I’m a big fan of suitcase carries as they can take a more traditional side plank and turn it into an upright, reactive, and more challenging exercise. Although we do a lot of side plank variations also, suitcase carries create a very unique challenge that I think personally has much better carry over to skill work.

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Here are some reasons I like it, a short video demo, and some points to consider below.

  • Helps reactive control to required in single leg landings, or landings that have a low margin of error like beam and require frontal plane core/hip synergies
  • Can be easily progressed / regressed with different weights, and makes for a very good active rest between more main exercises
  • Builds in single leg glute stability and the entire lateral chain including obliques, in a reactive anti – sidebending type fashion
  • Has added bonus of grip strength, traction based shoulder joint and scapular co – contraction

Key Points:

  • The gymnast must know how to properly deadlift the dumbbell, kettlebell, or other object so they do not risk lower back strain during lifting and lowering
  • The weight should only be as heavy as they can show good quality for. If the athlete is tipping over sideways, missing steps, or slipping grip they should regress the exercise
  • Cue the athlete to keep their shoulder blade engaged in a slightly retracted more neutral position. Avoid the weight “hanging” and pulling the shoulder or excessive shrugging of upper trap muscle
  • Watch out for toes and bare feet! Make sure the athlete is able to be safe and follow instructions to not have an accident
  • Make sure to do both hands

As you can see we have a variety of different kettlebell and dumbells we use. Also if they make it past the larger kettle bells I have them use a springboard (about 58# depending on the springs) and have them wrap a t shirt or pad around the wood to protect their hands. It’s on aspect to training the entire core for anti extension, anti flexion, anti side bending, anti rotational, breathing, pelvic floor integration, and other gymnastics specific aspects. Give them a shot and hope it helps!

Dave Tilley DPT, SCS

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