Off Season Training Tips for Young Gymnasts (Levels 5 and under)
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.
Download Gymnastic Assessment Checklist
Contact us today!
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!
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 gymbc.org 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
– a cardiovascular system for stamina through routines, and general lower extremity strength with core stabilization
– 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)
– total body with quick twitch muscle focus throughout the legs
– 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
– iliopsoas, rectus femoris, vasti, and lower abdominals
– 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
– Infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid, middle trap, and rhomboids
– 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
– Paraspinals/erector spinae, scapular stabilizers, and glute max
– 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
– Rectus abdominals, obliques, transverse abdominals, hamstrings, scapular stabilizers
– 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)
– iliopsoas, rectus femoris, and hamstrings
– 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)
– rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers
– 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!