Stretching: Help or Harm?

I’ve recently been taking a good look at stretching, specifically the benefits and when during a training session you should or shouldn’t be stretching. Some of my findings were new to me, so I thought I’d share a general overview and some of what I learned.


What is stretching?

The movement of your muscles through their complete range of motion. There are two types of stretches: Dynamic and Static. Dynamic is the continuous movement of a muscle smoothly through its complete range of motion, for example leg swings. Static stretching is placing a muscle in a stretch and holding it in that position, for example if you were to raise your leg at a height and fold your body over it, holding the stretch for a fixed amount of time.

Dynamic Stretching is great at the beginning of a session because it helps to improve metabolic activity and blood flow to the muscle. This in turn helps with the muscles range of motion and power output, as well as preventing injury.

Static Stretches initially cause muscles to contract, and are proven to decrease the power available in the muscle for a short period – not what you want before a training session requiring maximum power. However when held for around 20 seconds post-workout, static stretches are effective at helping muscles to recover and heal, gently increase your flexibility and relax your muscles.

When is it best to stretch?

Based on my research, Dynamic activation stretches are great to include in your warm up. Static stretching in a fixed position for 20 seconds are most effective after exercise, during your cool down.

For a brief dynamic warm up, check out the video below from 13’07”. This video also really makes you think about the best use of a training session, especially when as Nath discusses (11′ in) the most ‘efficient use of time for optimal training’ doesn’t include static stretching, which can be done anywhere at any time, instead of getting onto the equipment you’re there to work on. He also makes a good point when it comes to young kids and the lack of ‘fun’ in stretching as opposed to using the equipment in the gym.

I hope you found this interesting and informative. I know it’s helped to inform what stretches I use in my training and coaching sessions. I’d really appreciate your thoughts below. On a side note, I was taught a warm up is for both the body and mind, do you think shortening the warm up could pose a risk to a athlete being less mentally prepared? Comment below with your opinion, I’d love to hear it!

~ Bella


Lost Move Syndrome: First hand…

So after I shared this Guest Post on Lost Move Syndrome in July 2015, I now have first hand experience of what it feels like to have an “inability to perform a skill previously performed with ease”. For me, it started two days after I’d competed my “B” routine. I’m going to try to explain the order of things that happened as best I can, but as all recommendations on this go, I’m trying not to dwell on it at the moment, and we’re just taking a break from what I’m struggling with.

So we’d changed our warm up drills to include routines at the end, so that we can keep the routines ‘ticking over’ until the next time we need them for competition, as it won’t be for a while. I took off for a 3/4 back (the first skill) and suddenly bailed, tucking round to feet instead of landing on my front. After a second failed attempt, I skipped the skill in an endeavour to move on with the routine and complete what was only supposed to be a ‘warm up’.

At first I couldn’t do anything in the Pike shape. I had a pike back (SS) followed by a Pike Barani, and after several really hairy SSs I went from a back SS to a barani. The barani travelled the entire length of the trampoline, landing on the end deck. Now for some people, when they go wrong, landing on the end deck is pretty standard… for me- it is incredibly rare. So much so that even my coach was baffled! “You’ve never done that before, it’s only been 2 days since the competition…” I was confused, and if I’m honest, being so out of control that I landed on the end deck did give me a bit of a fright.

We decided we’d leave it there and go back to these after the warm up. Anyway, I stumbled my way through an easier routine, feeling like I had to psych myself up for all the back SSs and decided to go back to doing my harder B routine later on in the week – it was probably just a blip right?

Not so much… Thursday at training I worked through the routine backwards, like I’m used to, working the newest skills into the mat first, which landed fine and gave me confidence. So after working back from 4-10, I went for the first move, the 3/4 back. Same take off as always, and I bailed again, tucking to feet and falling to H&K at the last minute. Bummer. Not just a one off blip then…

The 3/4 back is something I’m good at (one judges feedback at a comp was that I got zero deductions on all my ‘straight’ somersaults – this included), so okay, take it back a step – I learnt all the progressions for this one… I did a back pullover to front- or at least tried to, that was scary, and I pulled it to feet (just). I couldn’t even manage that from a standstill, another thing I pride myself on, because it’s great to show kids they’re not going to land on their heads if they don’t go high enough when learning a back pullover.

So we’ve started a new week, and I now have all of my somersaults working, bar the 3/4 front. Humph! I’ll keep you posted on my progress… meantime, if you missed it last time, here’s some info I posted about Lost Move Syndrome previously.

TTFN ~ Bella x

Bella Bounces

Originally posted here, what this blog calls a ‘mental block in gymnastics’ is now well documented as Lost Move Syndrome, or LMS in Trampoline and can affect any performance athlete. Here’s a bit more information about it.

Mustafina LMS

Virtually 70% of high level gymnasts have experienced psychological blocking – the inability to perform a skill previously performed with ease. Only a small percentage of these athletes experience blocking to the point that it disrupts their performance. Nonetheless, for those who do, the experience is devastating.

Research shows that blocking has a number of predictable characteristics (Feigley, Robbins & Berger, 1989):

It generalises backwards within a sequence of skills. For example, blocking on the back somersault phase of the roundoff, back handspring, back somersault sequence quickly spreads to the back handspring and frequently to the round-off itself.
It generalises across skills. For example, a problem on the back salto on the beam…

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Catching: Oh my word!

All I can say is after a pretty hairy situation this weekend while coaching I am so glad that I am now more confident about just getting on the trampoline and being a bit more hands on! Since doing my first level 3 trampoline module (more on that later) I’ve been really working on not only being more confident catching, but generally just using the more basic skills as a brilliant way to make my catching skills more intuitive.

I think it’s safe to say I’m definitely better at catching the unexpected!

On Saturday I had a slightly over clocked back landing, that was totally going to be a head landing. Luckily for the kid, and me, I was on the trampoline and was able to grab, and block the kids legs before he landed on his head. Phew! As you can tell, he was pretty new to trampoline (before you ask, yes there was a mat) but it was still definitely safer me being there – it avoided an injury, so take notes and if in any doubt at all, just be there. You’d be a fool not to!

I’ll upload a picture I drew while on my L3 course as to where my hands were, so you can tell what I mean by ‘block and grab’ on the legs. Kid was pretty light, so I was able to stop all momentum before he landed, proving the method really does work!

I hope you never have to use it! ~ Bella

Safety: Garden Trampolines

Have you thought about purchasing a Garden Trampoline for your little sprogget? Here’s a few things to consider before you do, as well as British Gymnastics’ Safety Statement on the matter…

My favourite point on this subject which I think sums it all up is this:

Having a trampoline in the garden can be looked upon in the same way as a swimming pool, it can be great fun, but there is a need for training and rules. No parent would dream of buying a swimming pool and allowing their children unrestricted or unsupervised access or not teach them to swim before allowing them in.

But that’s not to deter you from purchasing one – these days trampolines for gardens are very affordable and can offer hours of fun for years to come. They even come with a their own ‘Safety Features’ (I’ll go into the pro’s & con’s of those). The main things to consider in my opinion are that these trampolines are very different from any found in a leisure centre, school or Trampoline Gymnastics Club and those differences are what can lead to significantly more injuries. trampoline That said there are a few things that you should definitely have thought about before you tell wee Katie that she’s getting a trampoline for in time for Summer Holidays…

  1. Rules!
  2. Clear the Area
  3. Consider the Height
  4. Skills and Levels of Skill
  5. Netting or Not?


Set out the conditions for your child and his/her friends to use the trampoline. This should include 1 person on the trampoline at a time, no jewellery and strictly no somersaults – EVER! Speaking from experience (because what trampolinist wouldn’t try something when presented with a trampoline?) These trampolines are very different with significantly reduced power to them and the risk of landing on your head, even when you’ve done somersaults hundreds of time on a 6×4, 4×4 and even a 1/2 inch bed is just too high.

Clear the Area

It seems like an obvious one, but this is something to be aware of every time the trampoline is used, not just when you’re initially setting it up – has Johnny left his scooter lying in the grass a few feet away? You don’t want to land on that by mistake whether you’re coming off the trampoline intentionally or not! Incidentally grass is one of the safer things to land on in your garden, so keep this nice and cushy around the trampoline and don’t put your lovely new decking too close to the Trampoline – solid surfaces to not allow kids to bounce back up again if they fall.

Consider the height

Older kids will (obviously) bounce higher, and this means that they have further to fall – so is there a way to reduce this by setting the trampoline in the ground? It’s quite common practice in some countries for trampolines to be built this way rather than up on stilts and personally I think this is an excellent way to make it much safer, regardless of the cost implications of removing 1m depth of soil the size of a trampoline. Incidentally, this also means that grown-ups are safer too – especially the tall, less athletic ones that think it’s cool to have a go… They’re most likely to cause injury to themselves – none of us are as young as we used to be, and we definitely don’t bounce as well as kids! :-S

Skills and Levels of Skill

In terms of what skills can safely be performed on a trampoline at home I would advise as a general rule of thumb, not to attempt anything more than what is taught in the Level 1 Syllabus – that is seat drops, hands and knees, front landings, back landings, shape jumps and twists. As BG says: There are many safe and impressive skills that don’t involve turning upside down. Different skills and combinations of skills can offer great variety as well as small soft-play items to mix things up a little. A soft beanbag or two can be good fun, though balls are not recommended a soft or lights plastic one could be suitable under appropriate supervision.

Netting or Not?

So far I’ve not once mentioned netting that can often be bought separately as an additional level of safety, or sometimes comes with circular trampolines as standard. British Gymnastics doesn’t offer guidelines on this matter, but in my opinion these can be more of a hazard. The idea behind the net is a good one- it stops children from falling off, which is what we do as coaches if a child is coming towards the edge of the trampoline. The net is providing safety similar to that of a coach, and therefore all worries about hazards around the trampoline can be laid to rest surely? Or can they? Having seen many houses where people have trampolines, I can describe the frankly dangerous state of disrepair most of these are often left in. Being out in all weathers these nets can fray and develop holes, especially in the moment when they are most needed and put to the test – a new hazard should a foot or hand be caught in one. These nets will also often come loose or detached from one of the surrounding poles, meaning part of the net begins to hang over the trampoline bounce area – again, a new slip and trip hazard. Finally, if your child has grown and is now able to bounce above the height of the net, it is no longer offering any safety to your child at all.

To counter my obviously strong opinion on the matter, I will endeavour to point out the safety that the net does offer for young children. Being light and not always steady on their feet, the net is a great object to steady a younger child bouncing on the trampoline who wanders too close to the edge. The nature of the enclosure also provides the perfect obstacle to avoid un-supervised trampoline activity- especially if your child is too young to climb onto the trampoline themselves without help.

I hope that’s given you food for thought. Ultimately the safest and best way to enjoy Trampoline Gymnastics is to participate in Trampoline as a sport – it’s a lot more fun than jumping up and down in a garden! If you want you can read more about these things from an official source: British Gymnastics has an official Garden Trampoline Safety statement on the subject. That’s all from me for now, Happy Bouncing! 😉 

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