Monday, August 10, 2015

Do You Really Need To Be A Circus Performer?

 Gymnastics and "movement" based programs are really popular right now! Even I've been known to do handstands, back bridges, and LSits from time to time. I've been doing full splits for years, something I worked towards as a teen when I was still competing in Karate tournaments. I enjoy watching others perform the breath taking stunts and tricks that these programs helped them develop. I know the months or years it takes in order to be able to perform front levers, press to handstands, and various flips. I respect the dedication it takes to develop a body that can withstand the demands that these movements place on your joints.

 But, in NO WAY do I believe these movements are essential, basic, or necessary for the average person.

 I know I'm going to catch some heat for this post, but hang in there with me and I'll do my best to explain!

 Gymnasts are basically super humans! They're strong, agile, flexible, and they have outstanding physiques. They can do just about anything you can do, but you can't do what they can do. It would seem to make sense to base your training around what ever they did to become so fantastic. Well ... not so fast.

 Unlike most sports, professional gymnasts begin their training at a very, very young age. Many top competitors started their training around ages of 3-5 years. Children are much more flexible and pliable than adults. They're also much more resistant to injury and recover faster than adults. They grow up through years of rigorous training, meticulous planning, and high level coaching in order to achieve their superhuman skills and physiques. They also weren't just doing this in the name of fitness, they were also doing it in the name of athletics! Gymnastics is a sport, and a demanding one at that. These athletes careers are short lived and littered with injuries. Most retired gymnasts are loaded with nagging issues left over from their professional career, even with all of that superior training and years of preparation.

 For the regular person, you really need to look at the risk to reward ratio. You're better off doing basic movement patterns such as squats, lunges, pulling, pushing etc. than working on handstands and other tricks. You're far more likely to get injured practicing one arm hand stands than you would with push ups. Basic movements are easier to learn, safer to perform, and have a much greater carry over into your every day life.

How often do you have to squat? EVERY-SINGLE-DAY!
How often do you have to single leg squat, with your leg behind the supporting leg, and touch your toe to your forehead? FUCKING NEVER!

 The more complex and skill based a movement is, the less carry over it has into your every day life. There comes a time where the strength, mobility, and skill require to perform the exercise/trick exceeds the capacity required for anything you'll face in real life. At that point you're basically only training a movement for the sake of being able to perform this trick.

 It takes a lot of time and training volume to be able to be able to form a front lever pull. Most people would be better off learning how to perform bodyweight rows, and adding additional weight as needed. Not only would it take less time to achieve substantial pulling strength, but the risk of injury is lower with the bodyweight row. Not to mention, some tricks are just never going to be a reality for some people. Differences in our body shapes, sizes, and limb length play a huge roll in what you'll be able to achieve. A 6'7" basketball player may be a beast on the court, but good luck ever getting him to be able to bang out human flags!

 There's nothing wrong with wanting to be able to perform a cool party trick, just don't fool yourself into thinking that it's essential, functional, or even a smart idea. Remember, "risk to reward"! No one ever said that sports, tricks, and stunts were safe or smart. We love them because they're spectacular and out of the ordinary.

 In reality, unless you have a job that requires these skills (dancer, gymnast, wushu performer etc.), or if you just want to be able to have a cool "pet move" to show off in videos, you're time would be better spent on more traditional movements. I bet you need little more flexibility or mobility. Yes, you probably need a little more strength. Sure, your balance could use some work. But just how much do you really need? What are you training for and will learning tricks really help? Are you prepared to face the repercussions that can come along with training for stunts rather than focusing on basic human function? Is your ego getting the better of your training decisions? Only you can decide the answers to the questions asked.

- Tim 

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