How We Trained A Top Junior Olympic Gymnast, and How it Applies to YOU!

David Jessen, Junior Olympics, Gymnastics, Pursuit Athletic Performance

David Jessen on the pommel horse

Our client, 14-year-old David Jessen--a fantastic and talented young man--took the silver medal at the US Junior Olympic National Gymnastic Championships in Cincinnati this weekend. After four grueling days of competition, David stunned audiences with his outstanding performance in the last round of the Men's All-Around to stage a come-from-behind 2nd place finish!

David competed against a 192 person field comprised of the best regional gymnasts from across the nation. He also won silver in men's pommel horse, vault, and horizontal bar. We are very proud of David, and so happy for him!

While we often talk in this blog in terms of training runners, cyclists, swimmers, and triathletes, at PAP we work with an array of athletes ranging from an NFL offensive lineman (Zach Hurd of the Oakland Raiders), to novice runners, to an elite level gymnast like David. The need for a solid foundation, which starts with quality movement, is universal for any athlete in any sport, and it is ESSENTIAL for top performance. It is essential for YOU. David's story is a good illustrator of that point.

Here's a brief synopsis of our findings when we put David through our gait analysis process, and a recap of how we helped him overcome muscle imbalance, compensation, and dysfunction, all which were holding him back from a personal-best performance in gymnastics. We worked with David over a period of about 4 months, and will continue to do so.

In our initial analysis, where we assessed David's overall movement quality, muscular balance, and strength, a few things stood out:

1. He was upper extremity dominant in many of his movements. He would absolutely need to become more balanced with an equal contribution of stability and strength coming from the lower extremities.

2. He was not as stable through his pelvic girdle as he needed to be.

3. His hips were not equally strong or stable in all three planes of motion, particularly the side-to-side frontal plane.

4. Prior injury had created asymmetry and compensation. If these issues were not addressed, the imbalances would, indeed, limit the improvements he needed to make in his gymnastic performance.

Based on the above assessment, we knew David would not perform to his potential in the events most likely to expose these weaknesses, such as the floor exercise. After our assessment, we understood why he occasionally had trouble "sticking the landings," consistently falling out to the right side.

Here's what we did:

1. First of all, we helped David understand, intellectually, how basic movement quality impacts gymnastics performance, and how his specific limiters would negatively impact HIS performances.

2. We prescribed specific exercises for the hips/glutes to address muscle strength imbalances, and develop better strength in the tissues. Gaining proper strength where HE needed it directly translated into better movement--and better performance. He could train better, recover, and, thus, up his chances of outstanding performance in competition.

3. We prescribed basic core stability movements, and taught David how to progress of the exercises over time.

Our work with David is a clear illustration of the impact quality movement has on sport performance. It does not matter if you are Olympic bound, or running your first 5K. We can help you make the the same kind of powerful changes in YOUR body through gait analysis and prescriptive training designed specifically for YOU.

We wish David the very best as he continues on the elite gymnastics competition circuit. Next up for him is the Visa Championship in St. Louis in June. We'll be cheering!


David trains at Rhode Island Sports Elite Gymnastics, aka RISE Gym in Warwick, RI. He is coached by Vasili Vinogradov, who was on the Russian National Team and has placed several gymnasts in the World Championships, and by Vladimir Mureso who was on the Czechoslovakian National Team. David is also a High Honor Student at Tollgate High School, and enjoys mathematics, sciences, and music.

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