. Namely, in gymnastics one does not simply perform the same movements with greater loads; one acquires the ability to perform qualitatively different movements.

And, since this is a website is Bodybuilding's Think Tank, let's not forget the beauty that gymnastics makes possible; not just beauty of body superior to that of most bodybuilders, but beauty in action. The performances of top-end oly lifters is awe-inspiring, but I can't help but be more captivated by a Cirque de Soleil routine.


yeah, thats one thing that captivates me about gymnastics training, is that most movements, you have to work hard just to earn the ability to perform the exercise


When I competed in gymnastics (I quit over 6 years ago), I had a pretty solid iron cross. Unfortunately, I can't do it anymore because I sat on my ass for most of those 6 years, and I don't remember what we used to work up to it. Sorry I couldn't help more.


ttt...come on, i know we got more people working on the planches and levers


I got an elbow lever if that counts for anything. I tried doing iron crosses between chairs, but that just felt strange... I need a chinup bar to do some front levers though...hmmm. Gimme a few months so i can recover from surgery and I'll start working on that stuff again.

(side note- coach sommer is releasing his books, or some of them, possibly around christmas time, maybe into 2006. Not sure though)


I have the advanced tuck lever and tuck planche as well. I feel like I'm getting pretty close to the strength level needed for the full lever, but the full planche seems miles away. I've fooled around with iron cross training but I haven't found a way to incorporate it that I like yet. I have an elbow injury right now that is preventing me from working on these things unfortunately.


Here's a question: when doing (or attempting) planches, which direction should the elbows face? I know your arms are supposed to be locked straight, but do the elbows point out to the sides, or back towards your feet? I noticed today that mine seem to like to point out, but it doesn't feel right.

My progress with the front lever is much better than with the planche for some reason (maybe because of the wrist issue interfering with the planche training). I'm going to start doing pyramids (start with one rep, rest. two reps, rest, three reps, rest, up until I hit my current max, and then back down, keeping all the rest periods as short as possible) with tuck front lever pullups and see if that gives me that little bit more strength to work into the full lever.

I'd like to see this thread stick around some so this small pocket of us here can share ideas, tips, advice, encouragement and what-have-you.



Andre Coppolino of Italy

Which direction your elbows are pointing will depend on which grip you are using for the planche. If training on the floor or bar, the the crook of the elbows will point in an inward direction. If training on the rings, the crook of the elbows should be pointing in a forward direction.

Ladders are acceptable for static hold training, however in my opinion they are not optimal. The following is a planche program for someone with a hypothetical tuck planche hold of 11 seconds.

1) An 11 second maximum hold divided by two = a tuck planche "rep" of approximately 6 seconds.

2) 60 seconds total work time divided by 6 seconds = 10 sets.

3) You will perform 10 sets of 6 seconds. This is important; at no time during the training cycle increase past a six second tuck planche hold. Maintain it even towards the end of the cycle, when you are feeling particularly strong and stable at 6 seconds.

4) Try to keep recovery periods between the sets reasonably short; 45-90 seconds max.

5) My preference is to train planches on a Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri schedule. Although if you are feeling particularly strong one week, adding in a Wednesday is fine. Also if you are feeling fatigued or somewhat overtrained for any reason, do not hesitate to insert an extra rest day when needed.

6) Your cycle will last anywhere from 8-12 weeks depending on your perceived level of exertion. If you are still "working" fairly hard to complete all ten sets at six seconds at the eight week mark, continue on with the training cycle for at least another two weeks. If still in doubt at the 10 week mark, continue for two more weeks.

7) At the end of the current cycle, test to establish your new maximum tuck planche hold and recalculate your planche program for the next training cycle. For example, if your new maximum hold is now 15 seconds; you will be training with 8 sets of 8 seconds in the new cycle.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer



Thank you for the advice coach.

Just out of curiosity, where do you get all the cool pictures you post, just from a personal collection or is there somewhere online? I find them very motivating.

I know this is an iron cross thread, but in the interest of continuing and cultivating an exchange of ideas (I know, every time I've posted I mention this), anyone working on any other bodyweight/gymnastics type strength moves or skills, aside from the three mentioned so far (iron cross, planche and front lever)?

I managed to do some wall walking for the first time the other day. It's tough to overcome the fear of landing on your head, but I'm sure that will disipate with practice. Working on increasing my range of motion with handstand pushups and one arm pushups. At this point I'm also itching to get a climbing rope set up. I've wanted one for a while now, and I was realizing my barn is the perfect place for one.

Take it easy,


Can I ask...

WHat do the lower bodies look like on these guys?

The are undoubtedly ripped in the upper body.

Are their lower bodies just as functional? Seems like for rings it would be useless weight?


i think i read an article by sommer saying that their lower body training was mostly composed of explosive exercises and weighted one-leg variations, as to add as much strength as possible without big gains in unneeded weight.

your not the only one itching to get a rope set up man....i want one hardcore after reading about the inverted climbing here and on crossfit. i think my pulling strength would go through the roof. 80 bucks for a 15 footer though, gonna have to wait until Christmas for that, haha.

also, i progressed to a pretty solid one leg in, one leg out front lever, and i started doing pullups like that on the rings. :slight_smile:

keep this thread alive!


I haven't really tried for the iron cross and I am sure I wouldn't be able to do one. I used to be able to do a full front lever and hold for around 7-10 seconds. I haven't tried lately, but I may begin to incorporate these into my program again. I can do the tuck planche on my fists. I haven't tried to progress from here because my rigth wrist bothers me when forced into extension.


If I recall, he also mentioned doing low-rep heavy-weight exercises (10x3 - Chad Waterbury style) to increase strength without adding unnecessary additional mass.

For the past 5 months or so, essentially all of my leg strength training has been on two legs using this 10x3 formula (back or overhead squats, lunges, and DL's). About 2 months ago, I started incorporating some plyos (drop jumps to start with, then depth jumps). I am now much stronger, and can jump higher. However, my "balance" (ignored by me 'til now) is unchanged. I intend to add some single-leg exercises in the mix to address this.

Cool stuff! Great thread.



Their lower bodies are extremely important (especially for floor exercises), and have excellent explosiveness. I also think that on the rings they're not completely useless, as they need to be tight and tense for the whole body to be straight out as in a planche or maltese. If they didn't have legs, rings would probably be easier, but floor exercises would be uhhh..."difficult"..:smiley:


Here are some very interesting posts by Coach Sommer on leg training. They used to be available via the CrossFit front page, but the link no longer seems to work. So, courtesy of the Internet Way Back archive, here you go:

Gymnastics Leg Strength Series - General Information

The majority of our leg conditioning involves various (usually we use plates, but weighted vests would give a better center of gravity) weighted single & double leg jumps, hops, quarter and half squats. We also use weighted jumping pistols jumping for heigth, for distance and up onto boxes. As a result, regular pistols are very easy for my athletes.

Also, on occassion we have added Pavel's weighted deck squats with a jump to our leg series (haven't used them with single leg yet). Primarily I find that these stress the midsection/lower back quite strongly (as the athlete rolls back forward onto his feet) when heavier weights (25-45lb plates) are used and the arms remain straight while holding the weight extended out in front.

Generally, we finish our leg series with a set of 10 single leg back flips (5 on each leg - jumping off one leg and landing on two).

Yours in Fitness, Coach Sommer

Gymnastics Progression for Learning Jumping Single Leg Squats

Following is the progression on jumping pistols that I have my athletes use:

1) learn a regular Single leg squat

2) add a stationary upward jump to the single leg squat

3) jumping single leg squat for distance

4) jumping single leg squat up onto a small box (approx 18-24")

5) jumping single leg squat for distance and up onto small box.

We perform these and other leg strength drills four times a week.

Yours in Fitness, Coach Sommer

Calf Training and the Single leg Squat

One of the exercises for calf training that my athletes use is to simply add a calf raise (be sure to completely extend the ankle and keep the weight centered over the ball of the foot) at the top of the single leg squat (SLS). Once they can perform 5 controlled repetitons of the SLS with calf raise, I have them either add weight to the SLS or perform them on a dyna-disc/balance board or both together.

Yours in Fitness, Coach Sommer

Isn't a Double Bodyweight Squat Necessary Before Beginning Plyometric Training?

Like you, I have also heard of the 1960's East German requirement of a double bodyweight squat before engaging in plyometrics. While I agree that a strong level of physical preparation is necessary to benefit from high-level plyometric (or ballistic) training without injury, my evidence shows that this was not a universal requirement, but rather a recommendation for their athletes in general. For their track & field athletes, weight lifters and other athletes for whom progressive plyometric conditioning was not an inherent part of their training, the double bodyweight squat was in preparation for their doing depth jumps off boxes 36"-42" in height among other drills.

It was definetly not a requirement for the German gymnasts, or the Russian or Chinese gymnasts for that matter, men or women, either prior to their commencing training or during the course of their training. Many of these athletes began simple plyometric exercises when they were only 4-6 years old and certainly were not capable of a double bodyweight squat.

One Olympic gold medalist from Russia (Vladimir Artemov, '88 Olympics All Around Champion) mentioned in a clinic that they were actually forbidden to engage in any heavy leg work (his coach even included bicycling in this category!) in the fear that it would reduce their upper body strength to weight ratio. Yet they engaged in plyometric training from a young age, continued throughout their entire careers and developed an astounding degree of power in the process.

It is, however, extremely important to note that their plyometric training (for both upper and lower body) was very gradual and progressive in nature, occurring over the span of many years. This gives the body time to adapt to the progressively more extreme training loads with increased bone density and greater development of the connective tissues.

Personally, I now believe that extra leg work would have been beneficial; even for gymnasts. Especially if it was approached in a manner designed to increase strength but minimize hypertrophy. My own son trained from 6 years of age up to approximately 13, eventually becoming the SouthWestern U.S. Champion. At that time, he left gymnastics to pursue his new dream of playing football.

For the next two years, his coaches had him on a structured program of mainly power cleans, deadlifts, squats and bench. When he returned to the gym later to see his friends and to just mess around, the increase in the height of his tumbling was literally shocking (and he had been a very good tumbler prior to his leaving for football).

He had only gained 10-15lbs., so for him, the resulting strength gains (160lb power clean and 290 lb deadlift at 125lb bodyweight) without large gains in bodyweight only served to increase his strength to weight ratio. This new strength combined with his already well developed plyometric abilities led to a very high level indeed of athletic ability.

Then and now, it makes me curious as to what could be accomplished by merging the two training methodologies.

Yours in Fitness, Coach Sommer