Dan Connelly from GymSmarts caught up with Hideo â€œMizoâ€ Mizoguchi for this interview to discuss a training program for Men’s Junior Olympics to go along with his DVD Strength Development for Men’s Gymnastics.
GS: Mizo, in your presentation on developing a training program for the Junior Olympic program, what is the purpose of having a training plan?
Mizo: Well, the compulsory program was the only means for most of the coaches to train the young kids and I felt that the understanding of how to develop a yearly plan would help all these kids. In other words the basics are one of the most important parts and I donâ€™t think that they are focusing on the basics to enhance their skill development. This must happen during the pre-season and during the season. So, when I was working at USA Gymnastics, I knew that there was some plan that needed to be provided in order for all of these coaches to be able to map out their training plan. So that is the purpose of my presentation on developing a training plan.Â
GS: OK, so the basic idea is to try to give these coaches an opportunity to know how to develop certain things throughout the course of the year.
Mizo: Exactly. Itâ€™s sort of, if you go through the lecture, you can pretty much tell where the emphasis is. You know, like the emphasis of understanding the categories. You know, there are so many areas of categories that we coaches have to implement in the course of the training and often times we tend to focus on what skills should we do next year, or what kind of difficulties do we need. Instead of going the other way around, focusing on what areas exactly do I need to incorporate into the training so that these kids have a maximum potential of taking their gymnastics to the highest level. You know what I mean? I donâ€™t want the gymnasts to be limited simply because the coach didnâ€™t focus on certain areas of development when they were young.
GS: OK. So, you name seven separate training categories. Why donâ€™t you briefly describe each one and then tell me how important each one is.
Mizo: The Junior Olympic program is very unique in the sense that you are teaching these athletes and the competition is a part of the experience. But, after the competition, you come home, then you train what you made a mistake on that kind of stuff. The competition is not the end of the meet but a part of the process whereas with the senior gymnast, you specifically train so that the gymnast can finalize the effort at the end of the competition so to speak. So theÂ competition is the end goal. Does that make sense? Like, not all gymnasts specifically train so that they can compete. For example, the junior gymnasts competes, learns from the competition and then goes home and trains those specific areas of weakness. OK. Thatâ€™s the part of the concept that Iâ€™ve developed and not only that, we have to keep the kids interested in the sport. So these are the training categories that I think should be emphasized. Number one: fun activities are extremely important to development, two: body posture and alignment, three: flexibility, four: strength and conditioning, five: basics and six: core basic skill development such as: swing to handstand on the P bars, basic swing on the rings, stuff like that. And then seven, move onto the specific and advanced skill development. And if any one of these categories are not fulfilled, any time in the training, then we are missing the ball. In other words, the goal would be developingÂ well rounded rather than a one sided gymnast. So those are the seven categories that have been emphasized.
GS: So the purpose behind these categories is making sure that you address all of these categories, to make sure that as the gymnastÂ grows there will be no limitations to his gymnastics. Correct?
Mizo: Right. Exactly. Not only that. If you think about these categories, each age groupsâ€™Â emphasis on each of the categories changes. For instance, in the eight to nine age group the conditioning could have been 10%, fun activity if 15% of the entire training time, in a week, and then maybe the body alignment and posture and flexibility could be 20%, spatial awareness training could be 25% and then basic skill development could be only 30%. Whereas, if you go into an upper level age group, like twelve to thirteen, the fun activity is no longer provided for andÂ you only emphasis 10% for spatial awareness, or 15% for the conditioning strength and so forth and so forth. So that by the time that you get to the advanced stages, you will be devoting 70% of the time specifically to advanced skill training provided that you have spent all of these years also training spatial awareness, strength, conditioning, body positioning, flexibility and all that.
GS: What would be an example of the kind of activities you would use to develop spatial awareness, say in the younger gymnast?
Mizo: OK. Spatial awareness. It is extremely critical in all the gymnastic development levels obviously and an essential requirement to compete at a high level. I feel a lack of spatial awareness will limit oneâ€™s potential such as learning the high level skills. While I would use a lot ofÂ trampoline time, teaching how to do a double back, double front, twisting techniques, bodyÂ segmentation, body positions for twisting, and multiple twisting, multiple somersaults, stuff likeÂ that. Mainly tumble track and trampoline, you knowâ€¦.
Mizo: Handstands. You can do them many different ways. You can do a handstand contest. Kids love contests. Sometimes we have the kids do a handstand on the parallel bars and shake the bars.. And while shaking the bars, see how long they can stay in the handstand. Let me step back moment. The most effective way to really teach a good handstand is to have a contest between the gymnasts. It really, really works. Weâ€™re talking within the junior program though. And then also I do a lot of handstands against the wall for about three minutes at a time. That kind of stuff. TheÂ Â gymnast needs to be able to hold a handstand against the wall for at least two to three minutes.
GS: And what about walking on your hands?
Mizo: Itâ€™s great. It teaches balance. Not necessarily to hold a handstand. But it teaches the shifting action in the handstand.
GS: And how else might that apply to other skills?
Mizo: Shifting the weight to do a pirouette without changing the line of the body. Because the shifting action does teach the body segments along with that stepping action, or shifting action, and then of course you know that segment working together as a unit, is one of the most important things in turning, like in pirouetting action. Without that then you canâ€™t pirouette. You need to learn to shift the weight with the body shifting as one unit rather than in segmented pieces.
GS: So that means that some of these things are inner linked in that in order to do a good handstand, you have to practice handstands; in order to have a good handstand you need good body alignment; body alignment, posture and all those kinds of things. Right?
Mizo: Exactly. But the body alignment and the posture, you know, is a little bit different in the sense that you donâ€™t really have to control the holding spot, upside down. Whereas if you are doing a hollow body rock, for instance, in doing the body posture final phase, which applies in gymnastics quite often, it would definitely have to have that skill. The handstand is in itself a skill along with the most important element and skill in gymnastics. Body posture is aligning, thatâ€™s the power of exercising the effective overall development of the basics in gymnastics.Â
GS: Yeah. So thatâ€¦when youâ€™re talking about hollow a body holds, or hollow body rocks, is that a part of core strength?
Mizo: Yes. Absolutely.
GS: OK, tell me a little bit about how flexibility plays into all of this.
Mizo: Well, the flexibility is,by far, the most important element of increasing range of motion. Without the wider range of motion, then you are limiting a certain element to be performed. For instance, letâ€™s take the example of high bar. If you donâ€™t have good compression flexibility for bend, then you wonâ€™t be able to do an Endo or Stalder or stoop action. You know? So if oneâ€™s flexibility is limited it will limit the types of skills one can perform. The other area is that without the flexibility of range of motion, you will not be able to produce much more power either. If the back is tight, then one will not be able to open enough to produce a higher dismount. For example, the gymnast would be limited in the arching action in the tap, which would in turn prevent him from getting high enough to do triple twisting double layout. That kind of stuff. Do you see what I mean? So you have to appreciate the affects of the application of flexibility in upper level gymnastics skills. So it really comes down to the basic developmental level.
GS: I see what youâ€™re getting at. And do you recommend doing a long flexibility warm up in the beginning of practice? Or at what point would you do flexibility?
Mizo: Well, flexibility has two purposes. Flexibility can be used as a warm-up to do the warm-up, you know, like probably a stretching flexibility. However, to obtain flexibility, you have to set some time aside to do additional flexibility, or a split or whatever have you. OK. So you donâ€™t just necessarily do flexibility as in the warm-up because thatâ€™s not going to be enough. In addition, if you do an extensive strength exercise, then immediately after that you need to be able to do another flexibility program in order for the muscles to be reciprocated. Because if you contract too much and you leave it, your muscles get too tight and you have to fit in good stretching exercises.
GS: All right. So when youâ€™re doing your daily training plan, do you start with a yearly training plan, then break it down into cycles that way?
Mizo: Yes, you always begin with the competition season and work back. You have to divide the year into: pre season, season and off season. The pre-season would be skill acquisition, flexibility, strength, conditioning, special awareness and that sort of thing. The season is about preparation and competition. The post season is time to rest and do more fun gymnastic types of things. But all of these periods need to be developed