Since his early teens, Beast Skills founder Jim Bathurst has been developing and refining his strength and gymnastics skills. For two years in college, Jim was part of an exhibitional gymnastics group called Gymkana where his team “put on shows at local schools to promote healthy living.” And following college, Jim became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
In 2004 Jim started his now famous Beast Skills blog and website, leveraging his expertise in gymnastics, strength, and bodyweight exercises. But Jim’s expertise isn’t limited to his own skills and abilities – his true talent can be seen when he teaches others. And Jim especially enjoys working with CrossFitters:
“CrossFit has done a phenomenal job at exposing people to various training modalities – powerlifting, Olympic lifting, running, gymnastics. You get a bunch of adults with zero gymnastics experience, and that’s where I come in.”
In spite of Jim’s busy schedule, he agreed to take time and answer a few questions for My Athletic Life.
Bodyweight or weight training: What do you think is more appropriate?
I get this question a lot, as if I needed to choose between the two. I think they complement each other, and I think that people would do well to practice both. I enjoy a mix of acrobatics, Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and grip work in my training. I do what I like.
How important is a good coach/training partner in training?
I think a good coach, training partner and/or training environment is crucial. You might not have all three at the same time, but always look to have at least two of the three.
A good coach will save you countless days of wasted effort. Pick someone who is a champion and/or has produced champions. For example, I’ve contacted Ido Portal to take my hand balancing to the next level.
A good training partner will keep you accountable and motivated. I do not have any regular training partners, but the other guys at the gym keep me motivated and watch my form.
A good training environment makes you want to train hard. At Balance Gym, where I work out, it’s not uncommon to have absolutely every single squat rack filled with people squatting – with others cleaning and snatching in the open floor space. People go there to work; you can’t help but kick butt.
What’s the biggest mistake that you see in training?
Inconsistency. I see people train hard for a week or three, and then drop off for a couple weeks. We all get busy sometimes, but if you want to make progress then you have to make training a priority. Put in consistent time day after day, week after week, year after year, and you’ll see some pretty amazing results. If it’s important to you, you’ll make time. Even if you’re injured, there’s still something that you can work on.
Do you have a goal for a specific skill you are working on right now?
I am working on the one arm handstand and improving my planche right now, my two absolute biggest goals. I am also trying to increase my strength on the one arm chin-up. All of them are hard for various reasons.
I want to be able to hold the one arm handstand consistently for over 10 seconds, hold a full planche for 5-10 seconds, and have strong, multiple repetitions on the one arm chin-up.
Note: Jim says that you need to be able to do a standard chin-up with an additional 2/3 of your bodyweight in order to do a one arm chin-up
Have you ever had one of your chair handstands go awry during a seminar or demo?
I’ve had some close calls in some shows, but nothing major.
I was pressing up into a handstand in a pose with two other members of my college gymnastics group. We were in a pose that we dubbed “death awaits,” because if any one of us bailed then the other two would eat it. Anyways, we were set up too close to another member who was pressing on his own stack of chairs. As I was in the middle of my press, I hit into him and my entire stack of chairs wobbled underneath me. I froze everything in mid-air until the chairs stopped moving, then continued up to the handstand. The whole thing was caught on tape – looks awesome.
Fell off a high jumble of chairs one time during practice as I was trying a new chair set-up. 10 foot drop and no injuries.
Any other tips?
Bill Starr said “Success breeds success.” Look for drills and exercises you can do successfully and build on top of them. If I wanted to squat 500 lbs., I wouldn’t load up a bar with 500 lbs. and try to squat it – I’d fail. What I would do is start off with 100 lbs. and build up from there. Don’t just try to do a handstand repeatedly and fail – look for drills that you can do successfully.
So where do you see Beast Skills in the next few years?
I would love to continue to travel and give seminars. It’s exhausting and gives me no chance to rest, but I love visiting other gyms and meeting other athletes. I feel very blessed to be able to do this at all.
I also love performing – most usually my fledgling acrobatic chairs act. I would love to do that at other venues, it’s just a matter of not really having enough hours in the week!
I’ve been saying this for years, but I’d love to release my own product line of DVD’s/books on training. I tend to be a perfectionist though and every time I think I’ve got things figured out, I find out I’m wrong.
If I can continue to work in this field that I love, then everything else past that is golden.
And If you have questions regarding Jim’s seminars, training, or have other questions, you can reach him at [email protected]. Jim says, “I see every email and will try to answer each in a timely manner – shorter emails get answered sooner!”
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