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GymSmarts Community » Strength-Conditioning

Archive for the ‘Strength-Conditioning’ Category

Developing a Training Program for the Men’s Junior Olympic Program

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Dan Connelly from GymSmarts caught up with Hideo “Mizo” 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 don’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. 

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. It’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 don’t want the gymnasts to be limited simply because the coach didn’t focus on certain areas of development when they were young.

GS: OK. So, you name seven separate training categories. Why don’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 the  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. That’s the part of the concept that I’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 developing  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 gymnast  grows there will be no limitations to his gymnastics. Correct?

Mizo: Right. Exactly. Not only that. If you think about these categories, each age groups’  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 and  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?

spacial-awareness.jpgMizo: 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 one’s potential such as learning the high level skills. While I would use a lot of  trampoline time, teaching how to do a double back, double front, twisting techniques, body  segmentation, body positions for twisting, and multiple twisting, multiple somersaults, stuff like  that. Mainly tumble track and trampoline, you know….

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. We’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. The   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: It’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 can’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 don’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, that’s the power of exercising the effective overall development of the basics in gymnastics. 

GS: Yeah. So that…when you’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, let’s take the example of high bar. If you don’t have good compression flexibility for bend, then you won’t be able to do an Endo or Stalder or stoop action. You know? So if one’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 you’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 don’t just necessarily do flexibility as in the warm-up because that’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 you’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

Kris Robinson - A Greater Understanding of the Shoulder Joint

Monday, January 8th, 2007

This article contains a collection of information that I presented at the “Future Stars Championships and Coaches Workshop” in Colorado Springs (United States Olympic Training Center).  When looking at the shoulder joint, it is imperative that one studies it from both a muscle strength and muscle length perspective, as well as a posture and muscle balance viewpoint.  Below is an overview of this opinion.

 The pectoralis minor muscle becomes very short and causes a rounded shoulder position in certain athletes (i.e. gymnasts) and in those that slouch.  This muscle is in the chest area and originates on the third, fourth, and fifth ribs and attaches at the coracoid process (a projection coming forward from the shoulder blade).  When it tests short, it causes the shoulder girdle complex to remain 200701kr1.jpgforward and sets up poor mechanics during arm movements.  This can cause shoulder pain, nerve and blood vessel impingement and create movement problems such as inability to move the arms above the head.  The coach, parent, and/or teammate must passively stretch the athlete’s shoulder down on a daily basis to prevent or improve the pectoralis minor muscle length.

 The lower trapezius muscle is the antagonist of the pectoralis minor and must be strengthened in most cases.  If an athlete slouches, has a short pectoralis minor and/or carries a heavy backpack on one shoulder he/she may have a long, stretched out lower trapezius muscle.  The lower trapezius muscle can be strengthened with correct sitting and standing posture and with strengthening exercises (facelying, shoulder blades pulled back/down/in, arms overhead and lift).

 If the athlete has short pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, and teres major muscles, it will be difficult for them to reach their arms above their head without arching their back or having their arms up, but too wide.  Keeping the lower abdominal muscles contracted, the low back flat against the floor or wall, and the arms held overhead, can stretch the above named muscles.200701kr2.jpg

 The rotator cuff muscles include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis muscles.  These muscles are an intrinsic part of the shoulder capsule and if these muscles are stiff, the capsule is probably stiff.  The athlete can be assessed for correct shoulder lateral and medial rotation.  When the biomechanics of the shoulder joint are incorrect, microtrauma can occur and lead to rotator cuff tears.  If the tear is severe, the athlete cannot hold their arm up or out to the side (positive drop arm test).

The athlete must be aware of their posture and muscle balance and how this affects their shoulder health.  Activities of daily living (sitting, standing, arm movements overhead, and repetitive activities) must be monitored for correct technique. 

200701kr3.jpgWORDS TO THE ATHLETE:  Many athletes wear a very heavy backpack (or gym bag) on one or both shoulders and it seems that they shrug their shoulders just to keep the backpack on.  Other athletes tense up when they study or perform certain skills and their shoulders elevate and get sore and tight.  You and your teammates have the potential to look relaxed, sleek and confident when you perform, so follow the guidelines below. 

  • Remove unwanted heavy items from your backpack or gym bag. Try a backpack on wheels for school and a suitcase with wheels for travel.
  • Test yourself on activities of daily living. Make sure that you keep your shoulders relaxed when you do simple things like fixing your hair, working on the computer or reaching up high to get something out of a cabinet.
  • Practice pulling your shoulder blades gently down, back and in toward your spine whenever you are sitting, standing or doing most skills. This will increase the strength in your lower trapezius muscles. Stretch your neck muscles by relaxing your head to one side and keeping the opposite shoulder pulled down.

Final Note:  Besides the potential of improved performance, you will have increased chest expansion and the ability to breathe more comfortably, as well as, less pain and stiffness in your shoulder region.  Good Luck!

For more information on Kris Robinson, and posture, buy her DVD: It’s About Posture, from GymSmarts.

Kris Merlo Robinson - Posture Alert

Monday, May 1st, 2006

 POSTURE ALERT from “THE POSTURE LADY”:  I have some very important posture tips to help gymnasts improve their skills and presentation and to help them prevent injuries.  Share the information below with each and every gymnast that you work with! 

The Posture LadyHello. My name is Kris Merlo Robinson, PT, better known in the gymnastics world as “The Posture Lady.”  Posture is the way that you hold your body as you sit, stand and move.  It is the position of all the joints of the body at any given moment.  My friend Florence Kendall, a well-known physical therapist, said, “Good posture is a good habit.”  Have you ever noticed that when you stand slouched in poor posture, it’s like a habit that you have?  It may feel comfortable to you, but it’s not correct.  I will teach you more about correct posture, so that you can make good posture your habit!

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) states that good posture is important because it helps your body function at top speed, with efficiency and endurance, without fatigue, muscular strain or pain.  For the gymnast, this m2006.3Kriseans performing at a higher skill level with poise and confidence.  Furthermore, a gymnast with good posture may prevent injury to his or her body.

A physical therapist has special skills to test and treat problems with posture, but you can check your own posture to some degree.  You may need help from your coach, parents, or teammates to check your side view posture.  A photograph in this position would give you immediate feedback about your posture.  How do you line up?  Correct posture while standing means forming a straight line between your ankle, knee, hip, trunk, shoulder and ear.  There are three normal curves in the back:  1) the cervical spine (neck), curving slightly forward, 2) the thoracic spine (upper back), curving slightly backward, and 3) the lumbar spine (lower back), curving slightly forward.  These curves should be held correctly while standing or sitting.  The APTA notes that when these curves are out of balance, certain segments of the spine (vertebrae) are put under stress and may become painful. 

   ● knees straight
   ● low back curved forward slightly
   ● upper back erect and chest held slightly up and forward
   ● shoulders in line with ears
   ● chin tucked in
   ● knees “locked” backwards
   ● low back arched forward too much (lordosis), causing the abdomen to protrude
   ● upper back rounded with chest sunk in
   ● shoulders pulled back too hard or slouched forward
   ● head slumped forward
Note from the APTA:  When testing for normal curves of the spine:  stand with your back to a wall, heels three inches from the wall.  Place one hand behind your neck and the other behind your low back.  If there is too much space between your back and the wall (if you can easily move your hands back and forth more than an inch), you need to correct your posture.20063kr02.JPG

Correct front and back view posture means the knees, hips, and shoulders are level, the spine and head are straight and the body weight is distributed equally on both feet.  Stand in front of a mirror and/or have someone look at your alignment.  Again, how do you line up?
   ● ankles straight
   ● kneecaps face straight ahead
   ● equal space between arms and sides
   ● arms relaxed at sides with palms facing towards body
   ● shoulders level
   ● head held straight
   ● ankles roll in so that arches go flat
   ● kneecaps face toward each other or face out
   ● trunk shifted
   ● arms turned so that palms face back
   ● one shoulder high or both shoulders shrugged
   ● head tilted, rotated or chin up too high
Develop good posture or maintain good posture by practicing until it becomes a good habit.  In Mrs. Kendall’s words, “bad posture is a bad habit.”  According to the APTA, if you have poor posture, your bones are not properly aligned and your joints, muscles, and ligaments take more strain, increasing the risk of injury.  Good posture only has one appearance, but poor posture comes in many unattractive styles.

To improve or hold good posture, think about keeping your chin tucked in, your shoulder blades gently pulled down and back, and your abdominal muscles pulled UP and IN as you sit, stand and move.  Avoid “locking” your knees backwards, remember to tighten your buttock muscles, and distribute your weight evenly on your feet.  These are general exercises that can be done throughout the day. Constantly strive to keep good posture while working out in the gym!  Check your posture TODAY!

If poor posture muscle problems arise and are outside of your experience and competence…seek help from qualified medical professionals.