Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Iron Cross

Progress report: 6 Months

I have been training for the Iron Cross for six months now once or sometimes twice a week. Despite only averaging once a week, my progress has been satisfyingly steady.

Every Wednesday (and more recently also Fridays) I head down to the East London Gymnastics centre in Beckton with a friend and we train to build the requisite strength to perform the Iron Cross on the rings unassisted.

We began using a device called the Gymnova Educano which allows the ropes (normally attached to the rings in the hands) to be attached further up the forearm. In being closer to the shoulder, the leverage of any downward force exerted by the gymnast is increased making the Cross much easier. There are five levels on the Educano which can get you close -but not close enough- to performing the cross. Realising that the jump between hardest level on the Educano and the unassisted cross was too high, I invested in another similar tool; the Elite Strength Trainer from I will be reviewing both these devices soon as I believe that each has its individual merits and weaknesses.

All that needs to be understood to read my training progress is that the Educano's five levels will be referred to as level 1 (the easiest and closest point to the elbow) through to level 5 (the hardest and closest point to the hand).

I began on level 1 in January and have made steady progress through to level 4. Here is an overview of my progress:

January 2009
I began by training Cross pulls on the 20th of January. This is where you begin holding the Educano by your hips with arms locked straight (the support position) and you gradually lower yourself -keeping arms locked straight at all times- into the cross position (Position A in the diagram). From here, you simply reverse the motion by pushing downwards with your arms until you're back in the support position. This is one repetition.

By the end of January, I could do five sets of three reps on level 1.

Cross pulls
Level 1: 3/3/3/3/3 reps

February 2009
I continued training the cross pulls throughout February and by the 19th (one month into training), I could pull out a few on level two. Here's my training record for that day:

Cross pulls
Level 1: 7 reps
Level 2: 2/2/2/2 reps

March 2009
I transitioned from cross pulls to butterflies during March. The difference is that you lower down past the cross position into a straight armed hang (Position B in the diagram). From here you reverse the motion, ensuring the arms are kept straight at all times and finishing where you began in the support position. Below is one of my training sessions from mid March:

Level 1 - 5 reps
Level 2 - 3/3/3/3 reps

April 2009
Continued training Butterflies until the end of April by which point my best session was:

Level 1 - 8 reps
Level 2 - 4/4/4/4 reps

We also introduced maltese pulls to the session which is a cross pull with your legs raised on a table so that they're level with the rings. I have not detailed this to avoid cluttering the post.

May 2009
We transitioned from dynamic training to a cycle of specifically static training with the intention of focusing on this for eight weeks. My second session was as follows:

Level 1 - 10sec warm up hold in Iron Cross
Level 2 - 10sec warm up hold in Iron Cross
Level 3 - 13sec hold in Iron Cross
Level 4 - 2/3/3 sec hold in Iron Cross (First time at level 4!!)

June 2009
This week (the last week of June) saw my best session yet! As you can see, there has been a huge increase in strength and endurance since mid May:

Level 1: 15 seconds
Level 3: 15 seconds
Level 4: 6/5/9 seconds

It's also worth noting that my longest holds on each level so far are as follows:

Level 1: 25 seconds
Level 2: 20 seconds
Level 3: 17 seconds
Level 4: 9 seconds

Throughout the last six months I have also been spending one night per week where possible, practising the basic support position while I practise my handstands and handstand push ups. I believe this to be very important as most people appear to bend their arms as they tire and training the support will help prevent this.

Upon reaching level 5 I intend to start practising unaided cross negatives on the rings. I believe this will be essential for strengthening the elbows for the cross as they are somewhat supported by the Enduro.