What can cause muscular imbalances in gymnasts?

Eric Beard
Sports Medicine

Muscular imbalances in gymnasts can be caused be several things. Commonly routines or moves are practiced hundreds of times over to develop mastery. Moving the same way repeatedly can develop imbalances. If a gymnast has an injury that is never fully rehabilitated correctly throughout the entire body, like an ankle sprain for example, then this can lead to muscular imbalances too. It is common for injured areas of the body to be rehabilitated but we need to look beyond the site of the injury and make sure that the entire body is moving correctly or other injuries may develop. Incorporating a program that includes strength training, core training, flexibility work, balance training and plyometric training into it can help to decrease the likely hood of developing imbalances as well as enhancing performance and reducing risk of other injuries.

In gymnastics, as well as other sports, common causes for muscle imbalances include postural stress, repetitive movement, poor technique, lack of core strength, and decreased recovery or regeneration after activity. Preventative measures can be taken to subside most of these causes. Stretching tight muslces and strengthening weak muscles is a good strategy. For example, a common muscle that is tight in many gymnasts, and athletes in general, are the muscles in front of the hip (or hip flexors). To stretch the hip flexors, stand with one foot in front of you and one behind you (roughly 2 foot lengths in between). Keeping the back foot straight and the thigh muscles tight, tuck your pelvis under you. Keep the gluteal of the back leg tight to assist in the pelvic tuck. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. To enhance the stretch, lean forward on to the front leg while keeping the back leg straight and the pelvis tucked. Muscles that can become weakended when the hip flexors are tight include the gluteal muscles. To strengthen the gluteals, perform a floor bridge. Lie on your back, keeping the knees and hips bent, and the feet under the knees. Tighten the abdominals and gluteals and raise your hips off the floor until your hips are in line with your knees and shoulders. Hold for 2 seconds and lower your hips back to the ground. Perform 1-2 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.