Unlike most other sports there is no real off-season in gymnastics. But it’s important to let your mind and your body take a break from the sport each year to prevent overtraining or burnout, especially as a young gymnast. So what should you do in your off time to make sure you are fresh and ready to go once you’re back in season? … PLAY! While it is important to maintain your fitness in order to be able to pick back up without missing a beat, fitness can be maintained in large part through play.
Moderate to Vigorous Aerobic Activity during Off Season
This is a fancy term for activity that makes your heart race and makes you breathe hard. There are a lot of different ways to accomplish this: Running around playing tag or capture the flag with your friends, jumping on a trampoline or jumping rope, swimming, dancing, doing as many back walkovers as you can in a row… you name it! The important part, according to scientists at the CDC is that you spend at least 60 minutes being active!
Strengthening on Off Season
Rather than doing any particular exercises during off season it is best to use your muscles while playing. See if you can outlast your friends in a pull up competition on the monkey bars or see who can jump the farthest on the ground.
You know the drill – hamstrings, quads, wrists, shoulders, splits – you do a LOT of stretching at practice. Anytime you spend flexing should help you to at least maintain all the flexibility you gained last season. But scientists have found that if you spend 10 minutes a day in each stretch you actually increase the flexibility of your tissues. So maybe challenge yourself to make this break the break when you get your center splits!
1. Back of the Wrists
– Description: Sit on the ground with the back of your hands flat against the ground in front of you. Make sure the back of your hands stay flat on the ground as you lean back until you feel a stretch on the outside of your arm below the elbow.
– Compensations: Make sure you are not allowing the back of your hands to lift off from the floor at all. Also make sure your fingertips are pointing straight towards your body and not inward or outward.
– Purpose: In gymnastics, unlike in life, you weight bear through your hands often whether in a back walkover or back hip circle. Weight bearing through your hands requires a lot of mobility in the wrists. When taking some time off from the sport it is important to keep your wrists limber in order to avoid injury upon return.
2. Bridges (Back and Shoulders)
– Description: Perform a bridge push out through your feet such that your feel a stretch under your armpits.
– Compensations: Make sure your fingertips are pointed straight back towards your feet and not rotating inward or outwards.
– Purpose: To maintain flexibility of your back and shoulders
– Description: Sit in your left, right, and middle splits for at least 30 seconds at a time.
Compensations: Keep your pelvis neutral – check to make sure those bones on the front of your hips are pointed straight in front of you and not downwards toward the ground. Make sure your knee cap on your back leg is flat on the floor and the kneecap on your front leg is pointing straight up toward the ceiling and that neither are rotated out to the side. One leg is always “better than the other” but it is important to stretch equally to prevent structural imbalances that can predispose injury.
– Purpose: To maintain flexibility of your legs.
Okay I know earlier I said that you could maintain your fitness through play and that’s definitely true for your aerobic fitness and strength, but stretching does need to be a bit more structured. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Maybe see if you can convince your parents to let you watch an episode of TV if you are stretching the whole time or have a slumber party with your friends from gymnastics and stretch together!
Don’t miss a beat during the off-season! Download our free gymnastics checklist for young gymnasts and stay on track.
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Are you ready to perform at your optimal level? 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!