It’s human nature to create an “us” vs “them” dynamic once you start to get passionate about an endeavor. It’s an easy way to distinguish what, on the surface, may look to be very similar things. Of course, when you delve into the details, that’s far too simplistic.
A good example of this is when people compare our company, GMB Fitness, with Gymnastic Bodies.
In 2004, Christopher Sommer (the founder of Gymnastic Bodies) posted an article on Dragon Door that introduced the fitness world to the benefits of gymnastic-style training.
It’s no exaggeration to say that this article and his similar post on T-Nation are partially responsible for a lot of the current interest in the use of gymnastic type movements for exercise in the mainstream.
But was that really where bodyweight training all started?
Bodyweight training has been popular for a long time. Bodyweight feats of strength were a mainstay of old-time bodybuilders’ routines and performances. We just sort of “forgot” about them in the 80s, what with all the spandex and all.
I think the tight clothing may have cut off some circulation to the brain…
At any rate, Sommer’s book, Building the Gymnastic Body, was the first popular book to show the average fitness enthusiast how real gymnasts actually train to build their incredible skills and strength. More recently, Sommer has put out an online curriculum based on his early book.
In this article, I’ll share what I think of Sommer’s system and overall approach, and provide a comparison of our two companies.
🙋♀️ Why the Review?
We get countless emails and Facebook comments every week, asking us how we compare to Gymnastic Bodies, and what we think of Sommer’s Gymnastic Strength Training system.
To tell the truth, I didn’t really want to comment, mainly because I haven’t used their programs. I spent a good portion of my youth training with my own coach, Mark Folger, and I learned many of the moves taught in Gymnastic Bodies well over twenty years ago. Some of the methods we used were similar, and some were different, but that’s not grounds for reviewing Sommer’s work.
But the fact is, people have been comparing GMB to GB for quite a while now. And they’re going to continue to do so.
That’s because it’s natural to scope out the landscape before you make a commitment to follow a particular style of training. Not only that, but people deserve to have all the information they need to make informed choices.
On the surface, there are a lot of similarities between GMB and GB, so it’s fair to wonder which one is right for you.
In this article, I’m going to do my best to provide a balanced review that will help you understand which aspects of the two companies will work best for your goals. With that said, I’m obviously biased, but that doesn’t mean I think I know what’s best for everybody.
A Quick Aside
Before we get going here, I also want to say that I really have no opinion of Christopher Sommer as a person. We’ve never met, and I have no reason to suspect that he’s not a decent person. He trains athletes every day and then goes home and gives advice to members of his forum.
He seems to live and breathe coaching gymnastics, just like I live and breathe teaching fitness and a healthy lifestyle.
I mention this because I know that, when somebody critiques my work–even when it’s almost entirely complimentary–I take it personally. After all, it’s my livelihood and something I care deeply about. I wouldn’t want anybody to get the idea that I’m trying to smear a guy for sharing his knowledge.
Coaching experience is a precious commodity, and it’s something we should value. I have a lot of respect for anyone who generously shares their knowledge and passion so others can benefit from it.
🆚 How GMB Fitness Compares to Gymnastic Bodies
When I first wrote this review back in 2013, Gymnastic Bodies did not have any online programs (it consisted of the book and an online forum), and its primary purpose was to teach gymnastics.
In other words, there really was very little comparison to GMB programs – we’ve never taught gymnastics and our programs have always been based online. The comparison people made back then was usually based on misconceptions about what we teach.
But in recent years, GB has put out a whole curriculum of online programs, and they’ve moved away from exclusively gymnastic skills.
So, more than ever, people wonder how GMB and GB compare, and why they might choose one over the other. When you dig a little deeper into the programs, you’ll see we offer very different things.
|Background||• Martial arts, gymnastics, rehabilitation, physical education||• Gymnastics|
|Delivery System||• Web App Interface||• Online streaming|
|Cost||$95||• $99 – $249
|Training Focus||• Movement foundation for beginners
• Supplemental mobility & skill work for athletes
|• Gymnastic strength training|
|Client Support||• Email / Chat
• Paid community
|• Online forums
• Paid coaching options
|Format||• Step-by-step daily programming
• Flexible progressions, adjustable to your goals
|• Stepwise programs
• Followalong workouts
• Strict progression recommendations
|Plan||Programmed each day for the length of the program||Create your own exercise routine, or use a recommended schedule|
While there is some amount of overlap with the skills we teach, the intent of our programs is quite different from that of Gymnastic Bodies. Many of our clients have done (and continue to do) programs from both companies, and have shared with us that the primary distinction between GMB and GB lies in our philosophies on training.
As I’ve said before, we do not teach gymnastics (although I have an extensive background in gymnastics). Our purpose is to teach people – beginners and advanced trainees alike – how to move better for their goals.
Because of this, our approach to movement variations and even “proper form” is fairly flexible.
For instance, when we teach the handstand, the goal is always to work toward a beautiful, straight line handstand, but we know everyone is starting from a different point. If handstands are a goal of yours, you should start wherever you’re at and move on when you feel ready to.
As long as you’re staying safe, movement exploration is an essential part of our training philosophy.
In contrast, because of the background in traditional gymnastic instruction, Gymnastic Bodies teaches strict gymnastic form for exercises, and has specific rules for moving from one progression to the next. This is a classic gymnastic teaching format used for decades by qualified gymnastic coaches. For some people, it can take years to achieve perfect gymnastic form for an exercise progression.
👍 Moving Your Body To Improve Yourself
Over the years, I’ve read some comments in various places (on our Facebook page, in emails, on Sommer’s old GymnasticBodies.com forums) that seem to say Sommer’s system was the origin of bodyweight training, and all other systems are “ripoffs”.
As much as he may have had some influence on how these movements came into the mainstream, bodyweight exercise has clearly been around forever, and the specific use of gymnastic style training for physical conditioning has a long tradition.
Drillsandskills.com started back in 2000 and provides incredibly comprehensive and detailed information about all aspects of gymnastic training. Since it’s been around quite a bit longer than Gymnastic Bodies has, you could make the case that gymnasticbodies.com is a ripoff of drillsandskills.com.
But that would be silly too, since Christopher Sommer has been coaching since well before most people were online. In real life, there are a lot of great people who are doing amazing things and generously teaching what they know.
The variety of people online teaching bodyweight and gymnastic skill for strength and conditioning these days is huge. Some of my favorites are Beast Skills, Al Kavadlo, Fitness Faqs, BarStarzz, Global Bodyweight Training, and The Strength Project. These guys are not ripoffs of anybody. They are the culmination of each person’s experience in their own training and in teaching others.
No one owns the quest for strength, health, and fitness.
And the variety of programs out there is a good thing for you because it means that you get to explore and discover what resonates with you.
🤷♂️ So Where Should You Begin?
As I’ve said above, there’s a great variety of excellent instruction and it all depends upon your particular goals and temperament. And as for us, we believe in starting from a strong foundation of strength, flexibility, and motor control in fundamental movement patterns before training gymnastic-style skills.
🔰 Build Your Foundation for Gymnastic Strength Training
Elements is our 8-12 week intro program to set yourself up for a successful lifetime of staying fit and active.