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Gymnasts Who Lift Weights and Have Off Seasons – How to Build “New School” Gymnastics Strength Programs

I’m incredibly excited to get this blog post and free lecture out to the gymnastics world. While I fully understand the need to use traditional gymnastics specific physical preparation programs, I firmly believe that a more hybrid approach to development will be the gold standard in our sport very soon. By this, I mean gymnasts utilizing programs that not only do gymnastics specific exercises, but also programs to build general athleticism through non gymnastics specific drills, use external weightlifting, build in more of a relative “off-season” from a periodized model, and are built off of the huge body of scientific research in strength literature.

I am lucky that at Champion Physical Therapy and Performance, we have an amazing strength staff and facility that I have been able to take advantage over the last 3 years to help innovate new concepts in gymnastics. By using a collaborative and research-based approach, we have been able to create a very “new school” approach to gymnastics strength and conditioning that has produced massive performance and health benefits for gymnasts.

Knowing how important this change in gymnastics culture is, myself and the strength staff at Champion have worked tirelessly to build and test new hybrid models of physical preparation for gymnasts.

We are lucky to have a ton of JO, college, and elite gymnasts who come to our facility 1-2x/week for “nongymnastics” programs that complement their training (not replace it), or who start a program following rehabilitation. This is more in the summer, but still as maintenance care in the competitive year. By now, we have likely had 100-200 gymnasts do some version of the program over the last few years.

We call these Gymnastics Performance Programs, and they have been absolutely game-changing for many gymnasts we work with in terms of performance and injury risk reduction.

Learn Exactly How and Why We Build These Programs for Gymnasts 

Kiefer Lammi is our Director of Fitness at Champion, and it’s hard to explain how much he has taught and helped me with these new programs. We have worked side by side over the last few years to build, test, and tinker with this new concept for gymnasts.

When traveling to teach, many people ask me about how and why we make these programs and want advice on how they can get them started in their gym. To help people out, during a recent in-service to our Strength Interns about building gymnastics programs, I filmed Kiefer’s entire lecture to post.

Although this lecture largely focuses on how we build these programs at Champion, I will be very honest in saying that this is exactly how I think about all gymnastics physical preparation programs (including the team I help coach and those I teach to people around the world). You can find the entire lecture below.

Kiefer does dive into many specfic exercises and program examples, but if you want to get very specific about gymnastics strength programs, be sure to check out my full 90-minute lecture on “Developing Leg Strength and Power in Gymnasts” which can be found inside The Hero Lab. I dive way deeper into how to build lower body strength, power, and control over the entire competitive season, including sample programs with full video explination.

In this lecture, Kiefer talks about

  • Why Gymnastics Performance Programs are so different than programming for other sports
  • Why we “chunk” workouts into warm-ups, power, strength, and energy systems development
  • The exercises we use with gymnasts, alongside set and rep schemes, and how we build them into daily workouts
  • How we design programs over 1 or 2 days, and individualize them based on complusory, optional, or college/elite gymnasts
  • How we approach the cultural friction in gymnastics surrounding these programs

(P.S. – I apologize in advance my cameras autofocus had some moments of freaking out at certain points)

Kiefer was also nice enough to put together a slideshow of all the information for people to use and download, as it was a little hard to see the whiteboard at sometimes. You can download and review them here,

Click Here to Access Gymnastics Strength and Conditioning Slide Deck 

There is so much incredibly valuable information within the lecture, so keep a pen and pad handy. Have a great week,

– Dave

Dr. Dave Tilley DPT, SCS, CSCS
CEO/Founder of SHIFT Movement Science