Gymnastics in the Open: What to expect + How we are going to prepare you

Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, defines the sport as follows: “CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and include aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more.” With this sort of definition and execution it’s no surprise that the CrossFit Open includes most (if not all) of these elements. Most of us can look at a workout and immediately know which movements we are looking forward to and which ones we would could do without. While some people dread snatches, others love it, some love bodyweight movements, others don’t. This trend is everywhere and it is COMPLETELY NORMAL. Everyone is different, so of course everyone has their own opinion when it comes to their favourite movements.
Even though there are numerous conflicting opinions with regard to the “most challenging” aspects of a workout, when it comes to the CrossFit Open, it is usually the higher skill gymnastics elements that set people apart on the leaderboard. With most people coming into CrossFit with a sports background or weightlifting/bodybuilding background, it is unsurprising that this is the case. However, this is not an excuse or valid reason to avoid days when gymnastics shows up in a workout. Moreover, if your goal is to do well in the Open, then you definitely want to make sure you’ve been attending all of those days.

Over the last 5 years, there have been 27 Open workouts. Gymnastics movements have appeared every year in more than one workout. Movements such as toes to bar, chest to bar pull-ups, handstand push-ups and muscle ups have been integrated into the Open over the years, and it is now common knowledge that there is a VERY high probability that we will see these every year moving forward.

Toes to Bar

Toes to bar have appeared most years since 2011 (Scale = kipping knee raises). They were not in last year’s open, so we expect they will make an appearance this year. Toes to bar require grip, core and hip flexor strength, so when paired with a barbell movement (usually some sort of squat – overhead, squat clean), these become increasingly difficult. Sets have been small and big, but by the end of the workout the total number of reps is comparably high, so you’ll need to hand on tight! 

Chest to Bar Pull-ups

In the RX division, its no secret that you need to have C2B pull-ups. For scaled, the alternative is regular pull-ups (also jumping, depending on the workout). These have appeared in workouts starting as early as 2011 and every year since, so expect these to come up. The rep schemes are always different: sometimes you can get away with single reps or small sets, but other times to have a competitive score you needed to bang out big sets, consistently and under fatigue.

Hand Stand Push-ups

HSPU have recently started to make an appearance in the Open. Most of us probably remember 16.4/17.4 which had 55 HSPU after 55 Deadlifts + 55 Wallballs + 55 Cal row – talk about shoulder fatigue! This workout truly was all about the HSPU + athlete’s ability to do large sets while breathing heavy and with fatigued shoulders. The scaled movement, hand-release push-ups, had a similar demand on the shoulders. In either case, being proficient in the HSPU/HRPU would have given you an advantage in this workout. We expect to see HSPU again this year; it is just a question of whether it will be kipping again or strict.   

Muscle Up

In previous years, the higher skill gymnastics elements such as muscle ups were not necessarily a requirement for doing well because they came at the end of a long chipper. So most athletes could still post a good score without getting 1 muscle up. However, as the sport evolves and athletes get stronger and fitter, the workouts parallel this as they increasingly get more difficult. Muscle ups have more recently appeared in the beginning of a workout, meaning if you wanted to complete the workout RX and get a competitive score, you needed to be able to do muscle ups. For a few years only ring muscle ups were included in the open, but bar muscle ups have made an appearance, so now those are fair game. Ring muscle ups have not appeared since the release of the Scaled division, so there is a good chance we may see them this year (scale = ring pull ups?), unless BMU (scale = chin over bar pull-ups) are the new norm. Either way, if you’re planning to complete at workouts RX, you will need to have muscle ups! And if not, they’re still fun to learn and you might surprise yoursel!

The main similarity between all of the gymnastics movements in the Open is the ability to perform large sets under high fatigue. The Open workouts are short (most are less than 15 mins), so you don’t have time to rest. You’ll need to move quickly from one movement to the next if you want to finish. This means grabbing onto the bar with a fatigued grip, or getting into a handstand with tired shoulders – something most of us are not comfortable or familiar doing.

Most workouts are designed so that the muscle group required for the gymnastics movement is being used to do another movement prior to or after, which means you need to have a good understanding of the movement and what your body is doing throughout. This will allow you to maximize your efficiency, decrease your power output and post your best score!

CF6S Gymnastics Workshops

Whether you are trying to get your FIRST TTB, MU, C2B/Pull-up or HSPU, or you already have them but want to improve efficiency and confidence, then let us help you! To help you prepare for the Open (& your future CrossFit career), we have designed a 4-week gymnastics workshop series. After attending these workshops, you will:

  • have a greater understanding for the physical requirements of the main gymnastics movements
  • learn how to move properly throughout the specific movements
  • be exposed to and learn new drills that will help you help improve your movement and bring you to the next level
  • learn tricks to improve efficiency
  • be better than when you arrived
  • practice, practice, practice!

The workshops will be taught by coach Julia and coach Grace and will take place on Sundays from 2-4pm at the gym. The topics will be as follows:  

Sunday January 28, Gymnastics 101: Body Awareness + Positioning

This workshop is designed to breakdown the more complex gymnastics movements into its fundamental parts. You’ll learn about shoulder stability and function, core strength and activation and how to maintain tension through a dynamic movement. We will also cover kipping, knee raises, toes-to-bar and double unders: how to do them + how to make them more efficient. This is strongly recommended for everyone, especially those who will be attending other workshops, as we will be referring to these movements with an expectation that we do not need to re-teach what was covered in this workshop.

Sunday February 4, Mastering the Pull-up

This workshop is all about the pulling – pull-ups + chest-to-bar. We will cover all types of scaling options as well, so there will be something for everyone to work on! We will provide you with the tools to help you improve efficiency of a current movement, push past a current plateau and/or learn a new skill. You will learn the physical requirements needed when transitioning from a ring row to a pull-up, from strict to kipping and from kipping to butterfly. You will also learn key differences between the pull-up and C2B and how to switch between them on demand. Whether you’re working towards getting your first pull-up or trying to string together more butterfly C2B, then this workshop is for you!

Sunday February 11, Turn That Frown Upside Down: Learning the HSPU

This workshop is all about the push, namely the handstand push up. We will progress from the headstand to strict HSPU and then discuss the transition to kipping HSPU. You’ll learn the components to each movement and the corresponding proper body positioning. We will expose you to a variety of different drills, aimed to get you more comfortable being upside down. We will address all skill levels, so whether you have trouble kicking up against the wall or you’re ready to get away from the wall and learn how to walk on your hands, we will have something for you!

Sunday February 18, Muscle Up Mania

In this workshop, we will guide you through a variety of different drills aimed at building confidence and proficiency on the rings, wherein our goal is to get everyone on the rings, doing a muscle up in some capacity! We will cover the differences between the strict and kipping muscle up – the strength requirements, positioning etc. You will learn the components of the muscle up, how to transition from one part to the other and how to maximize efficiency. We encourage people of all skill levels to attend. We will offer a variety of scaling options, so even if you have never tried a muscle up before and/or don’t know what to expect, we want to help you! Contrarily, if you can do muscle ups, let us help you make your movement more efficient!

You can attend as many workshops as you like. Although one is not a prerequisite for the other, we strongly recommend attending the first workshop if you plan to attend any of the other three because we will be covering basic body positioning and movement that will later be referred to in the other workshops. Additionally, improving your body positioning and awareness is guaranteed to already give you a head start on the next workshop!

Click here to register today! Sign up for any one or all four!

Space is limited, so first come, first serve! The cost for one workshop is $50, or $160 if you attend all four.

You definitely do not want to miss out!

See you at the bar,

Coach Julia + Coach Grace

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