Your gymnasts have back pain.
You had back pain when you were a gymnast.
You probably have back pain now.
It seems like back pain is so common that we should just take it for granted.
Here’s what we can start doing so that we have fewer gymnasts with back pain.
Even better, here’s what we can stop doing:
1. Back extensions.
If there were a prize for the most useless, harmful and unnecessary exercise in gymnastics, this would be it.
Bending on the floor in this manner will not only fail to strengthen the upper back or improve mobility, but it will also drive your spine into excessive extension, placing excessive loads on the spine.
What to do instead: The Bird-dog.
This exercise enhances the contraction levels in the upper erector spinae and the glutes.
However, remember this: the spine should be neutral, not hyperextended.
Build low back endurance progressively by increasing the number of sets, with each set lasting between 10 and 20 seconds.
Sit-ups, like training without drinking water, should be a thing of the past.
Do it 10 times and it’s no problem.
Do it 600 times every week for a year and we end up with gymnasts that can’t even sit at school without pain.
Even mainstream media is catching up, and you should too.
It is very hard to perform a sit-up without excessive lumbar flexion, and even then the training effect won’t be that great.
It’s time to put this exercise behind the barn and shoot it.
What to do Instead: The Curl-up
With the upper back being the only part of your body that is moving, you will be able to engage the core while keeping your back in a safe position.
Sometimes simple is best.
3. The plank
This exercise is not wrong per se.
But we have all seen it: no matter how much the coach corrects the gymnast, they will try to beat each other and do it for longer while sacrificing good posture and perfect form.
Besides, how much of a training effect can we expect from a light isometric exercise?
What to do instead: Stir the pot.
The ‘‘stir the pot’’ exercise spares the painful discs of motion and builds abdominal athleticism (Mcgill, 2010).
It is very hard to cheat this exercise, as you will actually fall off the ball as soon as you stop bracing the core.
It’s time to leave back pain where it belongs: to clubs that don’t care about the health of their athletes.
One coach can’t be an expert in every area. Get in touch with me and you will be able to focus on what you do best while I take care of your gymnast’s physical development.
Sergio Navadijo is a physical preparation expert and owner of Entrena. He has a university background in Sports Science and a proven track record of success with athletes over the last decade. He works with gymnasts of all levels that want to get stronger and stay away from injuries. Contact him to get help achieving your goals.