CFN Gymnastics, Chasing Virtuosity

4th August 2019

Efficacy and efficiency with moving our own load through space is undeniably a necessity for health, function and CrossFit performance. CrossFit at heart supports this notion, placing gymnastics at higher importance than weightlifting in the hierarchy of athletic development. I look at this from a standpoint of ‘if you can’t move your own load effectively, what business do you have moving an external load in the form of barbells, dumbells etc?’.

At present, we offer a specific service for each element of the hierarchy of athletic development (i.e., barbell, CrossHIIT, principle nutrition, CTT). It’s time to complete the puzzle and bring back speciality gymnastics programming and coaching!

I hope that this post will spark interest and provide insight into how I approach gymnastics programming. With the new class, we will develop strength, skill & capacity with the overarching goal of improving WOD performance. The idea is to develop to a level beyond the average CrossFitter. We will be striving for virtuosity in every movement whether strict or kipping, that is, working on doing the common, uncommonly well. I want us to not only achieve the more advanced skills and be able to do more work in a given time but to also look badass whilst doing it (think toes pointed and graceful dismounts!).

We’ll achieve this by working from the ground up, building the foundation, developing skills, strength & endurance and only then utilising these new skills and capacities within a WOD setting. This will involve both CrossFit specific movements & other movements that will improve general gymnastics ability, add variation and fun. As with all our classes, these will be planned & coached in a manner accessible to all, irrespective of current abilities and confidence. 


To demonstrate how the above qualities, inform coaching & programming, let’s take the example of a strict ring muscle up. This is not an exhaustive list of the demands of a strict ring muscle up but no matter your starting point, these should be in place to perform the skill consistently well;



Isometric holds, positional cueing & correction.

Can you actively control your shoulder blades in a ring hang position?

Do you have the thoracic mobility to be able to hang straight arm from the rings?

Can you perform a strict pull-up & a dip?


Skill Development: 

Perfecting aspects of the movement with drills, continuing to work on correct mechanics & tension.

Can you perform false-grip pull-ups whilst maintaining a tight hollow position?

With correct timing can you smoothly transition over the rings keeping them tight to the body?

Can you dip out of the transition and reach full elbow extension without losing tension?

Can you perform a spotted/assisted RMU?



Traditional strength training (4 x 3 etc.)

What’s the heaviest loaded strict ring pull up & ring dip you can do?

Can you perform similar skills with larger ROM or eccentric loading demands?

What’s the heaviest loaded strict RMU you can do?


Strength Endurance 

EMOMs & near maximal sets

How many unbroken strict RMU can you perform with good technique?

How fast can you recover from sets approaching muscular failure?



WODs (i.e., AMRAPs, For time WODs) 

How many strict RMU can you perform in the presence of cardiovascular fatigue?

How many string RMU can you perform in the presence of muscular fatigue elsewhere in the kinetic chain? (i.e., back squats into ring muscle ups)

How many strict RMU can you perform in the presence of compounded fatigue (i.e., kipping pull-ups into strict RMU).


So, if you want to learn new skills, refine movement patterns and develop a greater capacity, I’ll see you on the WOD floor Tuesday 8-9pm. If you can’t make it don’t worry, I’ll be posting handy videos, which combined with Matt Reid’s seminar series should help you on your gymnastics journey.


Author: Coach James Smith


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