Category Archives: sports

From 6 Inches to Split, 10 Minutes

I can’t believe the progress I had with one 14 year old gymnast yesterday.



Gymnasts must be able to do complete splits, 180 degrees. That’s a straight line from ankle to ankle. This photo is one of my gymnasts performing a split leap. It is better than the required 180 degrees a gymnast needs.

 A gymnast came to me for help with flexibility and other injuries. I asked her “stretch” on her own before we started. She spent about ten minutes stretching. I then asked her to show me her split on her less flexible side. She was about six inches from the floor. Her hamstrings had decent flexibility, but her hip flexors were very tight. To me it was obvious because her front leg was nearly all the way down, but the gap was between her upper thigh on her back leg and the floor. She was tilted forward.  

We then spent ten to fifteen minutes doing many variations of a hip flexor stretch seen here. I had her do the stretch with varying foot positions, leaning forward as seen here and upright. She said her coaches never allow them to do the stretch with their back leg up, but she said she always felt it more this way.

After that I asked her to try her split again. Her expression was priceless because she was able to go all the way down, 180 degrees for the first time in her life!!!  Why did it only take fifteen minutes to reach this success when it usually takes gymnasts several months to accomplish the same thing? The answer is simple. Many gymnasts are not actually stretching properly or they are not stretching the muscles they really need to stretch. They think doing a split will help the split, when in fact, it often will not. Wait, what? She said her coaches make her do “over-splits” for two minutes and it’s been that way for a really long time. Guess what, over splits do not really work.

You read that correctly. First, you must identify which muscles are tight. In her case it was the hip flexors, mainly the psoas muscle. Then, you must stretch that muscle individually. Stretch it slowly, in various positions, and in small increments.

The athlete and their muscles must be completely relaxed in order for any progress. This gymnast was happy the entire time that we were stretching. She felt the stretches, but no pain. After about ten minutes in the gym, her dad said “your voice sounds so soothing.” I just smiled and said there is no reason to yell or be angry.

Stressing an athlete out and making them hold one position for two minutes will not really do much for flexibility. And manually pressing on them while they are stressed can also cause problems such as locking muscles, reduced flexibility, and emotional trauma. Stretching an athlete to the point of tears is not necessary and it’s really abusive.

Once an athlete’s muscles lock up you not only prevent progress, you could be reducing flexibility, and causing injury. A gymnast’s skill performance may also decline as a result. Coaches want results and they want them fast, but why aren’t they listening to sports science? Unfortunately, many are just repeating what they did as gymnasts instead of doing their homework, going to clinics, and consulting with CSCS’s and physical therapists.

Let me know how I can help your team… Or check out www.GymnasticsDrills.com

Karen Goeller, CSCS
Gymnastics Coach 40+ years and CSCS
www.BestSportsConditioning.com
www.KarenGoeller.com

Your Gymnast’s Life is in Her Hands, Literally

Your Gymnast’s Life is In Her Hands. Your Gymnast Will Peel Off the Bar if She is Not Prepared.


Web-CassGiantsMay05SideViewI think we will have more gymnasts peeling off the bars in the first month back than ever before. Why? Because many gymnasts have not done any strength for their grip-hands and forearms.

They will likely have only done shaping and core conditioning. How many have actually done conditioning for grip strength? I’d guess almost none of them. It is not something that is stressed once a gymnast has been doing giants on bars for a long time. Hanging on the bar daily builds that strength, but most gymnasts do not have a bar to hang from at home.

Please keep in mind that a gymnast’s life is literally in their hands when swinging on the bars. If they peel off during a giant, or any skill for that matter, they can cause serious injury or even death. The tensile force on the hands, forearms, and the rest of the body during giants could be several times their body weight. Will they come back prepared to withstand that force? If they cannot hold heavy dumbbells without dropping them or hang on the bar for 30 seconds to one minute and have not been doing grip strength exercises or hanging conditioning they should not be doing giants the first week back in the gym.

And be extremely careful in the straps too. Swinging in the straps creates even more tensile force because of the speed of the giants and circle skills. Gymnasts can cause tears in the soft tissue of their shoulders and the rest of their upper body.

Please keep your gymnast’s safety in mind when asking them to perform giants or any of their old skills for the first time in several months. Coaches must take the time to rebuild strength, power, flexibility, and confidence before asking gymnasts to perform familiar skills or learn new skills.

Each gymnast is an individual. Some will take longer to regain what they may have lost and others will come back well-conditioned and ready to perform skills more quickly. Ask your gymnasts what they did at home to stay in shape, watch their energy levels, and evaluate their strength the first week so they progress at a steady and safe pace.

Many will try to do too much too soon and we will see overuse injuries, more than in previous years, if we are not careful with the training.

Good luck with your return to the gym. Stay safe and let me know how I can help you.

Grip Strength Ideas…

  • hang 30-60 seconds
  • pull-ups in varying hand grips and other bar conditioning without coming off bar for 30-60 seconds
  • squeeze tennis or other balls
  • ring towel
  • bicep curl in over and under grip
  • dumbbell wrist twist
  • dumbbell writs curls in every direction
  • grip / squeezing devices
  • fingertip or fist pushups
  • farmers walk or just holding heavy dumbbells for 30-60 seconds

Always keep safety in mind when training. Your safety is your personal responsibility.

Karen Goeller, CSCS, Consultant
www.BestSportsConditioning.com
Gymnastics Drills Book
Handstand Book

 

Karen Goeller Books

How many have you seen? There are about 20 books available through bookstores by Karen Goeller, CSCS. Check them out here, www.amazon.com/author/karengoeller.

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Journals-Fitness

When Gymnasts Return to Training after the COVID-19 Pandemic

From a sports-science point of view, there are specific training points we must remember when we return to training. I recommend the following for our gymnasts.

We should start slowly. We all want gymnasts to regain all they lost, but it will be a process. The same process as when a gymnast returns from an injury. We must be extremely patient with each gymnast’s limitations and hesitation in performing skills, physically and mentally. Many will have new fears and others will have become very weak. De-training, loss of strength, happens in children pretty rapidly.

As coaches, we must remember that when competitive gymnasts first return to the gym they should not be doing their highest level skills. They must spend time conditioning to regain the strength they lost. That may take six weeks. Most have not been doing effective conditioning at home to maintain or build the strength necessary to perform the skills they competed or were learning.

This really should be an industry-wide recommendation in order to prevent a high rate of overuse injuries within their first six-eight weeks. I recommend assigning conditioning and basic skills on every event in addition to the careful and deliberate warm-up. A rotation of conditioning, flexibility, balance, and visualization may be wise.

And I recommend that every gymnast perform beam complexes, alignment, and balance drills long before asking them to perform flight series, challenging skills, and routines. I would say at least two to three weeks of balance work should be practiced for beam in order to keep the gymnasts safe and comfortable. And then mix in the balance work with skills once the gymnasts look comfortable on the beam again.

Please keep in mind that it may take gymnasts a few weeks just to regain their ability to focus. The last thing we want is an accident, especially due to a lack of focus. The training should be structured, but not intense in the beginning.

Most gymnasts likely lost flexibility during their time off. Performing over-splits or doing manual stretching should be avoided. Allow your gymnasts to regain flexibility with careful stretching. Nerve gliding may be useful for many gymnasts to help ease them back into flexibility. For example, in the pike stretch ask them to point and flex five times then stretch. Allow your gymnasts to repeat the point-flex motion in each exercise.

Coaches, we really should allow our gymnasts to ease back into the sport, mentally and physically. Be patient and remember that progress in this sport is faster when the gymnast is well-conditioned and has a good state of mind. Mr. Wang who worked for me when I had my gymnastics club said, “gymnasts must have good emotions.” He was right.

Best of luck to all of the dedicated coaches and gymnasts when everyone returns to the gym. I hope the sport makes a come-back financially and continues to grow in popularity.

Let me know how I can help you. I am available through email, social media, zoom, phone, and in-person when we open gyms again. There aren’t too many CSCS’s in the USA with 40+ years of experience coaching gymnastics.

By Karen Goeller, CSCS

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Training for a 4 Year Old? Seriously?!?!?

Last night I got a call from a parent looking for private training for a four-year-old. Seriously? Private training for a FOUR-year-old?!?

It’s ridiculous & the EXACT reason for so many overuse injuries in kids. The consequences of overtraining can be devastating. Please look at my previous post, listen to the podcast, and watch the youtube video on the link I provide.

Evidently, she did not see my previous post or my posts on any social media before she called. No, I will NOT do a private training session with a four-year-old child. I train competitive athletes with serious goals.

More info at www.BestSportsConditioning.com  and www.BestGymnasticsTraining.com  

Overuse Injuries on the Rise

Overuse Injuries on the Rise
By Karen Goeller, CSCS

I was watching Real Sports with Bryant Gumbell, https://youtu.be/AGxxBER5xJU  and was not surprised by what I heard from doctors, parents, and child-athletes.

As a coach for over 40 years, I have seen many changes. The problem is fueled a few ways-Governing bodies, parents, coaches, and kids with passion for their sport.

Sometimes the child LOVES the sport and does not know when to modify training. They often hide aches and pains from coaches and parents due to fear or so they can keep training.  It is up to adults who know the consequences of overtraining to modify the training for the child who is injured.

A big part of the problem is also that governing bodies of sports such as USA Gymnastics. USAG encourages very young children, starting at age 5. (My opinion, it is a way too young and USAG has likely been motivated by money in membership fees.)  By the time some children are only 8, they are dealing with overuse injuries.

As an NSCA-CSCS, I have had to fix many injured gymnasts in the past decade. Some coaches and parents choose to treat these 5 years old children like pro athletes. They are children and many adults forget that with their eyes on that college scholarship. It takes many years to develop strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, an appreciation for safety, and maturity. It should be a gradual process. A child should not be training like a pro athlete at such a young age.

I have met many parents who are overboard, insisting their children train at home as well as the 25+ hours in the gym. I have had to remind a parent that an 8 year old that she should not be training at home on top of her 25+ hour schedule.  A few years ago I have several parents of five year olds ask for private training the week before their first competition. I said no to all of them. I’ve had parents discount children’s aches, pains, and fatigue and have seen those kids end up in surgery. There is only so much a coach can do when a parent insists their child train at home or pulls a child from a coach who refuses to have a child reduce training to heal from injury.

Not every coach is aware of injury prevention or rehab. They have spent years mastering the sport, how to teach skills and create routines. Some coaches do not do the math when it comes to training. For example, if a gymnast has 5 jumps in her beam routine and you ask her to do 10 routines a day, that is 50 jumps per day on the hardest surface in the gym. Compare that to a routine with 3 jumps times ten routines to equal 30 jumps per day. That is a difference of 20 jumps in one day. The difference becomes really significant over time. In one week that is 250 jumps vs 150. Over one month that is 1000 jumps compared to 600 jumps, a difference of 400 jumps. Coaches should really do the math and learn the breaking point (when gymnasts start to feel aches, pains, fatigue) so they can keep the number just under that breaking point. You can be demanding without overtraining and produce healthy, strong, and successful gymnasts.

Need help with reducing injuries? There are very few high-level gymnastics coaches who also have the CSCS. It is not an easy-fitness certification. It is based on sports science.  A college degree is required to sit for the exam, you are given 6 months to study, it covers exercise prescription for competitive athletes, exercise technique, injuries, injury prevention, nutrition, and more. Not everyone passes the first time.  And in order to keep the certification, we must continue education by attending events, webinars, self-study, doing presentations, and writing.   https://karengoeller.wordpress.com/gymnastics-consultant-and-strength-coach-cscs/

www.BestSportsConditioning.com

www.BestGymnasticsTraining.com

Happy Holidays!

Just a quick note to say enjoy I hope your holiday season…

Spend time with friends and family, enjoy the colorful lights and decorations, or just relax with your time off from work. No matter how you choose to spend this time, I hope you enjoy it.

Yes, I do have many products and services that would be nice gifts. Here are some links in case you are looking for gifts.

www.PortersGifts.com (Sports and Fitness gifts and apparel.)

www.GymnasticsTees.com (Gymnastics gifts and apparel)

www.amazon.com/author/karengoeller (Sports, fitness, and inspirational books, journals, and coloring book)

www.GymnasticsBooks.com (Gymnastics books, journal, coloring book)

www.GymnasticsJournals.com (The most useful gymnastics journal)

www.GymnasticsDrills.com (Gymnastics drills and conditioning exercises)

www.HandstandBook.com (Handstand drills and conditioning exercises)

www.LegsPlus.com (legs Plus workouts, exercise every major muscle group within a quick, effective workout.)

www.SwingSetFitness.com (Exercise outdoors with a playground swing. Quick and very effective.)

www.SwingWorkouts.com (Workouts using a playground swing. Have a blastr getting in shape!)

www.LymphedemaBook.com (You’ll be inspired when you see how I went from bed-ridden cancer patient to who I am now. A cancer diagnosis and life afterwards.)

Coaches Over-Stretching Gymnasts

Gymnastics meet season is almost here and some coaches are scrambling to get everything done that THEY did not do during the summer, including helping their athlete’s condition and stretch properly.

Some coaches are carelessly or recklessly stretching their gymnasts in an effort to make their leaps and jumps bigger to avoid deductions in scores at meets. Stretching an athlete to the point of upsetting and injuring them is not the answer. It is actually abusive, especially if it is painful to the athlete.

It is very possible to manually stretch an athlete without upsetting or injuring them, but most coaches do not know how to do this safely. Sorry, it’s the truth. I have had many athletes come to me for help with injuries as a result of overstretching and/or overtraining then stretching the injured area.

An athlete only needs flexibility slightly beyond what their skills require. Most gymnasts need more speed and strength to perform many skills rather than more flexibility. Many gymnasts are more than flexible enough to split to 180, but their hip flexor, glute, and low back muscles are too slow and/or weak to lift their legs to the 180 degree split required for a good leap. They need more active flexibility, conditioning, specific for leaps as well as drills for technique. These athletes must perform drills and condoning rather than to be forced into an over-split or stretched by a coach with no knowledge of sports science. Being overly flexible at the joint can lead to joint laxity/ligamentous laxity, that’s an unstable joint. An unstable joint can lead to bigger problems such as pain, numbness, tingling, arthritis, joint dislocation, and accidents which can lead to additional injuries.

I am a CSCS, it’s what we do. We base our training on science and experience and that is why we get results without harming athletes. Hire a CSCS or physical therapist to consult with and your athletes will thank you.

Conditioning for Jumps and Leaps, It’s Not just Squats May/June 2016 https://issuu.com/usagymnastics/docs/2016_03mayjune/10

Training with Karen Goeller, www.BestGymnasticsTraining.com.

Sugar Crashes after Halloween Can Lead to Real Crashes

Halloween. I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable day. 

Please keep in mind that many gymnasts feel sick or extremely tired the following days. It can be that they eat much more candy and much less healthy food than usual. They could feel sluggish from the sugar overload, lack of nutrients such as B vitamins, or they have become dehydrated.

Be very careful because that sluggishness and fatigue that comes with the fast drop in sugar, lack of needed nutrients, or reduced fluids in the body can also cause lack of focus. Lack of focus causes accidents, including in the gym. It is the same as when an adult is extremely tired, drunk, or texting while driving. Would you take a chance?

Please remind your athletes not to eat so much candy at once, eat healthy foods, and drink enough water, especially if it is the day before training or a meet.

Eating candy does not work the same as eating pasta before a marathon. Believe it or not, some pasta and the sauce may have protein and other nutrients to slow the digestion and reduce the spike and drop effect.

Sugar in candy processes fast and then there is often a crash. Here’s more information on sugar crashes.  https://news.sanfordhealth.org/healthy-living/sugar-crash-effects/

Enjoy your Halloween, but please be smart about the celebration.

Gymnastics Article, Coaches being Investigated

USA Gymnastics interviews noted coach, author about Maggie Haney
https://www.ocregister.com/2019/10/02/usa-gymnastics-interviews-noted-coach-author-about-maggie-haney/

Not all coaches are like this. There are many that are very demanding yet also very positive. You may have to drive further than you want for your child to train with the best coach for them, but good coaches exist. Visit at least three gymnastics facilities before you make a decision on where your child will train. Talk to other parents, look at the body language of the kids walking into the gym and leaving. None should look stressed out on their way into a gym. Ask about injuries. It should be under ten percent of the team. Watch the coaches body language and expressions as they arrive. They also should not look stressed walking into the gym. Google and youtube coach, gym owner, and gymnastics facility names to see if anything negative comes up or to (hopefully) read nice reviews or news. Check the state and regional meet results. It’s a tough decision that will change your life for better or worse so be careful with the decision.

Let me know how I can help… Check out my consulting and training pages along with my testimonials.

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