Gymnastics combines strength and artistry to create a beautiful art form, a sport for life that allows healthy minds and bodies to develop now and for the future. The improvement of balance, coordination, and confidence in body movement also builds self-esteem, strength, and flexibility to prepare the body and mind for life’s challenges. Conducted within a safe environment, it not only caters to personal growth through mental perseverance development but also creates a feeling and sense of inclusion with the bonding and teamwork that comes from being part of a supportive community. To become a great gymnast, hard work and dedication are two words that spring to mind. We’ve provided six simple tips to support you as you tumble out of trouble and spin to success.
Plyometrics are exercises where muscles exert maximum force in short intervals to increase power through speed and strength. Not only do they improve strength and speed, but they also increase endurance and power. Most plyometric exercises are aerobic exercises that increase the heart rate, further improving stamina. Examples include skipping, hopping, lunges, jump squats, star jumps, and burpees. Including these exercises will support and enhance the foundations from which most skills evolve.
Upper Body Strength Exercises
Gymnasts use every major muscle group to perform various skills that make up a routine. Often upper body strength is forgotten, and the focus ends up being on the lower half of the body. However, significant upper body strength needs to be developed as many skills require one’s body weight to be held and thrown using their arm. For example, basic arm pushups and incline and decline pushups can help develop chest and bicep strength to keep you steady during a handstand. Other exercises to improve upper body strength include chin-ups/pull-ups, planks, tricep dips, and handstands against the wall.
Stretching and Warming Up
Warming up gets the blood flowing, allowing us to stretch as effectively as possible, preventing strains and sprains. Warm muscles increase the rate of energy production, improving reflexes, and lowering the time it takes to contract a muscle. Promoting blood flow, the joints and tendons loosen, putting less stress on these areas. Having well-lubricated joints prepares the body to execute sudden or explosive movements efficiently. Warming up also gives you time to prepare for the task ahead mentally. Visualize what you will be doing and what you want to achieve before you start so you have a precise aim and something to work towards.
Work Progressively and Revise Basics
Skill progressions use each skill learned as a building block to a more advanced skill level. Once a skill has been known and mastered, it is introduced to increase the challenge, keeping the individual engaged and enhancing their development. Building upon skills reduces the risk of injuries as the foundations required have already been established. Suppose a skill is attempted without experience or understanding of its basic steps. In that case, the ability to achieve that skill will be reduced, and the chance of injury will increase. Be bold and go back to basics to attempt a new skill!
Create Balance Between Work and Rest
We all want to learn new skills, move to the next level, and improve our technique, but minor strains that you may need to be aware of can lead to worse injuries if we don’t let them heal. Resting is one of the most underrated strength-building exercises. It’s also one of the essential precautions against injuries. While it’s important to train consistently to maintain strength, skills, and stamina, it’s equally important to rest and allow enough time for your body to recover from the recent workout it’s done. Allowing time for adequate rest enables the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Enjoy spending time with your family and friends, watch your favorite TV show, spend some time in the sun and do something you enjoy!
Fuel Your Body
Fuelling your body is essential to ensure you have the strength and stamina to support yourself during long practices. Plan meals and snacks so you can eat consistently and frequently, maintaining energy levels and sustaining blood sugar levels. Focus on balancing your meals with various complex carbohydrates, protein, and ‘good’ fats to support muscle recovery and energy levels, and ensure you maintain hydration by drinking water or electrolyte drinks throughout the day. Consider your diet an integral part of your training to help you achieve your goals.
While it may take hard work and perseverance to achieve your gymnastics goals, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun along the way. Whether you incorporate all or only some of these tips, any extra attention paid to your training and technique will set you on the right path, supporting you as you dive head-first into your dreams!