How Does a Gymnast Train?

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Gymnastics is a demanding athletic activity requiring strength and flexibility. Mastering the various skills in the men's or women's version of the sport becomes easier if your body is properly conditioned for the sport. A solid fitness base is required to begin, then skill repetitions and body weight training will start building the needed muscle. Resistance training may help athletes climb the competitive ladder, especially on the men's side. On average it takes at least 10 years and 10,000 hours of intensive training to reach the elite competitive levels.

Strength and Flexibility Exercises

  • Beginning gymnasts can build a fitness foundation without going into a weight room. Do push-ups and handstands against a wall to build upper body strength. Address your core muscles with sit ups, leg lifts, crunches, lunges, and planks. Do "V ups" to work the abdominal muscles. Lie on your back, then raise your arms and legs over your body to form a V. Prepare your back with the "arch up". Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs straight, then lift them into the air so only your stomach is on the ground. Build your lower legs with calf raises. Use tension bands to train your gluteal muscles with various leg extension exercises. Do squats and one-leg squats, progressing to full-body squad thrusts.

Skills Progression

  • Beginners learn gymnastics basics on the tumbling mat and trampoline, performing somersaults, backward rolls, handstands and cartwheels. They start developing strength, flexibility and balance. And they become more proficient in the basic gymnastics movements, they ease on to child-sized versions of each apparatus and learn the event fundamentals step by step. They graduate onto the regulation-sized equipment and start building routines. Female competitors find it easier to master the skills at a young age, when they have more natural flexibility.

Movement and Plyometric Training

  • As gymnasts move into serious competition, their gymnastic movements must become more explosive. High-knee skips and sprints will build more powerful approaches. Plyometric or "box jumping" exercises like the pogo jump, depth drop and depth drop to jump build more spring.

Static Flexibility Excercises

  • After a dynamic workout, static stretching can build greater flexibility and prevent injuries. Use a variety of stretch positions to work the hamstrings, groin, quadriceps, hip flexors, shoulder, chest, back and calves. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds to gain the full effect for your muscles.

Resistance Training

  • Relative strength -- how strong you are in relation to your size -- is more important than sheer strength in gymnastics. Use sport-specific training to focus on the muscles you need to perform your skills. Body weight training and submaximal weight lifting will suffice at most developmental levels. Gymnasts should not do heavy weight training before they reach puberty. Heavy resistance training is most beneficial to male gymnasts. Do not train like a bodybuilder or a power lifter because excess bulk is detrimental. Aerobic training is helpful, but if overemphasized, it saps strength.

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