Gymnastics is a fun and creative sport with incredible health benefits. However, warming up for gymnastics can be a tricky task. After all, gymnasts must be ready to run, jump, balance, swing, stand on their hands, push, pull, grab, stretch, bend, block, and dismount. To avoid injury, young gymnasts should practice the best warm up exercises outlined below.
Author Spotlight: Niklas Goldenthal Nik is a youth and adult gymnastics coach based in New York City with over 25 years of gymnastics experience. As a young gymnast in his native Germany, he won a national championship and two state championships.
So, what are the best warm-up exercises for young gymnasts?
Running is an easy and fast way to get the heart rate up and get the body moving. Also, a good level of stamina is important so that gymnasts can practice hard without getting tired – being tired increases the risk of injuries.
Finally, many exercises that gymnasts do have clear rules – after all, not everything that looks like a cartwheel is actually a proper cartwheel. Running gives young gymnasts the chance to be a little wild before focusing on gymnastics.
2. Dynamic Movements
Stretching doesn’t have to be done while standing still or sitting in place. In fact, dynamic stretching can be just as important as static stretching.
leg raises or running with high knees are great warm-up exercises for gymnastics.
Jumping is very important for gymnastics, and the explosiveness and agility that is needed for jumping is hard to imitate. So, the best way to practice jumping is…by jumping. There are many different jumps in gymnastics, so young gymnasts have a lot to choose from.
They can start with classic straight jumps, add in tuck jumps and straddle jumps, and, if they’re already more advanced, they can try pike jumps, split jumps, or jump full turns.
4. Straddle and Pike
After some dynamic exercises, the gymnast might want to sit down and stretch. Straddle stretches and pike stretches are the perfect opportunity to do so. Both stretches work muscle groups that are crucial for gymnastics. A good cartwheel requires a big straddle, and a tight pike makes almost every exercise easier, especially an L-sit. There are many straddle stretches.
The easiest ones are sitting in a straddle, reaching down the middle, and then reaching down each leg. Similarly, the easiest pike stretch is sitting in pike – with straight (!) legs – and reaching to, or around, the toes.
Splits play a special role in gymnastics. They are not only a warm-up exercise but also an actual skill! Thus, if gymnasts can do a split, they will be super flexible, and they will have another cool skill to show off. Splits are also important for many other skills, including split leaps and mill circles.
Gymnasts should practice all three splits:
Of course, especially the splits should be practiced slowly in order to avoid injury. There should be no bouncing or excessive pushing while trying to make it all the way down.
Upper body strength is important not just for the rings or bars. It is crucial for almost every skill – even a cartwheel requires strong arms and shoulders. Push-ups are a great exercise. They strengthen the arms, chest, and shoulders, and they also strengthen the lower back and core muscles.
More advanced gymnasts can try to do all different kinds of push-ups. For instance, push-ups can be done with the hands close together or far apart. Push-ups can be done slowly and controlled, or fast and explosively.
A very effective type of push-up is the so-called spiderman push-up: as the gymnast goes down in his/her push-up, one knee comes up towards the elbow, and then goes back to the starting position as the gymnast comes up.
7. Abs and Lower Back
Core strength is very important for gymnastics. Hollow-body rocks and arch rocks are great warm-up exercises for every gymnast. These exercises not only strengthen the stomach and lower back muscles, they are also a great way to learn the hollow-body position and the arch position.
These two positions are important for many gymnastics skills, such as tap swings. Of course, gymnasts can do many additional exercises for their abs and lower back, such as crunches, v-ups, and arch-ups.
8. Ankles & Wrists
Don’t forget about the ankles and wrists! After all, in gymnastics, you either stand on your feet or your hands. Strong wrists are especially important for some of the boys’ events – think of pommel horse, parallel bars and rings.
The standard ankle stretch is to grab one ankle at a time with both hands and then roll it in both directions. Also, gymnasts can perform short jumps from side to side. For the wrists, there are many different exercises to choose from.
For example, gymnasts can roll their wrists by interlocking their hands and bringing their elbows together. They can also make waves with their hands interlocked, or they can do the so-called prayer stretch.
Build bridges not walls! Just like splits, bridges are both a great stretch and a skill all on their own. Bridges are especially important for advanced skills such as back-handsprings and front-handsprings. When doing a bridge, gymnasts should focus on straightening their elbows and pushing their shoulders as much as possible over their hands.
Additionally, there are many different ways to do a bridge. For example, if the gymnast is working on kick-overs, it is helpful to raise one leg up and down while staying in a tight bridge. Importantly, after every bridge, gymnasts should sit in their tuck position and rock back and forth. This ensures that their back will be stretched in both directions.
10. Gymnastics Movements
Finally, even during warm-ups, gymnasts can practice important gymnastics skills. For instance, gymnasts can do donkey kicks in order to practice their handstands, or they can roll backwards into a candlestick in order to practice their backwards rolls.
Interested in Signing Up For Gymnastics?
Did you know…the Boys and Girls Club of Niagara offers a Tiny Tumblers gymnastics class for children as young as 18 months? Experienced gymnasts can take their skills to the next level at one of the Niagara Region’s seven gymnastics clubs.