Chances are, you’ll never see a gymnast at the weight rack...
They work out almost exclusively with their bodyweight, yet develop a lean, muscular physique that many bodybuilders long for.
How does this happen? Why are gymnasts lean (sometimes even ripped) and strong? There are a variety of reasons, including:
1. A lifetime of training - Gymnasts may start training as young as 3 years old.
While 99% of those toddlers will move on to ballet, or karate classes by age 4, the 3 year olds will spend their early and formative years training on gymnastics equipment, rings, bars, trampoline, etc. performing countless handstands, vaults, somersaults and more.
By their early teenage years, they have developed muscle memory, stimulated muscle fibres, and muscle growth for those muscles and muscle groups specific to their chosen sport and events.
By age 8 or 9 their Coaches have identified those with exceptional skill and potential; the strongest, most flexible, agile and those with raw talent.
Those individuals will then begin training through their growth phase as much as 4-6 hours every day! -Approaching 36+ hours every week!
If YOU worked out 36 hours a week, and fed your body healthy meals, would you make progress toward your fitness goals? - Damn right you would!
2. Hypertrophy - These young bodies adapt to the loads placed on them.
Young men perform Olympic routines that require upper body strength and develop strong and muscular arms, shoulders and chest. Young women’s events require running, leaping, jumping and landing and they often develop strong legs, thighs and glutes. The more you use a muscle, the stronger and over time, the bigger it gets!
3. Overloaded Stretch - Gymnastics training involves overloading muscle fibres while they are in a stretched and elongated position.
Examples include the rings, high bar and parallel bars. Overloading stretched muscles causes hyperplasia, the splitting and multiplying of muscle fibres, and can increase muscle mass by up to 300%! (Yes that's not a typo!)
Keep in mind these athletes trained before, during, and after puberty, and so possess the associated bone and muscle growth.
4. Plyometrics - Many Olympic events, or the training for these events involves plyometrics, explosive movements that produce POWER!
Power is a combination of strength, speed and agility. Frequent plyometric training promotes strength, and to adapt and provide this strength, your body adapts and grows.
Big Muscles Are A Bonus - While gymnasts may enjoy their ripped physiques, big muscles are NOT the primary goal of their intense training!
The goal of gymnastics training is to develop and increase the strength to weight ratio, without adding too much muscle. Muscle equals weight, and immobility in certain cases, and if you are hanging from a bar or set of rings, that added weight can be the difference between gold and bronze.
Muscle growth is the adaptation to the stimulus of their intense training regimens and is a positive, outward sign that their muscles are getting stronger.
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