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Hi !

I am already twenty years old, and started gymnastics just 4 months ago. I always was quite active and flexible, so I have most of the Level 5 skills by now. As I train in Austria, we have very bad opportunities here and good gyms are rare. Even the best ones often have just one beam. Anyways, I want to improve. I have gymnastics training 3 days a week for two hours, this is the max they offer. Quality of the training can not be compared to the USA! We don't really do a lot of strength and flexibilty, just very few exercises included in the warm-ups. What I want to do now is developing strength at home. I can do 30 good push-ups, about 3 deadhang pull-ups, 5 deadhang chin-ups, 20 V-ups with good form, and an L-Hang for about 15 seconds. My goals are some of the TOPs requirements.

Climbing a rope with no feet in a pike position
15-20 Pull-Ups
20 Leg Lifts
L-Sit and straddle L-Sit on the floor and then press handstand

I have all my splits and working on oversplits and my shoulders and back are rather flexible.

I really don't know how I should train to achieve my goals. I have no one to ask and the training in the gym wil never get me any further with this bad quality! What about doing 3sets of of pushups, pullups, chinups , benchpresses and shoulderpresses as well as abs training and tucked hanging leg raises every other day? How many reps? How long should the workout for the arms be? How long for the abs? Could you give me any tips about training to achieve my goals? Is there atraining schedule for TOPs? How long will it take in general to achieve this gol with proper training and diet? 3 months? 6 months? A year?

And do you think it is a realistic goal to get toLevel 7-8 in about 2 years?

I would really appreciateyourrespond and tips. I love this sport so much and I hope I get the chance to train in the USA one day. I love this sport and there was no single day I have had enough of it!

Hello Kate,
       I am very glad to help you.   First I would like to help you understand some fitness concepts.  It is very important that the exercises you will do imitate the skill motions.  This helps to make the strength very practical.  Next, you must understand that you, as an athlete in gymnastics are genetically different.  Each athlete will be at a unique stage of their training.  Knowing this, the type of training you desire should be different than someone else.  For example, you may have a weak event so you have to spend more time on the fitness for that event etc. Below are some simple concepts to understand when helping yourself to get gymnastically fit.  Please be patient.  Success will come.  Feel confident that you know what to do and you have a purposeful plan.  Constantly remind yourself of the good things you have done to become strong in your skills and stronger than your workout demands.  Again–I wish you  the very best of luck.  Take Care–Jack Leonard

1.   Always do three sets of repetitions.  The first set warms-up the muscles, the second set is the workout portion and the workout and the third set is muscle building.  
2.   Adding some additional protein to your diet will help in the muscle building process.  If you would eat an energy bar 40 minutes prior to workout, it will help a lot in maintaining a higher energy level during the workout.
3.   Keep records of her strength training.  This is great for ackowledging your accomplishments and shows you where you started, how they are improving and how far you have come.  It is a great personal motivator.
4.   Understand, to develop muscle endurance, use your own body weight or a low weight and do high repetitions.  To build muscle mass and quicker strength, lift weights.  This will encourage the body to build more muscle to meet the demands of your sport and your day.
5.   Finally, there are three things that every athlete must do to be successful in obtaining their strengthening goals.  One, get enough rest.  Two, eat right so you body can build the muscle from the proper nutrition and three, exercise correctly.

Gymnastics Exercises:

1.   Leg lifts:  This is a very basic exercise done by most gymnasts to help improve the lower stomach strength.  Try to this exercise without swinging.  Hang on an uneven bar or the top stall bar and lift the legs(straight) up to the bar and back down.   Use fractions.  This means if you are assigning yourself to do 8 leg lifts, two halves equal 1 leg lift and so on.  This will assure that your muscles get good and tired.  The muscles will not get stronger unless you make them tired.  As a final note on leg lifts, leg lifts develop the muscles below the belly button.  Doing traditional sit-ups on the floor develop the upper stomach.  Gymnasts need strong lower stomach strength.  This lower stomach keeps the body in line while performing a layout.

2.   Pull-ups:  Remember to do three sets and do fractions when you cannot meet your requirement.

3.   Jump to support:  Stand on a mat so that with your arms straight, your shoulders are just below the low bar.  Now do three sets of jumping to a support.

4.   Rock Hollows:  Do three sets of rock hollows(done on a mat) with arms overhead and one hand on top of the other.  If you do not know what this is, your daughters coach can explain it.

6.   Lat pulls:  If you have access to a lat machine, use it!  It will be very beneficial to the uncoiling in your gymnasts back handsprings.

7.   Leg whips for the lower back muscles:  Have your gymnasts hug the top of the vaulting horse so that their legs hang down in a pike.  Now have them raise their legs up in a pike to just level or slightly below level.

8.   Back arches:  This develops the upper part of the lower back  Again, have your gymnasts get on the vaulting table with their legs on top of the horse and their upper body hanging down in a pike position.  It will probably take a couple of your athletes to hold down their legs.  Now...have your gymnasts raise up to about level.

Please Note:  Please understand that your thighs are the power of your legs and help you go high.  Your calf muscles are the quickness of your legs and help you in quick push-offs and of course punch skills.
9.   Squat jumps:  Again, do at least 3 sets.  You can do them on and off a folded mat or across the Floor mat.  The jumping exercise is Plyometrics……to jump over many blocks separated by a space.  This helps you tumbling and vaulting and mounts.  Plyometrics develops speed in take offs and power for height and timing to rebound.

10.   Toe rises:  Do these on a low Beam and remember to go all the way down and all the way up.

11.   Handstand elbow touches against a wall:  Perform a handstand against a wall now push away from one shoulder and touch the other elbow and repeat with other arm.  Perform 100.  This improves push offs for all tumbling and apparatus and shoulder strength.

12.   Pull ups:  Do at least 20.  Perform fractions or part ways if you cannot go all the way in a pull up.  For example, if you go half way up, perform two half ways to equal one pull up etc

13.    Plyometrics:  This will help you tremendously in your floor tumbling.  This increases speed, quickness and jumping ability.

14.    Bridges:  You need to get your shoulder & back flexibility and strength back.  Doing bridges and bridge kickovers will help tremendously.

15.   Splits:  You need to practice all three directions to help with your gymnastics elements and safety.

16.   Hollow climbers:   Lay on the floor with your feet on the wall and climb up the wall till your hands are a hand print away from the wall then reverse coming down to the original start position.  Do at least 4 sets of 4.

Try to keep a journal…this will keep you honest and create more purpose.  I wish you the best and take care – Jack Leonard  


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Jack Leonard


Former 5 time Natl. Tumbling Champ, 3 time Natl. Vaulting Champ, Natl. Floor Exercise Champ; Ass`t coach of Dominique Dawes for 6 years; Owner/Director/Head coach of Kauai Gymnastics Academy on the island of Kauai in Hawaii; Retired Physical Ed teacher; Childrens Fitness Expert; Expert Consultant for gymnastics litigation; Retired Mens & Womens HS Gymnastics coach for 32 years. National coaching honors for Men in 1981 & Women in 2001.


I value the following awards because they were given by acknowlegement through my peers: The Nissen/Grissold Award given to the outstanding Tumbling and Tramp Athlete(1972), National High School coach of the year in 1981 for men and 2001 for women, 10 time County Coach of the Year. Medal Award given at the first World Tumbling Championships in London, England for dedication to the sport. Lastly, having the opportunity to coach Wes Suter(1988 Olympian)in his intermediate years and Dominique Dawes(1992 & 1996)

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