Upper Body Conditioning.

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I need some MAJOR help with my upper body strength. I can barely do pushups, and this is a big challenge for me as a gymnast.

I mean, how can I expect to do anything on bars, floor, or anything if I don't have good upper body strength!

So if you know of any good drills I could use, please post them.
And If you could describe how to do some of the ones with the 'code names' that would be appreciated. xD

Pull ups, push ups, rope climb (without using your legs), Kip-ups, deep shoulder-shrugs while in a handstand, etc etc. Lots to choose form.

Putting yourself on a daily program that has REASONABLE goals and designed for success is the key. There is a saying: "Don't train to failure". Meaning, avoid doing "as much as you can until you can't". That type of program only works when you have a trainer or coach to motivate you. When self-training though, it doesn't build motivation when you fail. And consistant motivation is even harder to maintain then the training itself. So - Train to succeed.

First, Test yourself. How many Push ups, Pull ups, and Kip ups can you honestly do (without cheating!). Your goal is to do two more then your last test cycle on your next test cycle. It doesn't matter how many you do. If you can only do 4 push-ups, then that's all you can do. It's OK. That's why you set goals for yourself.

Keep a progress chart and update it (re-test yourself) every two weeks. No sooner.

Then everyday, do 75-80% of your tested ability - then stop. If you can only do 5 pull ups, do 4, but make a point to do it everyday, not just a couple times a week. After two weeks -- test your new ability. This higher number (and it will be higher...trust me) now becomes your new baseline. Then just continue from then on.

Oh yes, and no being lazy either. When doing your exersizes, there should be no more then 3 seconds between reps. Not 10 or 15 seconds. I call that cheating.

Last November, my DD Nastia (9) couldn't more then 3 pull ups (without cheating). Now, she can do 15. She also struggled with leg-ups on the stall bars. One or two was the max before collapsing. Now, 12 is her limit, so everyday she does 9 or 10. Push ups are still behind at 9, but, she's working on it. Her progress is her motivation, which is why it's important to chart it. When she re-tests herself, and gets to her limit + 2 (or 3), she's so happy with her new ability that she can't wait to show everyone she knows.

Lastly - avoid junk food. Few things zap your natural capabilities then eating or drinking junk. A Sugar rush isn't real.

Anyway - that's my suggestion. There are many ways to train... but you do have to train.

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Thanks, I'll try that!

(Uhm, what's a kip up?) Yea, I'm a noob.


I'm thinking kip-up means bar kip as in glide/long hang kip.

Tim_Dad is spot on with figuring out where you are currently.

Figure out what kind of pushup you can do. I prefer full ROM, chest to deck vs partial ROM. Pushup with hands on a gymnastics box at first so the body is at an angle with feet on floor, pushup with hands on a low panel mat feet on floor, pushups on knees with piked hips, pushups on knees with open hips, pushups with feet on floor, pushups with feet higher than floor, pushups with feet on a wall and body at 45 degrees, pushups while in near handstand on wall.

Same goes for leg lift. Leg lift while tucking knees to chest, tuck up and extend legs out and lower. Leg lift with straight legs to horizontal, Leg lift toes touch to bar. Leg lift from hang L to V.

Test and then practice at 50% of that volume over 5 sets ( standard 5x5 ). If you can do more than 5 reps, it really isn't challenging any more for strength and you need to scale up the intensity of the movement. Practice said movement 4x per week.

If you cannot do a pullup, do a pullup with your body horizontal. Or practice a jumping pullup and letting down slowly.

Retest in 2 months and then adjust your program.

Eat protein. Eat to train, train to eat.
Strength training is my favorite part of gymnastics, especially ring strength.

I'm considering making a video(my only fun activity besides gymnastics) of 'basic' strength exercises due to this thread.

Best things I would say is do push-ups with hands elevated, rows with feet elevated, partial HSPUs, Shoulder shrugs in HS...

I'll figure out more.


Mar 24, 2009
Bay Area, CA
Matthew I welcome your video. Especially if it details exactly how to get into the correct position to do the exercises and includes examples of what not to do as well. I can do pull up, but can I do it right? How should my elbows be positioned? shoulders? back? etc. That's the kind of information I'm looking for.


Thanks, a video would really help because I don't know how to do some of these things.

I appreciate the help!


Club Owner / Manager
Mar 23, 2009
West Midlands, England
Some very basic and general upper body strength exercises are:

1. Press ups with arms at shoulder width, elbows out
2. Press ups with arms at shoulder width, elbows in (elbows finish next to ribs)
3. As these get easier, begin to raise feet onto various pieces of apparatus eventually until you are doing press ups in handstand! This might take a while to build up to, but that's ok.
4. Press up position walks - in press up position either wear socks, or put your feet in an upturned frisbee(!) and walk forwards with your hands, dragging your feet behind you. This can be done forwards or backwards
5. Reverse press ups (back towards the floor)
6. On Parallell bars; in straight body position, hands by hips on the bar, walk forwards and backwards
7. On Parallell bars, tricep dips.
8. Combine press ups with side stand - 1 press up, then lift one arm up and turn to side stand (balance on one arm with both feet on floor) Repeat as many times as you like!
9. If you find pull ups hard, move the uneven bars in close to eachother and hang on the high bar, put your feet on the low bar, and try to do pull ups that way (Its kinda like an upside down press up!)
10. Static holds are also good - just holding press up position, or holding handstand against the wall, tummy or back to the wall, both are good!

Hope that's given you some ideas!
Good Luck!


Club Owner / Manager
Mar 23, 2009
West Midlands, England
Just thought of another one!

On bars, if you can get yourself into the final part of the pull up (Chin over the bar, arms bent), even if you have to climb up into this position, Try walking sideways without letting your chin touch the bar.
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