Top gymnasts – including Team GB's silver-winning Louis Smith – have awesome all-round body strength and muscles that look like they’ve been sculpted from marble. But you’re unlikely to see them in the weights room. Part of their power comes from just doing gymnastics, but they also use bodyweight conditioning exercises to build muscle.
Smith’s main discipline is the pommel horse, a gruelling combination of upper and lower body work that involves high-speed rotation, one-armed handstands and leg flares. He works on his skills and fitness for two sessions a day, six days a week, using a foam pit to perfect his mid-air acrobatics. ‘Gymnastics is a tough sport,’ he tells Men’s Fitness during a training session at his home gym in Huntingdon. ‘I’m always covered in bruises from hitting the parallel bars and coming off the horse.’
Their intense training prepares the athletes for the rigours of competition. ‘At Beijing 20,000 people were watching me and the pressure was immense,’ says Smith. ‘I knew that 15 years of hard work came down to 60 seconds on the pommel horse. I was completely focused on not making a mistake. At the end of my routine I didn’t feel anything except a massive sense of relief that I hadn’t fallen.’
To attain the immense strength and control needed to perform complex acrobatic moves at speed, follow the workout, which is taken directly from Smith’s medal-winning training routine.
Smith trains six days a week for fitness and dynamic strength, but you can get stronger, bigger and fitter without quite as much commitment. We’ve taken the best moves directly from his workouts for you to do as a circuit in order to build brand new muscle and the functional strength to go with it.