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GymSmarts Community » Strength Training

Archive for the ‘Strength Training’ Category

Get Maximum Benefits from Plyometric Training

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

Tom Beach from GymSmarts caught up with Mas Watanabe for this interview to discuss portions of his Developing Strength:Plyometrics DVD. This interview covers the basic ideas of plyometric training, and how and when to apply plyometric exercises for maximum benefits for the gymnast.

GS: Your view of plyometrics seems different than a lot of information I’ve seen. You appear to be careful with how much plyometric exercise the gymnasts do.

Mas Watanabe: That’s true, because basically in gymnastics training, you are actually doing lots of plyometrics exercises with many drills and in the training itself.  So if you are training, say five hours a day, what percentage of those five hours are you spending with that plyometric type of exercise. It is an amazing amount, but you just don’t realize it. 

GS: So you are looking at every time you punch while tumbling or vaulting, or run or block?

Mas Watanabe: Actually yes, because almost any dynamic movement is plyometric in its nature.  Whenever you apply a plyometric type of power it’s, the speed that is essential.  How you can get up high or how strong your can punch is, all based on the plyometric strength or power. So all the skills you do, you can’t even think about without the plyometric strength. So gymnastics as a sport in general, plyometric is the essential power that you are looking for. So when you take up that certain area of plyometric type of exercise and you pound on the your body, you must be extremely careful. You are breaking the body down so quickly and so much in a particular area. 

GS: Because plyometrics by nature breaks down your body.

Mas Watanabe: Right.

GS: So when you’re doing plyometric training the goal is to break down your body so that it can recover and be stronger.

Mas Watanabe: Right. Well, at the end of the process of recovering, that’s when you actually gain more strength. So, that process of, breaking down is necessary but when the body breaks down, obviously the rest of the body is also affected. That affects learning, it will affect on executing the skill, whatever you did before you may not be able to do it the same way. So there are many things that could happen by increasing the volume or the intensity you put into the plyometric exercises. That is why you must be very careful and you have to look at the total balance of exercises. 

GS: You talked in terms of 150 maximum exercises. I’m still not real clear on that.

Mas Watanabe Obviously, there are so many different levels of intensity for each exercise. Even if you’re doing the very simple exercises, by adding the ankle weights or wearing a weight vest, things like that would make the difference in intensity of the exercise. I said that in the video that the high intensity exercises, the repetition shouldbe less than 150; because that high intensity repetition would be lots of pounding on your body. If you are doing a simple jumping exercise, for instance jumping rope, 150times is very, very simple. It’s not that taxing on her legs so you can do more. However,high intensity punching type of drills, you need to be careful and you have to limit those numbers. It doesn’t have to be 150 but I think around the ballpark of that number might be a good number to keep in mind.   

GS: So you’re talking more about like the jumping over the balance beam is a higher intensity exercise.

Mas Watanabe: Sort of like that, but that is a medium intensity exercise.  Again, I am talking about a higher intensity, which is requiring close to your maximum push or punching power on each jump or each punch. You are using almost your maximum, when you’re asking your leg to put out in all the effort into doing the punch.  That is the type of high intensity punch I am talking about.  

GS: So that would be more like when you’re adding weights.

Mas Watanabe: Yes, something like that. 

GS: So you’re looking at 150 punches.

Mas Watanabe: Yes, punches. 

GS: Not drills. 150 punches.

Mas Watanabe: No, no, no. 

GS: OK, that’s a lot clearer to me. And you also talked about how much gymnastics isin the legs.

Mas Watanabe: Yes. 

GS: So even though you’re doing plyometric exercises, you need to do something for your upper body.

Mas Watanabe: Right. Of the four events, vault, uneven bars, beam and floor, threeof those events you mainly have to rely on the leg strength. So those three events areheavily loaded with plyometric types of exercise in the training itself. Three quarters of the training is really based on leg strength. Then there is the swinging event, uneven bars that requires plyometrics in the arms and shoulders. It’s not as plyometric intensive in the arms and shoulders as it is in the legs of the other three events, but it does require some plyometric strength.  

GS: I would imagine because by its nature, plyometrics breaks down your body, there is a strong psychological impact on the athlete. Is that a big concern for you?

Mas Watanabe: Yes, that’s why I think plyometric exercises in general need to be viewed in terms of a whole year cycle. It’s much more effective to do it off season. If you see that a certain area of legs, or punching power, need to be developed, that has to happen gradually over time. If this is the area that needs improvement, you need to work on it during the off season so that it does not affect on their performances, in the routine. So I think it’s smart to think about that in the off season, which means after the competitions. 

GS: You also talked working about plyometrics when they’re fresh, maybe at the beginning of practice. Doesn’t that break you down for training too? 

Mas Watanabe: Well, yes.  But I was talking about if you’re looking to develop power orstrength, it is most effective. I mentioned this in the strength exercise tape, when your  body is fresh, you actually can put out more effort and more power, close to your 100% output. Plyometrics requires your body to break down, so that it can rebuild. So it is better to do before your body is fatigued already. That principle applies in the regular strength exercises or the plyometric exercises. That’s why it’s more effective to do it when your body is fresh. Of course I realize that doing the exercises in the beginning will affect the rest of the training. Yes it does. But you have to remember that gymnasts can also recover during the time period. So your body can adapt to do both, the exercise andthen the training session. When you change the set of conditioning exercises that you  are doing in the beginning, sometimes the new exercises will affect their body. So theirtraining is less efficient, but only for a while.  As the body adapts to the new exercises, then the training efficiency comes back. That is the process of gaining strength. That’s a part of the training so they need to get used to the pattern. When the coach is planning a training session, obviously, he should expect that to happen.

 GS: You also talked about earlier in the week is better than later.

Mas Watanabe: Right. I think I would say the body is a little bit fresher and it will be more effective in terms of getting results.   

GS: Since recovery is so important, you don’t want to do plyometrics every day.

Mas Watanabe: Right, at maximum every other day. Of course, that means no more than three times a week. I mean  average plyometrics should be done probably two days, two to three days per week. That is plenty.  Remember you are already doing plyometric exercise in the training itself. So many drills are based on the plyometric exercise. So you need to look at the entire program first and what type of training you are doing.   

GS: How do you regulate that with your own gymnasts?

Mas Watanabe: Well, let’s say you are preparing for the competition then it’s easier for you to measure the volume of pounding that they are doing. Off season you are actually doing more drills and do more of the parts repeating that certain part of the skills or exercises. So that actually you need to break it down and look at what type of training you are asking the gymnasts to do. That’s why I said you need to look at the entire  training from beginning to the end. During the exercises you should constantly be  looking at the balance of the training and where that heavy emphasis is.  

GS: Can you tell with your athletes when they’re doing too much?

Mas Watanabe: Yes, if you are keying into it. Obviously you can tell who is putting out100% effort most of the time, or who does not put in much effort every time. You needto really observe the gymnast, their effort level in the training individually. There aresome gymnasts whose general tendency not to put the effort in every time. Howeverthere are certain individuals who put much more effort on every turn so you need to beaware their training pattern. Some gymnasts put less effort in the training and put a lotmore effort in the competition and are very successful that way. So you need to be aware that individual differences. This is why it’s very difficult when you are working with a group of gymnasts and you come up with one plan for the group. When you apply one plan to a group of individuals, sometimes you need to be careful or you need to be aware that one thing works more for one individual than the others.   

GS: So you create different plans for each athlete?

Mas Watanabe: Yes, well you have to make some adjustments by individual so each athlete is getting the maximum benefit from their training. 

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