Manna is a gymnastics position that requires an incredible amount of core, hip flexor, and wrist strength in combination with an extreme range of motion in the shoulders. To gauge the difficulty of this position, manna is graded as a C- Level skill in the Gymnastics Code of Points. As a point of reference, it is equal in difficulty to the full planche on rings, or more difficult than an iron cross hold (B-Level skill).
Shoulder: the muscles in the posterior shoulder, scapular retractors, posteriors deltoids, and external rotators are the muscles that take the most load.
Triceps: the muscle responsible to keep arms straight and palms facing backwards, which help with stability and applied force.
Hip flexors and core: the hip flexors are responsible for keeping legs close to the chest. Core compression keeps tension throughout the entire movement execution.
Training for manna is a long and difficult journey for the majority of people. Manna is a demanding exercise because when your muscles move outside of the optimal range of motion, the force output of your muscles decreases. However, there are many enjoyable and attainable progressions of manna that can be accomplished during the training process.
The L-sit and V-sit are important milestones to achieve during manna training. Both of these progressions can be a demanding endeavor.
Moreover, gymnastics-based bodyweight strength training, or calisthenics training, is a very “hands in front of body” journey. With that it can be beneficial to incorporate some “hands in back of the body” progressions to keep your shoulders at a healthy balance.
For this article, we will focus on exercises to strengthen the core and hip flexors required for this skill (compression exercises), and later articles will cover additional strength exercises to help with wrists, elbows, and shoulders strength.
Compression exercises will be very helpful to develop hip flexor and core strength needed for any manna, V-sit or L-sit progression.
We can split compression exercises into 2 main categories: horizontal (floor) and vertical (stall bar or hanging) compression exercises. In terms of difficulty, horizontal compression exercises can be a regression for vertical compression exercises.
For static positions, full or straddle pike positions work well.
For dynamic positions, which involves moving legs up and down, focus on lifting knees to the chest without bending your legs. Squeeze your quadriceps muscle group tightly and use your hip flexors and abdominals to pull as hard as possible.
Remember to practice both the skill and compression in order to excel in the long run.
Compression work is highly compatible with core work at the end of strength training, or at the end of the workout when performing flexibility work. Alternatively, it can be placed at the beginning when performing L-sit, V-sit or manna work.
Horizontal Routine Example:
- 3 to 5 sets (2mins rest between sets) -> Single leg pike lifts (x10 reps each leg) -> Pike legs lifts (x10 reps) -> Pike hold legs up 10 seconds
- 3 to 5 sets (2 mins rest between sets) -> Single leg straddle pike lifts (x10 reps each leg) -> Straddle pike legs lifts (x10 reps) -> Straddle pike hold legs up 10 seconds
Vertical Routine Example:
- Pike 10 seconds hold (3 sets with 2 min rest between sets)
- Pike flatter kicks during 10 seconds (3 sets with 2 min rest between sets)