This post is in conjunction with a short video tip I put out earlier this month on overhead shoulder stabilization drills. I have been seeing a lot of young gymnasts with overuse elbow injuries, especially those that are going through rapid periods of growth. Unfortunately, when an elbow injury progresses very far it can become a very serious growth plate or cartilage issue like Osteochondritis Dissecans and growth plate stress fractures. These injuries can take gymnasts out of training for up to year sometimes, and worse sometimes be career ending.
There are many factors to consider, including things we may not be able to change such as their growth rate, congenital laxity, resting elbow hyper extension or increased valgus carrying angle. However, the dynamic neuromuscular support and progressive overloading – resting – adaptation of the arm complex to handle high force is something I think is essential. This is one of many reasons why I am a fan of using periodized strength programs with external load. Here is one of my favorite accessory drills to add in for our gymnasts, starting from a young age when they can show correct technique under control.
I hope people can appreciate this has lots of similar gymnastics positions (hollow one arm push, blind full or pirouetting) despite not being “gymnastics strength”. We have to develop the basics first before jumping to high force skill. I encourage readers to not rush to try and teach this movement to all your gymnasts with weights, as is is something that requires lots of education to do safely.
I would advise becoming educated yourself, or reaching out to a strength coach / healthcare professional that can teach these types of skills to the athletes. I made this post knowing season is coming to a close, and the summer is approaching. I personally took 3 or so months on my own to learn and practice, then taught our gymnasts how to do the steps with no weight over a a month, and then added very light weight for the month after that. Our advanced gymnasts like the one shown in the video can now get up to 25 or 30 pounds having lots of experience with it. Hope this helps!
Dave Tilley DPT, SCS