If gymnast Brandon Wynn looks like an action figure, it may be because his ring routine is all but superhuman.
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The ingredients for a powerful physique were always there for Wynn. His mom and dad are both “extremely strong,” and his grandfather was a bodybuilder. The 23-year-old says he’s “a little addicted to working out,” and a search on YouTube will bring up handfuls of videos Wynn working on his moves in the gym at Ohio State University, strengthening his densely-packed 5-foot 6-inch frame.
While men’s gymnastics includes six events –the floor, vault, pommel horse, parallel bars, high bar and the still rings – Wynn’s nickname is “Lord of the Rings” for good reason. His routine combine swings with six extremely challenging static holds—strength moves—that require him to suspend his body immobile in the air for about three seconds while keeping the rings still. All of this must happen flawlessly before he dismounts with a complicated flip – a routine that won him a gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Games.
That kind of body control doesn’t come easily. Many of his workouts last up to six hours. After a warm-up, he completes his full competition circuit, meaning all six events, two times. It’s more mentally challenging than anything, especially during the second go-round.
“It’s not just to train your body,” Wynn says. “You’re training the routines, too. It’s mentally taxing. By the time you hit the second routine, the moves feel very different.”
That second round is a collection of compensations, because Wynn says at least one part of his body will feel “whacked out.” Maybe his legs are wobbly, or his shoulders are toast. Whatever the challenge, Wynn must adjust on the fly and keep moving through the circuit.
Following his run through the competition routine, Wynn moves on to a two-hour interval workout comprising three or four stations – usually rope climbs (a popular choice among gymnasts), bungee sprints, leg lifts (a move where he hangs from a bar on the wall and brings his toes up over his head to touch the wall behind him), and the pommel horse, where he’ll do 50 circles in a row.
By the end of the workout, he’s spent. But Wynn says it’s all worth it when a competition arrives, and he’s twirling through his routine, and lands his dismount just perfectly. It’s an awesome feeling, he says, one that he’s constantly chasing.
“I call it ‘remembering the feeling of winning.’ It’s so motivating, yet it’s so hard to describe,” Wynn says. “When you feel that, it’s like a combination of relief and exhilaration. You’re just happy that the work paid off.”
Though Wynn is addicted to working out, there’s one routine he simply hates: a grueling five-minute leg routine. It’s only five minutes long, but for him, it’s the worst leg circuit ever. “Everything that we do,” he says, “We never stop, for five minutes.”
The hardest exercise is the last one of the circuit: sled pushes with plates on top of a box. The object is heavy and awkward, and after four minutes of non-stop exercise, it takes everything in Wynn to shove the sled around. “I decide that I’m going to do it no matter how bad I feel,” he says. “But I do not look forward to it in the slightest.”
“After that,” Wynn says, “you really can’t move for a while.”