If you are a parent of a recreational gymnast, or a young gymnast yourself, you’ve probably thought about these questions a time or two: What can I practice at home and what can I do to improve? As a coach, I often hear this from parents and students. If you are like most gymnasts, you only get to come into the gym for an hour or two a week, the luckier ones, maybe three to four. But this never seems to be enough! One hour in the gym flies by and each kid is always wanting more, more, more. So, let’s talk. What can you and your talented little gymnast work on at home? Whether her goal is to qualify for Team, or he just wants to nail a handstand, the following describes elements a gymnast can practice in the home.
First, safety is always the number one concern. While it is understood that the house is not a great place for gymnastics, there are still several activities that can be practiced that will greatly improve skills in the gym! If these skills can be improved, students will excel in class and get more out of that limited hour.
Stretching increases range of motion, helps prevent injury, and allows for long beautiful lines when performing. Being flexible is also important for movements such as handstands and bridges. Practicing the splits and scales are two crucial movements. Being flexible enough to do the splits on the floor will help “shape” leaps and jumps. Be sure your gymnast is stretching not only the legs, but also the upper body. Equally important to stretch are the joints and tendons in wrists and ankles. Stretching these areas helps prevent strains.
Gymnastics requires more strength than most sports. Growing children shouldn’t be using heavy weights, so body exercises and resistance exercises are great for at home! Practicing push-ups the proper way, even just one, is an important exercise to achieve. Sit-ups and hollow holds are also good core exercises. Improving strength at home will improve students’ self-esteem because they will be faster, stronger, and more confident during warm-up all the way through to conditioning!
Simple things such as standing and balancing on one foot in passe or coupe helps develop better balance in many situations, but most importantly on the beam. Two other great balancing skills to practice are arabesques and scales. Trying to hold each of these positions on the floor for 10-20 seconds apiece will help tremendously when attempting them on the beam. Another fun practice is to find a line in your home, such as a seam in the floor, and practice different walks and turns back and forth.
Jumps and Stick It
Many gymnastic dismounts end with a “stick it” landing. It is important to begin developing this landing as early as pre-rec classes. Jumps and stick it landings can be practiced safely at home when standing in place in a large open room. Have your gymnast standing in place and practice jumping upward and “sticking” the landing. This also helps develop core strength and more balance awareness.
Movements such as bridges and spider-man handstands can safely be practiced at home, with parental discretion and watchful eyes! At home, bridges should be practiced in an open area, and should always start from the floor. A handstand is an important skill to develop and at home, can be performed against a wall. Begin by placing the back against the wall and then bend at the waist until the hands are on the ground. Then begin walking the feet up the wall. While in this position, think about tightening every muscle and “pulling” the feet to the ceiling. Performing spider-man handstands helps build upper body strength and will also strengthen wrists for normal handstands!
It is important to remind your growing gymnast that not everything we practice at the gym is safe to do at home. Couches and beds may look like perfect tumbling mats, but often they can cause subtle to serious injuries! We all want to practice more and we can! Just remember to be smart, be safe, and as always, ask mom and dad first!