How to Get the Body of a Gymnast

In this episode, you’re going to discover exactly why you should train like a gymnast, how to get the body of a gymnast, and some sample gymnastics routines for handstand and muscle-up

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #319

Resources to Train Like a Gymnast

So how can you learn to implement this unique style of training?

One book I’m currently reading to get plenty of other gymnastics training instructions and also instructions for maximizing sport and life performance using something called “freestyle movements” is a book by Carl Paoli entitled “free+style.” I’m also beginning to use Carl’s website GymnasticsWOD.com to introduce a quick skill or flexibility based gymnastics workout into my morning routine.

I’ve also come across a fantastic full free year of daily gymnastics training at the Breaking Muscle website. These are also the same moves my two eight year old boys are going to begin in 2017.
Finally, the website GMB.io contains a host of programs you can purchase for a variety of goals, fitness levels, and time limitations, including moves such as Animal Flow, Focused Flexibility and Integral Strength.
These are just a few examples of some of the more helpful resources you’ll find on the web. If you’re more hands-on you can, of course, simply waltz into your local gymnastics facility and ask for a few private lessons with an instructor.
I recently did that very thing when visiting Los Angeles last week, where Olympic gymnast and gymnastics phenom Stephen McCain took me through a series of moves such as muscle-ups, handstands and even aerial yoga swing gymnastics.

A Sample Handstand Routine

Based on what I’ve learned from websites and resources such as those listed above, here is a tiny sampling of the handstand routine I’m going to be practicing every 4 weeks. It’s called the 4 Week Handstand Happiness routine, and you can download it for free at Breaking Muscle.

Day One

  • 10 x 10 second handstand hold (belly to wall)
  • 20 tuck up
  • 30 deficit hand release push up (set plates for your hands )
  • 40 superman pulses  

Day Two

  • 5x20sec frog tand holds - try straight arm (working balance on hands)
  • accumulate 2 minute handstand hold - belly to wall
  • 2x30 shifts from right to left - back to wall
  • 4min - tabata hollow rocks (in straight/hollow body position)

Day Three

5 rounds for quality

  • accumulate 1 min of handstand - wall or freestanding
  • 10 strict barbell presses @65% bw
  • 10 hollow to superman rocks

A Sample Muscle-Up Routine

Once I finish the handstand routine above, I’ll move into 4 weeks of working on my “muscle-up”. Here’s a sample 4 week muscle-up progression, also credited to the website “Breaking Muscle”.

Session One

·         Kipping MU – 3 reps EMOM x 10 mins

·         Strick ring dips 5 x 10 @BW

·         Hollow hold – 0:20 x 5

·         Arch hold – 0:20 x 5

Session Two

·         Strict C2B pull ups 4 x 8 @BW

·         Ring support holds – 0:15 x 6

·         Hanging L-sit – 0:15 x 6

Session Three

·         Ring complex: 2 strict ring pull ups, 2 strict MU, 2 strict dips x 5 sets

·         Ring push ups – 5 x 10 @BW

·         Hollow rock – 0:20 x 5

·         Arch rock – 0:20 x 5


While there aren’t necessarily any “rules” when it comes to sprinkling in gymnastics-style training into your weekly routine, you can see that my plan is to simply set aside 15-20 minutes on three days of the week to develop the coordination, balance, strength, mobility and flexibility of a gymnast, along with many of the other fitness and “biohacking” tactics I’m using to build a better body in early 2017, tactics which you can view in detail in this video that I recently created in which I highlight the details of my fitness plan for the first 12 weeks of 2017.

Using the resources I’ve provided in this article, you can do the same! In the meantime, do you have questions, comments or feedback about how to train like a gymnast? Join the conversation at Facebook.com/getfitguy


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.

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