So as a gymnastics coach of 40 years and a CSCS, I’ve spent a lot of time studying injury prevention and sports science. I really specialize in conditioning gymnasts. It’s what I love to do.
Anyway, there are a few useless fitness exercises that I am seeing gymnastics coaches assign to their gymnasts. These exercises bother me because they are not sport-specific, so the gymnast could be spending their time more wisely in order to help their gymnastics performance. The other thing is, many times, they are not being performed with the correct technique. That can cause injury over time.
One of the exercises that really bothers me when I see a gymnast doing it is the box jump. A box placed at hip or chest height and asking the gymnast to jump up to the box. It bothers me because gymnasts do not have to jump that high. For a split jump or straddle jump, they really only need to jump 8-12 inches off the floor. That’s not difficult for most gymnasts.
The other reason I do not like the box jump for gymnasts is because when they land on the box or mat stack they are landing with improper mechanics, poor technique. Many are landing with their buttocks touching their heels. And many are landing with their knees falling in towards one another. Both can cause a good amount of damage over time to the knees, hips, and ankles. We all know that the proper landing technique is with the knees in line with the middle two toes and hip, not swaying in towards one another. A proper dismount landing is with this alignment and no lower than a squat. Why would you train a deep squat? Landing technique is now in the safety certification, finally!
You can do many more sport-specific drills and leg conditioning exercises such as the step-up-knee-lift, the step-down, and lunge walks. The step-up-knee-lift is a running drill as well as a strength exercise. The step-down is great for the quadriceps and the push for a back handspring. The lunge walks are very specific for gymnasts too. The forward is specific to the push for a round-off or front handspring. The backward lunge walk is specific to the take-off or jump for a back handspring. Again, it is imperative that the athlete keeps the knee in line with the middle toes and hips.
The other reason I do not like the box jump is because it is not at all sport-specific. Gymnasts do not have to jump up to chest height for any skill. They do not have to jump that high for their dance jumps such as split jumps or straddle jumps. And when they are tumbling, doing something such as a double-back, they are not actually jumping as they would for a box jump. They are actually rebounding. There is a big difference between jumping and rebounding. Coming out of a back-handspring and going into a double back there is no actual jump. The set/lift requires the gymnast to stay tight, not jump. That is very different from a jump and that requires very specific conditioning. So, if a gymnast needs more height for tumbling, they must train body-tightness, rebounding, and better tumbling technique, NOT the box jump. Plyometrics should also be done once a week for rebounding technique and lower leg speed.
I hope this helped. Listen to the podcast anywhere you get podcasts.
Karen Goeller, CSCS