There's More Than One Way To Skin The Cat
If you train at a commercial gym you may not have seen the skin the cat before, the skin the cat is an exercise often used as a foundational gymnastic movement used to learn isometric strength holds that require an incredible degree of strength (particularly the front and back lever). The skin the cat although a descendent from gymnastics is a great exercise to add to your arsenal, whether you're an athlete or a bodybuilder as you'll soon see the skin the cat can help stretch and strengthen your physique to new heights.
The skin the cat can be performed on a pull-up bar, on rings or on silks.
I personally perform my skin the cat on a straight bar, if you're also going to use a bar instead of rings ensure you have enough room above and behind you to perform the entire movement.
Skin The Cat Benefits
By regularly performing the skin the cat exercise you'll reap a number of benefits including...
Works The Full Shoulder Range Of Motion
The skin the cat is a fantastic exercise to add to your upper body mobility or warm-up routine.
The rotation during the skin the cat will have you working the entire range of motion of your shoulder, providing an excellent dynamic stretch that'll prepare you for any pressing or pulling upper body movements.
Not only will the skin the cat get you prepared to train, but you'll also find benefits on exercise such as your dips, pull-ups, chin-ups, hanging leg raises and lever progressions. You'll specifically find increased core strength and an increase in the range of motion you're comfortably able to perform on these particular exercises.
Teaches Ring Strength & How To Manoeuvre Your Body
As I mentioned earlier, the skin the cat is one of the foundation gymnastics exercises - before learning the muscle-up, planche, front or back lever the skin the cat prepares us for the range of motion and strength required to pull these off. If you're inclined to delve further into training on gymnastics rings or simply gaining more control when it comes to manoeuvring your body the skin the cat is the best starting point.
Once you've developed the mobility, strength and confidence on the rings and control over your body that're only possible via the skin the cat you'll be ready to move on to more advanced variations.
Stretches The Entire Upper Body
As you rotate your body and stretch out towards the end of each repetition on your skin the cat you'll feel a stretch through your entire upper body.
Few exercises are able to stretch the upper body in the way the skin the cat does, with the back bridge being one of the only other exercises I've experienced that comes close to this.
Instead of performing a plethora of isolated stretches prior or after training I find it far more efficient to work on exercises such as the skin the cat which works the entire upper body in one fluid movement.
Builds Core Strength
For the entire duration of the skin the cat our posterior chain (abdominals and lower back region) are kept tight in order to keep our physique compact and tight.
Bent knee and straight leg hanging leg raises are fantastic for core strength, however the difficulty and the increase in range of motion on the skin the cat ensures the abdominal regions receives even more of an intense workout from just a few sets of these.
I personally found while attempting to learn the hanging window wiper ab exercise it wasn't until I introduced the skin the cat into my regime that I was able to muster up the core strength to hold myself consistently in position while doing my window wipers, the hanging leg raise wasn't a suitable progression for me (although many others are able to learn it directly after conquering the straight leg hanging leg raise).
The skin the cat is a fun exercise to learn! Unless you're coming from a gymnastics background chances are you've never performed an exercise quite like this before. Learning how to rotate your entire body while utilizing your core and shoulders which you've built up on the usual bodybuilding style exercises is great fun, the transition into a different discipline (gymnastics) is rewarding and the stretch felt when you're able to do a straight arm, straight leg skin the cat is extremely satisfying.
The skin the cat works the shoulders, back, chest, and abs, the skin the cat not only stretches the muscles (making it fantastic as a warm-up exercise or a worthy addition to your mobility routine) it's also a great builder of strength - particularly for the core.
Skin The Cat Progressions
- Commence from a dead hang position from a pull-up bar or rings
- Perform a leg raise and allow your feet to continue through your elbows
- Maintain a pike position and send your toes toward the ground
- Finish in a hollow body position with your arms fully extended
- Tuck your head in and bring thighs to your chest as you initiate the rewind
- Finish with a hang
Begin lowering yourself down using a partial range of motion, this will take a little bit of practise as you allow your shoulder mobility to increase.
Once you've achieved full range of motion through the shoulders perform the first half of the exercise to strengthen and stretch your upper body before proceeding with the second half (returning) of the exercise.
Once you're able to rotate full and return to position with tucked knees it's time to straighten one leg.
Once you're able to perform the skin the cat with full range of motion on both portions of the exercise with one leg straightened it's time to perform the skin the cat in it's final form and straighten both legs for the movement.
At this point your core strength, confidence on the rings/bar and range of motion through your shoulders will be top tier.