One of the most common areas I see gymnastics overlook is reactive balance control work, especially in the frontal plane. During strength programs, we usually are good a programing larger muscle groups and even preparing for power/speed. We often time overlook how huge reactive balance work is for both performance (staying on beam, single leg power in running/jumping) but also injury prevention (avoiding knee/ankle overload, safe landing mechanics). One exercise I picked up from some great strength coaches and use weekly is a single leg lateral medball toss.
Have the athlete stand a short distance away from each other, with the outside leg being the stance leg. The bottom leg should have a slightly bent knee, proper knee tracking, a strong short foot posture, and as always good core control should be promoted. The athletes goal is to catch and receive the medball, and then after absorbing the forces return the ball to the opposite partner.
This drill is great because it,
- Enhances single leg control, especially in the sideways and rotational plane
- Has direct transfer to gymnastics skills on beam, running, tumbling, and landings
- Trains higher level balance / coordination skills, as the athletes must react to the partners throw
- helps promote movement variability with every toss condition being different, but still practices underlying fundamental pattern of single leg stance
- Is very easy to implement and scale for all levels, and fits perfectly as an active rest exercise during strength. Loads from light foam blocks for younger athletes to weighted medballs for older athletes are can easily be used.
Try it out and once athletes understand the goal, try to add it in during the training week. Hope this helps,
– Dave Tilley DPT, SCS