What’s up in Thailand

Hi All,

I’ve been posting a bit about my trip to Thailand on social media so I thought it was time to do a blog post about it. Currently I’m working with the Thai Gymnastics Federation coaching for them full time until I leave on April 7th. They’ve been incredibly welcoming, and I’m having a great time!

 

So, the question: what have I mostly been doing? Besides the everyday coaching of the gymnasts I’ve been doing a lot of planning in terms of workouts and future skill development.

The good that I’ve seen:
– Leg development is great (although glute strength could be improved)
– Flexibility and turns (on both beam and floor) are really good
– Single acro skills on beam are there and very polished
– The kids are incredibly respectful and hard working

What I’ve seen they need to work on:
– BARS, BARS, BARS – which admittedly is very difficult with the gym set-up but not impossible
– Beam series and connections
– Arm and core strength
– Shaping

Things to work around:
– THE WEATHER – It’s incredibly hot here, high 90s (and really there isn’t a cool – like we would think of in the states, time of year) – and there is no AC
– Lack of equipment – the equipment is in okay condition, there just isn’t a lot of it.

So with that being said – what have I been doing with the girls?

1. Conditioning 2x a day – beginning and end of practice. Beginning is basics – handstand holds, presses, shaping work, leg lifts etc. End is either arms and core or legs and core. When I’m doing legs I try to work all of the muscles. The girls seem to have great quads – but hamstrings, glutes and calves could use the same development. I’ve specifically been focusing on things that will help bars development as that’s the event they are having the most issues – so core gets a lot of time.

Sample Morning Conditioning: 

  • 3 rope climbs no legs as high as possible
  • 4×10 L to L leg lifts
  • 3×5 spotted presses
  • 3×60 second handstand holds spotted for shaping
  • 1 pass handstand walks fw, 1 pass bw
  • 1 pass press walks
  • 3×10 pike hs push-ups
  • 3×20 overhead weight lifts focusing on round back
  • 3×30 handstand hold on stomach on floor – round back, extended shoulders, flat hips

Sample Night Conditioning: 

  • 3×60 second hollow hold with bent knees – hands behind head
  • 3×60 uppers (straight arms – feet in pike)
  • 3×60 ankle touches (side to side)
  • 4×60 mat jumps on resi
  • 4×20 lean backs (on knees facing wall, and lean back)
  • 3×50 toe raisers each leg with foot behind
  • 4×20 jumping lunges
  • 4×20 explosions
  • 3×20 bent knee pushes each leg (lay on stomach bent one knee and flex foot, push up toward ceiling)
  • 3×60 flexed foot pulses (lay out stomach feet about a foot apart, flexed, and off the floor – pulse 60x)

 

2. Working routine consistency – This is one of the biggest places I’ve seen them struggle. Great skills – but four falls in a routine. So we’ve gone back to if you fall on something in a routine you have to stick 5 in a row of it before moving on with the routine. The girls actually seem to really like this approach – and the amount of fight to stay on the beam has gone up exponentially (YAY!).

 

 

3. Taking more turns on bars – with only one set it’s hard. But bars and beam are next to each other so the group can easily split with two coaches.

4. Setting a plan and sticking to it – While my Thai is non-existent and the girls english isn’t fantastic, we do both understand numbers. So giving specific assignments with specific numbers that have to be done in a specific amount of time has helped accomplish a lot more than the “let’s just work for a while” approach. I also always keep my notebook out and check things off as they get done. Again, they may not be able to read my english (although they can a little) – but check marks are universal!

 

Overall impressions: While it’s still early days of implementing this new structure, conditioning and training plan – I’m already seeing some small improvements – just in terms of technique and grit, and wanting to get assignments done. Strength will come with time. I’m excited to see how much the girls grow before I leave. Of course with it being early days assignments, conditioning and the like are bound to change as I find holes, or things I want to add. But for now things are going swimmingly!

Stall bars aren’t just for leg lifts

Lately people have been getting so creative in the ways that they are using their stall bars that I felt I had to share. While stall bars for leg lifts area staple for me, there are SO MANY other things you can do with them (including flexibility). So here are some of the awesome things people have come up with.

 

These first two videos are just chalk full of ideas. This first one has some great stretches in it that can be done on stall bars. One of the reasons I love these stretches is that kids can move their hands up and down on the bars to get more or less of a stretch. It also breaks up the monotony of a normal flex routine. Trying picking one or two days a week and doing stall bar stretches instead – but when you first start you may want to pair kids up as there will be a lot of falling over trying to get into these stretches (funny in its own right, but not necessarily productive).

 

 

While I love MANY of the drills in this next video their are two in particular that I REALLY LIKE. Those are the oblique pulls that start at 0:23 and the sheep jump stretch at the end of the video. It’s hard to find good ways to stretch or train a sheep jump shape without a partner but I love this one.

 

 

While these next two videos are variations of leg lifts – they are variations that I don’t think get done nearly enough. There are lots of gymnasts who can bust out 20 leg lifts in a row without breaking a sweat that would struggle with some of these. Remember when you are working core muscles to work the ENTIRE core.

 

Train hard!

Videos:

Nicole Love

Mancio

El Paso Gymnastics East

Tumbl Trak

More ways to work bars on floor

I wanted to do a quick post today of one of the best ways to work handstands, pirouettes and other bar skills on the floor. I hear lots of coaches who say “that’s not handstand” or “that’s not locked out” or are frustrated by late pirouettes on bars (and let’s be real here, we’ve all been there).

The easiest and best way I’ve found to combat this is floor bar work. Lots of coaches do handstand holds, whether they be on the floor or against a wall. But if you want to get your handstands better on bars – DO YOUR HANDSTAND HOLDS ON A BAR. It can be a floor bar – but getting kids to understand where vertical is, hold their shape, use their thumbs etc to hold them in a nice handstand on a floor bar makes a HUGE difference. You’ll find kids who may have a 30 second – 1 minute handstand on the floor but you put them on a floor bar and it goes down to a second or two. This example has a springboard assisting her, but as they start to figure it out, take the springboard away.

After handstand holds I LOVE presses on bars. Again, along with building strength, you’re putting the gymnast on a bar, using the shapes that she’s going to need in stalders, cast handstands etc. It takes a huge amount of work – but it’s worth it in the end. Pull out your floor bars every day and spend 10 minutes just doing handstand holds and presses. Watch how your bars changes.

 

This is one you can start on the floor and progress to a floor bar. Being able to control going into and out of the pirouette ensures that the pirouette is landing on top. Another way you can do this is have them hold at each phase – press – hold handstand 3 seconds, pirouette, hold handstand 3 seconds, press down. When they’ve got that mastered on the floor – move it to a floor bar. Their awareness and ability to pirouette on top when they get to a real set will be so much better.

Multitasking during conditioning. #presses & #pirrouettes

A post shared by Paramount Elite Gymnastics (@paramountelite) on

If you’ve got a kid who can whip out a bunch of presses in a row, or you know you want to do inbar work with, pike presses are your best friend. These are done on a beam – but again you can begin between panel mats (hands elevated to make it easier), progress to a beam and then to a bar. The muscles and muscle memory developed from doing these will make your life so much easier in the long run.

Mid-season plyos

It’s about mid way through optional season and lots of gyms are trying to balance keeping their gymnasts healthy with keeping them fit and competition ready. One of the things I think gets lost is plyos. We often try to limit pounding by taking them out almost completely but I find that those quick twitch muscles can be lost so easily.

My suggestion is quick bursts (don’t do 10 full minutes of jumping onto and over panel mats) – with adequate rest and make sure they are working quickness not just endurance!

I really like this plyo cycle. It has some of your standards in there, but also some that aren’t used as much. Make sure you’re watching for full extension of the feet especially on things like the single leg jumps.

These are your more standard panel mat jumps. They are always, ALWAYS worth coming back to in my opinion. Focus on knees and feet is important and you can often see where gymnasts struggle just by doing a few of these.

This warm-up is FILLED with different plyo exercises. If you’ve been doing panel mat jumps forever and want to mix it up there are some great things here. The speed ladders are some of my favorites.

I love this video because it has great (and super simple) variations of your normal panel mat jumps. The ones where they go up and then straddle to two mats is a fantastic way for kids to start understanding really taking their punches up – which often gets overlooked in plyos and they start turning into jumps.

Credits:

Video 1: Houry Gebeshian

Video 2 and 4: Mary Lee Tracy

Video 3: Midwest Elite Gymnastics

The 5 things required to start an elite path in your program

So as promised today I’m going to tell you the 5 things that are absolutely essential when starting an elite track program.

  1. Talent identification – Elite programs are not for anyone so talent is of course a must. The earlier you can do this, the better. If you can get a group of 4 year olds in the gym twice a week – that’s GOLD. Talk to your rec coaches, tell them what you want. Tell them what the requirements for your program are and who may have natural abilities. Ie. the kids who have natural chin-ups or leg lifts. Getting other coaches to help you help in that 1) everyone in the gym is invested 2) you’ll get a bigger group to pull from.
  2. Parental support – The parents need to be on board with the time commitment that the program will be. For the super talented 7 or maybe 8 year old testers an extra 2-4 hours a week may be enough. But truly if you want the gymnasts to eventually be on a hopes or elite path you’re talking about training upwards of 20 hours a week in order to get the skills and drills ready. So you need to communicate with the parents that the hours will scale up probably much more quickly than in a normal JO program if this is something they want to pursue.
  3. Time – YOU and the gymnasts need to be ready to put in the time. This may mean practices before school, or starting a homeschool program. But an elite path especially leading into as gymnasts get older requires a time commitment that’s hard to manage without a lot of time in the gym. Be ready for it, make the parents ready for it.
  4. Requirements – Be crystal clear about your requirements for taking kids to testing. It can be something like “they need to max out 3 of their physical abilities.” But tell parents and gymnasts what it is, and track it, and stick to it.
  5. Perseverance – Some years are going to be great, some years aren’t. Don’t pin all your hopes on one kid, and don’t get discouraged if your kids don’t make national testing or teams the first few years. Be patient. See what works and what doesn’t. But most of all, know that this program works, and trust it and your coaching.

Building an elite path athlete #2: You can order the full guide (for instant download) – that has 90 minutes of drills and videos and a 100 page ebook HERE.

Last year level 4s and 5s:

These things will give you a solid start to building an elite track program. If you want even more help, The Guide to Building an Elite Track Gymnast is now out! You can order it HERE to get your hands on 90 minutes of video, physical ability progressions and a 100+ page ebook to help you on your journey.

Train hard!

Zari