T Nation

Book: Building the Gymnastic Body


I’m sure most of us remember this article from years back: http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_article/sex_news_sports_funny/all_muscle_no_iron

Every so often someone would post asking if the book was out yet. And holy shit, it actually is.

http://gymnasticbodies.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=52&osCsid=74vf7ejma46544gr5pvpv9rbk6

Just got my copy in the mail today, spent an hour or so looking through it before class.

(Table of Contents coming next post)

There’s at least 5 progressions of difficulty for each exercise (with pictures, most step by step) given, a lot that I’ve never even heard of before. Within each level of progression there’s guidelines as well- the amount of bodyweight variations blows my mind. I’m talking hundreds.

Unfortunately, what I thought was going to be the high point of the book (programming) only takes up about 15 pages and is rather simplistic and to the point, but I get the sense that it doesn’t have to be- there’s more than enough information here to take someone with no athletic gifts or background off the street and have them going straight into the basics progressions. There’s just enough guidelines to integrate with other exercise (aka lifting) as well.

The biggest thing that I wouldn’t mind hearing Coach Somner touch on is how quickly normal proportion trainees can progress- I couldn’t help but notice that in many of the examples used in the book for his athletes were under 5’4" and 130 lbs.

So in short, it’s a good buy. I’m going to start on some basic L-sit and Planche tonight.

Building the Gymnastic Body Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION I

CHAPTER ONE
Gymnastics as Conditioning 3

CHAPTER TWO
General Information
Tools of the Trade 9
Basic Gymnastics Terminology 11
The Selection of These Exercises 15
Handstands & Press Handstands 16

CHAPTER THREE
Basic Strength 21

CHAPTER FOUR
Fundamental Static Positions 25
L-sit 26
Straddle L 30
Manna 35
Back Lever 41
Front Lever 45
Planche 49

CHAPTER FIVE
Upper Body Pressing
Fundamental Bodyweight Exercises 59
Push-up Variations 61
Dip Variations 68
HSPU Variations 76
Multi-plane Pressing Variations 83

CHAPTER SIX
Upper Body Pulling
Row Variations 91
Pull-up Variations 96
Curl Variations 103
Multi-plane Pulling Variations 106

CHAPTER SEVEN
Combined Pull/Press
Muscle-up Variations 113
Other CPP Variations 118

CHAPTER EIGHT
Core
V-up Variations 123
HLL Variations 127
Lower Back Variations 132
Oblique Variations 138
Straight Body Variations 144

CHAPTER NINE
Legs 155
Deck Squat Variations 156
Single Leg Squat Variations 159
Hamstring Variations 165

CHAPTER TEN
Program Design Options
Static Strength Training 171
Basic Strength Training 175
Integrated Training 178
Managing Intensity 179
Group Training 182

APPENDIX A
Tips for Increasing Pull-ups 185

APPENDIX B
Static Strength Only Training Results 186

APPENDIX C
120 Muscle-ups in 15 minutes 187

Index 189
A Special Thanks 194

Sounds like an interesting book. But reading through that first link you posted, I found some of the claims a bit exaggerated, unless there are videos I have not seen somewhere?

Do you think there are exercises in the book that you think will be of long term use that you have not come across?

Here’s Coach Somner’s youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/GymnasticBodies

Some of the more ‘see it to believe it’ skills are on here, like this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fT6m1Pv94k

I’m going to start L-sits, planches and hanging leg lifts in place of normal “core” (god I hate that word) work. A lot of the skills presented incorporate some type of isometric hold that require the whole body to be tensed or you will fail- that’s core strength, not one leg lateral raises on a bosu ball.

We’ll see how my little experiment goes. For the strength athlete it looks like there’s a lot to learn from this book; bodybuilding not so much.

Looks like an awesome book. I’ll have to check it out. . .

Think you’ll be integrating that into your training, IA?

I’ve heard the side lever stuff isn’t that hard relatively

I’m a big guy so there’s no way I’ll ever do a planche. I’m not sure how many of the skills are possible for bigger guys.

The only gymnastics style BW skills I have been using in my training for some time are l-sits, leg raises, some variation of front lever holds and pullups, and dragon flys. The latter two took several months to work up to. I’d be interested if there are other worthwhile movements to look into adding.

I will probably buy this just because I think it’s cool, and maybe there is some useful stuff to add to my training.

an fyi, looks like the book doesn’t mention dragon flags. If I can do them at 6 feet, anyone can. These are by far the best upper body/arm and abdominal exercise I have learned. Just be careful of bicep injury and be very kind to your forearms and joints afterwards.

His methods are sound…I have made progress on the planche and levers using his advice rather quickly.

'Bout time he came out with it. Been waiting for this for years now. Soon as I get some scratch together I’m getting this.

Damn - so he finally published. I been waiting going on two years for that thing to come out.

motherfucker you’re sharing my goddamn secrets lol

rings = strong as FUCK even if you’re big and only progress to things like bulgarian dips or whatever the amount of relative strength it takes to move your weight for shit like that it might not be as visually impressive as say galimores or something but you’ll be just as strong (as far as absolute strength)

i know i’m leavin out a lot of factors but…

a 150lb guy doing 1 pullup with 50lbs attached is equivalent in absolute strength terms as a 200lb guy doing 1 pullup.

While I’ll probably buy that book, I don’t like the assumption that you can “build” a “gymnast body” .
Yes, that’s two bold assertions in my book.

First, not all gymnasts look great.
How can it be that even pro gymnasts in their prime look just OK from an aesthetic (bodybuilding) standpoint? And average Joe cannot hope to match their talent, training volume, dedication and support.
Second, a gymnast body depends largely on the right proportions and low bodyfat. So if you’re a tall, big boned fellow with 15%bf+, you’re not cool enough for the club.

Still, I think I’ll like that book, since I got a knack for bodyweight exercises.

Awesome…I think I’m going to buy it right now.

[quote]Flow wrote:
Looks like an awesome book. I’ll have to check it out. . .

Think you’ll be integrating that into your training, IA?[/quote]

Right now I’m looking at some basic L-sits, planche, front lever and leg raises. I just tested myself yesterday and it went pretty good.

L-Sit
Tuck: 40s
Low: 30s
Normal: 11s

Planche
Frog Stand: Maybe 5s on my top set. I was helping train our group with Alex today and I must have got in 10 or so sets in overall, I think I held the first 5 or so for a couple seconds each. Definitely an acquired skill, but I was getting the balance for it as time went on.

Front Lever
Tuck: 15s
Flat Tuck: 4s

Very, very hard.

[quote]actionjeff wrote:
an fyi, looks like the book doesn’t mention dragon flags. If I can do them at 6 feet, anyone can. These are by far the best upper body/arm and abdominal exercise I have learned. Just be careful of bicep injury and be very kind to your forearms and joints afterwards. [/quote]

Do you think that the skills have added anything to your training so far?

A kind of extended ROM Dragon Flag called a body lever is detailed under the Straight Body “Core” Variations. Vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwJ80DDIeNE

[quote]Schwarzfahrer wrote:
While I’ll probably buy that book, I don’t like the assumption that you can “build” a “gymnast body” .
Yes, that’s two bold assertions in my book.

First, not all gymnasts look great.
How can it be that even pro gymnasts in their prime look just OK from an aesthetic (bodybuilding) standpoint? And average Joe cannot hope to match their talent, training volume, dedication and support.
Second, a gymnast body depends largely on the right proportions and low bodyfat. So if you’re a tall, big boned fellow with 15%bf+, you’re not cool enough for the club.

Still, I think I’ll like that book, since I got a knack for bodyweight exercises. [/quote]

Definitely agree with this- the title of the book is pretty misleading, and hypertrophy occurring from gymnastic training is only mentioned once or twice. A 20 year old gymnast might have 12 or more years of experience- of course they’re going to have some lean mass.

[quote]IronAbrams wrote:

Do you think that the skills have added anything to your training so far?

[/quote]

I joint the gymnastics club at my college a few months ago and have had great gains in my lifts, especially upper body lifts.

1 Like

[quote]IronAbrams wrote:

actionjeff wrote:
an fyi, looks like the book doesn’t mention dragon flags. If I can do them at 6 feet, anyone can. These are by far the best upper body/arm and abdominal exercise I have learned. Just be careful of bicep injury and be very kind to your forearms and joints afterwards.

Do you think that the skills have added anything to your training so far?

A kind of extended ROM Dragon Flag called a body lever is detailed under the Straight Body “Core” Variations. Vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwJ80DDIeNE

[/quote]

that’s just a full ROM, same as I do it. I can’t start from the bottom though like some guys.

I don’t know whether it’s added anything. Probably made my arms and core stronger, but probably done very little for my actual core lifts, no idea on hypertrophy. I guess they are mostly just for fun and functional entertainment. I mean if you want to build the abdominal strength they are amazing, and when I started them my arms were pretty weak- that improved in a hurry.

I used to do them twice a week for a few months but at some point I couldn’t fit them in because they really torched my performance in any lifts afterwards and are basically impossible to do prefatigued.

Also at some point I gained about 20 pounds over 6-8 months and a lot of weight in my legs… I wonder how many I can crank out now, lol. I’m gonna give them a try again.

They might not be the best type of exercise for a bodybuilder, PL, or someone focused on strength sports just because of the difficulty of programming. But if you are into the bodyweight stuff I imagine these would be a staple.

Sweet it’s finally out!

Funny story… the Chris Sommer stuff is what led me to T-Nation three years ago. How my perspective has changed. I’ll probably give the book a read for the sake of nostalgia… and also because I’m a gymnastics coach and recreational gymnast myself, haha.

1 Like

Just wondering, do most of the exercises and such in that book require rings and other gymnastics equipment? I’d like to probably incorporate some small stuff, but I don’t exactly have a gymnastics gym layout.

As long as you have a pullup bar, dip handles, and a floor (lol) you can do 90%+ of the exercises in the book. Most of the exercises that involve rings are the most advanced progressions that will take 6+ months if not years to get to.

[quote]IronAbrams wrote:
As long as you have a pullup bar, dip handles, and a floor (lol) you can do 90%+ of the exercises in the book. Most of the exercises that involve rings are the most advanced progressions that will take 6+ months if not years to get to.[/quote]

thanks. This is interesting stuff

This is strong:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoQvE-C-BSE&NR=1