I’ve always been in awe of gymnasts. Not only are they super strong, but they’re also flexible and coordinated — a trio of goals I dream of achieving. I only need to watch Simone Biles or Sunisa Lee for five minutes at the Olympics before I’m googling their workout routines, so when I saw a TikTok gymnastics conditioning workout that had 6.1 million views on TikTok, I was keen to find out more.
The video was shared by Ella-Mae Rayner, a former gymnast, and Personal Trainer, and shows a bodyweight circuit she used to do when she was training. Rayner writes, “I tried a conditioning circuit I used to do when I was a gymnast and I almost killed myself. This is what torture feels like.” In the video’s description, she instructs followers to take “as little rest as possible between sets.” Undeterred, I unrolled my exercise mat and gave it a go. Read on to find out what happened.
What is the gymnastics conditioning workout?
I’ll warn you now, it’s not pretty. Gymnastics training typically involves a lot of core workouts, including V-ups, crunches, and planks, as gymnasts require outstanding core strength to perform a lot of moves during competition. There’s also a lot of bodyweight strength training involved to build strong muscles.
This circuit only requires your body weight and can be done from just about anywhere. Ready to hear more? Here are the exercises involved:
50 squat stretch jumps: To do a squat stretch jump, start with your feet hip-width apart. As you squat down, lower your hands to the floor, then as you begin to rise out of the squat, jump up and raise your hands above your head to the sky.
40 V-sits: To do the v-sits demonstrated in this video, start by lying on your back, with your arms stretched up to the ceiling. Lift your head, neck and torso off the ground, and at the same time, raise your legs off the floor so that you are in a v-sit position. Think about touching your thighs to your chest, before lowering back to your starting position.
40 dish rocks: Start by lying flat on your back, with your arms and legs outstretched. Engage your core, think about sucking your belly button into your spine, and lift your arms and legs off the floor. Without letting your arms or legs drop, rock back and forward 40 times.
40 arch rocks: To start, get into the arch hold by lying flat on your stomach, and lifting your outstretched arms and legs a few inches off the ground. Your head, neck, and shoulders should also be lifted and your glutes engaged. From this position, rock back and forth.
1-minute dish hold: Start by sitting on your mat, and lower your torso down until you feel your core start to shake. Raise your legs off the floor, and hold here for a minute.
20 burpees: To do a burpee, start standing up, with your legs shoulder-width apart. Lower your hands down to the floor, and jump your feet back, so you are in a high plank position. Then lower your chest to the floor for a full, bodyweight press up. As you raise out of the press-up, jump your feet back forward so they are behind your hands, and explode up back to standing, raising your arms above your head, and jumping your feet up off the floor. That’s one rep. (Here’s what I learned when I did burpees every day for a week).
50 jump lunges: For this exercise, you’ll do 25 jump lunges on each leg. Engage your glutes (squeeze them together) and brace your core as you step forward with your right or left foot, making sure your legs stay shoulder-width apart and your hips stay facing forward. Keeping your spine perpendicular to the floor, lower your body to the ground until both legs are at a 90-degree angle. The front knee should be over the front ankle, and your back knee should be underneath your hip. From here, jump up and swap the positions of your legs, and repeat the lunge on the opposite leg. Keep jumping and alternating legs.
1-minute wall sit: Here’s how to do a wall sit, the benefits, and the modifications to try.
20 twisting sit-ups: To do a twisting sit-up, start by lying on your back, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Make sure your lower back is pressed into the mat, as you raise your head, neck, and torso from the floor towards your knees. At the top of the movement, twist your torso so your elbow touches the opposite knee. Lower back to the floor and repeat, twisting on the opposite side.
I tried the gymnastics conditioning workout — here’s what happened
I’ll caveat this review by saying that before this workout, I thought I was relatively fit. I’m a fitness editor and a marathon runner, so I spend a lot of time attending gym classes and trying new workouts. It only took me until the end of the jump squats, however, to realize I’d never have made it as a gymnast.
This workout is intense. I tried to move through the exercises as quickly as possible but found that I kept needing to stop and take a breather or allow my legs to stop cramping. I did gymnastics as a kid, but evidently nowhere near the level of Rayner, as the dish rocks and arch rocks were completely new to me, and it took me a good few reps to work out how to rock my body back and forth, while still keeping my form.
The burpees and jump lunges were enough to finish me off, and I still had some sit-ups and push-ups to go. The entire workout took me around 15 minutes, which seems a lot longer than it did for Rayner, but was probably due to the fact that I kept taking breaks to lie on my mat and contemplate my life.
Will I return to this workout again? Absolutely never. But if it taught me anything, it’s that gymnasts are the strongest men and women on the planet, and we should all cheer much louder for them at the next Olympics.
Looking for more workout inspiration? Take a look at the best ab workouts you can do on YouTube, the best exercises to do if you sit down all day, and the best gym bags to carry to and from your workouts.
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Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.