I was just recently in St. Louis at Hi-NRG Gymnastix in Chesterfield, Missouri and was asked to work with their Team and pre-Team athletes. I worked on a wide variety of unique, safe ways for the athletes to think outside of the box and add spice to their training. I focused mainly on a ton of fundamentals but in a simple step-by-step approach, created by the athlete and guided by the coach.
One of the things I noticed was the fundamental problem with the athletes shoulder position, so I posted a video of a small portion of the shoulder stretching segment. This is a recurring problem everywhere we travel, so it needs to be addressed. I subsequently have had a lot of of feedback and questions, so here is a link to the full tutorial:
Shoulder Tutorial: https://youtu.be/AC-mtUOT5CQ
I would like to discuss shoulder stretching in this article since it is such a major portion of understanding trampoline for what it really is; a sequence of events. For example, music notes on a D-Minor scale when played in the right order can make an athletic Moonlight Sonata. Then with repetition and experience the same Moonlight Sonata speeds up with.
That’s only half the battle however. What would you rather play baseball with? A water noodle or a strong MLB certified bats? Imagine playing billiards with a garden hose. If the athlete is poorly conditioned, for example, they can't touch their toes, how can you as a coach expect them to do it in the air. If you can't do a pike jump on the ground what hope would you have of you magically doing that in the air with all the extra though processes going on in your brain.
Before I start coaching my athletes I ensure they are solid (have done extensive conditioning) so that when they land they won't break into pieces. I also make sure they aerodynamic. How do I make them aerodynamic? Its simple, I align their entry. Imagine that a trampolinist is actually diving into a sea of air molecules. Sure it is way less dense but physics does not change. You as a trampolinist are diving into water above you. Yes you can twist and contort in the water but you won't get very far. It mostly depends on how you enter the water. So we will talk about shoulder technique.
I stretch my athletes shoulders a lot! If the shoulders do not line up with the torso and and there is a “kink” in the chain then less power is produced. This also works for biochemistry. Unsaturated fats have more energy then saturated.
If the athletes shoulders are not stretched there is no chance at using their full potential. If the shoulders can be tucked right behind the ears on take off that is optimal. Not all athletes will be able to have the “Optimal” flexibility nor do you need it. That optimal position does not take into account having strong shoulders to prevent arm injuries. You as a coach have to decide how much is enough flexibility. Once that is done, the athlete should put in as much conditioning as possible to fill the remainder without sacrificing the “Optimal” position.
In the photograph above, Chinese Olympic and World Champion, Dong Dong, takes off for his front skills with his shoulders in this position. You can see a few things:
1. Body Composition - He's very thin and narrow
2. Very Saturated- You can see one long line from the hips to the elbow.
3. Hip Bend/Angle
Notice that his back does not arch but the arms get right behind those ears on that take off. There is a very good reason he does this. It is simply to line up his take off. If the elbows were straight it would be even better. If his triceps are too big Dong Dong would have a hard time stretching his shoulder enough because the triceps pull in the opposite direction so to speak. That is why his elbows are still bent slightly. He sacrificed muscle for flexibility.
From this position with his slight hip bend he can heel drive like crazy or get a perfect take off on a back trick and drive those toes up. If the shoulders are not hitting that position all the time at the bottom of the bed then energy is escaping and the athlete will not go as high or score as well for many different reasons as we have discussed.
Normally when an athlete is close to the optimal stretch in the shoulders, but not quite perfect, he or she will let the spine bend in order to still have that force vector facing upwards. Athletes simply need tighter core and more flexible shoulders.
A Few Do’s & Dont’s:
- DO, Go slowly
- Do, Hold position for at least 30 seconds and build up to 1 minute x 3/4 a day
- DO, Only Stretch at the end of training
- DO, Use shoulder activation stretches in accordance with this stretch
- DO, perform with a coach who understands the shoulder anatomy and slow progressions
- DON’T Go fast
- DON’T Forget to hold the position for at least 30 seconds building up to a minute x3/4 a day
- DON’T Stretch before or in middle of training
- DON’T Forget to use small shoulder activation drills in accordance with this stretch
- DON’T perform without a coach who understands the shoulder anatomy
Below is the full video of how I stretch my shoulders. I have used this method on every athlete with tight shoulders and I have never had a shoulder injury. Shoulder’s are sensitive and need to take time and the stretching needs to start as soon as possible for the kids. Do not forget to have them do regular extensive and appropriate conditioning and activation exercises. That is quite important!
Please review the tutorial that clearly shows the process of how I stretch the athletes.