Flexibility and strength in your legs are key in your fitness journey. If one of your legs is shorter than the other, even your everyday mobility like walking, will keep you off-kilter. I’m going to discuss a few of the most important stretches in gymnastics and some helpful tips to get the most out of your flexibility training and classes at Awaken Gym in Denver.
Pancake/straddle: This basic stretch is necessary for growth in gymnastic skills like straddle press up into a handstand. It stretches the adductors – those muscles up in your inner thigh – and the entire posterior chain which includes all the muscles running up your back and down your legs in a horizontal line.
<< Tips >> Engage the top of your legs hard so your knees are pulled up. This will help release your hamstrings. Next, try to imagine rotating your legs at the hip so your knees are pressing behind you. They will still be pointing straight up in the air, but it sets your legs and hips up in the right position for a flat pancake.
Bridge: The bridge stretches the hips, shoulders, and back and develops strength in the entire body. You need a great bridge to correctly accomplish skills like rollover backbend or a back handspring.
<< Tips >> Squeeze the glutes together hard; this sets your hips in the right position so you don’t curve in the lower back. In this stretch, concentrate on creating the bridge in the upper and mid-back more by engaging and extending the spine between the shoulder blades. Last, open the shoulders by pressing the armpits out. Developing these three aspects of strong hips, a flexible upper back, and open shoulders will help you develop a sustainable bridge.
German Hang: The German Hang is a staple exercise for all of your ring work and is a stepping stone to eventually being able to perform dislocates. It develops strength and stability through the shoulders utilizing and creating an entire range of motion that will help to open your shoulders like never before.
<< Tips >> Once you have controlled the movement into your hang with your trusty spotter, concentrate on opening the shoulder by rolling the front of your shoulder back. With elbows locked and super tight triceps, this movement should rotate your thumbs out. Last, engage your mid and upper back between your shoulder blades for support and to further open the chest and shoulders.
These are just a few basic cues to help you on your fitness training journey. Remember that even the simplest moves in gymnastics go deeper and deeper as you gain strength and mobility and can always be improved upon. When stretching listen closely to what your own body is telling you, and reach for that sweet spot between feeling oh so good and playing with your limits.
So what are you waiting for? Join us for a flexibility class today!