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Preparation for a Late-Starting Gymnast

Assassin

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Mar 30, 2019
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My 13 year old daughter is enrolling in gymnastics class this summer. She’s starting really late, so she’s not expecting to go to the Olympics or anything, but she wants to go as far as possible in the sport. She’s asked me to make an account and ask two questions:
  1. How far can she reasonably expect to go?
  2. What are some exercises she can do in preparation for these classes? She can do a backbend already and is working on handstands, kickovers, strength and flexibility, but what are some good strength exercises she can do at home? What are some good exercises she can do to gain skills? My daughter really wants to go into these classes strong enough to learn harder skills relatively quickly. How can she do this?
 
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Jard.the.gymnast

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As a late starter (I started at the age of 13, almost 14) myself, i totally get your daughter. I also believe late starters often are more motivated and more likely to stick with a certain activity. Now to answer her questions:

1. There really is no way to tell how far she will go. If shes fearless and works hard, and has an inclusive team, she might be able to petition into level 6 or 7 when she is 14 (or 15, or 16). Maybe she doesnt want to compete, in that case she can expect to learn as much as an rec class can offer her.

2. There are a lot of conditioning videos on youtube (if you look for something like ‘gymnastic strength follow along’ you will find plenty). In gymnastics it is very important to watch your form, and that can for sure be done when conditioning. She should make sure she is tight, has straight knees and arms, points her toes and all the other specifics. Basic stretching (look for ‘ gymnastics stretching follow-along’) is also good. For the rest I wouldnt do skills at home (especially bridges/backbends, backs were not meant to bend that way), since technique is really important in gymnastics. When she has been to class and she knows she has good technique, she could work basics like handstands and cartwheels. She could also ask her coach for what she could do.

The most important thing is that she wants to do it. we as coaches can only give her the saddle, she has to ride the horse.
 

Assassin

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Thanks so much for such a fast reply! She’s definitely a hard worker and has been really determined with all her conditioning. I’ll tell her to stop with all of the backbend kickover stuff, I don’t want her hurting herself. Just out of curiosity, what level did you get to (if you don’t mind telling me)
 

Jard.the.gymnast

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Thanks so much for such a fast reply! She’s definitely a hard worker and has been really determined with all her conditioning. I’ll tell her to stop with all of the backbend kickover stuff, I don’t want her hurting herself. Just out of curiosity, what level did you get to (if you don’t mind telling me)
Im not in the US, and im not done with gymnastics yet (im only 16), but on floor level 6 with no back tumbling, beam level 6, bars probably level 4 without kip and vault is level 4 with a minitramp
 
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Peachy88

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Look up levers as these are great for core strength and the basis for strong cartwheels, handstands, walkovers, etc.
 

Assassin

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Thanks so much! She’ll have to get her handstand though before she works on press handstands :). She’s been doing a lot of hollow-body and plank type things, and she just learned to do 40 push-ups in under a minute! Now she’s gunning for 50. She still can’t do a pull-up though, but she’s working on it.
 

MILgymFAM

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My daughter started at that age. I would say that how far she can go will be determined by her natural ability, ability to deal with frustration and failure (it takes a lot of fails to perfect a skill), and what kind of gym she’ll be at. As for workouts, I would say pull ups, chin ups, push ups, and box jumps.
 

twinmomma

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Going to sound like a recent broken record, but acro or T&T would be a GREAT fit for a motivated late starting gymnast. If you're interested in either, PM me and I can give you more details.
 
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Gymx2

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I don't have any advice, but want to wish her good luck! I hope you keep us posted with her journey- I really love hearing about kids being willing to try new things, even if it's not the "typical" age to start or whatever.
 
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sce

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My 13 year old daughter is enrolling in gymnastics class this summer. She’s starting really late, so she’s not expecting to go to the Olympics or anything, but she wants to go as far as possible in the sport. She’s asked me to make an account and ask two questions:
  1. How far can she reasonably expect to go?
  2. What are some exercises she can do in preparation for these classes? She can do a backbend already and is working on handstands, kickovers, strength and flexibility, but what are some good strength exercises she can do at home? What are some good exercises she can do to gain skills? My daughter really wants to go into these classes strong enough to learn harder skills relatively quickly. How can she do this?
She will go as far as she can, hard to say what that will be. But hopefully it will be fun.

Get her a chin up bar, so she can do pull-ups and leg lifts. It will make a big difference. Handstands are great to work on too. Free handstands and longer holds agaisnt the wall.
 
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Ginger

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When my daughters competed level 3, they had a 13-year old teammate. Not sure if she had a previous experience, they were new and she signed for rec gymnastics while her younger sister joined L3 team, but the coaches invited her older sister to team too. She later moved to different state and I believe she made it to level 7 or 8 there (I think she retired when she graduated).
Later, in different gym, my older daughter was on XCel gold team and she had a teammate from Europe. That girl was 13 years old when they moved here, she started at our gym and competed XCel silver the first year (her Mom said she never did gymnastics before), then next year XCel gold with my daughter, then they moved back to Europe :(

Not sure if your daughter wants to compete, but if she does, it's very important to have coaches who are willing to accomodate an 'older' gymnast.
 

Pirouette

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My DD15 started gymnastics right after her 11th birthday (summer before 6th grade). How far has she come? She couldn't do a decent handstand or cartwheel on the floor when she started, and now she does a cartwheel into a back tuck for her beam dismount. She still struggles with bars the most (can't kip yet), so she will be using her pull-up bar a lot this summer. If you don't already have one, get a pull-up bar. It really does help when used regularly and effectively.
 
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aerials

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Strength and flexibility! Have her work her arms and core, any strength training classes would be great...and have her stretch every day. Some states have high schools teams and it is possible that she could end up there.
 
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SonshineMamaJH

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My daughter (now 13.5) started at 11. I was a JO gymnast from 1979-1988 and I didn’t realize Xcel existed so when she said she wanted to compete I sadly told her “that ship has sailed.” But she found out otherwise from her friend who did Xcel and I searched for a gym with a program for older girls starting late. after 1 year in rec classes competing on their “in house league” she was invite to Xcel silver age at 12. Sadly this April she was diagnosed w a stress fracture in her spine. She’s just now slowly returning to gymnastics.

Here are top skills she had pre injury — she’s been fearless and worked really really hard. At home (strength) and in the gym. Maybe too hard for her teen body.

Floor: round off bhs, back tuck. Front tuck, running and standing Aeriel cartwheels .

Bars (her weakest) pull over, back hip circle, squat on’s, sole circles, tap swings o a tiled fly away, she can also do a mill circle but doesn’t compete it

Vault: 1/4 on, 3/4 off

Beam, cartwheel, handstands full turns, split jumps and Brandi dismounts.

She competed Xcel silver and mastered gold level skills by spring but her coaches are having her repeat silver this fall due to her injury. If she regains everything she may be in gold in January.

Her goal is to compete through high school. Her coaches are aware of this and very supportive. She’s older than all of the silvers but the same age as many golds and she’s training with the “silvers training gold.”

I’ve told her many many times there is no behind or too old. She is where she is.

We allow non flight at home (cartwheels and handstands mostly) and trampoline and beam

Lots of strength but good form only. Bad form on conditioning caused part of my daughters injury when she outgrew her strength and used her back instead of her core and hip flexors. That’s what I meant by she may have pushed too hard too fast.

I was a choreographer so I’ve always been strict on posture and form when doing any type of stretching and conditioning.

In addition to no back bends, id avoid arching core work like arch ups. A good old fashioned plank forward or sideways with the right form can be more powerful than a push up done poorly.

For a pull up bar, we bought chin up straps at the suggestion of her PT. Her arms have always been weak and after she couldn’t hang from the bar for 3 months, it was much worse. Plus this forces you to not use your back but start in a dead hang. She’s finally back to 3 assisted pull ups and does pull-ups on non gymnastics
Days ;)


The rules should be “if something is painful stop immediately”. Help her Learn the difference between aching muscles and pain - this was my daughter’s biggest issue.

And enjoy the ride — it’s been amazing to watch my daughter glow and flourish and love her sport after every learned skill and every meet.

I just realized this is from a few months ago and I wrote a book! Lol sorry to drone on.
 

Irishgymnast1418

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A friend of mine started team at 11 (in Ireland) and by 14 she was level 5. Your daughter, with good foundation and conditioning, could make it to level 6 or 7 and beyond. Some gyms don’t let older girls do JO, they just get tracked straight to excel. Good strenghth and flexibility when starting will help her a lot. Have her do calf raises, squats/ lunges and core and arms. Working kicks and holds forwards and to the side will help her leg flexibility. If she wants to do back stretches don’t let her do bridges just yoga type stretches. Good luck to her on her gymnastics journey!
 

Muddlethru

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Older gymnasts do fine in the first two levels, 2, 3 and 4. Bars may be the hardest event. I know a gymnast who started at 14. She scored out of Level 4, 5, 6 and 7 in about year and a half. Started at Level 8 and got to Level 9 scoring 36+ until she got injured and had to have surgery. She sat out her senior year. She never got to 10 but ended up joining a D3 team for one year until pain started setting in again. Her situation was remarkable because she was doing single F skill releases on bars and was strong in all events. I also know gymnasts who started at 13, did really well in the early levels but didn’t get past Level 6 or 7. Being a really hard worker is a given in this sport.

Not knowing anything about your daughter and not having even started gymnastics, and if I had to guess, the average gymnast starting at 13 might reach Level 7 if they push hard.

Handstands are always helpful. Stretches, splits. She can also take dance. This is where the older girls get extra points. Strengthen her core.
 
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Muddlethru

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I don’t know anything about excel or usaigc but from what I’ve read, she might be happier in those programs.
 

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