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Transitioning CrossFit Movements into Elite Skills: Part 1 by Carl Paoli - CrossFit Journal

In Gymnastics/Tumbling, Videos

September 28, 2010

Video Article

Did you ever imagine that your knees-to-elbows skills can translate into a backflip, or that a muscle-up can help you climb walls? Let Carl Paoli teach you how.

Paoli is an elite gymnast and coach at San Francisco CrossFit, and he also runs his own practice called Naka Athletics. In Part 1, Paoli teaches us the backflip, saying, “It’s actually one of the easiest tricks in the book.” Paoli almost makes the backflip look simple as he breaks it down into its component positions and relates each to familiar CrossFit movements like the hang power clean and knees-to-elbows.

After the backflip, Paoli tackles wall climbs—and events at the 2010 CrossFit Games demonstrated that parkour training for climbing walls can be very useful.

Watch and learn how to translate your CrossFit skills into something even more extraordinary.

11min 25sec

Video by Again Faster.

Additional reading: Why Train Gymnastics Basics? by Jeff Tucker, published Aug. 1, 2008.

Free Download


17 Comments on “Transitioning CrossFit Movements into Elite Skills: Part 1 ”


Rob McBee wrote …

Had the pleasure of learning from Carl last weekend during the Mobility Cert. w/Kstar. I can't describe how beneficial it was to furthering my coaching knowledge. I didn't think I could learn so much about executing and teaching 'basic' moves like pushups and pullups much less stuff like freestanding handstand pushups. Thanks again SFCF


wrote …

Very cool video! Paoli explains those transitions very well to adapt your oly training into gymnastic "tricks".

FYI... those rolls he uses when jumping off a wall are pretty much the same as the defensive roll any martial artist would use. When first starting out, it's best to practice them from a kneeling position, then transition to a standing position, then a running or jumping position, and THEN do it after jumping off a wall. Here's a good instructional video if you want to get started:

Thanks for the tips, Paoli! I can't wait to land my first back flip (that doesn't end with a splash in the pool).


wrote …

I've decided San Francisco Crossfit is a brilliant idea. It seems like so much good stuff comes from there.

Sevan or Tony or someone you need to do an hour long documentary on SFCF and all the awesome that's going on there. I think that doing that would be strong sauce.


wrote …

Incredible video, I especially loved the 60% reference for the start and finish. I will now definitely nail a back tuck very soon. It is a scary concept though, thinking about that first attempt. The body awareness familiarization and knees to elbows skills will no doubt be the solution. Thank you for the excellent instruction.


wrote …

Can anyone tell me what kind of shoes Carl is wearing in the wall climb segment?


Kyle Fyffe wrote …

Skyler - I think he is wearing Innov8 f-lites 195 or 220. Just purchased a pair myself.

Check out the link -


wrote …

Very nicely done Carl. Look forward to the next parts of it.
You make it all look easy.


wrote …

Great article, THX!!!
Please bring in some more of the "FUN PART"
Working on that BACKFLIP already!


wrote …

Wow - so excited I was nearly rendered incontinent

Starrett - Mobility - Maximizing available mechanics
Romanov - Skilled motion - Using available mechanics with assistance from natural world
Crossfit - Fitness - Training skilled functional motion over broad t&md's
Paoli - Transitioning - Projecting skilled functional motion into ADL's

I think I just pissed my pants...and love it! Can anyone say "full circle".


wrote …

That-a-boy Carl. Great to CrossFit recognize your fresh skills!


wrote …

Awesome video. Look's like fun.


wrote …

Would have been great to see a progression where Carl worked with someone and we see them getting the backflip.


wrote …

Sean, that's a great point. The good thing is we have that video ready and should be coming out soon!
Thanks for watching


wrote …


I will say - and everyone knows this anyway! - that a bit of caution is in order here. In a move of monumental dumb-assed-ness (and one that is in no way the fault of anyone but myself!) I headed over to my box yesterday and decided to take a stab at it - and promptly landed on my head. (Get a spotter?? What, me?! Why?)

After watching the video a few times (and comparing with some more youtube stuff) I think I see where I went wrong.

Monday, I'll be back trying a again with a spotter though. I'm inspired!


wrote …

Quick follow up: Nothing like a spotter! Went back Monday and nailed it. I can do them on my own on a mat now. I think learning stuff like could take even more or a central role in CF. It's just so much fun ...


wrote …

A couplet/triplet with backflips at the 2011 games?


wrote …

Just to go over the roll aspect.
Of all the parkour he spoke about it's THE most important to get exactly right.
Obviously don't go straight - as he said go over one or the other shoulder and be sure to have which in mind before you land. Going straight over is a great way to hit your head, ruin your neck or if you're lucky ony jar your spine. Going over the shoulder ensues you use all the muscular padding of your back and if its done right you shouldn't strike your hip either.
Practice on the ground a lot first or from just a few feet.
It's also very important to have very strong legs and be very thouroughly warmed up before doing this kind of highly impactful exercise.
In the video he lands on a soft surface which for obvious reasons is also preferable than concrete.
Finding the ideal wall might not allways be an option but the idea behind parkour is to be able to adapt to your environment - be imaginative =)
On monday my friends where trying to figure out (successfully for some) if one armed climb-ups where possible!

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