Why You Need a Gymnastics Foundation

You must get your base strength and flexibility lined out before moving to complex movements you aren’t ready for.

We all understand that you can’t run before you can walk, and you can’t walk before you can stand, but often people don’t know the requisite foundation that must precede more complex movements in fitness. Most individuals are unsuccessful when trying to develop gymnastics skills, movement flows, freestyle movement, and more complex bodyweight exercises mainly because they have not developed their foundation of strength and mobility. Instead, as you’ve probably heard me mention many times before, people start doing more complex exercises too early on in their training. No Olympian got to where they are by jumping ahead to the top tier. They spent hours upon hours developing their abilities layer by layer. You can’t expect to be any different.

Here are the basics for strength, mobility, and flexibility. All of these skills can be developed by following my level by level progressions.

Coach Chris Lofland has also developed a more comprehensive Gymnastic Strength workout and training program that includes personal support from him through a members only Facebook group. Check out Gymnastic Strength to attain a lifetime of bodyweight strength, mobility, and flexibility.

Strength Foundation

Remember, simplistic strength that has a large transfer over to complex movement.

Chest to Bar Pull Up

This is basic upper body pulling strength that will lead into movements like muscle ups, ballistic pulling, straight arm pulling (front lever), and much more.

Handstand Push Up

This is basic upper body pushing strength that can open the door for movements like press handstands, hollow back presses, basic tumbling, and more.

Ring Dips

Ring dips use arm and shoulder strength, plus core stability, to aid in the progression to movements like the muscle up.

Hollow Body Rocks

This is the foundation for core stability and trains the positions necessary to perform higher level gymnastics and calisthenic movements.

Leg Raises

This is your ability to compress your body. This is a must for movements like a press to handstand, V Sit, glide kip, and more.


This addresses the rotation aspect of your core. Most athletic/sport movements involve some sort of rotation and/or bowing of the core. Being weak and tight through the obliques closes a lot of doors for movement and athletic strength.

Pistol Squat

This is the foundation strength and mobility of your lower body. Pistols show if you have enough mobility and strength in your lower body to move yourself around efficiently. These also work out many of the imbalances between legs (one leg is more mobile or stronger).

Mobility Foundation

The ability to control your body through a large ranges of motion to be able to get into more complex positions.

Skin the Cat

This develops the often underdeveloped shoulder extension strength. Most individuals are weak and tight in shoulder extension. Strength in these areas assist in L sits, V sits, mannas, back levers, muscle ups, and more.

Weighted Pass Throughs

These are the foundation for starting straight arm strength. This helps work the shoulders from inside out and takes each shoulder through a full range of motion. This keeps the shoulders mobile and will help begin the development for straight arm pulling and pushing exercises like levers, planches, and similar movements.

Pancake Pulls

These assist in folding and unfolding your body. They increase flexibility and strength in the hips, adductors, hamstrings, and more. These are helpful in developing movements like stalder presses, mannas, middle splits, and straddle presses.

Jefferson Curls

These develop our compression and back flexion. If you are unable to fold your face towards your legs, and/or fold your legs towards your face, then these are necessary. They help to stretch and strengthen everything along the backside of your body. These assist in developing the leg raise along with anything else involving core compression like L sits, mannas, press handstands, glide kips, and others.

Flexibility Foundation

Passive stretches that help loosen up tight areas to allow for increasing range of motion.

Front Splits

These will mostly stretch the hamstrings of the front leg and hip flexors of the back leg. These muscles tend to be tight and problematic areas in many individuals contributing significantly to their back pain.

Middle Splits

These primarily stretch the inner thigh muscles. Due to our lifestyle, most people’s legs tend to stay shoulder and hip width apart causing their inner thighs to get tight. This is why it is a common area to pull. The middle splits will also target the hamstrings.


This is for thoracic (upper back) stretching. Again, most lifestyles create a lot of tension in the upper back, causing the upper back to curl forward beyond what is normal. Bridges work to open up the thoracic spine and pull your shoulders back.

Start Your Foundation

Building these as your foundation will open up doors for so much more. Complex movement is primarily the ability to do each of these together. For example, if we break down a press to handstand we can see that it involves the handstand push up muscles, leg raise muscles, hollow rock muscles, pass through mobility, jefferson curl mobility, pancake pull mobility, and all the stretching flexibility movements. Of course, while any desired complex movement like a press to handstand must be purposefully trained for, we can still see how focusing on a foundation of core movement makes training the “cool skills” much more achievable and sustainable.

Don’t get discouraged if you take a longer time than others to achieve certain skills, like the splits. Though these and other challenging exercises on the list assist in many skills, it may not be the limitation to developing a new complex skill. All this to say, keep progressing in the areas that you can but don’t forget to continue working on the foundation that has not yet developed. Acknowledging that some skills are easier for some people than others, is not an excuse to neglect working on those skills. On the contrary, it means they may require more attention. Attention to all areas will continue to open more doors to movement later on in your training.

If you’re wondering now how to begin developing your foundation for strength, mobility, and flexibility, I’ve created a system where all of these skills are broken down into level by level progressions with descriptions and demos of each to ensure the proper technique and dosage of every movement. These progressions start from a beginner level and increase in complexity as you move from level to level, so anyone and everyone can benefit from this program.

I genuinely care about my athletes taking a healthy, sustainable and, above all, successful approach to reaching their fitness goals. Follow my progressions and put in the work. You will see and feel the results. If you’re looking to become strong, mobile, and pain free through a structured, practical approach, I encourage you to sign up today. I currently offer this program for many of the commonly desired complex movements, but keep your eyes out for more complex progressions to follow.