For Coaches Body shaping issues

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nevertooold

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We have quite a few girls in our program from developmental through level 5 who have knees that overlap when their feet are together. In other words, they cannot place their legs straight and together, either the feet are apart or if the feet are together they are sticking one knee on top of the other to compensate. Is there anything we can do to correct this?

Also have noticed that we have quite a few girls who cannot sit in a tucked squat position w/out their heels coming off the floor. We do calf stretch in every warm-up, and we have them sit and try to hold the tucked squat with their hands off the floor, they either have to lift their butt to get their heels down or put their hands behind them on the floor so they are leaning back a bit. Any ideas? Is it just an issue of needing more aggressive calf/ankle/achilles stretching?

Thank you.
 
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BlairBob

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In this tucked squat position are they sitting on their butt or with their legs folded underneath them?

With the first issue, it's merely a genetics thing. Sometimes their hips and thighs are too muscular or fat.
 

gymdog

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Jul 5, 2007
5,121
Unless it's truly a significant body type thing, I honestly have very few girls who can't get their legs together in any way (i.e. sitting down) but have encountered the same problem of legs being apart in handstand, etc. It's generally just poor form. Lots of handstands with spot, front support on bars with spot. Most girls (I don't coach boys, no idea) should be able to get their legs together. If they can't even sit in a pike with their legs together, then it might be a more significant issue. And by "legs together" I mean ankles together, sometimes there's a gap.

As for the second one, I've been doing relatively high level gymnastics for...too long, and I was thinking I probaby can't even do that. Tried it. Yup, not even close. Unless I was leaning back with my hands behind me, I doubt there is any flexibility I could improve enough to do this any time soon. I'm not naturally super flexible, but I've never found my calf/achilles to be super tight. Also, maybe this was just me, but as an aside trying was pretty hard on my knees, although I don't seem to ever pick up knee problems, I think that stretches should generally minimize the knees going over the ankles at less than 90 degrees, because my experience at some age girls do start complaining about knee pain.
 

ginnymac

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Jun 26, 2008
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Also have noticed that we have quite a few girls who cannot sit in a tucked squat position w/out their heels coming off the floor. We do calf stretch in every warm-up, and we have them sit and try to hold the tucked squat with their hands off the floor, they either have to lift their butt to get their heels down or put their hands behind them on the floor so they are leaning back a bit. Any ideas? Is it just an issue of needing more aggressive calf/ankle/achilles stretching?

Thank you.

The reason that your girls can't do this is the change in our center of gravity as we get older. Very young children (toddlers) and tiny in stature young children (as some gymnasts are) can do this. There are many other more effective and appropriate achilles stretches that will not cause such stress on the knees as well.

HTH:)
 
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gymnut1

Guest
We have quite a few girls in our program from developmental through level 5 who have knees that overlap when their feet are together. In other words, they cannot place their legs straight and together, either the feet are apart or if the feet are together they are sticking one knee on top of the other to compensate. Is there anything we can do to correct this?

If I remember from my last coaching course this is something to do with the pelvis and when the children grow bigger and the pelvis widens this will self correct. It is very noticable in some girls.

Also have noticed that we have quite a few girls who cannot sit in a tucked squat position w/out their heels coming off the floor. We do calf stretch in every warm-up, and we have them sit and try to hold the tucked squat with their hands off the floor, they either have to lift their butt to get their heels down or put their hands behind them on the floor so they are leaning back a bit. Any ideas? Is it just an issue of needing more aggressive calf/ankle/achilles stretching?

Thank you.
I wouldn't worry about this. I dont think many kids can do that.
 
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nevertooold

Guest
In this tucked squat position are they sitting on their butt or with their legs folded underneath them?
They are on their feet like the postion at the end of a tucked forward roll just before you stand up.
 
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nevertooold

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And by "legs together" I mean ankles together, sometimes there's a gap.

As for the second one, I've been doing relatively high level gymnastics for...too long, and I was thinking I probaby can't even do that. Tried it. Yup, not even close. Unless I was leaning back with my hands behind me, I doubt there is any flexibility I could improve enough to do this any time soon. I'm not naturally super flexible, but I've never found my calf/achilles to be super tight. Also, maybe this was just me, but as an aside trying was pretty hard on my knees, although I don't seem to ever pick up knee problems, I think that stretches should generally minimize the knees going over the ankles at less than 90 degrees, because my experience at some age girls do start complaining about knee pain.
The girls with ankles together and a gap "seem" to be rotating internally, b/c most of those girls we can get to close the gap by having them rotate externally in a stand to bring the legs together. I was wondering if the overlapping knees was maybe an issue of external rotation then?

One of the reasons that we want the girls to be able to squat with their feet flat on the ground is that we do single leg squat to stand and also roll back to candlestick, stand up and jump with both feet and each leg individually as part of our conditioning. The girls who cannot squat struggle with both of these.
 
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nevertooold

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The reason that your girls can't do this is the change in our center of gravity as we get older. Very young children (toddlers) and tiny in stature young children (as some gymnasts are) can do this. There are many other more effective and appropriate achilles stretches that will not cause such stress on the knees as well.

HTH:)
I think there is something about this position and body type, as some people regardless of age can do this very easily. Many people in the world squat around low tables routinely instead of using chairs for instance. Of the 4 coaches in our group, age early 20's to late 40's 3 can do it easily/effortlessly and one cannot do it without tipping backwards?

I have not noticed that this has caused anyone excess stress on the knees, but several have mentioned it now. We do not do "frog jumps" or "squat jumps" or things that come down into that position with force or quickness, this is a gently held position, but definitely something to think about.
 

gymdog

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Jul 5, 2007
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One of the reasons that we want the girls to be able to squat with their feet flat on the ground is that we do single leg squat to stand and also roll back to candlestick, stand up and jump with both feet and each leg individually as part of our conditioning. The girls who cannot squat struggle with both of these.
I can do those things easily, but I push through my toes to do them and I'm not always on flat foot (bad for gymnastics anyway to be honest, I'm constantly fighting the "heels slamming down" battle with the compulsories). As I pull up to stand I'm rolling from the heel to the toe and then back. You practically have to do that because you're pulling forward. Are all the coaches doing this keeping their knees together and having bare feet? Yes people squat all the time but not usually with their knees directly together and feet facing directly forward as is a gymnastically correct position, with their heels pressed down. I really think it would be unusual to be able to do this easily. Maybe I'm misunderstanding the position in question.

I'm not sure what you mean about the rotation and knee overlapping though, sorry.
 
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nevertooold

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I can do those things easily, but I push through my toes to do them and I'm not always on flat foot (bad for gymnastics anyway to be honest, I'm constantly fighting the "heels slamming down" battle with the compulsories). As I pull up to stand I'm rolling from the heel to the toe and then back. You practically have to do that because you're pulling forward. Are all the coaches doing this keeping their knees together and having bare feet? Yes people squat all the time but not usually with their knees directly together and feet facing directly forward as is a gymnastically correct position, with their heels pressed down. I really think it would be unusual to be able to do this easily. Maybe I'm misunderstanding the position in question.

  • The girls who cannot squat can do roll to candle jump ups when using both feet yet practically fall over on one foot, and cannot do single leg squat to stand b/c they cannot get all the way down to the lower position, they go up on their toes and fall over, literally.
  • I agree you should be pushing "through" the toes. We do not have an issue with our compulsories with heels slamming down, on the opposite end we have several girls who are "toe jumpers" who don't want to use the ankles at all, their heels rarely touch the floor, ever.
  • yes the coaches are doing this barefoot or shoes, either way doesn't matter, feet flat, chest/belly touching thighs, back of calf to back of thigh. I am not surprised that you find in unusual b/c at least in our experience, the coaches and kids that CAN do it, cannot understand why/how the others cannot, and the ones that CANNOT do it do not understand how the others can. Maybe its just one of those things that some people can do and others cannot?
 
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gymkat

Active Member
Former Gymnast
Judge
Jun 24, 2008
691
I have absolutely abysmal Achilles flexibility; my sports med doctor even called me out on it. I can't squat and keep my heels flat (in fact, they come up almost immediately), but I stand up on one-leg candlestick jumps with a flat foot. Maybe it has more to do with leg strength or balance? There are a lot of kids at my gym with flexible Achilles who can squat with their heels flat and can't do the 1-leg candlestick jumps without banging their other leg down or needing help. I'm not convinced that there is a direct correlation here.
 
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nevertooold

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I have absolutely abysmal Achilles flexibility; my sports med doctor even called me out on it. I can't squat and keep my heels flat (in fact, they come up almost immediately), but I stand up on one-leg candlestick jumps with a flat foot. Maybe it has more to do with leg strength or balance? There are a lot of kids at my gym with flexible Achilles who can squat with their heels flat and can't do the 1-leg candlestick jumps without banging their other leg down or needing help. I'm not convinced that there is a direct correlation here.
I would agree that most of the girls who cannot do one leg candlestick jumps is b/c they are not strong enough.

I don't think there is necessarily a "direct correlation", I'm just trying to help the girls that "seem" to be stong enough to do this, compared to the other girls in our gym. There may be other factors for sure. It seems we are the only ones out there with this issue so I guess I will just watch them more closely and see if there are other factors I can pinpoint.
 
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BlairBob

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To squat all the way down and hold that tucked squat position requires you to reach your fingers forward to counterbalance. This also requires your hips to be over your center of foot heel. This means you need to flex at the knee and hip quite a bit. Pushing onto the forefoot decreases those angles. It also makes it far more unstable.

To do a single leg squat similar to the compulsory routines requires a good amount of ankle and knee flexion. It also takes a fair amount of quad and glute and ham strenght and balance.

I teach this from the bottom. First learn to hold the bottom position. We typically use a floor beam but sometimes use a springboard or mushroom for those kids with poor ankle flexibility (because it slopes down).

I've posted this a lot of time but doing single leg squats is mostly about building the balance and flexibility. It doesn't really require a lot of strength to do one, especially when you rock back to candle and stand up or jump.

You can also practice lowering from a stand on one leg to the bottom position, but typically you'll find they will hit a certain point and the leg will buckle. Sometimes, it's flexibility related, sometimes it's strength related and sometimes they just don't have very good coordination or awareness.

You can do assisted lower downs holding a beam or pole and use it to assist the up phase or work the lower down/getup part by doing a partial ROM.

Gymnasts with poor hip flexor strength/flexibility will have a hard time holding their leg out at horizontal. Watch that the base knee does not bend and compensate for a free leg trying to get to horizontal.

I have done it before and can typically get what I consider weaker compulsory kids to attain a single leg squat within weeks by merely drilling the bottom position and balance portion. It gets harder as they get bigger/older but still 1 is not a lot of strength.

10 is my base standard. After 10 it's time to start working them with full ROM jumps or added weight. Until then, it's working a partial ROM or whatever the weakness is.
 
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CoachGoofy

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They are on their feet like the postion at the end of a tucked forward roll just before you stand up.
I just tried this.

I have immense difficulty with doing it flat foot/knees together, though can squat with my knees apart or on my toes all day. I had to pull forward with my arms. It's not a flexibility thing, just a balance thing (as others indicated, I just had to feel it to get what was being asked). I can't think of an obscure muscle group to stretch to make it work, & my flexibility is hardly lacking even now (mid 20s female).

This was never an issue with candlestick jumps. I just played the "beat the coach" game with my compulsories on thursday with them & wouldn't have noticed an issue with this position had this thread not come up.
 

Pineapple_Lump

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Jan 31, 2008
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This is a very interesting topic.
Two gymnasts come to mind.
The first always had one bent knee, on closer inspection she could not have her feet together and straight without the bent knee. There was something odd about her knees. I found that if she placed the other knee on top, her feet could join and her legs looked straight.
The second gymnast had extremely poor hamstring pike stretch, not sure if this was due to the Achilles or the Hamstring. This gymnast really struggled to forward roll to stand without wobbling/falling back. Also the candle stands were tricky for her (we did them on the beam), and I am sure she would fail the tuck stand test. We did a lot of work to stretch and strengthen, it did improve. I think Blairbob's suggestions would have helped this gymnast more.
 
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nevertooold

Guest
To squat all the way down and hold that tucked squat position requires you to reach your fingers forward to counterbalance. This also requires your hips to be over your center of foot heel. This means you need to flex at the knee and hip quite a bit. Pushing onto the forefoot decreases those angles. It also makes it far more unstable.

To do a single leg squat similar to the compulsory routines requires a good amount of ankle and knee flexion. It also takes a fair amount of quad and glute and ham strenght and balance.

I teach this from the bottom. First learn to hold the bottom position. We typically use a floor beam but sometimes use a springboard or mushroom for those kids with poor ankle flexibility (because it slopes down).

I've posted this a lot of time but doing single leg squats is mostly about building the balance and flexibility. It doesn't really require a lot of strength to do one, especially when you rock back to candle and stand up or jump.

You can also practice lowering from a stand on one leg to the bottom position, but typically you'll find they will hit a certain point and the leg will buckle. Sometimes, it's flexibility related, sometimes it's strength related and sometimes they just don't have very good coordination or awareness.

You can do assisted lower downs holding a beam or pole and use it to assist the up phase or work the lower down/getup part by doing a partial ROM.

Gymnasts with poor hip flexor strength/flexibility will have a hard time holding their leg out at horizontal. Watch that the base knee does not bend and compensate for a free leg trying to get to horizontal.

I have done it before and can typically get what I consider weaker compulsory kids to attain a single leg squat within weeks by merely drilling the bottom position and balance portion. It gets harder as they get bigger/older but still 1 is not a lot of strength.

10 is my base standard. After 10 it's time to start working them with full ROM jumps or added weight. Until then, it's working a partial ROM or whatever the weakness is.
Thank you for this explanation. We have been trying to drill the bottom position by adding the tucked squat position into our warm-ups and it has helped some of the girls over time. I will take your advice and start drilling the bottom position of the single leg squat to stand and using a pole to assist in raising and lowering and see where we get.
 

ACoach78

Coach
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Feb 22, 2007
112
USA
This is a very interesting topic.
The second gymnast had extremely poor hamstring pike stretch, not sure if this was due to the Achilles or the Hamstring. This gymnast really struggled to forward roll to stand without wobbling/falling back. Also the candle stands were tricky for her (we did them on the beam), and I am sure she would fail the tuck stand test. We did a lot of work to stretch and strengthen, it did improve.
How do you know that it was hamstrings? Too often, people assume that the hamstrings are tight when in reality it is actually the hip flexors pulling the front of the pelvis forward (anteriorly) and couple with weak abdominals, this puts the hamstring on stretch.

There is a delicate balance of forces on the pelvis termed a "force couple." The abdominals and hamstrings cause a backward (posterior) tilt while the hip flexors and spinal extensors (erector spinae) cause the pelvis to tilt anteriorly. Weak abdominals coupled with very tight hip flexors and short spinal extensors will tilt the pelvis forward and put the hamstrings on stretch. The hamstrings attach to the bottom part of the pelvis (ischial tuberosities) and they insert on the back of the femur.

As for the issues of legs overlapping and such, post a picture with a black spot over the face so I can see and I can pretty much tell you what's going on. My guess is that there's probably weakness in the hips in some capacity causing a lack of control over the femur and that causes a compensation in the tibia and/or feet. But, without seeing the person's posture from a side and front view, it's impossible to say based on a description.
 
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BlairBob

Guest
Pineapple, the 2nd gymnast sounds like one of my boys. Poor hamstring flexibility (I've tested it a few ways such as pike stretch with straight/arched back, standing pike bent over stretch, splits flexibility). He also suffers from poor squat mechanics that were either never stressed or are due to some muscular issues/weaknesses (he's knockkneed as well).

He's pretty hopeless at the single leg squat. It generally involves falling over on the descent or ascent. He says he can do 2 or 3 sometimes but he cheats form by bending over vs keeping his chest and chin up. Right now, I've taken to stretching him manually as prior stretching of various kinds wasn't working. It seems to be helping. As well as I'm having him do myofascial massage on his feet with a massage ball when he warms up to see if it helps any with his leg mechanics.

For being a compulsory gymnast a few years, he still has a very poor tuck forward roll to stand sometimes because he is either lazy or his squat mechanics. We've also taken to working some barbell-like squat mechanics (with a stick or super light body bar) to see if it will help any.
 

Pineapple_Lump

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Jan 31, 2008
1,097
Thank you ACoach and Blair bob for your responses.

ACoach I never settled on believing it was the hamstrings. That was my first assumption and the efforts to improve hamstring flexibility did help. My knowledge of muscle groups/biomechanics is severely lacking. Your explanation makes perfect sense regarding this gymnast. She also began with poor split flexibility, this could be related, right? A lot of my training/experience has never directly covered the hip flexors. Hence I have never really though much about them.
Since you have brought this to my attention, what drills/stretches/strengthening would you use in order to combat tight hip flexors?

As for the second gymnast, I no longer coach her (she has left the sport). So while it would be beneficial to my understanding, I don't feel comfortable posting a photo of her. I can tell you that she had some sort of skeletal problems as a baby and was struggling with back problems as a result of this. This kid made my heart ache, she really shouldn't have been doing competitive gymnastics but she just tried so hard to keep going.
 

ACoach78

Coach
Coach
Feb 22, 2007
112
USA
Well, the hip flexors...there are about 5 major muscles the contribute to hip flexion (Rectus Femoris, Iliacus, Psoas Major/Minor, Sartorius, & Tensor Fasciae Latae)...depending upon which the culprit is depends upon which one you will stretch.

The likely culprits are going to be rectus femoris, psoas, and TFL. To test for these, use the Thomas test. You can find it on YouTube. I posted a link in another post somewhere on here. I don't recall if it was in this forum or possibly the "skills" forum, maybe?

Measuring "pike" flexibility is a crappy way to determine hamstring length. If the gymnast has poor pelvic control and tight hip flexors, they'll test very tight in their hamstrings because their pelvis keeps tipping forward. Lay them on their back, lift their leg, and see if they can achieve about 80-90 degrees. Or, perform the hamstring 90-90 test in which they are on their back, the thigh is lifted to 90 degrees while the knee is also 90 degrees, and then the knee is extended passively. Measure the angle at which there is noticeable restriction from any further knee extension. On average, I think that most can achieve within 20-30 degrees of 180 (straight). So, I'd conclude that this is probably about normal.

Lastly, if your knowledge of biomechanics and muscle groups is severely lacking then I suggest you pay a visit to the local university library, pick up some books on functional anatomy and start reading. In particular, I'd steer more towards the physical therapy/chiro books as they'll be loaded with far more functional anatomy than a basic anatomy text in the biology or physiology section.
 
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