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I like using car analogies for the body and human performance because they seem to make sense to a lot of people. Although I must say that while I love just about everything motorsport, I don’t service my own vehicle! I do however ensure that my body is well cared for, and am here to ensure that our clients’ bodies stay strong and healthy through life. Let’s look at one of the engine and drivetrain analogies to illustrate how we achieve that using gymnastics movements.

Gymnastics a.k.a bodyweight movements come after nutrition in the hierarchy of development. So developing your ability to move just your own body is a big deal to us. There are loads of gymnastics movements with pushing, pulling, midline, squatting, and jumping covering the bulk of the movement categories. And then you can further divide movements up by strict and kipping. Kipping is where powerful hip extension is used to generate most of the movement with the extremities guiding the body to it’s end position. For example, in a strict pull-up the hips and legs stay straight while only the upper body pulls. Whereas in a kipping pull-up the hips “kick” the body upwards, with the upper body following to guide the body to the top of a pull-up.

It’s important to develop both strict and kipping movements, especially in the name of increasing capacity across broad time and modal domains. But each have different roles to play. And this is where the engine and drivetrain analogy helps.

The engine of a vehicle is the powerhouse. It creates the energy to propel the vehicle in the intended direction. The drivetrain is what lays all that energy to the ground to enable the vehicle to move in that direction. There (should be) is a third component – the human controlling the speed and direction. In the design of a vehicle, the drivetrain must be robust enough to handle the power that the engine creates. If it’s not, the drivetrain will eventually break under all the load.

The body’s engine is comprised of all the big muscle groups such as the hips, upper leg and shoulder girdle. These are superficial muscles, muscles close to the surface of the body. The drivetrain is comprised of the extremities, deeper and smaller muscles, and soft tissue (ligaments, tendons, cartilage). Similar to a vehicle, if you just focus on getting the engine strong while neglecting the drivetrain, the drivetrain eventually breaks and you pick up a niggle or injury.

Strict gymnastics movements develop the drivetrain – they make you robust from the inside out. It does take longer to develop strict capacity, but that’s because soft tissue takes MUCH longer than muscle to develop. Kipping movements develop your engine. That’s why we use them in conditioning workouts, and it’s why you’re able to develop kipping sooner and faster than strict. The bigger muscles develop faster. But if you rely too much on kipping, those bigger muscle groups-your engine-develop too fast relative to the smaller muscles and soft tissue-your drivetrain. You might feel like you’re able to do more by kipping more, just as you’ll feel like you’re driving really fast in a vehicle with a powerful engine.

But you’ll only be moving fast while the drivetrain is still holding up to the load. Six months of progressing slowly is still progress. Time off training due to injury is going nowhere at all.

Build your drivetrain by developing your strict gymnastics capacity. Then layer on engine development as the drivetrain improves – it’s improving when you can do more strict work. It might not look as sexy initially, but just like a classic car, it appreciates in value 😉

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