Training Strength and Training Hours

Subject: training hours

Sex: male
Age: 12
Gymnastics Level: 9

my son is starting level 9 this fall and training 5 days a week, 3 hours a day. From what I read, that seems to be an appropriate amount of time. I have two concerns I would like your views on: (1) boys will do conditioning first hour and then practice — is it preferred to practice first and then condition at the end or does it matter? (2) practice is from 6pm to 9pm. Boys are all 10 to 13 years old. Is the 8 to 9 hour too late for them to be doing practice? I’m concerned about safety since bedtime for boys this age is typically around 10pm. What do you think?

Strength Training After Practice is Safer

While it is not an uncommon practice in the sport to do conditioning, there are at least two very good reasons to do strength and conditioning at the end of practice. The first, and primary reason, is that some scientific studies show that there is an increased chance of injury when strength training is done before sports practices. This makes sense, since a good strength program is designed to exhaust the muscles of the athlete. Being physically and mentally tired makes the athlete less able to focus mentally, respond quickly and have full use of the their normal strength and power, allowing a greater possibility of accident and injury.

The second reason that doing strength training before practice is not a good strategy is that psychologically, gymnasts realize that they have a full practice ahead of them after strength and conditioning, and at least subconsciously, will hold back and save energy for practice. Saving energy for the later practice is actually an intelligent move on their part and necessary for them to make progress on their gymnastics skill training, execution and consistency later in practice. Going all out in strength training, which is the ideal scenario for building strength, would leave them unable to effectively practice their gymnastics skills and routines. Using up too much energy before gymnastics skills practice means that they will not be going all out in their strength training, not training to true momentary muscle failure and therefore, not gaining as much strength as they could and should.

No Real Good Excuse to Contradict the Science

It seems clear to me (and the scientists who have studied the question) that strength and conditioning should be done after practice). It is safer and more effective that way. I have not yet heard a good excuse as to why coaches do it before practice.

Gymnasts Will Adapt to Most Any Schedule

When it comes to the situation of the time of practice, I see nothing wrong with the practice hours. Young children and gymnasts are incredibly adaptive and can adapt to such a schedule in two to three weeks. The start of school is a tough period, though, when they are having to adapt to a new schedule and everyone should be aware of that situation. Changing schedule like that is like having super jet lag, but gymnasts will quickly adapt and after three weeks will have easily settled into their new routine.

Time Management of Homework Necessary

I do suggest that a policy of finishing their homework before practice be instituted so that they are not unproductively wasting their time before practice and then having to stay up late to get all their homework done. Part of being a great gymnast is learning how to manage their time effectively.

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