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Gymnast vs Crossfitter. Who is stronger?

Elite level athletes of any sport are highly tuned and a pleasure to watch. Arguably two of the most challenging sports in terms of strength are the Artistic Gymnastics, a sport of many years of heritage and the more recently popular sport of CrossFit. With a large amount of crossover between the two sports it would be interesting to know, which of these athletes is stronger? Let’s discuss.

Elite gymnasts’ pound for pound are freakishly strong. We have all seen these athletes jump up and rep out muscle up after muscle up with little trouble, toes to bar with seemingly no effort and walk around on their hands easier than most people walk around normally. An elite calibre gymnast with little training can pick up a barbell and deadlift 3 x bodyweight. This statistic is similar to most elite CrossFit athletes who have a one rep max deadlift roughly 3 x bodyweight but after years of training. In this case gymnasts must be considered stronger right? We need to dive in a little deeper.

Gymnasts are judged on aesthetics and everything is completed strict and with perfect form. For this to be possible and gymnasts to be successful they must have floorless technique in their movement patterns. The key is a balance between size and strength and as a result most elite gymnasts weigh 60kg dripping wet. Moving backwards then to the deadlift statistics. A gymnast may be able to lift the same in comparison to their bodyweight as a CrossFit athlete at 3 x bodyweight but given their small stature at 60kg that would only equate to a one rep max of 160kg. Compare that to an elite CrossFit athlete at a one rep max of 250kg + and it doesn’t sound so great now. Throw a gymnast then in a workout involving heavy barbell work and the cracks begin to appear.

To continue, a gymnast’s maximum work time during a competition is 70 seconds. This results in their anaerobic/ lactic acid energy systems being second to none. The crossover into anything aerobic however is not so successful as most gymnast’s struggle with activities that involve longer periods of endurance-based work.

Is where the CrossFit athlete begins to pull ahead? CrossFit as a sport is based on high volume of work and efficiency in completing that volume is vital for success. Classic gymnastic techniques have been adapted to allow more work to be completed over a larger amount of time generally making CrossFit athletes bigger in size due to a larger amount of muscle mass compared to a gymnast. Put a gymnast in a CrossFit workout against a crossfitter then and although they may put up a good fight the CrossFit athlete will reign supreme. So, CrossFit athletes are therefore stronger?

To what is the conclusion? Realistically is all about the scenario and the perspective. Arguably in the above discussion pound for pound elite gymnasts are stronger than elite CrossFit athletes. However, in a sport such as CrossFit where weight categories don’t apply an elite CrossFit athlete would certainly outclass a gymnast across a CrossFit strength workout. Basically then, gymnasts win at gymnastics and crossfitters win at CrossFit!

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