Have you ever walked into the gym, seen somebody doing something incredible, and wished you could do something similar?
Besides the superhuman strength some folks display, there are certain skills in the gym that turn heads. I remember my first time training in a CrossFit affiliate and how I thought it was fascinating that all these people were working on gymnastics while I stood there and deadlifted. “Aren’t they too told to be competitive gymnasts?!” – Ah, the naivety of 19 year-old Alex.
Sometimes, learning a new skill is a way to spice up your training routine. Perhaps, you’ve already mastered the exercises in this article. Or maybe you aren’t anywhere near being able to learn these skills – either way, we wanted to share a few of our favorite gym circus tricks with you! Each exercise listed here should have its own article and video progressions. This is something I would like to bring to you in the future.
Remember, safety and longevity are of the highest priorities. We don’t want you to try one of these moves and get hurt without the proper coaching, foundational strength, or prerequisite technique. Be safe, be wise, and have fun learning something new!
Let’s start with what I would consider the easiest of the three (I’m not saying this is easy – purely a relative statement). Double unders have always been a staple in a solid jump rope routine. Jumping rope is a fantastic way to work on footwork, coordination, and build a monster lung capacity. Personally, I think the jump rope is a great way to strengthen the tendons and ligaments of the legs through micro-impacts. If programmed and executed correctly, jump rope exercises can be fun, challenging, and a great way to mix up your training.
The double under specifically requires a great deal of coordination and conditioning. CrossFit uses the double under as a standard exercise in some conditioning workouts. Oftentimes, athletes have to scale the double under to a single jump rope skip and do 2-3 times the number of reps. However, once you master the double under, you have a new weapon in your conditioning arsenal that can be extremely effective. Here’s the only technique advice I will give: Jump once, flick twice.
Bar Muscle Up
When you watch a gymnast practice or compete on the parallel/uneven bars, they have an incredible capacity to manipulate their body around those bars. A muscle up to a gymnast is a foundational movement that simply allows them to begin their actual routine. For the rest of us, it is a milestone achievement in the gym and may be backed by years of training to get to that point.
In order to catapult yourself over a bar into a muscle up, you must understand the leverages involved. You shouldn’t bend the arms too early. This is not a pull up. Essentially you use your core to initiate the movement and the rest of your body must follow. This is not a slow, controlled movement. The muscle up requires a high degree of speed and explosiveness. The better your technique, the smoother your movement will be and the easier the muscle up will feel.
Admittedly, of the three movements in this list, I find handstand walks the most difficult. While I can still do them on command, getting my shoulders into the proper position to hold my body weight is another story. Practice handstands against a wall first. Work on keeping your positions strong so that you can exhibit control.
Push into the ground – do NOT have soft elbows. That could result in an accidental faceplant. Handstand walks aren’t a necessity to get a good workout, but dang.. They sure look cool! Practice your fundamental gymnastic positions (specifically hollow holds) and make sure your core is tight. Work on gripping the floor and understanding your new, upside down equilibrium.
None of these skills are essential to the average gym-goer. However, an occasional trick or two can be fun to throw into your routine and may be a conversation piece for those who haven’t yet mastered these skills. It’s good to learn something new and interact with a fellow fitness junkie who may see your skills and want to join in on the fun.
What other gym skills can you think of? Is there something that you’ve been working on or would like to master?
The fun part about your health and fitness journey is that it is continually evolving. It’s never too late to learn or try something new. We encourage you to get out there and find something you can work on!
And until next time.. Stay moving!