WAG Power to weight ratio and/or weight to strength ratio

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Muddlethru

Proud Parent
Mar 16, 2011
3,536
I often wondered when gymnasts reach their peak gymnastically and/or at what age can one determine the maximum potential of a gymnast. Studies have shown that the physical peak for most humans are 23-35 (average I got from various studies). Men peak a little later then women. This peak performance clearly does not apply to gymnasts. Many say, sometimes a great compulsory gymnast becomes an average optional gymnast and vice a versa. I always felt a good gymnast is good from beginning to end. I watch my daughter and wonder, has she reached her peak or is she still on her way up. With minimal research, this is what I found:

Weight to strength ratio:

When a person grows bigger they also grow stronger, but the laws of physics dictates that they increase in weight more than they gain strength. And with the jumps and leaps favored by the judges a smaller body can do them "better" than a heavier body. The break point for gymnasts is where the increased skill of prolonged training is negated by the poorer weight-to-strength ratio of continued growth.
The strength of a muscle is roughly decided by its cross section, the thicker it gets the stronger it gets.
To make it easy let’s imagine a cube shaped muscle, 1x1x1 in size. It’ll have a cross section of 1 which gives it a strength of 1, and a volume of 1.


Now lets look at another imaginary muscle, this time it’s 2x2x2. It is double the width, double the height and double the length of the previous one, but it’ll have 4 times the cross section - making it 4 times as strong. But at the same time it has 8 times the volume, so if it’s made up of the same stuff as the first muscle it’s 8 times heavier too. This applies to everything in the human body.

What's important for a gymnast isn't how strong they are compared to something else(as for a weight lifter, javelin thrower or similar), but how strong they are compared to what they weigh. And that's why growing is especially hard on gymnasts.

Power to weight ratio:

Today's elite female gymnasts must be small, lean (low percent body fat), and well-muscled which results in a high power-to-weight ratio. Generally, female gymnasts reach their peak power-to-weight ratio prior to puberty and are ready for elite international competition at the minimum age requirement. And since it takes at least 6 years to learn the complex gymnastics skills, training starts at a very young age.

A youthful body is inherently more flexible, (less calcification has occurred).


Reflex patterns are more easily established in youth (the old dog issue).


However the controlling factor remains to be the power to weight ratio. As women mature their body fat percentage tends to increase as they reach child bearing age thus reducing that ratio. In many other Olympic sports the power to weight issue is not as paramount i.e. equipment or endurance intensive sports and/or team sports. Events such as, Canoe / kayak, Cycling, Equestrian, Fencing, Soccer, Handball, Hockey, Judo, Modern pentathlon, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Softball, Table tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Triathlon, Volleyball, Weightlifting, Wrestling, Biathlon, Bobsled, Curling, Ice Hockey, Skating and Skiing are all populated by athletes of varying ages.

Just thought I'd share. Feel free to add any other information you have on this subject.
 

Cosmos

New Member
Apr 3, 2013
29
Region 2
Sometimes, event specialists can stay in international competition fairly long. Examples include Yordan Yovchev, on rings, and there is a woman on vault whose name I do not know. I think she's Uzbekistani but lives/trains in Germany?
 
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Muddlethru

Proud Parent
Mar 16, 2011
3,536
I believe she is 37ish?

It was interesting to me that gymnasts reach their peak power to weight ratio prior to puberty. When I watch our Olympic athletes compete when they were younger (11-14) it always puzzled me why to my inexperienced and unqualified eyes that they seemed more agile, stronger and more capable. They seemed lighter on their feet. So I guess after they peak, all they do from then on is try to maintain the power to weight ratio. And if the gymnast fails to keep her strength to weight ratio up, then there is a decline in their gymnastics progress. I guess hence the bulk we see in the older (if one can say 16+ is older) gymnasts.


I guess I am the only one fascinated by this. :)
 
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BlairBob

BTDT.

This is not exactly the same for male athletes.

Basically puberty hinders female gymnasts whereas it's a boon to male gymnasts. Male gymnasts also tend to compete into later points of their lives. There are also more event specialists in MAG than WAG. Apparatus varies more.
 

Muddlethru

Proud Parent
Mar 16, 2011
3,536
BTDT.

This is not exactly the same for male athletes.

Basically puberty hinders female gymnasts whereas it's a boon to male gymnasts. Male gymnasts also tend to compete into later points of their lives. There are also more event specialists in MAG than WAG. Apparatus varies more.

Absolutely. Did not mean to disregard male gymnasts. I should have qualified that the above information is specifically for women. Men are a completely different species. So, when do men reach their strength/power to weight ratio? Would it fall into the general athletic peak performance age--20's? I am assuming the strength/power to weight ratio is equally as important to men's gymnastics? Just curious.

This subject interests me because I've often wondered why many state/regional champions, "superstars" in early levels/younger years tend to just fizzle out as they get older. I know there is the fast/slow twitch fiber aspect, and many others. And genetics is something we can't argue with it. But do you think or do you coaches modify strengthening/conditioning exercises for older gymnasts, or is it pretty much the same? I know the skills are harder, so there are more drills. So based on your own personal experience, does this strenght/power to weight ratio really that relevant?
 
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BlairBob

Strength/Power to weight ratio is still important.

Testosterone tends to decline after 30. So basically 25-30. At this point, it's important to be injury free and not fall apart.

Most male Olympic Weightlifters and Sprinters end their careers by then.

Ok, so I took a lot at all of the 2012 Female Olympic Weightlifters from Gold to Bronze. There were more than a handful that were 25-28 as young as 20 or so.

For Track and Field, most of the medal winners were between 25-30 though a few were in their early 20's and 30's. I only looked at the 100-400m sprints, 100m hurdles, polevaulters, shotput/hammer, long and triple jumpers and pentathletes. Mainly because I was more concerned with power athletes than the endurance events and I just could care less about high jumpers and I didn't bother to look at the Javelin.

Quite honestly I think with the females in gymnastics, more are beat up or ready to move on at an earlier age, especially to college. I think more athletes outside of the US continue to compete at an older age compared to the US, but then again the US has a ridiculous amount of gymnasts and depth whereas other Nations don't have the same numbers we do.
 

Cosmos

New Member
Apr 3, 2013
29
Region 2
I believe she is 37ish?

It was interesting to me that gymnasts reach their peak power to weight ratio prior to puberty...So I guess after they peak, all they do from then on is try to maintain the power to weight ratio. And if the gymnast fails to keep her strength to weight ratio up, then there is a decline in their gymnastics progress. I guess hence the bulk we see in the older (if one can say 16+ is older) gymnasts.


I guess I am the only one fascinated by this. :)

The importance of strength:weight notwithstanding, don't you think that increasing skill and experience can give an older athlete an advantage? Take the vault example. No doubt, 17ish Maroney must have a higher strength:weight than 37ish Chusovitina, but is this why Maroney is so good? She gets way more height than others, of both genders, who may have better ratios. It seems to me that technique is the main factor, and that maintenance of good technique over the years, but supplemented with some refinements and improvements, is what has enabled Chusovitinia to remain in competition.
 
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Muddlethru

Proud Parent
Mar 16, 2011
3,536
Cosmos - Without a doubt strength:weight is only one aspect. But in the comparison you provided (Maroney and Chusovitinia) (and I am only a mother with really no gymnatics experience), it appears to my civilian eyes that refinement and improvements probably comes second to Chusovitinia's strength:weight ratio. Chusovitina's vault is anything but refined and improved compared to most of her younger counterparts. In my humble opinion, it is S:W ratio that has kept her in the game.

But I agree with you that after the "S:W" ratio peak, it is indeed up to the coaches to continue to build on their gymnasts strength so the weight does not overpower the strength.

Blairbob - what you say makes sense because from the articles I've read and as I included in my original post:

In many other Olympic sports the power to weight issue is not as paramount i.e. equipment or endurance intensive sports and/or team sports. Events such as, Canoe / kayak, Cycling, Equestrian, Fencing, Soccer, Handball, Hockey, Judo, Modern pentathlon, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Softball, Table tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Triathlon, Volleyball, Weightlifting, Wrestling, Biathlon, Bobsled, Curling, Ice Hockey, Skating and Skiing are all populated by athletes of varying ages.

And I also agree that gymnast get beat up at such an early age. Compared to the other sports, they have a lot more skills to master. And I think that is also why Chusovitinia is able to stay in the game. She is merely mastering just one "event" (so to speak) not unlike all the other sports. I guess it is easier to keep up one's strength when training or mastering just one skill (for lack of a better word--I don't mean one skill literally.) than it is to be good an several. For instance,Track athletes specialize in different events. It is rare that you is see a 50m, 100m athlete or runners in general competing Javelin, long jump, high jump, etc. All around gymnasts have the widest range of skills to master. And to keep the S:W on all events is not an easy task.
 

gymmutti

Proud Parent
Jun 21, 2010
1,977
North America
Chuso certainly is known for her vaulting but she is not a single event specialist. She still competes multiple events. In fact, she came in 11th in the qualification round of the Anadia World Cup event that took place this weekend in beam (out of 32 competitors!). She also did a pretty good job on uneven bars all things considering. She's an amazing woman!
 
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BlairBob

I was talking about [this - edit] with my friend earlier.

We suppose that gymnasts train far more at a younger age and in their pubescent years than track&field athletes. This probably hurts their longevity in the sport. Especially, given injuries.

Another possibility is that other sports are more known to employ weights in their S&C, besides weightlifting. It's catching on in the US, but typically only at the higher level optionals, collegiate and some elite programs with hit and miss programming.

Also, while we don't need to go into this, doping is quite prevalent in T&F though we rarely hear about it in gymnastics, if ever.

Gymnasts in nations with a lot of depth and talent, must be the TOP or they are yesterday news. We saw this with Nastia, Shawn, and Alicia. They were outed by Gabby, Jordyn, Aly, McKayla, and Kyla. Some of this was due to injuries that Shawn and Alicia were attempting to come back from but all 3 were out of gym post Olympics. This may have hindered their attempt to make the team in 2012.

Let's face it, China and the US have a HUGE talent pool in Gymnastics. I really doubt there are any other countries with nearly the same size of talent pool. Maybe, Russia and just maybe. I don't know the numbers but I'd guess they only have maybe 1/2 the talent pool, and not as many coaches, gyms and funding as China. Coming from a smaller nation may mean less competition for team spots and thus being able to compete into a later age for their respective nations.
 
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Muddlethru

Proud Parent
Mar 16, 2011
3,536
Chuso certainly is known for her vaulting but she is not a single event specialist. She still competes multiple events. In fact, she came in 11th in the qualification round of the Anadia World Cup event that took place this weekend in beam (out of 32 competitors!). She also did a pretty good job on uneven bars all things considering. She's an amazing woman!

I stand corrected. You are indeed correct. She only qualified at the Olympics for vault finals ( a great accomplishment for a gymnast of any age). Without a doubt, she is a remarkable woman and a phenomenal gymnast (for any age)-- 6 Olympic Games representing 3 different countries. I did not mean to do I diminish her skills/accomplishments. In fact, I am in awe of what gymnasts need to do, can do at any level, and it is mind boggling at the Olympic level, let alone do it for the number of years (20+), while being a mother and the uphill battle of "aging" and everything that comes with it. My remark on her lack of refinement and improvement was solely based on the vault I recall she performed in the 2012 Olympics. But then again 99.999% of all Olympic gymnasts pales in comparison with Maroney (sans Biles).

And relative to what Blairbob brings up above, Chusovitinia, probably makes it, or keeps making it to the Olympic because of the limited pool of gymnasts in those countries. Chusovitinia would have likely not make it to the US Olympic/National team as an all around or even an event specialist. As you will recall, Weiber, placing 4th in the world did not even get to compete the all around and some events.

Blairbob, I guess countries with limited pools of gymnasts allow gymnasts that may not be able to compete in very high levels that may not have been able to do so in countries with a large pool. However, because of the limited competitions, maybe training, top coaches, their potential can also be limited.
 

Gympocalypse

Gymnast
Jun 1, 2013
39
This is a very interesting thread. My Science Fair project this year was a statistics project on the effect of aging on elite gymnastics scores for each apparatus.

Basically, the results I found did not indicate that young senior elite gymnasts are the best all-arounders.

I separated every senior elite gymnast that competed from the 2009-12 quad into three age groups: young=15-16, middle-17-18, and old=19+ (the average retiring age for elites is 19)

I collected 100 points (scores) from each age group for each apparatus=1,200 data points

Here are my median scores (I won’t go into detailed analysis). For vault, in order from young-middle-old, they were 14.800, 14.842, 14.513; bars’ was 13.975, 14.342, 14.213; beam’s was 14.650, 14.300, 14.250; floor’s was 14.719, 14.780, 14.844.

As you can see, the score difference in between each age group is significant, especially since deductions in gymnastics, including major errors, are pretty small. If you apply power to weight ratio and/or weight to strength ratiorequirements to each individual apparatus, taking into consideration the different strength training for each apparatus and how training affects different aged gymnasts, my calculations logically make sense.

Gymnastics, particularly WAG, generally evolves significantly from quad to quad; these days there is more room for older gymnasts. According to my data, the “dream team” from 2009-2012 would be a group of different aged gymnasts, contrary to stereotypical beliefs…

Hope this helped! :)
Gympocalypse
 
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BlairBob

Pretty neat, if the bulk of the USA 2012 women's team returns, they all will be 20+. Kyla will be the youngest at 20, Gabby will be 21? as well as Jordyn and Aly will be 22 and Mckayla will be 20.

I'm not really that familiar with our jr team, and if any of the other girls on the senior team would pass up these 5 (unless they do not return or are injured).
 
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JoyAvenueMom

Proud Parent
Aug 24, 2012
525
Central US
This is a very interesting thread. My Science Fair project this year was a statistics project on the effect of aging on elite gymnastics scores for each apparatus.

Basically, the results I found did not indicate that young senior elite gymnasts are the best all-arounders.

I separated every senior elite gymnast that competed from the 2009-12 quad into three age groups: young=15-16, middle-17-18, and old=19+ (the average retiring age for elites is 19)

I collected 100 points (scores) from each age group for each apparatus=1,200 data points

Here are my median scores (I won’t go into detailed analysis). For vault, in order from young-middle-old, they were 14.800, 14.842, 14.513; bars’ was 13.975, 14.342, 14.213; beam’s was 14.650, 14.300, 14.250; floor’s was 14.719, 14.780, 14.844.

As you can see, the score difference in between each age group is significant, especially since deductions in gymnastics, including major errors, are pretty small. If you apply power to weight ratio and/or weight to strength ratiorequirements to each individual apparatus, taking into consideration the different strength training for each apparatus and how training affects different aged gymnasts, my calculations logically make sense.

Gymnastics, particularly WAG, generally evolves significantly from quad to quad; these days there is more room for older gymnasts. According to my data, the “dream team” from 2009-2012 would be a group of different aged gymnasts, contrary to stereotypical beliefs…

Hope this helped! :)
Gympocalypse


Gympocalypse, I am probably not the only one on this forum impressed by your science project, and knowledge of statistics as a student...high school I am guessing? Kudos to your teacher(s)!
 
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BlairBob

As you will recall, Weiber, placing 4th in the world did not even get to compete the all around and some events.

To be honest, she bombed and was hurt, which is the same as bombing and get's some pity in lieu there of.
 

Gympocalypse

Gymnast
Jun 1, 2013
39
Thank you JoyAvenueMom, that means so much to me! I’m still in middle school :). I was so excited to represent our sport at the Science Fair-I won first place in my category and a special award from the Superintendent. However, the two real objectives I had in mind for creating my project was to help the gym world out and change my mom’s opinion about gymnastics (I needed very fancy evidence supporting why I wasn’t too old to start…). I’m so happy to say that I met both of my big goals and picked up some bonus awards along the way.:rolleyes: For next year’s project, I’m going to explore the physics aspect of how to prevent injuries in gymnastics, and I can’t wait to share my findings with you all! I could have never pursued this huge project without the support of my amazing teachers, though. :)
 
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