I’m really excited to post this second part of my series with Dr. Dave Tilley. I won’t talk much today as his post speaks for itself. Enjoy!
As a coach and a part of a gym that runs on a time schedule trying to develop great gymnasts, I know that it’s hard to make it all fit. With that being said, I have taken a lot of time researching and experimenting with how to get the best “bang for your buck” with pre-hab. I have also have tried to narrow in on what I think are the biggest issues related to gymnastics injury/performance. With our pre-hab program we usually have about that time window, maybe a little more. In my opinion based on the last year, I would suggest coaches spend time on
1) Regular Mobility/Activation Drills:
Finding time for soft tissue and mobility work in the commonly restricted areas gymnasts get, and then doing specific activation drills for commonly weak or overlooked areas is important. Some of these mobility issues would include working the
• Calves and ankle joints
• Groin and inner thigh tissue
• hip flexors/quads
• lats and underarm tissue
• pec muscles and front of the chest
• forearms and other gripping muscles .
When I say this I don’t always mean intense flexibility circuits or stretching. I could go on for a while about that, but it’s for a different time. I’m more in support of using things like foam rollers, lacrosse/soft balls, active mobilizations, and teaching the gymnast proper movement mechanics.
In terms of commonly weak/overlooked areas, some commonly include the
• smaller foot stabilizing muscles and the shin muscles
• the hamstrings
• all 3 glute muscles (huge)
• the deep inner core (including use of diaphragm/pelvic floor and proper breathing)
• the shoulder blade muscles
• Activating Deep stabilizer muscles automatically with coordination drills
I have our girls go head to toe daily before our warm up releasing the commonly tight areas, then activating the commonly weaker areas in an effort to combat problems from coming up. We also build certain drills into workouts that are specific to the skills were training, and try to build in weaknesses to conditioning.
2) Proper Squatting/Jumping/Landing Form:
Another area that I think is massively important for gymnasts are to focus on is proper squatting/jumping/landing form. Learning and use proper form during training is absolutely huge for gymnastics as research shows the forces on the gymnast’s body are tremendous. As coaches we know that gymnasts can take hundreds of impacts per day (one research study showed the average impact was 116 per practice). It’s a big topic, but in a simplistic way we want to encourage the gymnast to jump/land in a way that helps the muscles absorb the force, rather than placing the demand on passive structures (like bones/ligaments/tendons) of the spine, hips, knees, ankles, and feet.
There are some great resources out there about what is ideal and how to teach this, but quick points include finding a 30 degree hip and knee angle, avoiding letting the knees drift over the toes or caving in towards each other, encouraging the gymnast to decelerate into the squat rather than be “stiff”, and teaching the gymnast to engage hamstrings and glutes, while not to landing on the balls of their feet or “quad dominant”. All of these techniques have great benefits as identified in research related to ACL tear prevention, overuse injuries, and more. Knowing what to look for is also really important. This has to be stressed during all skills including tumbling and dismounts and especially conditioning like box jumps, pliometrics, and so on. If it is not stressed, they will build bad movement patterns that we don’t want to carry through for the rest of their careers.
This takes time at first to teach, but once they get the hang of it drills can be done within a 5-10 minute window. Again, we build these into warm ups and event time.
Slow-Mo Video Examples of Dangerous Knee Positions Gymnasts Need To Avoid
Prevention of Traumatic and Progressive Knee Injuries In Gymnastics: Assessing Risk Using Jumping, Landing, and Squatting Technique
3) Core Stability/Control:
The last area is to work on core control drills, and not just strength. They are two very different concepts, with two different training methods. Core strength is more about what we commonly do in gymnastics with v ups, leg lifts, side plank crunches, “ab circuits” and so on. Don’t get me wrong, strength development has it’s place when done correctly and we utilize parts of this in our gym. Core control is more about coordination, timing and sequencing, and being able to turn on smaller stabilizer muscles before the big muscles turn on automatically. It has to be trained with different types of exercises like training breathing patterns, teaching core bracing, bird dogs, ½ kneeling chops and lifts, and many more. Training the core also can be built into more conditioning type drills like overhead stability work (Turkish Get Up), dynamic stability drills, and adding force/load when appropriate. Gymnastics success and injury reduction requires an equal balance of both. I make it a point to train both with our pre-hab program and during strength and conditioning.
This also relates to training all aspects of the core equally. I think were famous for wanting “6 pack abs” in gymnastics and we tend to train front and back motions primarily. The core also serves to handle side to side forces, rotation forces rotational, activate the diaphragmand the pelvic floor all together, and teach the gymnast to create activation of the core “canister” that protects the spine. Training all parts equally prevents one aspect from dominating and throwing things off. We have to make sure were shooting to train the function of the core, rather than just the anatomy, then build it into gymnastics skill work.
Find it here!
The full 45 minute lecture of Bars Shaping from Pre-Team Up is now available for download, along with the full powerpoint and all of the videos!