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Sample exercises - 3 Sets
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1st set of stall bar exercises.
This set of exercises will positively impact health of everyone that tries them. These exercises should also be used as warm up exercises before any other training routines. These exercises are also very important as an independent set for people with deviated spine (including children) and will especially benefit middle and advanced age people (after 40 and 50 years old), as they inhibit changes in the aging body that lead to shortening of body height.

Exercise 1

Initial position: hang on the stall bars with your back against the stall bars, hands at shoulder width, pointing your heels to the floor, toes pointing up, at the same time pulling your chin to your chest. Hang up to 4 minutes. If you get tired, you can rest putting your feet on one of the bars stretching at the same time so to continue spine stretching. The effect of this exercise is comparable to stretching a spring. Although the effect of many short time stretches is not going to be significant, however if the body is stretched in this manner for over 4 minutes, the stretch becomes “fixated” and will lead to the desired effect. For children that suffer from deviated spine it is recommended to leave a space about 1 to 2 inches between the hills of the feet and closest stepping bar or stool to achieve the stretching. Once the goal is attained, move the goal 1 to 2 inches further. This way you will see the success in stretching the spine.

Exercise 2

Initial position from Exercise 1. On count 1 swing your legs apart sideways,

On count 2 swing your legs together crossing them which will make your hips turn, at the same time turn your head in the opposite direction,

On count 3 swing your legs apart; on count 4 repeat what you did on count 2 only in the opposite direction.

Exercise 3

Initial position of exercise 1. Make pairs of springing turns of your hips left and right simultaneously turning your head in the opposite direction; 4-8 pairs of turns in each direction.

If your hands and arms are tired put your feet on one of the bars or the floor however keeping your spine continuously stretched. After resting, continue the exercise.

Exercise 4 - "Pendulum"

Swing your legs from one side to the other exactly parallel to the stall bars holding arms and body fixed. 8-16 reps.
 

Exercise 5 - "Mermaid"

Initial position of exercise 1. Make circles with legs 8-12 times in each direction. Resting is allowed between changing directions. After finishing the exercise, slowly (without jumping! – applies to all exercises) get off of the stall bars.

Exercise 6

Initial position: Hold one of the bars at your chest level, pushing your feet against the second bar from the floor.

Make smooth swings forward-backward slowly decreasing distance between hands and feet to the shortest distance possible.

Exercise 7

Initial position: hang facing the stall bars, arms at shoulder width, feet together, with toes pointing to the floor. On count 1 lift your legs up backwards forming a bow with your head and legs.

On count 2 return to Initial position, on count 3 repeat count 2 but spreading legs apart.

On count 4 return to initial position. Make sure your legs are a continuation of your spine. Complete 8-12 reps. If you have excessive body mass, you can do only 3 reps, in between put your feet on the floor or a bar and squat (picture 2 from exercise 6); pull your forehead to your knees when straightening your legs. Rest for 3-5 minutes before the second to last exercise.

Exercise 8

Initial position: Stand with your back against the stall bars, bend down and grab the lowest bar.

On count 1 bend your arms pulling your chest to your knees at the same time pulling your head forward and up, on count 2 get back to initial position lowering your head down. Repeat 8-12 times.

Exercise 9

Initial position of exercise 1. On count 1 pull your knees to your chest, rounding up your spine stretching, lower your head at the same time try to touch your knees with your forehead.

On count 2 get to initial position. On count 3 lift straight legs parallel to the floor. On count 4 get to initial position. If you have big belly do only counts 1 and 2, do 16-18 reps in 3 sets.

Exercises 1-9

Each movement should end in emphatic exhale.
2nd set of stall bar exercises.
This set of exercises is from the article on the Stall Bars Info page.

Exercise 1

First, simply hanging from the stall bar is a good, gentle warm-up to stretch the spine. Hang, facing outward, for as long as you can, and relax, with toes pointed down. Next, the stall bar can be used to stretch the back muscles. Face the stall bar, standing approximately three feet away. Bend forward with straight legs and straight back and arms held straight out in front of you. Hold on to the bars to keep balanced. Lower your back until it is horizontal, or parallel to the floor, and straight. Try to keep your legs straight. Your arms should be holding onto a bar in a horizontal position, parallel to the floor. Now move your feet in toward the stall bar until your center of gravity wants to pull your body away from the bar. Continue to move your feet in toward the stall bar as far as you can and still keep your feet firmly anchored to the floor without slipping. This stretches your back. Count slowly to 25, or quit earlier if your back starts to burn or hurt. Gradually keep working at this until you can sustain through a slow count of 25. At the end of a workout, come back and do another relaxed hang from the stall bar. This time, face the stall bars and hang, relaxed, with toes pointed down. Hang as long as you can.

Exercise 2

Another excellent exercise on the stall bar is the leg lift. Hang from the stall bar, facing out with palms out while grabbing a bar, toes not touching the floor. Bend the legs at the hips, keep the legs straight, and lift them to horizontal. Maintain a static hold for at least ten seconds. You can do one leg at a time or both legs at the same time. A variation is to bend at the knees into a tuck as you bring the legs to horizontal, or all the way in to the chest. Another, more difficult, variation is to bend both legs upward, almost vertical, and shape your body into a “V.” For conditioning with any of these leg lifts, hold the position for at least ten seconds, relax, then do it again. For developing strength, do the exercise repetitively, holding for just a few seconds each time. These exercises strengthen the back, abdominal, leg, and other muscles tremendously. To add even more to the horizontal or vertical leg lift, spread your legs as wide as you can and either hold, for conditioning, or do reps, for strength building.

Exercise 3

Another good abdominal-building exercise is to sit on the floor with your back against the stall bar. You can then move your lower back four to five inches away. Lean your shoulders against the stall bar, and reach behind and grab the bar that is approximately even with the top of your head with palms up. Then do a leg lift with straight legs and hold it so that no part of the lower leg or feet is touching the floor. The legs should be about three to five inches above the floor. You can also lift your legs up higher, bending at the knees, and try to touch your chest. When doing the high lift with bent knees, you can do it repetitively rather than hold as on the leg lift.
Gymnasts use the stall bar, among other things, to stretch their leg muscles and make them more flexible. They go into a split, facing away from the stall bar, with the leg nearest the bar bent at the knee and the foot hooked into a bar. They hold the position, and then change legs. Try it if you can, but don’t force it, or you may strain or tear a muscle or ligament.

Exercise 4

Another exercise to strengthen the legs and knees is to hang facing the stall bars, then lift the lower legs at the knees and hold, or do it repetitively, holding for a few seconds. Do this exercise with slow, controlled movement, without snapping the knees. This is excellent for people with knee problems.
3rd set of stall bar exercises.

Advanced exercises using stall bars published on www.DragonDoor.com

Developing the Hanging Leg Lift

Christopher Sommer
Hanging leg raises are an essential component in my athletes’ training program.
However, executed correctly, this exercise will be beyond the reach of most beginning or even intermediate trainees and will need to be developed progressively. While there are several brutal variations that I occasionally use with my advanced athletes, usually we simply use the standard version with additional weight added.

The static holds and dynamic movements in the following progression can be done either on a single bar or a stall bar. A stall bar is a specially designed piece of gymnastics apparatus that is of enormous benefit in a multitude of stretching and conditioning exercises. It is demonstrated in the majority of the photos to follow. My preference when working leg lifts is to use the stall bar as it ensures that the athlete’s shoulders will be unable to lean back during the movement. This drastically cuts down on the amount of help that the lats can provide during the leg lift.

If you do not have access to a stall bar, these exercises can also be done on any overhead single bar with or without a partner. Simply having someone push forward slightly on your shoulders from behind is a very effective substitution for the stall bar. A great deal of pressure is not required, nor is it necessary to push the shoulders out in front of the hands. Simply provide a gentle firm pressure that prevents the athlete from pulling the shoulders back behind the hands.

Do not push the shoulders too far forward when working on the single bar

If training without a partner, in order to get the maximum benefits from these movements, you will need to monitor yourself assiduously to make sure that you are maintaining correct form.

The Progression

Here is my progression for developing hanging leg lifts. Simply begin the progression at the point best suited for your present strength. Train the static holds until you can comfortably hold the Ls and Vs for at least 10 seconds.

For developing a high degree of relative strength, I have found that one set is all that is required with the dynamic movements. Perform one set of three reps with a tempo of 3 seconds lift, 1 second pause and 3 seconds lower (313).
No speed counting please.

A traditional training schedule of Monday, Wednesday and Friday will work well, but my preferred schedule, where I have seen the greatest results, is Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. As I have mentioned previously in other articles, this schedule of maximum work combined with substantial rest seems to be the most beneficial for my athletes.

1)Hanging Tuck L - From a hang, tuck your legs and attempt to pull them up to horizontal. Keep the head neutral and the elbows locked. If you are unable to reach horizontal, simply lift as high as you are able. Hold for time.


Note that the feet are under the knees rather than tucked to the glutes

2)Hanging Straight Leg L - Same as above, however the legs are now straight. Done perfectly, the elbows should be locked and there should be no leaning back during the lift or hold.


Focusing on keeping both the shoulders and hips on the bars will help to maintain a flat back; an essential element of a correct L.

3)Hanging V - From a hang, tuck your legs to your chest and then extend them up overhead to the bar. Do not hook your feet on the top of the bar for assistance in the position. Do not bend your elbows. Hold for time.


This is a perfect example of a static hanging V

At first, it may be necessary to perform this exercise with bent knees, bent elbows and closed shoulders. In fact you may find that initially your current levels of strength and flexibility will not allow you to come even remotely close to a hanging V. Simply over time continue attempting to straighten the knees/elbows and to open the shoulders until you are able to achieve the correct position.

With regards to the shoulder position, their being in a "closed" or "open" position refers to the angle between the upper arms and the torso. The axis of the angle would be the armpits. A smaller angle would be referred to as closed. A completely closed shoulder angle would be with the arms next to the sides. A larger angle would be referred to as open. A completely open shoulder angle would be with the arms extended up over the head.

During a leg lift it is only possibly to keep the shoulders completely open if the feet stop a little in front of the bar. In order to bring the feet to the bar, it will be necessary to allow the shoulder angle to close somewhat. However strive to keep the closure to the minimum required to complete the movement.

4)Leg Lift to L - From a hang, with straight legs pull up as close to a horizontal L as you can. Lower and repeat. Remember to maintain the proper tempo during the movement. Do not rest at the bottom in between reps; there is a great difference between one rep done three times and one set of three reps.


Keeping the knees locked will greatly increase the active flexibility component of this exercise.

5)Hanging V lower to L & Return to V - From a hanging V, lower as close as you can to the L and then pull back up to the V.

At first, you may only be capable of a very small range of motion. That’s fine. The key here is patience, consistency and persistence. Progress is not made in giant leaps, but rather in very small, almost immeasurable improvements. I tend to think of each day of training as a page in a novel. Taken individually, each page is so thin as to be almost not worth considering. Yet if one page were added to the total over the course of a year, in the end we would have a substantial novel of 365 pages. In my opinion, it is the same with physical preparation. In fact I have used this exact method to develop all of my champions both in terms of physical preparation and technical refinement.


Combine this exercise with the Leg Lift to L to develop both sides of the hanging leg lift

6)Full Hanging Leg Lift - From a hang, pull the toes up to the bar. With this particular variation it is fine to allow the feet to go above the bar. Just strive to keep your feet as low as you are able. Also be careful to ensure that the elbows and knees remain straight.


Depending on the exercise taller athletes may need to use the upper rail when working on the stall bars.

7)Full Hanging Leg Lift with Toes Below the Bar - From a hang, In this variation, the feet are below the bar at the top of the leg lift. Lifting the feet to a position under the bar, forces you to keep the shoulder angle open during the pull, which minimizes the amount of assistance the lats can provide and magnifies the amount of work done by the abs.

Begin with striving to get under the bar with the feet flexed and gradually progress to completing this exercise with toes pointed yet feet still below the bar at the top.


Notice the shoulder angle and the extremely straight knees necessary to maximize this movement as both a conditioning and an active flexibility exercise.

8)Weighted Leg Lifts - Finally we arrive at the weighted leg lift. All the regular guidelines for a correct leg lift continue to apply; now simply hang weight on the ankles to increase the intensity of the movement. With the movement now being done under load, the temptation will be especially great to bend the knees – avoid this as it will severely undercut your progress.
Another common mistake here is to attempt to swing the weight up rather than lifting it under control. On some conditioning elements momentum is an essential component; weighted leg lifts however are not one of them. Be meticulous in maintaining the correct tempo.


This athlete is using a little less than 10 lbs at a bodyweight of 65 lbs. Remember also that this is at a tempo of 313.

The straps that we use to hang the weights on are sections of nylon strapping (available at Home Depot or Lowe’s for about $.12 a foot) sewn into circles of 22”-25” circumference with a 1” overlap on each end. Keeping tension on the nylon strap by pulling the ankles slightly apart will help to prevent the weights from sliding around during the leg lifts.


The nylon strapping my athletes use for a variety of exercises

The sky is the limit here, however do not plan on being able to pull enormous amounts of weight in this movement; the leverage is simply too disadvantaged. The most weight I have seen used is 15lbs. for reps. Generally my top athletes add anywhere from 10-15lbs on the ankles for this movement; which works out to an incredible 15% to 20% of their bodyweight.

The reason that most people fail to make progress on weighted leg lifts is simply that they try to use conventional plates during their training. For example, let’s say that you are using the smallest conventional weight plate available; a 1.25 lb plate. You build up to three repetitions with a 313 tempo. Your training is going well and it is time to progress to the next level and you add another 1.25 lb plate. You are now attempting to train with 2.5 lbs of extra resistance - an increase of 100%. It doesn’t require a great deal of imagination to see that in only a very short time, gains in this movement will quickly grind to a halt as the jumps in added resistance are simply too great for such a leverage disadvantaged movement.

On the other hand, fractional plates will allow training to progress in increments of .25lb guaranteeing continued long term gains.


Fractional Plates

Except for occasional forays to break up the monotony of training and some specialized equipment exercises, I do not train my athletes with high repetitions during physical preparation. I am far more interested in the generation of athletic power than I am in the development of endurance. The stronger and more powerful an athlete is, the higher the degree of athleticism they will be capable of exhibiting. To that end, I find that weighted leg lifts are the far more beneficial choice for future athletic excellence then endless high rep sets of the weightless variety.




Christopher Sommer is the Men’s Head Coach At the Dessert Devil Gymnastics National Team Training Center in Mesa, Arizona and has the one of the premiere men’s gymnastics programs in the United States. He can be reached at OlympicBodies@aol.com or visit his website at OlympicBodies.com.

Since his last article came out in October 2004, Coach Sommer has been unbelievably busy. Among other things, he has: 1) put another athlete on the Men's Jr. National Team 2) this athlete also earned a silver medal at the 2005 Junior National Championships and in the process became the youngest medalist in USA Gymnastics history 3) had the opportunity to train some Navy SEALS, Air Force Para Rescue, undercover DEA, Hostage Rescue and FBI among others. 5) been spending a large portion each morning working on his three books. 6) putting the finishing touches to his Power Levers before bringing them to market. 7) begun the filming for his first DVD 8) completed another undefeated competitive season. 9) and occasionally even gets to spend time with his wife and children.


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