The 3 Best Stretches for Gymnastics
Improve your gymnastics and minimize injuries with 3 of the best gymnastics stretches.
by Brad Walker | First Published October 24, 2008 | Updated March 25, 2019
The Romans made gymnastics their own during their year of conquest and used it to train warriors and entertainers.
Today, World Championships put the best gymnasts in front of international audiences as part of the Olympic Games.
Muscles used in Gymnastics
Gymnasts have to be strong and agile to perform the moves on the floor or the various apparatus. Although most routines are short in duration, the gymnast must have a good deal of muscular endurance to avoid fatigue and ensure good form.
Gymnastics encompasses many different activities and each involves a varying degree of muscle use. A balance between upper and lower body strength is important for the well rounded gymnast. The legs must be strong to jump and flip, and provide a solid base for the beam and other activities. The upper body must be strong enough to support the body during flips and rolls, and lift the body during bars, vaults and ring activities.
Gymnastics use the following major muscles during the various events:
- The upper torso; the deltoids, pectorals, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi.
- The core muscles; rectus abdominus and spinal erectors.
- The hip muscles; the gluteus maximus, hip flexors, adductors and abductors.
- The muscles of the legs; the quadriceps, hamstrings and the calf muscles.
- The muscles of the arms; the biceps, triceps and the flexor and extensor muscles of the forearm.
It is important for a gymnast to follow a good strength and flexibility program for these muscles to keep them ready for competition and practice.
Most Common Gymnastics Injuries
Gymnastics is a high flying, high impact activity that often requires split second timing. Any miss and the entire body can come crashing down. An awkward turn or twist and the joints are subjected to excessive force. When elevated off the ground a fall could mean serious injury.
The most common injuries experienced by the gymnast are:
- Dislocations and fractures;
- Ankle sprains;
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprain;
- Joint pain; and
- Muscle strains.
Injury Prevention Strategies
A gymnast must be conditioned to ensure injury prevention.
- Practicing the proper form of each new move to ensure correct body position will help reduce injuries.
- The use of spotters when learning a new skill will also reduce the number of injuries.
- The use of well maintained equipment and a safe practice area is essential in injury prevention.
- Always warm-up properly prior to training and especially competition.
- Allow an adequate cool-down period after training and competition.
- A strength and flexibility program that covers the entire body, making sure the body is strong and flexible enough to perform the various moves will help the gymnast reach peak levels and avoid injury.
The 3 Best Gymnastics Stretches
Gymnastics stretches are one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective.
Below are 3 of the best stretches for gymnastics; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions with each stretch, and if you currently have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain please take extra care when performing the stretches below, or consult with your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the following stretches.
Instructions: Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
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Research and References
- Walker, B. (2011). The Anatomy of Stretching, 2nd Edition (ISBN: 978-1583943717)
- Wikipedia contributors. (2019, April 26). Gymnastics, In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Bak, K. Kalms, S. Olesen, S. Jargensen, U. (1994). Epidemiology of injuries in gymnastics. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 4(2), 148-154.
- Marshall, S. Covassin, T. Dick, R. Nassar, L. Agel, J. (2007). Descriptive epidemiology of collegiate women’s gymnastics injuries: National Collegiate Athletic Association Injury Surveillance System, 1988–1989 through 2003–2004. Journal of Athletic Training, 42(2), 234.
- Sands, W. (2000). Injury prevention in women’s gymnastics. Sports Medicine, 30(5), 359-373.
- Guidetti, L. Di Cagno, A. Gallotta, M. Battaglia, C. Piazza, M. Baldari, C. (2009). Precompetition warm-up in elite and subelite rhythmic gymnastics. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(6), 1877-1882.
- Kokkonen, J. Nelson, A. Eldredge, C. Winchester, J. (2007) Chronic Static Stretching Improves Exercise Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(10), 1825-1831.
- Shellock, F, Prentice, W. (1985) Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries. Sports Medicine, 2(4):267-78.
- Fradkin, A. Zazryn, T. Smoliga, J. (2010) Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(1):140-8.
About the Author: Brad Walker is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon (author page) has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 1,000's of verified customer reviews. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.
Disclaimer: The health and fitness information presented on this website is intended as an educational resource and is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the exercises described on this website, particularly if you are pregnant, elderly or have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain.