Tag Archives: gymnastics conditioning

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

 

Advice for Athletes during COVID Pandemic

SONY DSCI hope that you and your family are remaining healthy. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if there is anything I can do for you. I’m still offering zoom calls at no charge for any athletes who have worked with me within the past year and at a very low cost for everyone else.
Some advice for our athletes…
  1. Try to make strength and flexibility goals for yourself now – for your return to the gym.
  2. Do activities that build strength (bike riding, stair climbing, swing set fitness, swimming, etc)
  3. Do activities that improve speed (sprints, sprints downhill, mountain climbers, flutters in pike and hollow shape)
  4. Try to keep up with body tightness and rebounding (bouncing, jump rope, hopping type drills, push up shape hops)
  5. Keep up with agility (do your pre-workout warm-up daily, playing tag with siblings)
  6. Try to have fun outdoors.
  7. Set a goal for the first week you return to the gym.
  8. Set a goal for two months after you return to the gym.
  9. Set a goal for the next state meet you compete in which would be next year.
  10. Always keep safety in mind when exercising at home and in the gym. You and your parents are responsible for your personal safety at home.
Swing Set Fitness is good conditioning for gymnasts. www.SwingWorkouts.com.
Legs Plus Workouts are great conditioning for gymnasts. www.LegsPlus.com
Gymnastics Drills Book www.GymnasticsDrills.com

Handstand Book  www.HandstandBook.com

Conditioning List, perform each exercise for 45-60 seconds non-stop or 25 repetitions non-stop. This is very little work compared to a four-hour workout.
  1. 1/2 Hollow Up
  2. Hollow Rocks
  3. Arch Ups
  4. Arch Rock
  5. Hip-Thrusts/Baby Candlestick
  6. Reverse Leg-Lifts, Single Leg-Lower-Lift
  7. Alternating Superman
  8. Arch-Legs Only
  9. Pike-Sit Leg-Lifts (Both legs straight and together)
  10. Pike-Sit-Flutters
  11. Straddle-Sit-Leg-Lifts (Both legs at the same time.)
  12. Straddle-Sit Leg Circles (Both legs at the same time.)
  13. V-Ups
  14. Alternating V-Ups
  15. Side Lifts
  16. Side Rocks
  17. Hollow-Arch (Both Sides)
  18. Hollow-Tilt Side to Side
  19. Arch Tilt Side to Side
  20. Plank
  21. Plank-Leg Extension (Lower-Lift Knees)
  22. Plank-Low Back Kicks
  23. Plank-Shrugs (Flat back-round back)
  24. Plank-Forward-Back (Planche-Back)
  25. Side Plank
  26. Side Plank-Lower-Lift Hips
  27. Side Plank-Small Side Kicks
  28. Plank-Side-Plank
  29. Walking or In-Place Lunges (Keep knees in line with middle toes!)

Gymnastics Drills Book www.GymnasticsDrills.com

Handstand Book  www.HandstandBook.com

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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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What Can Gymnasts Do at Home?

What can a gymnast really do at home?

tn_web-me-bulgsqtWell, every coach will say conditioning and stretching. I agree. Maintaining strength and flexibility is very important. The skills will be there if the gymnast continues to perform general strength and sport-specific conditioning through this difficult time. Nearly all gymnasts remember most of the conditioning they do in the gym, but they all have favorite exercises. It is important to perform a variety of exercises. If they have space, they should perform their entire pre-workout warm-up to help stay in shape. A good warm-up with stretching and shaping is at least 45 minutes.

Many gymnasts will need a higher than the desired volume of hip flexor conditioning. I bet many will grow during this time. The hip flexors play an important role in the gymnast’s training. They not only allow the gymnast to lift her leg very high, but they help with posture. And when the hip flexors are weak or tight, the gymnast may feel low back pain. That is because they basically connect the spine and femur. When the hip flexors are tight they actually pull on the spine into a lordosis position. And when they are weak they become stressed when the gymnast lifts her legs such as in a glide kip, kick, or leap. As a coach, I can tell when a gymnast has tight hip flexors by her posture; there is a slight bend at the hip while standing. A well-conditioned, well-stretched gymnast usually stands with no angle and the front of the hip.

20151129_153808To keep the hip flexors conditioned I recommend the pike-sitting leg lifts. The gymnast will sit in a pike position, place her hands next to her knees on the floor and then lift both legs. And for the stretch, I recommend the quad-psoas stretch. Kneeling lunge with one foot out front and hips pressed forward. The gymnast should also do this with the back leg bent and that foot facing the ceiling.

But there are other things that will be helpful. For example, balance drills and visualization. For balance, the gymnast can do simple exercises such as RDL and slow-motion needle kicks with and without light dumbbells. They can also perform arm routines with their eyes closed. The gymnast would stand in place and perform her beam routine with just her arm and head movements. That is for both visualization and balance. When that becomes simple, the gymnast can perform it in a passé leg position, one foot touching the inner side of the knee. The gymnast should do this drill with each leg because most gymnasts have a sharper sense of balance on one side. When this becomes simple, the gymnast can add very light ankle/writs weights to the wrists or hold 1lb dumbbells in each hand. And to bring it up one step as far as challenge, the gymnast can do this standing on a softer surface such as a Bosu or balance disc.

And finally, for a change maybe they can do the Legs Plus or Swing Set Fitness workouts. Many of the exercises in my swing workouts were actually gymnastics conditioning exercises my gymnasts have done using a barrel mat. The Legs Plus workouts are really good general fitness as well as dismount-landing and bars conditioning. My gymnastics drills and conditioning book is useful to all gymnasts as well.

So gymnasts should try really hard to stay in shape and keep their sanity. Athletes can use this time to get stronger and heal any aches and pains they may have had.

And let me know how I can help your gymnast.

The books and exercises mentioned can be found at http://www.KarenGoeller.com, http://www.GymnasticsDrills.com, http://www.LegsPlus.com, http://www.SwingWorkouts.com.

Karen Goeller, CSCS

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