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Gymnastics Training: Gymnastics Advice Column
We will post a new question and answer periodically in
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My daughter is 12 and training for level 9/10. She has very good strength but lacks some flexibility. She has been having horrible pain in her Achilles tendons. We have seen numerous doctors and they say tendonitis/tendonosis/sever's disease may be the cause of the pain. When she backs off the tumbling her feet/calves get better quick but as soon as she returns to tumbling the pain comes back. Do you know of any stretches or conditioning that would help her besides the normal Achilles stretch with both straight and bent knees. Thanks for your help, she does not want to take time off but at this point it is my only suggestion
You should take your daughter to a physical therapist or sports injury professional for individual advice. Rest and ice are common ways to deal with both problems. If your daughter is tumbling (with doctor's permission), she should be using VERY soft and forgiving surfaces for at least four weeks to allow healing time and deal with this injury correctly. Tendonitis is an overuse injury. Your daughter is likely performing too many repetitions of something that is causing this pain or she is working on surfaces that are too hard. To resolve this, she should NOT be running or tumbling on any hard surface (including the floor ex area) for AT LEAST a month. All of her landings (if she has doctor's permission) should be soft. She should also be icing her heels AS SOON as she starts to feel pain and at the end of every practice. The ActiveWrap works well. Your daughter should be stretching her heels and calves as soon as she is done performing each event. Just make sure she does not stretch within 15 minutes after icing because it is not safe to stretch a cold muscle. Remember, the more your daughter performs on this injury, the longer the healing time and more risk of permanent damage. You can buy foam heel cups so that your daughter can either put them inside gymnastics shoes or tape them to her heels during practice to absorb some of the shock. Even walking barefoot may irritate this condition. Heel cups are NOT a cure, they just offer a little relief. PATIENCE is the key with overuse injuries. Please try to find out which one (sever's or tendonitis) it is because the treatment may be different. Either way, your daughter should be resting and icing, but beyond that she should be doing exactly what the doctor and/or therapist has prescribed. She should not stay out of the gym. She should not doing anything that irritates the problem for at least 4 weeks. Please bring your daughter to a sports injury professional for a thorough assessment.
You may want to ask your daughter's coach to make sure there are no extra jumps or tumbling skills (other than the requirements) in her routines for now. Even one extra jump can cause severe problems for some gymnasts. One jump sounds like such a small number, but if a gymnast performs ten routines a day, 5 days a week, that is an additional 50 jumps per week or 200 jumps per month which may be too many for your daughter's lower body. And if there are too many jumps on two events (beam and floor) then the number of unnecessary jumps is doubled. Sometimes only a minor adjustment, such as removing an unnecessary jump, can make a world of difference.
An important point about overuse injuries... If three or more gymnasts on a team of ten or fewer gymnasts have pain in the same general area (lower limbs or upper limbs) then a change should be made in the training program or with the equipment being used. Sometimes only a minor change is necessary. If only one gymnast on the team has pain then it is likely an individual weakness, injury. If she is performing the deep frog jumps she should stop doing them immediately. That jump puts enormous stress on the ligaments and tendons. Some of the less experienced coaches imitate things they see on a video clip of elite gymnasts and they assume it is a safe exercise for every gymnast. That exercise is not and it is counter-productive for gymnastics. Gymnasts need eccentric strength to stick landings and the tumbling and vaulting is a very different type of jump. Tumbling and vaulting require rebounds which involve a very small knee bend, a quick action of the ankles, and a very tight body to produce the rebounding action. There are no skills in women's gymnastics that require a gymnast to take off or land in that deep frog position.
Here is a pretty good website for injury information... www.sportsinjuryclinic.net. If you visit that website please return to our for gymnastics books, apparel, gifts, and supplies.
I offer training for gymnasts, in person and through the web. Please feel free to contact me directly if I can help your daughter. The information on my training services is at the training link on this website (Personal Training).
My 7 year old can't hold a handstand. This has prevented her progress toward team. Her coach had her work on kicking up to a handstand and them holding it against the wall. The problem with this was she sways her back terribly when doing these against the wall. So her coach had her do handstand with her belly on the wall. She can't hold and handstand like this. She can't hold the handstand with her belly in and so she pushes her shoulder blades out to try to balance. What can she do to work on tight handstand positions with a straight back if she can't yet do it with belly toward the wall. Please help.
Great question... It sounds like your daughter needs body tightness drills. The coach should be helping her with this. It is the coach's responsibility to provide appropriate drills, conditioning, and instruction with technique for every skill that is introduced, especially the handstand. You would find my handstand article to be very useful. It offers two drills, one is for body position that would help your daughter. I included that one below. The handstand involves so many muscle groups working simultaneously. It is often difficult for the new gymnast to fully master the handstand prior to being expected to perform even more difficult skills.
Here is one drill that should help your daughter learn to pull in her lower abdominal section while elongating her lower back for a more straight and tight handstand position.
Belly Button Lift
Have your gymnast lie on their stomach, face down. Have them place their arms up by their ears, keeping their arms straight and hands (palms) on the floor. Instruct your gymnast to keep everything on the floor, including their hands (palms), arms, chin, armpits, chest, hips, thighs, and (pointed) feet. Once your gymnast is completely flat, instruct them to lift their belly button off the floor, leaving everything else on the floor. Remind your gymnast again to keep their hands (palms), armpits, chest, hips, thighs, and feet down while they lift their belly button up. Once your gymnast lifts their belly button you should see their lower back elongate into the correct position for a handstand. Their buttocks should be under once their belly button is lifted off the floor. Your gymnast has just begun to learn the "pelvic tilt!" Have your gymnast relax and then repeat this drill with enough frequency so that they completely understand how to pull in their belly button and elongate their lower back. Make sure your gymnast keeps everything on the floor with the exception of the belly button area once lifted.
There is another drill on the page with the handstand article.You may also find the Handstand Book to be very useful, www.HandstandBook.com If you are in or near NJ, I can help your daughter in person. I offer training for gymnasts that includes handstand work. Feel free to contact me directly if you would like some additional help for your daughter. My contact information is on the top of every page of this website I hope this helps...
My daughter is hoping to complete the necessary skills to compete Level 7 this upcoming season. My question is regarding her strength to weight ratio. She is by no means heavy but is not a petite gymnast. We have always felt she was quite strong as a child because she could do things such as the monkey bars independently at age 3. Just yesterday she completed 55 push-ups which I thought was pretty good. The problem is that she struggles more then some on bars with cast handstands and free hips where she is not getting much higher then 30 degrees beyond horizontal. What is your take on this issue and is there anything we can to do help. Should her coaches be doing anything extra or differently for her? I have also just read a Technique Magazine article regarding the fact that we in the USA train too bulky of gymnasts.
Great question! Many coaches assign inappropriate conditioning exercises and their gymnasts are bulking up, slowing down, and taking forever to learn skills as a result of this counter-productive conditioning. Coaches should be assigning sport specific conditioning so that the muscles are trained to perform the skills. Just like the mind must be trained, the muscles must be trained to perform skills, contract in the correct sequence and with the correct intensity. Many of the exercises that coaches are assigning are really counter-productive. You may want to read my article on sport specific conditioning. It explains that straight arm conditioning must be used because there are no skills in girl's gymnastics that require the gymnast to perform the exact push up or pull up motion. The article includes a specific conditioning exercise for the cast handstand to show the difference between general strength exercises (push ups) and sport specific exercises (planche drills).There is an illustration of one of the exercisers below and the explanation is on the conditioning article page. Your daughter's coach should be offering exercises that simulate the cast handstand such as planche drills. Pushups are just slightly useful for the cast handstand because the gymnast does need some chest strength in order to pass through the middle phase of the skill, but the push up is not really a sport specific exercise and will not be an indicator of a gymnast's success with skills. You may also want to read my article on the cast handstand. There is a sport specific conditioning exercise in this article. I have many training programs specifically for the cast handstand, glide kip, and other skills in gymnastics. I offer sports conditioning for gymnasts in NJ and can help your daughter with sport specific strength in person.
My daughter is 6 years old and training level 4. She is amazing on bars, scored a team record of 9.70 during the last season, and was a state bars champion this past year. She has all of her L4 skills, including the cast squat on jump to high bar. Her coach introduces grips at this level and ordered them for the whole team. My daughter was excited at first but then within a couple of days, she peeled off the high bar and got really scared. The grips she was wearing were pretty big on her (that brand doesn't come any smaller than a size 0) so we ordered different grips that are designed for smaller hands. These fit her much better but she still hates them and is scared to swing with them. She likes working without grips, never rips and never complains that her hands hurt or anything. Her whole team is using them (except for her) and I'm worried that she'll end up needing them as she progresses and then she won't be used to them. She has said she'd rather quit than have to use grips and I'd really hate to see that happen as she seems to have a lot of natural talent. What should we do? Is it better to insist on them now, at the risk of completely blowing her confidence on bars, or should we let her go without and risk her having to learn to use them on harder skills at a higher level? Or is it possible, in the USA, to never have to use them? Please help.
Your daughter DOES NOT NEED GRIPS at level 4 or at age
six. Grips became popular as a fun accessory, but this is a potentially deadly
If a child peels off the bar she can get seriously injured with broken bones,
sprains, or even a broken neck resulting in death. Many parents do not read the
warning and instruction page that should be enclosed with each pair of grips or
they may not be aware of these hazards until after they have already made the
purchase. Unfortunately, many coaches do not take grip strength seriously enough
and gymnasts ARE getting injured.
Too many children peel off the bars because they have neither developed
appropriate grip strength nor have they learned how to hold the bar. Many
coaches do not teach the gymnasts that their life is literally in their hands.
If gymnasts peeling off the bars, three or more from one gym within one year,
then it is possible the coaches are not teaching the gymnasts to hold onto the
bar and the gymnasts are getting grips too early. You may be thinking only
three, but the injuries can be severe.
My daughter is 11 and competed level 9 last season. She is a very talented gymnast - very strong and powerful. Our gym just began an "elite" program and she is part of that, but her coach has some concerns. Mainly, my daughter cannot press to a handstand. Not on the floor, not on the beam, not on the little parallel bars. I'm thinking it might be due to her body type - she and her muscles are long and lean instead of short and compact, and there just seems to be too much leg to raise. I know it's not her strength - she can shimmy up the rope with no legs in just seconds. Maybe this is something she will never get. But my 2-part question is this: Is there some radically alternative way to try to teach her how, and if she never learns would this alone prevent her from competing at the Elite level? Thank you.
I cannot tell you what your daughter’s coach will require for their elite program. I can tell you that climbing a rope uses different muscles than a press handstand. I personally would not allow a gymnast to compete level 6 or above without that basic strength and flexibility for safety reasons. A press handstand says a lot about a gymnast. The skill requires hip flexor, triceps, shoulder, abdominal, and chest strength. It also requires hamstring and low back flexibility. It is often the coach’s fault if their gymnast is lacking in basic strength and flexibility because it is the coach who has written and implemented the training program. That is of course, unless all of the gymnasts except for one gymnast can perform the required skills. It is those times when it is often the gymnasts fault for not giving their best effort each and every time they perform a skill, a combination, a routine, a drill, warm-up and conditioning exercises. I would suggest your daughter really give the idea some thought of whether she is giving her best effort all of the time. If she is, then please discuss this with the coach and ask the coach why your daughter does not have this basic skill at level nine. You may want to purchase my drills and conditioning book or the press handstand poster so that your daughter can perform many conditioning exercises specifically for this skill. If she wants the drills to be effective she would need to perform 2-4 sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise at least 3 times each week.
My 10-year-old (Level 7) daughter is testing
for TOPS. What she really needs to work on is her left leg splits. Can you
recommend any exercises to help her with her flexibility in this area.
The gymnast must kneel in front of a wall. She then places one foot in front as if she is about to perform a split. the foot must be further out than her knee because once she bends her knee the knee will be directly above her foot. She must shift the back leg so that her knee is on the floor against the wall and her shin is on the wall. Once in the starting position she must press her hips down and forward by bending her front leg. She will feel the stretch on the quads and hip flexor muscles of the leg that is against the wall. The illustration shown is the stretch performed without the wall.
She must also stretch the hamstrings and muscles of the buttocks.
One stretch that is great for the hamstrings is the supine hamstring stretch.
The gymnast lies on her back and places a towel over her foot. With the towel
around her foot the gymnast straightens that leg and uses the towel to increase
the stretch. The bottom leg remains on the floor.
At what point do you know it's time to switch
your child to a more serious competitive gym? Do you lose anything switching
from the small gym to the "next step"? What signs do you have that your child
is talented enough to make the necessary sacrifices vs. just making sure she's
having fun while competing?
My daughter has tried for so long to get
giants and she just cant seem to get them. Her coaches tell her all the time
that she has really good tap swings and there should be no reason as to why she
cant get over. If you have any advice can you please help!!!!
Many of my level 5 and 6 gymnasts are complaining of
back pain during back walkovers. As
you know they must be able to repeat them many times during a practice. What do
you advise to minimize the pain?
For the back
walkover the gymnast must stand as tall as possible with her body weight
on one foot to start, squeeze her buttocks, pull her abdominal area in, keep the
supporting leg straight until it is impossible, place the hands on the floor or
beam with an open shoulder angle, push through the shoulders, then pull in the
armpits to bring the first foot to the step down position. Many children droop
in the low back pressing their hips forward. That puts an enormous amount of
pressure on the low back in the beginning of the skill.
My daughter struggles with wobbling on this turn
move. What can she do to improve that specific element?
My nine year old daughter is a level 4. She is
having difficulty doing her dismount from the higher beam, she can do on the
lower beam. Is this just fear? If so is there anything I as a parent can do to
help her? Also she is having problems with the front hip circle. She can do
the stride circle, but continually comes off the bar when she does the front hip
circle. Any suggestions? Her coaches have tried so many different things with
her to get his skill. Why I am concerned is she is progressively getting more
upset and has even started to cry. I asked if she wants to continue and she
says yes. What can I do to help?
This is very common, fears and problems
with certain skills. Just keep encouraging your daughter to relax and listen to
the coach. Tell her that every gymnast gets skills at different times and
sometimes it can take 6 months to a year of consistent effort to master a skill.
She'll get the skills she needs as long as she makes great efforts every time
she attempts them. Every gymnast progresses at a different rate and each has
difficulty with different skills.
One: Eating Disorders / Two: Sever's & Tendonitis / Three: Handstand / Four: Sport Specific Conditioning / Five: Grips / Six: Mental Block-Fears / Seven: Elite-Press Handstand / Eight: Splits / Nine: Switching Gyms / Ten: Giants / Eleven: Walkover Back Pain / Twelve: Turns and Tightness / Thirteen: Level 4 Beam Dismount / Fourteen: Practice Bar / Fifteen: Shin Splints / Sixteen: Gym Hours / Seventeen: Bruise from Cast HS on Bars / Eighteen: Stretching / Nineteen: Cartwheel-Beam / Twenty: Ankle Weights / Twenty One: Height-Tall / Twenty Two: Clear Hip Circle / Twenty Three: Multiple Injuries / Twenty Four: Wrist Supports / Twenty Five: Bridge / Twenty Six: Back Handspring / Twenty Seven: Full Twist / Twenty Eight: Conditioning / Twenty Nine: Routine Fatigue /
Thirty: Knee Pain Thirty One: Bored with Routines
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