Rest and Recovery Integration into Off-Season Training for Gymnasts

Rest and Recovery Integration into Off-Season Training for Gymnasts (Level 7-9)

Recovery is crucial after an intense and exhausting competition season. Look no further for a few tips that will help you approach your summer off-season training in a safe and effective way. Even though complete rest is difficult for an elite-level gymnast, rest and recovery for at least one month in the off season will allow you to compete with less soreness, and a new fire and strength to attain new skills. Rest can include active rest of completing injury prevention programs and identifying muscle imbalances within the body to improve prior to the competition season. 

Following the rest period, a slow progression into summer is essential. Starting with basics, pits, drills, strength, and anatomical adaptation will allow you to ensure the proper technique is learned. This should include low intensity with high repetitions of skills to increase the body’s endurance and neural adaptation to new movement patterns.

Finally, reflection of the season as an athlete and with your coaches is crucial to improving performance. Valuable feedback will not only help with motor learning and goal setting but also begin to guide your mindfulness techniques for visualization when preparing for the next level.

Sharing here an ebook from regarding Strength and Conditioning for Gymnasts.

Look no further for a gymnast-specific conditioning routine to help you exceed your potential and reduce injury occurrence. Conditioning Routines are different then individualized Rehabilitation Programs, as they are focused on performance once the athlete has quality movement mechanics. If you believe you have pain or an injury, contact your PREP physical therapist in order to identify muscle imbalances or asymmetries prior to initiation of the exercises below. A physical therapist can evaluate you and initiate injury prevention and rehab program for you to complete as a part of your active rest and recovery. Integrating the previously mentioned recommendations with the following exercises before your routines, as well as focusing on proper nutrition, meditation, and hydration, your next season will be off to the right start!

Cardio: 3-4 days a week for a total of 30-45 min/day. Start your workout with cardio to get your muscles warmed up. 

EXERCISE 1: Block/Mat jumps along diagonal of floor 

Targeted muscles/importance:

– a cardiovascular system for stamina through routines, and general lower extremity strength with core stabilization

How to: 

– Set up mats/blocks about 5 feet apart 

– Jump on top of or over each, rebounding in between

– Can use a variety of patterns and/or progress to single leg


– Make sure your core stays tight and you do not let your upper body loosely flop forward and backward

– Rebound lightly through your toes, not pounding down on your heels

– Allow your knees to bend slightly and absorb the impact of the jump

EXERCISE 2: Killer Sprints (Rest and Recovery)

Targeted muscles:

– total body with quick twitch muscle focus throughout the legs

How to: 

– Set up 3 cones on the long edge of the floor or runway 

– Follow the sequence below to complete 1 set

– Begin at the start 

– Start, first, start/end. 

– Start, first, start, second, start/end

– Start, first, start, second, start, third, start/end

– Try and perform each set as quickly as possible 

Strength: should be done at least 2 days/week, with progression to 3 as appropriate. 

EXERCISE 3: Seated straight leg raise over small cones 

Targeted muscles:

– iliopsoas, rectus femoris, vasti, and lower abdominals 

How to: 

– sit in a straddle position with cones in a half moon shape in front of you at mid-shin length 

– 4 cones on each side

– Lift one leg over the cone furthest away from the midline, keeping your trunk upright

– Perform all 4 lifts on one side from outside to inside, then inside to outside before switching to the other leg 


– Be sure to not use your hands or momentum to lift your leg, use the strength of your hip flexors 

– Keep your lower abs activated 

– Lower your leg back down slowly, rather than just flopping it to the ground

EXERCISE 4: Bilateral Shoulder External Rotation

Targeted muscles:

– Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid, middle trap, and rhomboids

How to: 

– Stand with your back against the wall with light weights in both hands (can also use a resistance band)

– Start with hands together and elbows band to 90 degrees by your side

– Open up your hands away from the midline of your body keeping your elbows tucked tight to your side

– Slowly return to the middle


– Keep your shoulders relaxed and head in a neutral position, not shrugging them and activating your traps 

– Keep a slight squeeze between your shoulder blades the entire time and do not let your shoulders roll forward off the wall

– Keep your heels, bottom, back, and shoulders against the wall

Endurance: Important to work on our endurance muscles that are “on” all the time for stability during most skills to make sure they do not fatigue out by the end of your routine.

EXERCISE 5: Back extension holds 

Targeted muscles:

– Paraspinals/erector spinae, scapular stabilizers, and glute max

How to: 

– Hang your upper body off the end of a mat or vault table, hinging at the hips and having a partner sit on or hold your legs down

– Place your hands behind your head and lift up so your chest is above the mat 

– Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down


– Keep your gaze looking a few feet in front of you, being sure not to bring your neck into extension with your back 

EXERCISE 6: Plank hold 

Targeted muscles:

– Rectus abdominals, obliques, transverse abdominals, hamstrings, scapular stabilizers

How to: 

– Start on your stomach with elbows directly below your shoulders bent at 90 degrees

– Push off with your toes and elbows so your stomach and knees come off the ground.


– Keep back flat and straight through your shoulders, hips, knees, and toes. 

– Keep a slight squeeze in your glutes and between your shoulder blades for improved stabilization

– Do not allow your head to hang between your arms

Flexibility: 25-30 minutes before practice. Flexibility is extremely important as a competitive gymnast, but it is important to implement safely into your training routine, and then focus on strengthening those muscle in their new range of motion for stabilization. 

EXERCISE 7: Bridge Splits (Rest and Recovery)

Targeted muscles:

– iliopsoas, rectus femoris, and hamstrings 

How to: 

– Set up two blocks ~ 1 foot high parallel to each other 

– far enough away that your lower legs are on each side

– Hold your splits in a double elevated position for 2×30 seconds each side


– Be sure to keep your back knee turned under facing the mat and hips/trunk square

– Make sure to maintain an upright trunk and good posture throughout the exercise

– Do not have anyone push down on you to gain more range in this position

EXERCISE 8: Circle wall screens (Rest and Recovery)

Targeted muscles:

– rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers

How to: 

– Kneel in a 4-point position with your right shoulder near a wall

– Keep head and trunk neutral, and circle your R arm forward all the way around slowly staying parallel to the wall 


– Rotating the trunk or head to circle your arm around 

-Circling your arm side to side rather than in one place all the way around

– Keep your arm close to the wall and in line with your body 


Contact us today!

Are you ready to perform at your optimal level with rest and recovery integration? 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!

Book an Appointment Today