Off-season training is the best opportunity to develop strength in AGG for a variety of reasons.
Every team has a different approach, and all of them have pros and cons.
The following is what works for Gloria, last season bronze at the Finnish nationals and this year transitioning to women’s category. Keep reading.
Firstly, notice that during summer gymnasts are well rested -no high school- and in a better mood than usual: Sun in Finland!
Opportunities to increase intensity without risking injury are rare; therefore I try to seize this moment.
In-season, lack of time for strength training and high academic stress is the norm.
However, if you build a strong base in summer, you can maintain most of it during the season.
Trying to improve both choreography and strength won’t play out well: one ass cannot sit on two horses.
Furthermore, as gymnasts grow older, they accumulate injuries. Some are forced to retire early or train in constant pain.
Gloria has been successful in the past at avoiding injuries, but the best prevention is always getting stronger. Read on.
What we do
One month of running in the park and home stretching-only is better than nothing, but you will lose any previous strength levels if you avoid resistance training altogether.
Knowing this, I keep “open gym” training during the holidays, where the gymnasts come to build their strength to get ahead before next season.
Most families will not be four full weeks on vacation, so there is no reason to avoid strength training if the gymnasts are in the city.
Stick to the basics
I don’t like wasting valuable athlete’s time, so I stick to exercises that are tried and true.
Warmups start with a potent dose of glute “activation” (hip thrusts, mini-band walks) and a combination of unilateral exercises and core stability.
To assess readiness, you can ask them how are they feeling that day, but pay attention to their facial expressions and their quality of movement during warm-up.
Some gymnasts will never say if something is hurting or if they didn’t sleep last nite, so you need to read between the lines.
If everything’s on point, the main workout consists of a combination of back-to-back pushing and pulling exercises: safety back squats, barbell presses, bench presses, hang power cleans, push presses, rows, trap bar deadlifts…
We keep track of every weight on every set on a blackboard and progress weekly.
When it comes to back strength, I have had success with a variety of exercises, but now I stick to seal rows and pull-ups.
The reason? They are harder to screw up. Gymnasts typically have hyperlordosis and need exercises where their backs can’t extend while still being able to train heavy safely.
Pull-ups with proper form are always a good idea (no kipping, slow descent and a full range of motion), but they require consistency.
If a competitive gymnast can’t get a single pull-up, you may want to rethink your training plan or pay more attention to the diet.
Other than the barbell exercises, I like to add flywheel training to the mix and improve their eccentric strength.
For those that have never tried it, imagine a force that violently pulls you down unless you push in the opposite direction.
Research consistently shows that flywheel training reduces injuries and improves power and strength better than traditional lifting, so we would be dumb not to use it.
Jumps and Conditioning
The notion that you improve just by jumping is 100% wrong unless you are completely untrained.
However, hops and jumps in a variety of planes of motion will have an injury prevention effect, and it will show you who is strong and who isn’t.
I try to fit these during warm-ups because landing on a single leg when fatigue has already kicked in can have ugly consequences.
Beware of gymnasts with a history of ankle sprains: once somebody tears the ligaments, the likelihood of it happening again is very high.
On top of this, gymnasts have an aerobic plan to do on their own. Instead of going too fancy, I try to use the KISS system (keep it simple, stupid).
A combination of intervals and endurance running will do enough for them during the period.
The goal is not to build a marathoner’s engine, but to slightly increase their maximal oxygen consumption to a level where you don’t gas out while training your choreography.
The summer is long, and there is plenty of time for ice cream, family, and friends, but it’s not an excuse to get out of shape.
If you want to win, your actions need to match your ambitions.
Focus on the only thing that you can control: your effort.