Gyms and Gymnastics: The Ideal Physical Fitness Combination?

I was working with our grandson, Asher, in our gym the other day. I had him doing box jumps onto and off of our plyo box, working on his coordination, technique, and balance. He’s become a really good downhill skier in his first two seasons, and now that he’s hitting jumps on the trails, I wanted to help him develop better jumping technique and body awareness. We have him workout in our gym as often as possible, doing a combination of bodyweight and some dumbbell and kettlebell exercises. At eight years old, I need to help him develop the right movement patterns while also maintaining his attention and focus on the exercise he’s doing.

As I was training him, I started thinking about other ways he could develop functional movement skills outside our gym. He’s clearly developing them from skiing, but as I was considering this question, my mind wandered to gymnastics.

I spent my junior year of high school at Northern Michigan University. They had an Olympic Training Center there, and I was chosen to attend as part of a small group of ski jumpers for the first year they offered the program. As part of our dryland training, we got to work out at NMU’s gymnastics facility, doing tumbling exercises, working on the trampoline, and learning to do various flips into their foam pit.

Not only were these training sessions a lot of fun, but they also improved my strength, power, and spatial awareness tremendously. It’s one thing to learn to move your body while connected to the ground. It’s quite another to learn to do so while flying through the air. That’s a skill needed in ski jumping and enhanced through gymnastics.

Gymnastics and Functional Skill Development

Few activities develop physical strength, stamina, and power while improving spatial awareness and reflexes the way that gymnastics does. Surprisingly, it’s a rare form of sports activity in the United States. And, if people are involved in gymnastics, it’s usually for kids and far less common for adults to participate.

Functional training has been a buzzword in the fitness world for at least the past 20 years. Functional training programs attempt to train people for the physical experience of everyday life. Bending, balancing, lifting, jumping, stretching and reacting to an unexpected environment.

FMS (functional motor skills) include locomotor skills (e.g., run, gallop, hop, leap, horizontal jump and slide); object control skills (e.g. catch, kick, overhand throw and dribble) and body management skills (e.g., balance, climb and forward roll) and provide a base for more advanced motor skills

Fundamental Movement Skills Development under the Influence of a Gymnastics Program and Everyday Physical Activity in Seven-Year-Old Children1Culjak Z PhD, Miletic D PhD, Kalinski SD PhD, Kezic A PhD, Zuvela F PhD. Fundamental Movement Skills Development under the Influence of a Gymnastics Program and Everyday Physical Activity in Seven-Year-Old Children. Iran J Pediatr. 2014;24(2):124-130.

It’s important for children to develop these skills early on, but as adults become more sedentary, it’s easy for them to lose these skills and develop bodies that are pretty dysfunctional. Squatting, bending, getting up off the floor, or jumping onto or off a box become awkward, injury-risking activities. Because your nervous system controls and coordinates movement, and it only retains abilities to do things that it regularly does, you have to use functional motor skills throughout your life, or you lose the ability to do them.

Although a fitness professional can help guide a client through movements that improve their movement skills, most people who hire a trainer or strength coach want to use their time to develop strength, power, and lean body mass. Taking 20 minutes out of a 50-60 minute workout session to work on balance and stability can affect the results of the overall program, not to mention that many of these balance and stability movements are pretty dull. In essence, it’s an attempt to train someone for everyday life as well as possible, given the environment and equipment available in a typical gym.

I’m not saying that gym-based functional training is a waste of time. It’s just not the best use of time and effort for improving functional abilities. A gymnastics facility, on the other hand, is the ideal setting.

My point is that participation in a recreational gymnastics program would benefit people of all ages. Unfortunately, facilities and access are limited across the country, which, in my opinion, is a big opportunity for a fitness company to capitalize on. It would make sense to initially create a strategic partnership between a gym and a gymnastics facility where people could complete traditional strength and conditioning sessions at the gym and participate in recreational gymnastics sessions on other days.

At a time when kids don’t learn fundamental movement skills, and adults have lost most of their skills while working in sedentary jobs, participating in gymnastics a couple of times per week, and traditional strength and conditioning sessions three to four times per week seems like a powerful combination for optimal health and fitness.

Health and Fitness Benefits of Gymnastics

Gymnastics movements develop muscular strength, power, and stamina. They also enhance bone density, stability, balance, coordination, and mobility. Because the movement patterns in gymnastics vary so much, they likely offer a superior form of functional training for both youth and adults of any age.

And, although incorporating some calisthenic and gymnastic movements into a gym workout can be better than never doing such movements, it still isn’t the same as participating in a legit gymnastics program, in a facility designed for such exercises.

Surprisingly, there isn’t much research comparing the benefits of traditional strength and conditioning workouts against gymnastics sessions. In my opinion, the two would be more complimentary to one another as opposed to competing with each other.

The following are some of the health benefits of gymnastics exercise researched in youth and adults.

  • Bone density: Gymnastics movements can increase the load on the skeletal system by up to 15 times bodyweight, making them significant stimuli for bone density.2McNitt-Gray, J L et al. “Mechanical demand and multijoint control during landing depend on orientation of the body segments relative to the reaction force.” Journal of biomechanics vol. 34,11 (2001): 1471-82. doi:10.1016/s0021-9290(01)00110-5 A 2011 study found that low-level gymnastics with about 1.5 hours of participation per week significantly increased bone density when measured in the femur compared with other sports.3Erlandson, M.C., Kontulainen, S.A., Chilibeck, P.D., Arnold, C.M. and Baxter-Jones, A.D. (2011), Bone mineral accrual in 4- to 10-year-old precompetitive, recreational gymnasts: A 4-year longitudinal study. J Bone Miner Res, 26: 1313-1320. This study agrees with another study that showed girls participating in recreational, artistic gymnastics had improved lumbar spine density.4Laing EM, Wilson AR, Modlesky CM, O’Connor PJ, Hall DB, Lewis RD. Initial years of recreational artistic gymnastics training improves lumbar spine bone mineral accrual in 4- to 8-year-old females. J Bone Miner Res. 2005 Mar;20(3):509-19. doi: 10.1359/JBMR.041127. Epub 2004 Nov 29. PMID: 15746997. Another study found that ex-gymnasts had 12-22% greater total bone content than non-gymnasts.5Erlandson MC, Kontulainen SA, Baxter-Jones AD. Precompetitive and recreational gymnasts have greater bone density, mass, and estimated strength at the distal radius in young childhood. Osteoporos Int. 2011 Jan;22(1):75-84. doi: 10.1007/s00198-010-1263-9. Epub 2010 May 11. PMID: 20458575. 
  • Improved function in other sports or activities: Gymnastics requires a greater variety of movement types than almost any other activity. Being able to swing, jump, tumble, and flip in multiple different planes of motion challenges the neuromuscular system in ways you wouldn’t be able to in other sports or activities. In this regard, it could be considered the ideal “functional exercise.” For example, when our grandson wants to learn to do 360s or backflips on skis, if he first learns how to do them and how to land when he does them incorrectly on dry land, he’ll be better prepared to master the skills on skis. The neuromuscular skills developed through gymnastics would have a carryover to almost any other sport or activity of daily life.

Gymnastic experience during childhood seemed to benefit the development of proprioceptive reweighting processes in children, leading to a more mature form of coordinating and controlling posture similarly to adults.

Gymnastics Experience Enhances the Development of Bipedal-Stance Multi-Segmental Coordination and Control During Proprioceptive Reweighting6Busquets, Albert et al. “Gymnastics Experience Enhances the Development of Bipedal-Stance Multi-Segmental Coordination and Control During Proprioceptive Reweighting.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 12 661312. 15 Apr. 2021, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.661312
  • Increased flexibility and mobility: Gymnastics requires repeated, loaded movement of a muscle through its full range of motion. Though weight training does this as well, it does so with less frequency and a slower movement pattern. Both would improve flexibility and range of motion, but gymnastics exercise would likely lead to greater and faster improvements. In everyday situations, this could lead to less joint discomfort or pain and a reduced risk of injury.
  • Effects of Pregnancy: Pregnant women participating in a gymnastics program experienced less of an increase in stress and anxiety, and “restless sleep, snoring, diurnal tiredness, and excessive daytime sleepiness” compared to women not participating.7Kocsis, Ildikó et al. “Effect of a gymnastics program on sleep characteristics in pregnant women.” Taiwanese journal of obstetrics & gynecology vol. 56,2 (2017): 204-209. doi:10.1016/j.tjog.2017.02.001
  • Aging: Post-menopausal women participating in recreational gymnastics programs display better muscle strength and power, agility, and balance than those who do not participate.8Uusi-Rasi, K et al. “Long-term recreational gymnastics, estrogen use, and selected risk factors for osteoporotic fractures.” Journal of bone and mineral research : the official journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research vol. 14,7 (1999): 1231-8. doi:10.1359/jbmr.1999.14.7.1231 9Uusi-Rasi, K et al. “Long-term recreational gymnastics provides a clear benefit in age-related functional decline and bone loss. A prospective 6-year study.” Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA vol. 17,8 (2006): 1154-64. doi:10.1007/s00198-006-0108-z In women over the age of 65, three weeks of gymnastics has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.10Veri, Nora et al. “Regular Gymnastics for Three Weeks Lowers Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels in Older Women.” Medical archives (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina) vol. 76,1 (2022): 45-48. doi:10.5455/medarh.2022.76.45-48 Another study showed that older women participating in recreational gymnastics were 30% less likely to experience falls that caused significant injury in everyday life.11Uusi-Rasi K, Karinkanta S, Kannus P, Tokola K, Sievänen H. Does long-term recreational gymnastics prevent injurious falls in older women? A prospective 20-year follow-up. BMC Geriatr. 2020;20(1):37. Published 2020 Feb 1. doi:10.1186/s12877-020-1428-0 Gymnastics exercise also enhances cognitive function, which means it can be highly beneficial not just for physical well-being throughout adulthood but also for mental well-being.

Gymnastics and Gym Workouts

Undoubtedly, a small percentage of people who read this have easy access to both a gymnastics facility and a fitness center. If it’s possible to get to both during the week, I’d recommend two days of a gymnastics program and three to four days of traditional strength and conditioning workouts at the fitness center. This would be a perfect combination for developing peak health and fitness for young to old adults. For kids in other sports, a couple of days per week of gymnastics would undoubtedly make them better overall athletes, as well.

For the rest of us who don’t have a gymnastics facility available, or a facility that offers programming for all ages and skill levels, you can still improve your stability, balance, movement coordination, and mobility at the gym. It just isn’t as fun and engaging as tumbling on a gymnastics floor or jumping into a foam pit.

Perhaps, someday, as fitness companies look to add new and innovative programming to their facilities, they’ll consider the fun, functionality, and fitness benefits of gymnastics

Get stronger, leaner, fitter, faster, and healthier, no matter where you're starting from.

With a variety of programs to choose from, I guarantee you'll find one you love. If not, I'll give you your money back.

30-Day Money-Back Guarantee

If you don't love my training programs, I'll return your membership fees at any time during your first 30 days.*

*Does not apply to custom programs

I've created a wide variety of fitness programs. Each is unique based on your experience, fitness level, and goals. As a client, you can move from one program to another as your fitness level and goals change. Lumberjacked and Resilient are the two most popular programs.

Every Client Gets...

  • Periodized training program: Annual programming with 4-12 week training blocks based on specific fitness goals (i.e. strength, conditioning, lean mass, speed, power, etc.)
  • Exercise, set, rep prescriptions: Specified training variables to make ensure you get the results expected in each training session
  • Training history record: Sets and reps are saved after recording them for reference during future training sessions to help ensure you push yourself beyond past performances 
  • Video/written exercise demonstrations and instructions
  • Food tracking
  • Group messaging, training technique critiques, support, and encouragement
  • App syncing with Apple, Garmin, MyFitnessPal, and more
  • Ongoing 2-way messaging with me to answer personal fitness questions and provide support

Pick a program to start with. If you're still unsure after reading the descriptions, email me.


Start here if you've never followed a structured strength training program or if you feel like you need to rebuild a base of strength and mobility before following something more intense.

Gym Program

Intro to Resistance Training (IRT)

By using primarily machines, you'll build strength and improve body composition while gaining an understanding of how your muscles should feel while training them. Plus, you'll feel more confident about doing the movements correctly as the machines add an extra level of stability while guiding you through the proper range of motion.

Program Summary

  • Program length: 12 weeks
  • Skill level: Beginner
  • Goals: Improved strength, mobility, and body composition
  • Workout frequency: 3 days per week
  • Equipment: Resistance machines, bodyweight, and cardio machines.

Tap the button below and fill out the form to get started.

Gym Program

Genesis (Intro to Free Weights)

This program is what you need to get confident and comfortable performing the exercises most important for developing strength, mobility, and physical stamina.

You'll gain strength, increase lean muscle mass, and look and feel younger than most young adults! Most clients who complete Genesis transition to either Lumberjacked or Resilient.

Program Summary

  • Program length: 12 weeks
  • Skill level: Beginner
  • Goals: Improved strength, mobility, and body composition, while gaining proficiency in the major free weight exercises used in more advanced programs.
  • Workout frequency: 4 days per week

Tap the button below and fill out the form to get started.

At Home Program

Beginner Bodyweight

Not yet ready for the gym? Need to take things slowly? This 16-week program is just right for you.

Program Summary

  • Program length: 16 weeks
  • Skill level: Beginner
  • Goals: Improved strength, mobility, stamina, and strength
  • Workout frequency: 3-5 days per week
  • Equipment: Bodyweight for first 2 months, resistance bands for months 3 and 4.

Tap the button below and fill out the form to get started.

Intermediate / Experienced

When you're confident about doing most movements correctly (squats, lunges, presses, rows, etc.), you're ready for the following programs. You don't have to be in peak physical shape to start them, but they'll help you get to that point if you follow them and your nutrition recommendations.

Gym Program

Lumberjack Icon


Most popular program for middle-aged men

Build muscle you can see through a flannel shirt and strength and stamina to get the job done, no matter how hard it is or how long it takes. This is not for wimps.

  • 3-5 workouts per week, 50-70 minutes per session
  • Gym membership or full home gym required
  • Focus is on building muscle and strength first, with the secondary benefit of fat loss and improved stamina
  • Programming is ongoing, based on an annual calendar so you don't need to change programs, the program changes over time for you.

Gym Program


Most popular program for middle-aged women

Build conditioning and stamina that not only gets you leaner and fitter, it also helps you handle the stress and pressure of everyday life.

  • 4-5 workouts per week, 50-60 minutes per session
  • Gym membership or full home gym required
  • Focus is on building physical endurance and a lean physique first, and strength second, using mostly resistance training with some cardio
  • Programming is ongoing, based on an annual calendar so you don't need to change programs, the program changes over time for you.

At Home Program

Hit It At Home

This intense, intermediate program is intended for those who've exercised in the past and need to do resistance training at home for a while. It's also a great complement to an endurance athlete's program.

During your first two months, you'll do primarily bodyweight exercises three days per week, and Month 3 will require a small amount of equipment: TRX bands or rings, kettlebells or dumbbells, and resistance bands. Month 3 requires four days of resistance training workouts per week.

As with other programs, you can message me directly with questions as you work through your program. Nutrition targets and tracking are also included.

Look at what clients are saying!

Google Reviews
Based on 20 reviews
I committed to Tom's program because I needed a plan and 50 workouts in I am stronger, more fit, and growing in motivation. Success breads success and the program is challenging, dynamic, and keeps me engaged in my plan. Super appreciate the app and ease of following and tracking the workouts inside the community of other people following the same program.
Hands down best training, your search is over, stop and commit here. Here you will find workouts that give you strength, mental clarity, metabolic efficiency, are balanced for performance in your daily life. An added bonus, Tom shares wisdom behind just workouts sharing ways to master nutrition and lifestyle. Join here. You won’t be disappointed.
Great program that will improve not just your ACFT score but you're overall fitness as well.
I started with Tom's free ACFT program and transitioned to his subscription-based programming. I enjoy the variety and sense of community through his virtual format. I benefit from his military pricing, and it's a great value. Through his program, I have exceeded my fitness goals.
Over the years following Tom's strength and conditioning program, I have never been stronger and healthier than I am now. The workouts are straightforward and easy to follow. And he's always available to give advice and suggestions for form. I highly recommend Tom's program to everyone wanting to improve their strength and life overall.
Tom is a wealth of knowledge and one of a kind! I’ve been following his advice and been a part of his fitness programs for a number of years. He loves what he does and is very passionate about helping others reach their fitness goals.
Recommend without hesitation. Started training with Tom to improve my fitness for the Army Combat Fitness Test. It worked! Now I'm on a women's specific program to augment my triathlon training. The app interface is easy to use and track your progress plus meals if you are so inclined. I like the one-stop ship approach to fitness and health. What I appreciate the most is not having to think about planning my next workout.
The best training program I have ever used. Excellent instruction, a great community and an easy to follow health and fitness routine which has literally changed my body as well as adding vitality and longevity to my life.
Coach Nikkola is responsive and very involved in my training program. He has helped me work through multiple injuries while maintaining progress and physical readiness.The workouts are fantastic and the app is easy to use!
Tom’s training is amazing!! I’ve consistently used his program for 3 years now and absolutely love it.
Training with Tom has been the single best thing I have ever done for my fitness!I have thought about moving on, trying other scenarios, but I haven't because of what Tom has to offer with the training, programming, the connections I've made and have with other people who train with Tom.I am not the leanest I've ever been, but, I am most certainly the strongest I've ever been. And that's a credit to Tom's programming! Absolutely love it!
Tom's program is simple and transforming! He is responsive and always seeks your success.
Hands down the best program I have been exposed to in my life. Tom provides straight forward, highly effective approaches to your health on a personal level. Personally, I am stronger, more mobile, and feel better than I did 20 years ago. Highly recommend Tom’s services!
Great program, especially for AD Army
Love the workouts and love the app. Tom is a great dude and wouldn’t recommend anyone else!
Best program that keeps me consistent and always having a plan at the gym that I don’t have to think about.
Strength training is a non-negotiable for me. Not having to figure out my own strength training program has been huge for simplifying my life and helped me be successful in my fitness goals. Tom is an expert in his field and I have seen gains after gains by following his program for the last 2+ years. Whether you are beginner or expert you will see growth following Tom's programs. I can't recommend Vigor strength+conditioning enough!
I’m a 72 year old semi retired contractor. In my 16th week of training with Tom Nikola . It’s changed my life.I feel 20 years younger, I’m stronger more flexible no more sore joints. It’s not easy or simple but if you do the work It will work for you. Skip
I’ve been working with Tom since 2019. I started with his ACFT prep program and it got me prepared for the ACFT. Shortly after I became a full member and Tom has been my trainer ever since. He is knowledgeable and is a no BS kind of guy. He uses research and years of experience to back his training programs and diet recommendations. He is responsive and truly cares about his clients. 10/10 recommend. It doesn’t matter if your a beginner or a life long lifter, Tom is your man.
Next Reviewsjs_loader
Share to...