Intense Closed Chain Gymnastics Workout

September 19, 2018 by VAHVA Fitness

Here is a tough workout with numerous closed chain gymnastics exercises. Gymnastics exercises are great for some areas of fitness but not so good for others!

In the past we spent a great deal of time practicing and learning different gymnastics movements and exercises to strengthen the body. 

Especially core and scapula training are at a quite high level in gymnastics which all of us can utilize. This is the reason why many of the movements you will find in this video and article are part of Movement 20XX

Although gymnastics and calisthenics are great for many different areas of fitness, they are far from perfect and we are not talking about leg training here. 

One of the biggest downfalls of gymnastics and how people do bodyweight training is that the largest portion of their training consists of closed chain movements where the arms or legs are fixed to a bar, floor or rings.

Closed chain movement: The hand or foot is fixed or stationary to an object.

Examples: Pull up or push up.

Open chain movement: The hand or foot is free to move in space.

Examples: Arm circles, shoulder raises or leg raises.

People have a tendency to think everything in black and white terms. On the Internet, you see people debating how closed chain movements are the best but this is only biased thinking.

Moreover, the performance of gymnasts has been massively overblown due to the popularity of crazy gymnastics stunts.  

It's true that the best gymnasts are top athletes who have incredibly strong upper bodies but this doesn't mean that kind of training is universally good for everything else.

We demonstrated the difference between skill and strength training in this blog article and video.

What is Lacking in Gymnastics (or Calisthenics)

When you think in terms of health, posture and universal performance, gymnastics is severely lacking and not that effective.

In fact, a lot of gymnasts have broken joints (because they literally push their joints to the extreme) and compromised postures. Becoming good at crazy stunts comes at a great cost almost no one should pay.

When it comes to performance, the overfocus on closed chain movements is the biggest downfall. Gymnastics rings offer more freedom than a bar but the hands are still fixed to the rings.

If you look at your daily life, playing sports, dancing or doing martial arts, you are barely hanging on anything or supporting yourself on dip bars. Instead your legs and arms are free to move as they please.

When you throw a punch or a kick, it's an open chain movement. When you hit with a bat or a racket it's an open chain movement. When you dance or freely express yourself, your movements are often "open chain". 

Very rarely you are hanging on anything and very rarely you need to be in close contact with the floor. This is why mastering the open chain movements as we do in Athlete 20XX is the most important part when it comes to athletic performance. 

This is only to illustrate the point that the open chain movements (exercises such s arm circles, leg raises) are probably more important than the closed chain movements (pull up, push up).

This is not to say closed chain movements are bad - we want to avoid polarizing thinking. Both are very important and you should utilize both!  

There are great stuff in gymnastics which we have utilized in our training but we also understand that the vast majority of gymnastics training has been optimized for the gymnastics (sport), not for outside the sport.

In many ways, gymnastics is a sport where the joints and tendons are pushed to the extreme just to see how far the human body can go. Health and posture are secondary to this.

Below you can find more information about the exercises demonstrated in the video.

Muscle Up

muscle up calisthenics gymnastics

Muscle up is the movement that took over the Internet many years back. It's still an impressive movement!

In the muscle up, you pull yourself up and then transition yourself from the pull up to a deep dip. It's basically a pulling and pressing exercise combined into one with a tough transition phase.

This transition phase is the most valuable and the hardest aspect of the muscle up which is why a lot of people skip it with momentum and kipping techniques.

There are two types of muscle ups: bar muscle ups and ring muscle ups. 

Depending on your physiology, either one can be easier or harder for you. The biggest difference between the variations is that the center of mass is very different.

If you are interested in learning the muscle up (we would consider it mostly a skill movement but fun to learn), our 30+ page muscle up program comes as a free bonus with Movement 20XX.

Skin the Cat

skin the cat gymnastics exercise drill

In the skin the cat you hang on the rings and take your body a full circle between your arms. This trains the lats, shoulders, upper back, core and arms very hard. 

We have an older video and article here about the different variations of the skin the cat - check it out if you want to learn more. 


L-sit gymnastics

The great thing about the L-sit is that it looks very impressive and with enough hard work it can be learned by almost anyone. 

When you do an L-sit, you are mainly working your triceps, core and hip flexors. The harder version of the L-sit is called the V-sit where the legs are pointing directly upwards.

L-sit and V-sit are part of Movement 20XX (there are 4 static strength skills in total) and in the program you will find complete progressions from the very beginning to the impressive V-sit.

Deep Push Up

deep push up calisthenics

This push up is deep - not as deep as the push ups we did in Finland but the stretch is pretty deep!

The deep push up kind of illustrates the spirit of gymnastics. It's a lot about extremism and pushing the body beyond the limits. 

This is an exercise we would not recommend to do often (it's not necessary to do at all) but it can be good to try every now and then. 

A range of motion matters but what actually matters is what you do with the range of motion that you use. Quality is all that matters.

A properly done quality push up is 10x more effective than a push up where the aim is to use as much range of motion as possible.

This is one of the problems regarding how people do bodyweight training: everything is about the extreme range of motion and extreme positions when in reality 95%+ of the results should from the basics.

Pull Up

pull up gymnastic calisthenics

Pull up probably doesn't need any further introduction. It's part of all of our training programs and for a good reason. 

Just one good tip: similar to other exercises that we use, it's actually far more effective to master the basic bodyweight pull up than start adding weight or doing single arm variations.

No one has mastered the basic bodyweight pull up that we know of because the mastery doesn't exist. We have done pull ups for 10 years and it's still kicking our ***!

Stay strong.

samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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