Posted on 05 October 2008 by admin
Elite gymnasts have the ideal bodies. Not only are they incredibly strong, but they are also extremely flexible. What do all gymnasts have in common? They all do bodyweight exercises. Many of them occasionally dabble with weights, but their training regimens are overwhelmingly dominated by bodyweight exercises. Go to any gym and it would be a very rare sight to find any gymnast working out with weights.
In a recent interview posted by Gymnast.com , Olympic silver and bronze medalist Jonathan Horton was asked how much time he spends in the weight room. He replied, “I have never lifted a weight in my life.” Instead, he does things like sets of 50 handstand push-ups until his arms are so tired he can’t even move them. In the same interview, he recalled the time back in high school when he challenged three guys on the football team to an iron cross competition. Horton bet each player $20 they couldn’t hold the iron cross for one second. Only one could even pull himself up high enough to try the iron cross. When he tried to drop into the cross position, he dropped to the ground. Horton can hold an iron cross for 28 seconds.
The beauty of bodyweight exercises is that they can be done anywhere such as at home, at the office or on the road in a hotel room. Most can be done without any expense, while others can be done with minimal expense. The end result is that with a dedicated regimen, one can achieve remarkable fitness and well being. Flexibility and functional strength will increase dramatically. Functional strength is what is necessary to do everyday tasks such as lifting, carrying and pushing. Contrasting bodyweight exercises with weightlifting, the latter does not necessarily improve functional strength, certainly does not improve flexibility, and taxing one muscle or group repeatedly and not in concert with the body’s full, natural movement is often harmful over time to the joints.
A rather simple workout, such as the one made famous by Matt Furey’s Combat Conditioning , is the so-called “Royal Court.” This workout consists of Hindu Squats, Hindu Pushups and a nose-to-the-mat back bridge. This workout alone, if done at least 3-4 days/week, can do wonders for the body. The squats work the largest muscles in the body (the legs), along with strengthening the lower back and abdominals. The deep breathing required for this exercise will greatly expand lung capacity and will make the chest more prominent. Hindu Pushups are a great upper body exercise that also stretches out the entire back and tones the abs. Like the squats, to achieve the maximum benefits of performing Hindu Pushups, deep breathing is required. Finally, the back bridge will work out practically every muscle in the body, with emphases on the neck, back, legs and abs. It takes a while to perfect the back bridge, because to do it right, you need to hold the nose-to-the-mat position for at least three minutes.
Of course, you can also add many other bodyweight exercises to your regimen, just to keep the routine from going stale. Throw in some handstands, handstand pushups or pull-ups and you will see some amazing improvements in upper body strength over time. We are highlighting the Royal Court, just to point out how such a relatively simple workout alone can greatly enhance one’s fitness. The key is to do it religiously, combined with a healthy diet.