Achieve Gymnastics Injury Prevention
Gymnastics is a tough and demanding sport; it is especially tough on specific areas of the gymnast’s body. We need to continuously be strengthening these areas to prevent injury and speed skill acquisition. The exercises below can be done at home and in the gym. For your greatest success and safety spend 10-15 minutes 3 times a week working these or similar exercises.
These 4 areas are the most important for gymnasts to work. Get strong in these areas and you could prevent a major injury or help yourself learn skills faster. Working these now and preventing and injury is so much smarter than trying to rehab after an injury. Gymnastics is tough! You can be tougher.
Remember: Parents can do these too! Sometimes strength is more fun doing with a partner than by yourself. Help your gymnast and yourself by working together some of these Prevent exercises.
- Squeeze ball – get a racquetball (best for small hands) and squeeze it 15-20 times per hand. repeat and increase reps as you gain strength. Time saver: While your studying squeeze with your right hand while your reading and assignment and your left hand while you’re writing out an assignment! Unless your left handed, then change it around.
- Wrist Push Ups – In a kneeling pushup position, hands flat on the floor, raise and lower the heels of your hands off the floor with straight arms instead of lowering your body like a normal push up. You can adjust the resistance by how much you lean over your wrists.
- String Roll Up – This is a great one, but you have to make the device (easy). Get a dowel rod (cut broom handle about 2′ long) and drill a hole through the middle. Thread a string or old shoe lace through it and tie a knot so it doesn’t fall out. Tie the other end of the string to a plastic milk carton. With the rod in both hands roll the rod so the string wraps around the rod and raises the carton up. Added resistance can be made by putting water in the milk jug to make it heavier. Once the Milk Jug is up to the rod slowly lower the jug back down by reversing your wrist rotation.
- Theraband – In, Out, Up, Down: With the use of a Theraband or other resistance training device, strengthen your wrists by working a movement against resistance In, Out, Up, and Down. To isolate the wrist it is often helpful to rest your forearm on a stable object like a table with your wrist hanging over the edge to do this exercise. Start with 10-15 reps in each direction and add resistance or reps as you build strength.
- Dumbbell Rolls – Similar to the one above rest your forearm on a table or stable surface and hold a light weight in your hand palm down. Lift your hand up and down or side to side to strengthen your wrist. Turn your hand palm up and repeat.
- Hollow Body Hops – In a hollow body push up position, block through your shoulders and push through your feet to produce a little “hop” while maintaining your body position. This is great for your wrists, shoulders, and body position control.
- Push Up Holds – In a hollow body push up position (or a kneeling push up position for beginners) hold position but “lean” forward, back, and side to side changing the weight and stress on your wrists. Hold in each location 8-10 seconds then change position. Sounds easy but this is a great wrist workout.
- Towel Pull In – Toe Scrunch: Sit in a chair barefoot with a towel on the floor stretched out in front of you. Place your feet on one end of the towel and with only your toes scrunch the towel up to inch by inch drag the towel under your feet! You can’t move your legs just pull the towel under by scrunching up and then extending your toes to grab more towel. Start with the towel on a smooth surface so you get the hang of it, then to make it harder place some small weight at the far end of the towel, or place the towel on carpet, or use a beach towel! This curling of the feet and toes and extending really gives your ankles a workout and strengthens them, plus it is kinda fun. Have a race with mom or dad to see who can get to the end of their towel the fastest.
- ABC’s – Sit and isolate your leg on a stable surface with your ankle hanging over the end. Only moving your foot and ankle write out your ABC’s with your big toe! Sounds easy try it!
- Toe Rises – Single, Double, In, Out: Toe Rises are the old standby for ankle strength and they are fantastic if you will actually do them! Stand on the edge of a stair with the balls of your feet in contact with the stair and your heels hanging out over the edge. Hold on to something for balance if you need to. Raise your heels as high as you can and hold 2 counts then lower heels as low as you can and hold 2 counts. This is not a race go slow and controlled. Start with 10-15 reps and then increase. Variations to be done once the basic toe raise is mastered and easy. Point your feet out (duck feet) and do the exercise, point your toes in (pigeon toed) and do the exercise. Make it harder by holding weights, and finally after you have built strength do all the variations one foot at a time! These will really help your ankles and gymnasts SHOULD do some sort of toe raise strengthening DAILEY!
- Balance Boards – Working on a balance board is great exercise for your ankles. They are available all over in the workout section of stores or you can make a balance board. I made the ones in our gym. We have them but the girls need to USE THEM MORE! Get on a balance board and …Balance! Guess what, this will help your ankles and your skills on balance beam.
- Lunge, Toe Rise, Lunge – Start in a lunge then drive your back leg up into the air as you shift weight over your front foot and raise up into Releve’ on that foot (on your tippy toes), step your back leg forward and down to land in a lunge on your opposite side and then repeat now for your other foot.
- Theraband – In, Out, Up, Down: Same as wrists but now with your foot for your ankles!
- Toe Rise, Toe Rise, Jump – standing on the floor with feet shoulder width apart raise up to a high releve’ and then back down to flat feet on the floor. Repeat two more times and the third time jump as high as you can and return to a good landing position. Repeat several times. This works your ankles, legs, and landing position!
- Stick Landings – from a height of about 2-3 feet step off height to land in a good and solid gymnastics landing position. This might be best to be done at the gym from a mat unless mom allows you to jump off her furniture!
- Assemble Hops – perform an assemble’ land and immediate stretch jump with pointed toes to solid landing position, repeat. These drills strengthen your ankles and solid landing positions.
- Star Hops – Bunny and Single: Look at the configuration of the number 5 on dice. This pattern is the one we want to use for this exercise. Standing in the middle dot jump to each corner and then back to the middle as quickly as possible. You can take the corners clockwise, counter clockwise, two top then two bottom or any pattern you wish. Do it fast and keep you balance. Start hopping like a bunny, when you get good try hopping on a single foot through these patterns. This can be great cardio as well as a workout for your ankles.
- Lunges – Front and Back: No one really likes lunges but they are key to good gymnastics. They help balance, core, as well as ankle and knee strength and stability. Do them!
- Theraband – Leg Extensions, Leg Abductions: Work against the resistance. Isolate your leg.
- Squats – Double, Single: Do not take your hips lower than your knee when doing squats. Place your hand against a wall to assist in balance on the single leg ones.
- Theraband – Inner and Outer Thigh: Work against the resistance. Isolate your leg.
- Straight Leg Lifts – Sitting on the floor legs stretched out in front of you and with your leg straight and locked foot flexed raise your entire leg roughly 12″ then slowly lower to the floor. Repeat 10-15 times on each side.
- Wall Sit – Find a place where you can sit against the wall. Imagine that you are sitting in a chair but only your back is touching the wall. Keep your hips even with your knee height, and your ankles directly under your knee, making your body have good 90 degree angles. Hold for 60 seconds then longer as you get better.
There are so many core exercises that I will not try to tell any here. Core strength is one of the most important features of any athlete but especially good gymnasts. Find 3 core exercises that you like and do them well. Then each week find a friend or coach and ask them for a new core drill. Mix them up, have fun but get a strong core. Every skill you want to have as a gymnast will require core strength. Work core everyday!