How to Stretch to Warm Up for Gymnastics
The typical warm routine up that I always followed as an athlete, and always taught to my students, consisted of some aerobic exercises followed by a series of static stretches. However, recent studies have proven that static stretches (a stretch held for about 30 seconds)
- does little to nothing to prevent injury,
- and actually decreases the power of the muscle for up to 30 minutes.
Well, power is very important in gymnastics! The alternative to static stretching is dynamic stretching, which increases
- and range of motion.
The goal of a stellar warm up should be to
- raise the temperature of the body by light jogging,
- and loosen muscles and tendons through dynamic stretches,
- tire the athlete through strenuous aerobic exercise before he or she has begun working out,
- potentially cause damage by stretching a cold muscle,
- or hold static stretches which would cause a decrease in overall power.
Examples of Dynamic Stretches
Dynamic stretches consist of slow, controlled movements that target specific areas.
Some common dynamic stretches which you probably already do are:
Running with High Knees
A lap or two across the floor of high knee running will dynamically stretch the knees and hips. Bring knees up as high as possible, and as quickly as possible.
Another lap across the gym floor of but kickers will dynamically stretch the quads and hip flexors. Kick heels back to buttocks as fast as possible.
Kick straight legs out in front of the body, as high as possible without coming on to tiptoes or losing balance. This will stretch the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
Stand with feet hip's width apart. Begin with small slow arm circles and gradually increase the circumference of the circle. End by windmilling both arms forward and back to dynamically stretch the shoulders and back.
Stand with feet hip's width distance apart. With a proper, relaxed posture, begin twisting from left to right, allowing your arms to lead the twist. Another variation is to bend at the waist and, keeping a flat back, alternate twisting straight arms.to toes. This stretch warms and loosens the spine.
Reasons to Warm-Up
A thorough warm up routine
- increases the blood flow to the muscles,
- raises the temperature of the athlete's body,
- increases range of motion,
- raises the heart rate,
- prevents injury,
- increases the athlete's flexibility,
- and gives the athlete time for mental preparation.
Below is a three part video series from St. Vincent's Sport Performance Center demonstrating appropriate dynamic stretches specific to gymnasts. They are very good, and I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to review each of them!
A Place for Static Stretching
I don't believe that static stretching is a bad thing that athletes should never do. It still drastically improves flexibility, but it should be done after the workout, during the cool down. The cool down is just as important to the work out as the warm up is.
Benefits of cooling down:
- allows the heart rate and breathing to return to normal
- and flushes out the lactic acid that makes you sore the following day.
It's also important to refuel your body after hard workout. Drinking a protein shake is the best way to provide your body with protein to rebuild muscle.