Workshop Review: How to utilise gymnastic conditioning

On Sunday 31st March, Athletic Evolution and Edinburgh Leisure hosted a workshop led by 2018 Commonwealth Games Gymnast, Shannon Archer. This practical workshop focussed on how sport coaches could utilise gymnastic activities in their own sport coaching. Given the mistaken clash with Mother’s day, we had a great turnout of 25 attendees…

The main inspiration for organising the workshop was my experience coaching athletes who have experienced gymnastics in their athletic journey. In my opinion, this helps them learn other motor skills more effectively and more quickly. These athletes tend to exhibit increased levels of kinaesthetic awareness, coordination and general athleticism compared to many other athletes of different sporting backgrounds. Some of those without the gymnastics background even lack the ability to forward roll! As such, I was personally keen to learn how we could utilise some of the gymnastic methods and skills in the hope that we could use them to improve the athleticism of our athletes.

The workshop was designed to be highly practical, so after a brief introduction from Phil Trodden and myself, we got straight into the action. The first component Shannon emphasised was an effective and controlled landing position, which was a large part of the content explored in the first 15 minutes. Given the large forces experienced during/after gymnastic skills this made a lot of sense and also has a huge amount of carryover to other sports (basketball, volleyball, football, rugby and other running based sports). Shannon led us through some great progressions for this landing or “stick” position:

  • Forward double leg landing from a jog
  • Lateral double leg landing from a side shuffle
  • Backward double leg landing from a jog
  • Same leg hop and stick
  • Same leg hop and stick with a high knee tuck
  • Rebound hops with high knee tucks, sticking after the 3rd rep

Shannon then highlighted the importance of calf/achilles development in landing positions and proceeded to lead us through various low level plyometrics including double and single leg pogo bounces. You can see a timelapse of the warm up here.

Some squat and crawl variations for mobility

We were then exposed to some of the mobility and flexibility exercises which are so important to be able to execute gymnastic skills with competency. This included more dynamic exercises such as a deep squat with a single arm overhead reach, arabesque variations and bear crawl variations. (I came away with some new ideas for rugby contact warm ups from this part!) We then completed various static stretches such as straddle groin stretches, kneeling hip flexor/ hamstring stretches as well as pectoral and lat stretches.

The Arabesque – Balance isn’t my best skill!

After mobility/flexibility, we then split into 3 groups to focus on practicing specific skills in a rotation. These included:

  • Cartwheel progressions
  • Forward/backward roll progressions
  • Handstand progressions
Shannon demonstrates the forward roll

Finally, we ended focussing on some trunk conditioning. Although we only did 1 set of the selected exercises, the sounds of exertion from the attendees confirmed that 1 set was enough! These drills included:

  • Dish hold curl ups
  • Dish hold leg lifts
  • Dish V-sits
  • Crucifix Oblique rotations
  • Lying single leg lifts up/crossovers on the way down

It’s not every day you get the opportunity to learn gymnastics from an international athlete! So thanks very much to Shannon for spending her time teaching us all some very useful and applicable exercises, drills and coaching points! Also a massive thankyou to all who attended and participated in the workshop!

Are you a grassroots youth sport coach or PE teacher who wants to improve the athleticism of your athletes?? Check out our Fundamental series athletic development programs here.