Exercises in gymnasts for shoulder and elbow strength

5 exercises to increase shoulder and elbow strength and stability in gymnasts 

Gymnasts spend a lot of time on their hands. Tumbling, swinging on the bars, vaulting, you name it; at some point a gymnast will be upside down supporting themselves on their hands. The repetitive high impact gymnasts place on their upper extremities can lead to overuse injuries of the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Strengthening the muscles that support these structures in dynamic and functional ways, with proper form, can reduce the incidence of these injuries. Below are 5 exercises for gymnasts, with their progressions, that can help to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder and forearm muscles. These exercises can be incorporated into warm ups, different events, or conditioning programs. 

Also sharing here an article related to Gymnastics about the move and routine.

Exercises for Gymnasts #1: Bosu Ball Walk Outs 3X 10 repetitions, progress as necessary

How To:

Using an exercise ball

– The gymnast will roll out using their hands into a plank position, making sure the core is engaged and you are actively pushing their hands into the floor. Their back should be flat. Once in the plank position, they should be able to walk back to the starting position.

– Progress to arm and leg lifts

– Once they are able to roll out into a plank with proper form, they can progress to lifting one leg at a time from the exercise ball, maintaining plank position and form.

– Progress to lifting one arm at a time, maintaining form. 

– One full repetition will include roll out into plank, lift legs alternatively, lift arms alternatively, roll back to starting position 

Using floor bar

– This is a great and functional progression for the uneven bars. With hands on a floor bar, feet on exercise ball, alternatively lift legs, then arms, returning to plank position on bar. 

Exercises for Gymnasts #2: Wall handstands

How To: 

-With stomach facing the wall, gymnast can kick up or walk their feet up the wall into a handstand position. You will know the shoulders are engaged if the gymnast can perform a shoulder shrug. 

– Proper form is held at the top of the shoulder shrug, pushing down and away from the floor. Core is engaged, in proper form there will be a straight line from the toes to hands on the floor, you should not be able to see their ears. 

– Modify by starting with hands farther away from the wall, making sure they are still able to maintain a straight line from toes to hands. 

– Once they are able to maintain form with hands next to the wall, they can progress

Progression to lateral weight shifts: 

– Start this progression in a handstand, stomach facing the wall, and have them shift their weight from side to side, while maintaining straight form for exercises in gymnasts.

Progression to shoulder taps: 

– If they are able to perform weight shifts properly, progress to shoulder taps. 

– Shifting their weight completely onto one had to tap their opposite shoulder before returning to the handstand.  

– Watch to make sure they don’t relax their core or shoulders as they shift their weight. If their back starts to arch or their head starts to poke out and shoulders shrug, they need to correct before progressing. They can alternate for 10 repetitions. 

Progression to lateral walking: 

– The next step is lateral walking along the wall. Start with short distances, they have to walk down and back! Progress from 1M up to 5M as their strength and endurance increases. 

Advanced option:

– Handstand walking across the floor, forward and backward with good form 

Exercises for Gymnasts #3: Plank slides with weighted bag: 3 X 10 repetitions 

How To:

– Staring in plank position on the floor, using their grip bag as the weight, have them drag the bag to their opposite hand while maintaining plank position. 

– Make sure they don’t twist their body as they reach and pull the bag. This is great for tricep strength. 


– Have them progress by increasing the weight of the bag, balancing their legs on an exercise ball, or both. 

Exercises for Gymnasts #4: Concentric/eccentric biceps and triceps with theraband

How To:

– Seated in pike position, start with by holding the theraband in both hands. Sitting in a pike is a great way to work on posture and core strength with these exercises in gymnasts. 

– For triceps, start by holding the theraband up at chest level. Straighten out the right arm, pulling down towards their legs, and slowly releasing and bending elbow back to starting position. The slow and controlled motion of releasing the band is great at strengthening muscles! Repeat on the left side…

– For the biceps, start by holding the thread and in both hands down by their legs. Bend the right elbow up to the chest and slowly release down to starting position. Repeat on the left side…

Exercises #5: Kneeling row with overhead press with theraband: 3X 10 

Target Muscles: 

– Not only does this exercise work on UE strength, we are working on UE and trunk flexibility and core stability.

How To: 

– Loop a theraband around the supports of the beam or bars until you have one end of the theraband in each hand. 

– Kneeling on both knees, start by bringing arms up to chest level. 

– Complete a row, bending the elbows back and squeezing the shoulder blades together. Arms should be parallel to the floor. 

– Then rotate hands up, fingers pointing to the ceiling, and complete an overhead press, extending the elbows. 

– Reverse each move slowly until back to starting position. 


– You can progress this exercise to be completed in standing. 

Contact us today!

Are you ready to perform at your optimal level, now that we have ideas on exercises for gymnasts to help increase shoulder and elbow strength and stability? Contact Doctor of Physical Therapy, Mary Kate Casey at our Chicago, IL clinic today! Through our movement analysis, we can assess jumping and landing mechanics and help you improve performance and reduce your risk of injury. Give PREP Performance Center a call at 773-609-1847 for more information on our movement analysis program!

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