OT Gymnastics and strenght relationship

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Jan 3, 2019
First I like to say hello and wish you all a happy new year.

I discovered this forum a few days ago and thought it might be the right place for a question that's been bothering me for a while. Before I start I'd like to mention that I am no gymnast myself and I hope that this is no problem, since I read in the 'gymnast forum' that only gymnasts are allowed. So since I couldn't find any rule on that in the terms and it says 'fans' in the header of this site I just added this question in the off-topic region of the forum.

A few words about me:
I was never all too sporty. When I was younger I did some ballet...well let's call it that way, I was forced to do some ballet but I didn't really develop any skills there. As soon as it went to more complicated things I did not participate anymore. Similarly, I also started to do some martial arts a while ago but I would never do any 'stunts' like flips or so, that was the point where I usually skipped the lesson and focused more on the calm parts of martial arts. Also in school, I tried things like handstand and cartwheels when asked to but I would never do a somersault for example. I'm quite tall and I once tried one, which feels almost impossible to me and accidentally hurt my neck. Therefore I have always and will always have the greatest respects for gymnastics and all gymnasts but it's probably nothing I should do. Today I try to stay fit by basic workout, not too often and not too much, certainly no gym but only things you can do at home.

And this is the part where this question popped up in my mind. During the past two years, I didn't do any continuous workout. I start one day, do some stuff and then I completely forget about it and have to start all over again a few months later. Still, and probably also due to my size and the fact that I can eat what I want and still stay skinny, I reached a point where, under the right light, you can start to see some abs. For you, this is probably nothing special but to me, who never intended to get some and without any real workout plan or diet or anything it is still quite exciting. And then I wondered. See, I can do situps for example. At first, they are hard after some repetitions but then with some time I quickly reach a point where I can do more and it doesn't hurt anymore. I flex my pseudo-abs and it feels a little harder. But once I change the workout style and lift for example my feet, it becomes all extremely hard to do again. And my stomach feels like I have no muscles at all. So I continue until I get stronger and then I do the next thing, let's say I hang from a ladder and then try to lift my feet it's almost impossible.

Or another example, when we were younger we always tried to bend bottle caps with our fingers. It was pretty hard as a kid but at some point, it became easier. The next things were cracking open a walnut. I remember, when I was a teenager I finally managed to do it. Today, I do push-ups and pull-ups and it even seems like my arms are getting bigger, but when I try to crack a nut again, it is still extremely hard although I should be a lot stronger.

From this I got the question, what about gymnasts. Many gymnasts start at an early age and I have seen young kids with incredible muscles. It makes sense that with a lot of training you will get a body like that. But similarly to my experience, is that really related to strength? For example, if a gymnast has a sixpack, that is because he or she needs it. For balance or to do the moves. You probably don't start to workout like people in a gym do to look good or become strong but you adapt your workout plans to the tasks you have to master. And the muscles will grow to an extent where you can do these tasks. Like for me, they grew to the point where I could do a certain amount of repetitions of one particular task. If I wanted to do a harder one I have to train more and the muscles will adapt to that. I see many young girls do that routine where you push yourself up while sitting but keep your feet stretched out in front of you. That is, of course, hard but also just the next stage to what I am struggling right now with. And I guess that applies to your arms and legs as well. I've seen gymnasts with far less developed muscles do similar routines.

So my question is, how much is your physical appearance actually related to pure strength? Don't get me wrong here, it's not about strength in a manner of fully balancing your body at various routines, or doing things much more slowly and perfect than just in fast motions. I understand that all these things require a lot of power and I have full respect for anyone who can do that! But what I am actually asking for is the comparison to let's say someone who lifts weights and has muscles because he wants to become strong.

Also, I don't know how much hormones and puberty will cause more change in the body and therefore increase the strength automatically. Of course, an adult with muscles will be much stronger than a kid with muscles. Just the size, diameter, etc. of the muscles themselves are of no comparison here. A muscular young gymnast needs enough power to lift himself/herself and not an adult. So I can imagine that once you become older and you grow you will have quite some strength. Therefore the question is directed more to your past and childhood here for an actual comparison.

So to those of you who did a lot of gymnastics when they were younger and had muscles from an early age: Have you ever experienced an actual comparable event that would demonstrate anything related to strength? If you say 'I was able to do 30 pull-ups' that is, of course, impressive but very hard to compare. It would depend on your size and your weight, by becoming stronger you gain more muscles and therefore become heavier, it would just be very hard to imagine and compare. I'm talking more about situations where strength came in handy like you tried to crack a walnut like me or something similar. Because even to me as an adult who does occasional workout this would be very hard. If a younger gymnast is able to pull that off that would certainly be a yes on the actual question if for gymnastics the shape and body appearance correlates with the actual strength as it does for for example bodybuilders and weightlifters.

I'd be interested in any story or idea you have, you are certainly the experts here and I can only imagine most of the stuff I am writing here as I have no real experience. It could be all wrong but in the end I can only compare it to myself and therefore I'd be really interested in how it actually is and especially how it was for you.

Many Greetings and a big thank you to all replies :)
what exactly is your question? at a certain point you have to ad muscle mass to get any stronger (beyond neuronal effects aka different sorts of coordination and speed work) and balance this with your bodyweight, since gymnastics and most other sports do not go well with extra bodyweight you need to carry around. this is usually done by good programming aka a good coach and proper nutrition.

strength is relative to bodymass, someone being bigger will usually be stronger. weight classes in martial arts or weightlifting and the like exist for a reason.

a gymnast is usually very strong and explosive compared to their body weight. they have to be to pull the crazy stuff off, that gymnasts do.

if you can see abs is not really related to strength but to the indivual's body fat or relative lack thereof.

weightlifters are usually not that strong, but very explosive and technically skilled in what they do.

bodybuilders are big and that's about it. they are usually not strong or skilled or anything. at all.
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Sorry, I haven't found the time to reply until now:

Yeah, I figured that the question wasn't easy to understand and probably not well enough formulated.

if you can see abs is not really related to strength but to the individual's body fat or relative lack thereof.
I know this is probably a bad example. I just brought it up as an example for the actual training routine. Like not the presence of abs but gaining abs or training for abs in particular but it's not about abs at all.

weightlifters are usually not that strong, but very explosive and technically skilled in what they do. Bodybuilders are big and that's about it. they are usually not strong or skilled or anything. at all.

Well okay, I didn't really know that. I thought since they specifically train for strength it automatically means that they must be quite strong. But that's actually quite good for the question.

a gymnast is usually very strong and explosive compared to their body weight. they have to be to pull the crazy stuff off, that gymnasts do.

That's exactly it. That is probably the easiest answer here. A gymnast is said to be incredibly strong for his size and mass and probably also physique. But that is the answer I read a lot before and I find it hard to actually compare that to anything. See, I was trying to compare them to let's say a body builder in terms of strength, not body size. Someone who trains a lot in a gym and has huge muscles vs the gymnast who is much lighter since he doesn't have such huge muscles, right? To my understanding will muscles be quite heavy, so if the gymnast becomes stronger he will become heavier. And therefore he will require more muscles to carry his weight. But he never becomes a muscle monster like some bodybuilders do, right? So even if they had the same body hight, to begin with, as the gymnast is much lighter, he wouldn't require as much strength as a bodybuilder would require if he was physically able to do the same routines. On the other hand, the bodybuilder does not really use his power for anything. So how do they compare?
Can a gymnast of the same size lift heavy weights as well? Does he have a huge grip strength to crack nuts and crush apples with his or her bare hands?

See, I'm interested in a real, physical example of how strong a gymnast really is. Not in comparison to his body weight, his size, his routines, and abilities, but in terms of ... well, something you could just summarize in numbers or results. And then the second part of the question was, as you already mentioned, the strength will scale with size and probably also with age due to puberty, hormones, etc. how much difference does it make at younger ages before these effects even kick in?
Like it does make sense that the young gymnast girl is probably way stronger than her classmates. Before puberty, there isn't even a huge difference in male and female strength, to begin with but although this young girl may already have a fully trained sixpack and a visible biceps, just by the size and diameter of the muscles at this young age it wouldn't scale that much in weight. So the overall power to support that weight is probably not comparable to an adult gymnast where it scales differently. So does that make a young gymnast that much stronger in the end?

Like, there are young gymnasts who, if they flex their biceps, will show quite some muscles. When I was that age you wouldn't see anything there. Therefore it took me a couple of years and growing in body size until my untrained, natural strength was enough to - let's stick to my real example - crack a regular walnut with bare hands. This would certainly not have been possible when I was let's say 8 years old. And then there are gymnasts at the age of 8 that have probably in comparison to my arms when I was finally able to crack a nut similar sized, if not bigger arms but all biceps. So I had the advantage of just having weak muscles but due to my body size still comparably bigger arms in total vs the younger gymnast who has smaller arms ins length and diameter due to his body size but may compensate that by the fact that he or she has much stronger muscles. So do they end up with the same results as me but at a younger age?

See this would be a real physical example of something you could actually compare without saying the gymnast is just strong. And the original question was if you have personally experienced something when you were younger that could be easily compared and understood. Because there are of course some boundaries and limits to the maximum power you will have at a certain age/size. And this is most probably, since the focus is much more on technique, balance and other gymnastic aspects, still at very easy and unsurprising tasks.
There is a youtube series produced in Europe called "Strength Wars" where they try and pit different strength disciplines against each other to see who is stronger. They do power lifting and strong man type of events mostly with a little bit of street workout type of things. I don't know if it proves anything other than strong is strong.

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