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I’ve been fairly lazy recently and haven’t made much progress at all with my gymnastic strength training. I blame the lack of motivation partly on the fact that I don’t feel I’m making any progress. Therefore, I have decided to do an all round benchmarking now, before the summer, and then use this as a guide for what to practise during the summer. Then, after the summer, I will do the routines detailed below once again and see how much I have improved.

If I haven’t provided a video myself, YouTube typically gives you an idea of what kind of exercises I’m talking about. If you really want to know and can’t find anything, just ask.

Strength related

The following tests were made. Time for each cycle is given for each session. Note that the number of repetitions are often pre-determined, i.e. I decided to do 9 12 9 9 10 pull-ups before I started the session. The final set in each session are always a maximum (until failure). Exercises performed in isolation (i.e. not as part of any routine) are found after the others. I have provided video clips when available, sometimes old ones simply to show what I’m talking about. All exercises are done fairly slowly and with full range of motion when applicable.

Routine A

Advanced tuck planche / front lever progressions:

  1. Warm up (at home)
  2. New cycle starts every 3:00 minutes:
  3. Advanced tuck planche: 10 20 20 20 20 (final sets very hard)
  4.  Front lever cycling: 10 15 15 15 15 (okay)
  5.  Light leg work in between

Straddle planche is still quite a long way away.

This is a complete failure. At best, I can maintain the horizontal position for one second, no more. Straddle is cool, though.

Chin-ups / handstand push-ups (against a wall):

  1. Warm up
  2. New cycle starts every 3:00 minutes:
  3. Alternate pull-ups / chin-ups: 9 12 9 9 10 (final set very, very hard)
  4. Handstand push-ups: 8 10 8 8 10 (okay)

Routine B (with at least 48 hours rest after A)

Dips / body lever / back lever

Warm up (one hour gymnastics)

  1. New cycle starts every 4:00 minutes:
  2. Dips (in rings): 5 5 5 5 8 (can be increased)
  3. Body lever: 9 12 9 9 13 (can be increased)
  4. Back lever: (can hold the position no more than a few seconds)

Routine C (with roughly 24 hours rest after B)

Weighted chin-ups (30% body weight) / L-sit

  1. Warm up (at home)
  2. New cycle starts every 3:00 minutes:
  3. Alternate pull-ups / chin-ups: 3 4 3 4 4 (final set very hard)
  4. L-sit (in rings, seconds): 20 20 20 15 17 (hands outside hips)


Human flag: 13 seconds facing right, 11 seconds facing left

Wall run: Completed 5 minutes in 9 minutes and 12 seconds

Sargent’s jump: 45 cm with hands on hips

Press to HS: Have almost managed two from handstand position

Skill related:

Front flip

This is where I’m at currently. Need more height!

Back flip

The sad thing is that I did this much, much better a year ago. :(

Front handspring

As you can see, I’ve never practised this at all. This is merely meant to define how much I suck now so I can be proud later. :)

Back handspring

I can do this slightly better on a good day, but not much better.


As you can see, I do some things fairly well, others not so. I’ll post something similar to this in about three months, hopefully there will be some significant improvements!

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It was a while ago now I started relying on what Coach Sommer calls a “Steady State Cycle”, which basically means that one designs a workout problem which is quite demanding and then sticks with exactly the same exercises, repetitions and sets even after they begin to feel too easy, giving the body enough time to build the necessary strength before moving on to more the next, more demanding cycle.. For some reason, this kind of planning seems to work exceptionally well for me and I’ve been able to stick with a reasonably strict schedule for almost four months, much longer than any previous attempt to gain control of individual strength training (I wrote more about this when I finished the first cycle in February). I have soon completed five weeks out of at least eight on the second cycle, so that is what this post will be about.

Before I talk about the second cycle itself, I’d like to share with you some benchmarking I did between cycle one and two (I spent one week trying out maximum reps/duration for the exercises to have something to compare with later). These figures are worthless on their own and the goal here is not to show what I can do, but rather to show the difference between now and one cycle ago, and perhaps more importantly, to function as a reference for future similar checks. The only truly remarkable result is for the chin-ups, where I managed to make a 50% increase from 16 to 24 in two months without ever doing a set with more than three repetitions!

Exercise: After first cycle (before first cycle)
Chin-up: 24 (16)
HSPU wall: 11 (5)
Adv. tuck planche: 36 (24)
Adv. tuck front lever: 51 (N/A)

Having dealt with the benchmarking, let’s take a look at cycle two. Since most information is stored publicly (click here to see the document), I won’t restate anything already there. As can be seen, the second cycle is very similar to the first. There are some differences, mostly for the core/leg exercises because I’ve finally found a routine which covers what I want to cover without requiring anything else than a chin-up bar and an ab wheel. There is also a heavier focus on handstand this time, partly because I like the exercise, but also because I really want to accomplish that one hundred metres of handwalking I set up a long time ago.

In short, this is by far the most successful way of designing a program I’ve ever encountered. My guess is that it’s because it’s divided into manageable sections (eight to ten weeks) that the mind can handle easily. Setting a goal to do a certain routine for roughly two months is not a superhuman task, but setting the goal to do the same exercises with gradually increasing difficulty indefinitely is a lot more daunting. Focusing really hard on few selected exercises and then evaluating the result, designing a new program and moving on is a lot more realistinc, if not physically, then at least psychologically. If you’re interested in any of this, you can glean some information from my previous posts about steaty state training (or click here for a list of posts related to exercise), but more importantly, you should consult the coach himself, either by reading his book Building the Gymnastic Body or by checking out the forum.

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