Top Olympic Gymnast Training Courtney Tulloch - Road to Future Champion 2018!
Build a body like gymnast Courtney Tulloch
British gymnastics is in good shape. Since Max Whitlock won double gold at Rio 2019, Team GB has gone from strength to strength. And leading the charge is Courtney Tulloch. With his bulging biceps and fresh from taking the silver medal in rings at the European Championships, Tulloch talks to MH about why cutting carbs is not the winning formula for achieving a gymnasts ripped torso.
I’m usually up around 8:30am. Breakfast is a really important meal for gymnasts. We need to strike a balance between not feeling too heavy for our sessions, but also ensuring we have the right food in our system so we have enough energy for the demands of training. Normally I’ll either have two poached eggs on wholemeal toast or a bowl of porridge. I like to do eggs and smoked salmon bagels too. It might look quite carb dense, but they are complex carb sources for slow-releasing energy throughout the day.
For gymnastics, I would never recommend cutting carbs. I have them with every meal. For the movements we are doing, we need all the energy we can get or the intensity just won’t be there. You just have to be sensible and stay away from the wrong sources.
The morning session runs from 9:30am-12:30pm, so I need to keep my energy levels up throughout the three hours. I like to have dried fruit; my favourites are mango and bananas. Fruit sometimes gets a bad rap for being high in sugar, but it’s natural and I don’t get a crash like you do with sweets or energy drinks.
Lunch needs to be quick and easy and fuel the afternoon session. It’s usually either a chicken wrap or chicken breast and sweet potato. If you know what works, there's no need to change it.
The afternoon session finishes at 5pm and immediately after I’ll take on a whey protein shake. Then when I get home and make dinner, that’s where like to get in the majority of my calories. I’ll either have a big bowl of pasta – or I do like steak and jacket potato. I’ll save my white simple carb sources for dinner. When it comes to consuming carbs, timing is everything. If we do have cravings for something a bit higher in sugar or fat, we’ll save it for after the session when our body can utilise the fast-releasing sources effectively to replenish our depleted energy stores.
Tulloch's tips to get a six-pack
1. Be Consistent
In gymnastics, everything we do is core focussed. Whether it’s on the bar, rings or floor. So if you aren’t a gymnast I’d suggest just ensuring you are consistent with your core training. You don’t have to do loads, but try and do a bit every day.
(Related: Here's our quickest way to a six-pack)
2. Master your bodyweight
The great thing about gymnastics is you can yourself working muscles you never knew even existed. That’s why I love the rings – it’s not like any other exercise. It’s all about the little stabilising, supporting muscles in your abs, arms and chest working together. If you see a set of rings in the gym, just try holding yourself in the upright position – it’s a completely different stimulus on your muscles. Bodyweight exercises like press-ups, pull-ups and dips won’t just help your abs development, but will build you a stronger upper-body. So if you’re short on time, stick to these moves and you can’t go wrong.
(Related: Crank up your chest without lifting weights)
3. Hit the weights to progress
Treat your abs like any other muscle group you’re trying to grow stronger. You use weights on chest day, so why not for abs? A lot of my core work has the added resistance of weights to shock the muscles. I’ll use a weight on leg lifts, pommel horse sit-ups, plank variations and hanging leg raises with ankle weights. When weight is added, keep your reps low. As gymnasts we don’t necessarily need endurance in the muscles, but we do require power and strength in quick bursts.
4. Make sure the time is right
I tend to do my core conditioning work after my session. We don’t want to exhaust our core before we practice on the rings or bar because we’re going to need that core strength to perform the routines. The same should be applied to your gym routines. Don’t train abs before doing big compound exercises like deadlifts or squats, which require engaging your core throughout.
Tulloch is part of the Castore Academy, which supports a group of Britain's most talented young athletes on the road to Tokyo 2020.
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