As most are fairly familiar already, gymnastics requires extreme contortions that can really take a toll on their body without the proper training, but this isn’t just exclusive to gymnasts. The benefits of many exercises transfer from gymnastics over to other body training routines.
That’s why we’re giving you 5 essential gymnastics exercises you can do to prepare your body by making it more agile, flexible, and mobile. They will improve your core strength, make you less prone to injuries, and help you gain better balance.
These gymnastics exercises are great for beginners and can also be modified to challenge anyone of any skill level:
1. Invert Leg Stretch
Let’s start off with something simple, no need to jump right into the complicated things just yet. This leg stretch is a little bit different from just standing and touching your toes, we are looking to improve mobility which requires a little more effort than that. This mobility centered stretch helps to prepare the body for interactive workouts and exercises. Sports and CrossFit are two good examples of where this stretch would see the most benefits.
How to do it
While standing, separate both feet a little bit past shoulder width. Use the same side hand to whichever foot you are reaching for, so if you are touching your right foot it should be with your right hand. Lean to either side, touch your foot, and extend the opposite arm over your head.
It’s difficult to maintain straight legs, but try your best. As with most stretches, it’s best to rep in seconds so count to 10-15 seconds before alternating legs.
Basically, you want to avoid crossing your body over. It helps to do this with a point of reference in front of you. The point of reference (POR) is suppose to prevent bad posture (chest has to be facing POR) so if at any point your chest is pointed to the ground instead of the POR then posture needs to change. Think of the motion made when going into a cartwheel, chest open, one hand is on the ground, the other is reaching over. You get the idea.
2. Kneeling Rockers
A good way to warm up for any exercises involving your feet is kneeling rockers. This plantar flexion mobility stretch decreases the likelihood of potentially incredibly strenuous accidents from happening, like rolling your ankle. So let’s not make that a possibility and jump right into getting your body ready.
How to do it
Sit on the ground with legs underneath you, and the top of your feet flat against the floor. You should be positioned so that the bottom of your feet are undeath your butt. Now hold the ground on either side of you for balance and push your hips forward while using legs for support. This will cause quads to flex and helps test ankle resistance.
Here are time reps to go by:
- Beginner: 3 X 10 seconds
- Intermediate: 3 X 25 seconds
Spend the time you have in between sets (10-15 seconds) alternating resting and lifting your legs off the ground. Essentially you’ll be rocking back and forth with your legs underneath.
Due to the nature of this warm up it’s important to take note not to overextend the ankles while performing this stretch. Overextending can cause a number of things to happen, but the main being pulling a muscle.
3. Hollow Body Hold
One of the most crucial techniques employed by gymnasts is the hollow body hold. This involves bracing your abdominal muscles and creating complete body tension. The more stable you are in this position, the better you’ll be transferring force from your upper to lower body. Mastering the hollow body hold will let you run, jump, kick, flip, and tumble faster and stronger. It also has the added benefits of gaining better balance and making you less prone to injuries.
How to do it
The hollow body hold is the foundation of any gymnastic workout regimen, and you should ensure that you are incorporating it into your routines as much as possible. Below is a basic outline of how to start doing the exercise:
Start by lying on your back with your legs together and arms over your head. Contract your ab muscles and lift your legs, head, and shoulders a few inches off the floor. Your body should be in a crescent shape from head to toe. At first it may be hard to hold this position for more than a few seconds.
Before moving on you should be able to be in this position comfortably for at least 30 seconds. Once you can hold the position begin to incorporate rocking back and forth while in the position. Start doing slow and small movements, and gradually increase the speed and intensity of your movement.
The key here is to keep your body as tight as possible by squeezing the targeted muscles, this will assure the most out of your workout. This simple exercise will do wonders for your core and help you when attempting more difficult techniques in the future.
4. Hollow Hold Pull-up
When you get tired of lying on your back, you can take what you’ve learned and apply it to the simple exercise of a pullup.
The hollow hold is actually very effectively utilized when doing pullups because the crescent shape of your body increases stability, and requires you to focus on the two factors:
- The pullup
- Keeping your legs up
While this is certainly great for your arms, it also will allow you to gain even more core strength when doing your pullups. You can use this technique while doing any type of pullup, so once you get the hang of it you can move on to more advanced grips and pullup techniques. My gymnasts typically use gymnastics bars for sale for these pullups, but anything you can hang from works just fine.
How to do it
Begin your pullup by hanging at arms-length. Contract your abs, press your thighs together and put your legs in front of you (your body should form the shape of a L). Make sure you keep this position for the remainder of the exercises, as breaking from it will greatly decrease the effectiveness of your pullups. Do as many reps as you can at first, gradually increasing over time. Once you master a normal grip you can move on to wide, close, or reverse grips and even try variations like the commando.
5. Handstand Walks
This quintessential gymnastic technique can help you tone your body and increase your overall agility. Perfecting a handstand has numerous physical benefits including better balance, core strength, overhead agility, and increased shoulder stability. Much like the other techniques in this list, perfecting a handstand takes consistent practice to see gradual progress.
How to do it
Place your hands on the floor a couple of inches from a wall. Make sure to spread your fingers as wide as possible. Kick one leg up at a time to get into a typical handstand position. Once you are in that position you will want to hold that for as long as you comfortably can.
Once you can hold the position for 30 seconds, try doing it without a wall. Just make sure you have a clear space in front of you in case you need to roll forward. It helps tremendously to have someone spotting you while you find your balance in the handstand.
Eventually, you will get to the point where you can hold a handstand for a period of time by alternating hand positions. Once you are at this point it’s all about putting one hand in front of the other (be sure to utilize forward roll bail out incase you lose your balance).
Take any necessary safety precautions prior to committing to any of these activities. Although you can do these exercises inside your home, it’s the obstacles near you that put you in harm’s way. Otherwise it’s safest to do outside.
Something gymnasts go through every so often are sore wrists, mostly because their hands are what do most of the support throughout the sport so it gets pretty strenuous. Likewise with some of these mobility exercises. Pre-wrap evens out the amount of activity your wrists need to do in order to complete a task.
Mastering these five simple exercises will improve shoulder strength, core tension, and your overall body mobility. Make sure to start slow and work your way up to more intense reps and positions. After a few weeks of doing these exercises you’ll notice immediate improvement in the way you move while practicing any physical activity.