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Your Gymnast’s Knees

Your Gymnast’s Knees

By Karen Goeller, CSCS

painful-knee-illustration-14526284I’ve spent many years coaching gymnastics and as a CSCS. The CSCS is responsible for effectively training the athlete for sports performance. The CSCS also helps bring the injured athlete back to competition fitness once cleared from their physical therapist or doctor.  That step in-between physical therapy and all-out competitive workouts is often missing. It is the job of the CSCS to fill that void.

Sometimes after a gymnast is “medically cleared”  they continue to have knee pain. It is not that the doctor or physical therapist was not effective. Once cleared, the gymnast often is not aware on how the body should function; it is a lack of awareness.

I was asked by a gymnastics club owner to “go over some knee exercises” with some of her gymnasts who had a previous knee injury and some who were recently cleared by their doctors. I would be willing to bet the owner and coaches had no idea I would be teaching their gymnasts how to properly stand, bend, and straighten their knee, but that is what these gymnasts needed. AWARENESS. Below is a summary of what we did so that you can help your gymnast.

As many of you have seen, a high percentage of gymnasts have over-pronation. That is a rolling inward of the feet. Many have one that is more severe than the other. That causes poor alignment of the ankle, knee, and hip. You see the knees fall in laterally towards one another. With that poor alignment, the gymnast often performs skills adding stress to the joint because of the force involved with skills. The poor alignment is often seen in the take-off for the cartwheel, round-off, side aerial, and front handspring. This poor knee alignment is also seen in the landings of dismounts and jumps. Over the course of time, performing skills and landing can cause severe damage to the body if the gymnast is using incorrect technique and/or has poor alignment.

So here is the report from the quick clinic I gave to this group. Throughout each exercise I reminded these gymnasts how each drill related to the sport, landing mechanics and skill take-offs. When an athlete knows the purpose of a drill they get more benefit.

Out-In-Neutral-Foot
I asked the gymnasts to stand straight with their feet together, simple. (Well, sort of.) Many in this group could not do that without over-pronating. It is very common for gymnasts to have over-pronation. They train barefoot with no arch or heel support several hours each week. (That’s why they need high-quality shoes when not in the gym.)

I asked these gymnasts to gently roll their feet out towards their little toe, then back in towards the arch in their foot, and finally back to straight/neutral so they could feel the difference between the three positions. (It is very important to be sure they do not roll too far in any position. You do not want them causing damage to the ankle or foot.) As they did this slow-motion movement, Out-In-Neutral Drill, I instructed them to look and their knees to see the difference in alignment. Some seemed surprised at the difference foot placement made in the knee.

After that and asked these gymnasts to bring their feet hip-width apart and again to slowly roll their feet out, in, then back to neutral. At this point, they all were able to clearly see the difference in ankle and knee alignment with foot position. I asked the gymnasts to perform this simple Out-In-Neutral Drill several times in order to see and feel their neutral foot position and proper leg alignment.

After the gymnasts performed the Out-In-Neutral Drill on two feet, I asked them to lift one foot off the floor and perform the Out-In-Neutral Drill on one foot.  Again, some seemed surprised at the difference the slight movement of the foot had on the knee alignment. I reminded them that the single leg alignment is important on the one-foot take-off and leap landings.

Once the gymnasts did a few repetitions they seemed to understand the relation between foot alignment and knee alignment really well. Before that moment, these gymnasts never realized that the alignment of the foot had so much effect on the rest of the body.

Side-Side-Neutral

After the Out-In-Neutral Foot Drill we did a simple weight shift drill. I call it the Side-Side-Neutral Drill. Believe it or not, when many gymnasts squat they tend to lean on one side more than the other. This is not something many people notice during the landing of the dismount because it happens so fast and the focus is on sticking the landing. The technique of the landing is imperative to maintain low body health.

I asked the gymnasts to stand hip-width apart and keep their feet in the neutral position. I then asked them to perform a ½ squat position as if they were landing a dismount. As I suspected, many were leaning on one side/leg. Others were bending at the knees with hardly any hip bend.  We made adjustments to proper landing mechanics at that point. (Landing a jump on beam is different than landing from a double back on floor or a dismount from equipment. Since the force is so much greater, it is imperative to teach proper weight distribution when landing.)

Once all were in the correct position, I asked them to perform the Side-Side-Neutral Drill, shift their weight to one leg, neutral/center, and to the other leg.  This was to remind the gymnasts that they must land with their weight centered, evenly distributed between both sides.

Remember, the force on the body when landing from a double-back can be 10-13 times the gymnast’s body weight. With some gymnast’s, one side could be taking more force than the other and in other cases the front of the legs could be taking on more force than the back.  With gymnasts who are primarily bending at the knees, the front of the legs-knees and quads take a much higher percentage of force than the back of the body-glutes and hamstrings. The front-load landing can put enormous force on the knees and over time may cause damage.

Since gymnasts dismount daily, it is imperative they line up their knees with their ankles and hips, but they must also evenly distribute their weight from side to side and from front to back.  Sometimes it is just as important to teach awareness as it is to physically strengthen the body.

SONY DSCWe took this a few steps further and added a medicine ball with more complex movements.  We carefully performed the chop exercise in order to simulate a landing but to also involve the core and upper body. We did this with both legs and then single leg. Adding the medicine ball made the movements challenging, but they were able to safely perform. This exercise is a great value because it forces the gymnast to focus on landing mechanics while building a little added upper body strength for bars.

Finally, during this session, we did include some traditional knee rehab exercises. Many gymnasts with knee pain have weak gluteal muscles.

I assigned the physical therapy bridge.  I call it a hip lift. The gymnasts lied on their backs, bent their knees and lifted their buttocks off the floor a number of times. In the hip lift position we also did the marching exercise, but I only allowed the gymnasts to lift one foot 2 inches off the floor in order to keep their hips up.

Next, I assigned the clamshell exercise. I instructed the gymnasts to lie on their side and bend their knees, keeping their heels in line with their spine. Once in position, I instructed them to keep their heels together, but lift the top knee towards the ceiling, opening their legs.  We did both sides.

Another exercise we did that day was the side plank. Added to the side plank hold we did plank hip dips. In the side plank position, I instructed the gymnasts to lower their hip to the floor and lift it back up. We did a number of receptions on each side.

And we did plank leg extensions and small kicks. In the plank leg-extension, I asked the gymnasts to lower their knees to the floor then bring them back up to a straight position.  We did single leg plank leg extension too. With that one the gymnast kept one foot 2 inches off the floor as they worked on the supporting leg, lowering and lifting the knee.  That leg extension is simple, but a great quad strengthener and form drill. And for the small plank low back kicks I asked the gymnasts to lift one foot 2 inches off the floor. I instructed them to keep their foot pointed and lower their toes to the floor and lift the foot 2 inches. I had them alternate these slow, low kicks.

There are so many things you can do to maintain or improve your gymnast’s health. Keep doing much of the conditioning that is well known, but also consult with physical therapists, chiropractors, and CSCS’s for ideas.

Karen Goeller, CSCS

www.BestSportsConditioning.com

www.KarenGoeller.com

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Exercise List to go with Video and Article

  • Out-In-Neutral Foot Drill
  • Side-Neutral-Side Drill
  • Physical Therapy Bridge (Hip Lift)
  • Clamshell
  • Chops
  • Single Leg Chops
  • Plank-Leg Extensions (Bothe legs and single leg)
  • Plank-Low Back Kicks
  • Side Plank with Hip Dips

 

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How to Increase Athlete Confidence…

How to Improve Athlete Confidence…

Someone asked how to build a gymnast’s confidence… The most common thing parents tell me after I work with their daughter is that their confidence has greatly increased.

Here’s my advice…
web-alexisbeamConfidence takes time to build. It happens after a series of successes and good days in the gym, school, or work. Confidence in an athlete/child is greatly affected by a coach, parent, or teacher. It is the adults along with those small successes often that help a child become more confident.

In sports lack of confidence can actually be a safety risk. lack of confidence can lead to worry, lack of focus, and even an accident. We should help our athletes build skills progressively and remind them of each success along the way. For the safest training possible, teach drills, build strength, teach skill progressions with perfect technique, then introduce the skill and build on that. Eventually the skill may be used in competition. Remind your athlete that they went through a long process to learnt hat skill and that is a great success. With each small feeling of success comes more confidence.

Remind your athlete often, possibly even daily, of all the progress she has made, the adjustments/corrections to skill technique she made, and how far she has come since she started the sport. We all started at the beginning, even coaches.

Give her a physical challenge (not extreme) daily and ask her if it was difficult. If she says yes, tell that she should feel good about getting through a difficult challenge and completing all the work. Remind her that many people cannot do all the work she has done that day and she should feel a real sense of accomplishment. Send her home with positive thoughts on her accomplishments and successes.

Increasing confidence is a process, but daily reminders of how hard she has worked, small successes often, and a reminders of her success work to improve an athlete’s confidence. As a coach it is important to help an athlete see how great they are. be the coach that boosts your athletes confidence. They will go through life happier, healthier, and remember your training forever.

Click here to read testimonials from my athletes parents.

Click here for info on Private Gymnastics Lessons.

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Many gymnastics and cheerleading coaches do not know the science behind flexibility… It’s sad.

My reaction to this situation… http://www.ketv.com/article/local-cheer-gyms-react-to-colorado-cheerleading-video/12092617

So sad… Many gymnastics and cheerleading coaches need more education on flexibility and conditioning…

web-flexibilityI’ve seen a horrible gymnastics coach do this too. She was fired from one gym, but she is coaching gymnastics again in another gym. It IS ABUSE. If your child’s coach is manually stretching them to the point of tears remove them from that team immediately. There are plenty of good coaches to train with in this country. Your child does not need this physical damage or emotional trauma in their lives!

There IS a way to increase flexibility drastically without all of that pain and trauma. It is not always the muscle group that is tight. It is often the neurological system that will not allow more range of motion. It is literally locking up.

There are safe, effective ways to manually stretch to increase flexibility. I have done it countless times while keeping my athletes happy and healthy. If your daughter or her teammates need more flexibility I am happy to help them become more flexible without torturing them.

The gymnastics and cheer worlds need more people with the CSCS certification involved for conditioning. (Search online for NSCA CSCS to see what it is.)  I am the ONLY CSCS in NJ with 30+ years of high level/competitive gymnastics experience. Yes, there are MANY wonderful coaches in NJ that I greatly admire and respect, but none with the sports science background. Let me know how I can help your daughter and her teammates,  www.bestgymnasticstraining.com

And if your team needs help, https://karengoeller.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/gymnastics-consultant-and-strength-coach-in-nj

#gymnastics #cheerleading #flexibility #stretching #sports #nj #training 

Karen Goeller, CSCS, Speaking at NSCA clinic on Conditioning for Jumps in Dance, Gymnastics, Cheerleading, and Figure Skating

Karen Goeller, CSCS, Speaking on Conditioning for Jumps in Dance, Gymnastics, Cheerleading, and Figure Skating at NSCA Regional Clinic

This is the beginning of thepresentation for the NSCA. For some of these drills go to the book, Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning Exercises,www.GymnasticsDrills.com.

‪#‎gymnastics‬ ‪#‎dance‬ ‪#‎figureskating‬ ‪#‎cheerleading‬ ‪#‎sports‬ ‪#‎nsca‬ ‪#‎cscs‬

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