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Gymnastics/importat strength question


QUESTION: Dear Jack,

I hope I don't disturb and I also hope it doesn't matter that my question is not really gymnastics-skill related. But because of your experience, I thought you might be one of the best choices I have!

I have a really big problem which drives me crazy at the moment and I don’t really know what to do!
I am 22 already, a student and I do acrobatics.

I have achieved all the skills I wanted, all I want to do now is keeping my current level of fitness for the next few years, even if I am starting to work. I want to keep it without the help of a coach, but I going to open gym everyday for 3 hours. So I made myself a plan and want to do it everyday to keep my current level of fitness.
I am REALLY afraid of not being able to keep my strength, but I really try to pack in all I can and make it work.

Ok, so here is my plan which I really want to do everyday (every now and then I will take a day off, for example on holidays, but not often).

- 10 minutes warm up (running, arm circles,...)

- 50 minutes acrobatics (walkovers, handsprings, aerials, standing back

- 60 minutes of handstand strength:
20x Russian Lever – Pike through to Handstand – Lower down to Russian Lever
20x Straddle L to Straddle Planche and hold for 3 secs – lower down to Straddle L (my planche is ALMOST horizontal)
3x10 Straddle Press Handstands in a row
a few V-Sits at the end

- 10 mins of some pull-ups and squats and squat jumps for legs

- 30 minutes of stretching at home (oversplits, shoulders, back)

Of course, I also do other sports. For example, I take the bike to the gym or work if the weather is nice, I do track and field once a week with friends, we sometimes go swimmig,  climbing etc. But I love my acro and want to do it as long as possible and keep all the skills I have now.

The most important thing is the handstand presses and planches, because the tumbling skills are pretty easy as well as stretching.
I have never competed and also don’t know anyone who did, so I don’t know how many planches and presses high level athletes do daily. I would love if you could tell me if my strength plan is enough or if I should do more planches or presses. Is it enough if I do 20 planches for 3 secs each and 20 V-Sits to pike Handstands? Should I do more?

I would really appreciate your answer, it drives me so crazy!

Thank You in advance

ANSWER: Hello Annika,
         I am very glad to help you.  I am jealous of your program.  I do not have that kind of time.  You sound very knowledgeable, organized and motivated.  Your exercises are great…..especially all the planche ones.  The planche strength is the most important in gymnastics!  I have one suggestion on how to evolve with your program.  After another month, add very light ankle weights to your planche and handstand presses.  This way you increase the resistance without increasing the numbers.  I wish you the very best and take care – Jack Leonard

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Jack, Thank You VERY much for your help! I will think about your wise words and try it out!

I have another question and would appreciate your opinion once again.

It is about the "reverse planche".
I have a few questions about the reverse planche.

I do not mean a mexican handstand like this:

I mean a real reverse planche like this one:

Does it translate to a "normal" planche in any aspect?
It obviously requires flexible shoulders, but what else? Which muscles are involved?
How do you train for it?
What are the progressions?
And is it easier if you straddle, like in this picture?:

Not considering the necessity of flexibility - how hard is it? Is it harder than a normal straddle planche?

I am very curious! Thanks in advance!

Hello Annika,
         I am very glad to help you.  I have some girls who do this.  Basically a candidate for the reverse planche is someone who has great upper shoulder flexibility, back strength & very good balance.  Skills that involve more than one attribute are more demanding and become mult-dimensional aspect in the training.  Tic tocs are still essential….plus doing them in slow motion and then shifting weight according to the flexibility inherent to the athlete. Finally understand, no gymnast can do all the skills in the sport.  Sometimes you may like a skill and find out that you do not have the body for it.  I understand the potential frustration…..but that is why gymnastics looks so fresh to the observer because not all body types yield the same skills.  If that was true…gymnastics would be boring.  
I wish you the best and take care – Jack Leonard


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Jack Leonard


Former 5 time Natl. Tumbling Champ, 3 time Natl. Vaulting Champ, Natl. Floor Exercise Champ; Ass`t coach of Dominique Dawes for 6 years; Owner/Director/Head coach of Kauai Gymnastics Academy on the island of Kauai in Hawaii; Retired Physical Ed teacher; Childrens Fitness Expert; Expert Consultant for gymnastics litigation; Retired Mens & Womens HS Gymnastics coach for 32 years. National coaching honors for Men in 1981 & Women in 2001.


I value the following awards because they were given by acknowlegement through my peers: The Nissen/Grissold Award given to the outstanding Tumbling and Tramp Athlete(1972), National High School coach of the year in 1981 for men and 2001 for women, 10 time County Coach of the Year. Medal Award given at the first World Tumbling Championships in London, England for dedication to the sport. Lastly, having the opportunity to coach Wes Suter(1988 Olympian)in his intermediate years and Dominique Dawes(1992 & 1996)

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