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Exercise Training Principles and their Application in Rhythmic Gymnastics

Rhythmic gymnastics training involves participating in activities with the aim of enhancing performance and/or fitness in order to perform routines with the least amount of technical errors and as aesthetically as possible. Achieving this goal is most effectively done by comprehending fundamental sports training principles, which include specificity, individualisation, progressive overload, reversibility and the hard/easy principle.


Specificity


Sometimes this is called the training effect and it's specific to the muscles and muscle fibres

and systems that are involved. The specificity of training principle emphasizes that the body's response to physical activity is closely tied to the nature of that activity.

For instance, if someone engages in jogging, they can anticipate improvements in their jogging performance and aerobic fitness. However, significant enhancements in other aerobic activities, muscular strength, or flexibility should not be expected.


Nonetheless, rhythmic gymnastics is different to jogging and other sport that focus on a specific quality (aerobic capacity, endurance, muscle growth, etc...) because gymnastics stands out as one of the most all-encompassing 'lifestyle exercise programs' for children. It seamlessly combines attributes like strength, flexibility, speed, balance, coordination, power, and discipline. It not only bestows athletes with attributes such as flexibility, grace, balance, and remarkable power but also nurtures qualities of the mind, imparting valuable lessons in perseverance, meticulousness, concentration, composure, and self-assurance.


Does this mean that this principle doesn't apply to rhythmic gymnastics training? The answer is, that it does indeed apply. This principle underscores the significance of a comprehensive fitness approach that carefully caters to health, performance, and personal concerns by incorporating activities tailored to each of these domains. Meaning that when mastering a new skill we will train the capacities related to that particular skill by isolating the active muscle groups needed. E.g. when training balance, aerobic exercises are not relevant; core control, and hip and ankle stability are.


Principle of Individuality


This principle is similar to specificity. Where specificity and individuality differ is on the focus on the individual. Following with the example used in principle above, let's imagine two gymnasts are struggling with the same balance. Arm conditioning or aerobic exercise may not be needed for this exercises for both of them, because they are not relevant to what they are doing. However, this doesn't mean that in order to master the skill they need to do the same exercises. In other words, one size doesn't fit all.

Each athlete should work on the particular aspects that make an athlete commit a fault. Eg. For one gymnast may struggle with ankle strength and stability, for another gymnast the same skill may not work due to poor core control.

In order to progress, the areas of development must be specific to each body, level and cognitive ability,


Progressive Overload


The fundamental principle at play here is the necessity of pushing your body to make gains. Although the term is used sometimes to just refer to weight training, this concept is applicable into any type of training. This principle involves systematically raising the intensity or complexity of your trainings/ drills as you progress. The objective of progressive overload is to optimize your outcomes by consistently pushing your physical limits. As Medical News Today puts it in an article this principle can be simply described as follows:

Progressive overload training involves gradually increasing the intensity or difficulty of workouts over time. It can promote the development of muscle mass and strength.

By strategically subjecting your muscles to increasing stress, you can maximize progress while reducing the risk of injury and overexertion. However, when embarking on progressive overload training, it's crucial to adhere to a well-structured plan.


When it comes to rhythmic gymnastics training this principle may manifest in the progression and breakdowns of a particular skill the participant is learning, which may get more challenging week to week. It will also manifest in the skills selected for a particular gymnast over time. It will even be relevant when implementing behavioural expectations.



At WRGC, we use Progressing Ballet Technique (PBT) to prepare our gymnasts to receive the strength they need to achieve their personal best. PBT is an innovative body-conditioning and strengthening program that has been designed to enhance the participant's technique by focussing on training the muscle memory required in each exercise.

Rhythmic has a great number of ballet influenced skills, therefore using a unique training system using ballet-technique specific exercises to train skill acquisition in a graded and progressive manner is a great way for gymnasts to learn their alignment and right muscle engagement.




Reversibility


Also known as the principle of disuse, it embodies the phrase: "If you don't use it, you lose it". Therefore, if you've been consistently training at a particular intensity level and then cease that training, your body will regress to its previous state. Although rest is important and necessary for safe and effective progress in the sport, it's important to remember that gains diminish when you discontinue the overload for too long. This is why frequent training is necessary.


It is important to acknowledge that reversibility will occur at some point and it will set us back at times when we participate in sport. Holidays, lack of attendance to practice due to school commitments, injuries, etc... will revert our progress.


A way to work around this is to damage control. Here are a few examples:

  • If coaches and athletes are in the know of a situation that may revert the progress of athlete, they can schedule it so it doesn't overlap with important events.

  • If an injury occurs, the gymnast may be able to do some exercises in trainings that do not engage the affected area.

  • If the gymnast will reduce the overload due to an exam they need to study for, don't include then in any event around the this time, and prepare a comprehensive plan where they build up their capacities progressively and injury free.

The hard/easy principle


Whether you're engaged in resistance training or aerobic workouts, you should incorporate both challenging days and easier days, and alternate between them. This approach facilitates the best possible recovery, enabling you to reach your fitness goals more efficiently while maintaining consistency. If you train too intensely and continuously for extended periods, you're likely to experience burnout and increase the risk of getting injured in the process. This principle is particularly effective and popular among endurance activities.



During competitive squad training, for instance, some days the gymnasts per

form single leg low over splits, some days the overspilt are higher and sometimes the gymnast will do full over split during their static flexibility training allocated time. This allows for better recovery and improves the motivation of participants as they stay challenged yet they get to see their progress, making their goals attainable.







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