weighing gymnasts – British Gymnastics position statement

Created as a guidance document for clubs, coaches, parents and gymnasts the statement gives advice and reasoning on the complexities surrounding weighing gymnasts with the gymnasts optimal long-term development at its core.

The advice highlights the need for clear reasoning, appropriate methods, correct consent and the use of qualified practitioners in order to safeguard the physical and mental health of the gymnasts. …


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Rick Mc

Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

3 thoughts on “weighing gymnasts – British Gymnastics position statement”

  1. It’s clearly not an easy issue as I’ve seen BOTH issues with female gymnasts. First, I have seen girls that were anorexic (not just using the term glibly, but actually dieted into the hospital, and died). Second, I have DEFINITELY seen girls and women that had excess fat. I’m not talking the difference between a super-toned cross country runner body and a normal female, I’m talking clearly evident “cushion”, “freshman fifteen”, whatever you want to call it.

    Add onto that, the issues females generally have with appearance, puberty, sexuality etc. and it is a tricky topic. But completely ignoring the impact of excess weight on doing gymnastics is biomechanically silly. I’m definitely not opting for stupid behavior (dehdration, etc.) or for shaming. But also, the politically correct attitude (“how dare you say Shawn Johnson is fat”) is ignorant as well.

    I have done a lot of weight control in sports, but as a male. Which again is a little easier. And I will mention that for a boy or young man, gymnastics is rather easy. Only at the most competitive ranks (one step away from making a trial or the like), would you perhaps even bother to monitor weight.

    Wrestling and boxing are a whole nother kettle of fish. And even as a young man, I knew that feeling of cutting and realizing dieting (later in life) versus just eating what you want was going to suck. But even there, there are very scientific ways to approach things. (Not applicable to gymnastics directly, but just showing a logical attitude.) For instance, you DON’T bother dehydrating except within 24 hours of weighin (usually just staying dry after day before’s workout is enough). AND you rehydrate immediately after weighin. The reason is rational. No benefit to dehydration during the week, detriment actually. But big benefit directly before weighin. In fact, if you don’t do this, you’re actually going to be de facto wrestling or boxing against guys a class heavier than you. And you can feel that when the blows land or on the mat. (NOTE: I’m not advocating ANY dehydration for gymnastics, the complete opposite, actually. What I am advocating is a common sense, honest discussion of dangers AND the benefits of weight control. If you just PC it all over and don’t discuss the rational, mechanical benefits you are not being transparent and honest.

    I’m sort of generally OK with their sheet, but I would probably disagree with the monthly weighing comment. Weekly is much better periodicity, at least in season. Also calipers with a nomograph, by someone used to using them are both better and cheaper than other body composition methods. DXA is sort of a sexy method, but in my experience, wildly variable. In theory, there are no operator effects, but in actuality many technicians are unfamiliar with performing this measurement (equipment is not sole purpose for sports measurement, they are used to other medical scans much more) and you can get high variability. In contrast, I’ve seen good repeatability within and among trained users of calipers. And it is WAY cheaper and logistically simpler to put into a sports program.

    If anything, the glib DXA endorsement and the lack of some deeper content, numbers, discussion, within the poster style guidance shows me some naivete in that BG guidance. We had a better sports article(meatier, more scientific) on weight cutting posted on my HS wrestling team bulletin board.


    1. Thanks for the detailed feedback on this issue that’s far more complicated than it seems.

      I can relate to what you say. The only gymnast I coached who was hospitalized was male. He was a gymnast. But the motivation for starving himself was to try get into a lower weight class for rowing. He did both sports. … After getting home the problem disappeared for good. He quit rowing and stayed in Gym.


      1. Probably also it does not make sense to weighin gymnasts who are young or lower competitivity. At all! If they get fat, so be it. Wouldn’t bother with kids that are before high school (or at least before middle school!) and not in the pre-elite or pre-college stage (say level 9 and up). There is a tendency to want to keep dropping more elite training methods down to lower ranks but should be resisted as not making sense.

        Of course, even for those few competitive kids, you need to allow for some growth in height as they age. There is a reason why high school wrestling teams give “growth pounds” as the season goes on. (Little more of an issue for males than females as they achieve max height later and also have a natural “filling in” of muscular physique into their early 20s.)

        I hear you on the lightweight crew. (What a great sport! Total cardio workout, but you get muscles from being a galley slave too, sort of like swimming in some ways. And a very soulful and special sport if you’ve ever been part of that world.) It’s great that it exists for smaller athletes. Perfect sport for a 5-8 male. Pack on the muscle, get super cardio fit. But there are athletes that are sort of in between lightweight and heavyweight crew (5-10 or so) that struggle to make weight if they drop down but don’t really have the physique (height especially) to be competitive for normal crew. Little surprised your kid was doing gym, must have been on the tall side for that sport. (Happens though.)

        Had a classmate with similar two sport experience. He was about 6 foot or so. Did “150s” football (think the weighin is like at 158 or so, can’t remember) and also boxed at 172. His normal weight (in shape, lean, but good physique) was lower 180s. So no real problem making weight for boxing matches. But sprint football was really arduous. If I were him would have skipped it. But he persevered. Little Vision Questy…if you’ve ever seen that movie. 😉


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