Having learnt a bit about weightlifting programs using barbells and other stuff, now I wonder how male gymnasts train in order to become muscular and strong. Do they use weights in the same way as bodybuilders and power lifters do?

I know those guys train from their very early childhood, but surely the principles can be adapted and they could be useful to some extent for people in other life circumstances.

  • 1
    I think you're assuming that bodybuilders, power lifters, and gymnasts have the same goals. While they may have a subset of common goals, in the end, the overarching goal probably determines the training approach.
    – rrirower
    Jun 8, 2015 at 16:57
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    Coach Sommer's Gymnastic Bodies material and the Gold Medal Bodies stuff might each be of interest to you. The short answer is that some gymnasts use weights but many don't because their goal is to not build (heavy, cumbersome) muscle mass. They do a lot of sport-specific strength work. Jun 8, 2015 at 18:25
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    @DaveLiepmann - Definitely. One also has to realize that for bodybuilders, a muscular body is the primary goal. For a gymnast, the lean, muscular body is actually just a side effect brought on by a very rigid workout regimen which has a completely different focus.
    – Alec
    Jun 8, 2015 at 19:43

1 Answer 1


Extensive bodyweight exercises and repetition of their art for hours at a time is basically the answer. As noted by Dave above, Christopher Somner's writings are generally considered to be the fundamental word on it. His website can be found here. It's prohibitively expensive to get an actual copy of his seminal work, Building the Gymnastic Body, although you'll find a lot of bootleg copies out there. Ignore the references he makes to future books in there. He scrapped his plans to write them and is now releasing his Foundation Series and associated works for particulars.

On a side note, one of the reasons he stated for scrapping the earlier books was that he realized that he was used to training people who were already strong enough to hold their own body weight at arm's length, and had underestimated how huge of a gap existed between the average person and where his book started.

  • After your answer, Dave's comments and a short look at that webpage, I get the idea that the famous book written by a fictitious convict is sort of an ultra-simplified, popular version of basic gymnastic training for average people: progression towards 4 to 6 basic fundamental movements, and lots of repetitions.
    – Mephisto
    Jun 8, 2015 at 20:03
  • Mephisto, was there anything additional you wanted in an answer?
    – Sean Duggan
    Jun 16, 2015 at 13:34
  • Sorry, I must have forgotten the green mark. Thanks. ;)
    – Mephisto
    Jun 16, 2015 at 15:50
  • Not a huge thing. I just always like to find out if there's more to be addressed. :)
    – Sean Duggan
    Jun 16, 2015 at 16:01

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