Tag Archives: gymnastics strength

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

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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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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Gymnastics Conditioning at Home

Many competitive gymnasts are looking to stay in shape during gymnastics club closures due to this COVID-19 virus. That’s great! Just be sure the home program has effective and appropriate exercises.

Many of the drills and conditioning exercises in these books can be done at home. They are easy to read and simple illustrations help. The Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning book has exercises for press handstand, dance drills and conditioning, uneven bars drills and conditioning, vaulting drills, and running drills. www.GymnasticsDrills.com

The Handstand Drills and Conditioning Book has core strength as well as upper body strength and handstand shape.  www.HandstandDrills.com

And if the gymnast has a swing set in their backyard Swing Set Fitness would be very effective for core and conditioning specific to uneven bars. There are three books with swing exercises. The Swing Workouts book has over ten effective workouts. www.SwingWorkouts.com

And finally to keep good general strength gymnasts can use the Legs Plus Workouts. The Legs Plus workouts do involve using light weights and a medicine ball.  www.LegsPlus.com

With any home program, the gymnast must be mature enough to focus and follow written instructions. It is preferred the parent read along with the gymnast and be sure the gymnast remains focused during each exercise.

And please remember, with any movement injury is possible. You and your child are responsible for your own personal safety.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.

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