Good Stretches for Gymnasts

Performing gymnastics requires a lot of muscle work and many a times an improper twist and turn can lead to injuries. To avoid these, gymnasts need to regularly practice good stretching exercises so that the muscles stay fit and active. The stretches are very vital as it ensures elasticity of the muscles, ligaments and fascia so that one can avoid injuries. Let us have a look at the good stretches for gymnasts and why stretches are important for gymnasts etc.

Good Stretches for Gymnasts

Why are Stretches Important for Gymnasts and What Happens if Stretches are not Performed?

Gymnastics require highest possible level of flexibility in every inch of their physical stature to give their bests in any competitions. Gymnasts need to develop extreme ranges of motion in their major joints and flexibility in muscles. When they do not have the sufficient extensibility in the muscles to make those tough and complicated motions, they may damage joint capsules, tendons, cartilage and ligaments. Regular flexibility training is a must for every gymnast which enhances and perfects their active flexibility. Several gymnasts are found to be missing symmetrical ranges of motions at key joints due to lack of regular stretches which limit their capability and usability of muscles in perfect manner.

Good Stretches for Gymnasts

Stretches are essential to gain maximum flexibility. Regular stretching program is a must to keep body muscle relaxed and fit for gymnastics. Wide variety of stretching programs is advised to the trainees and professional gymnasts. Here are some of them and how these are to be performed:

  • Static Stretching for Gymnast: This is the most common stretching technique for gymnast. It is executed by extending a specific muscle or muscle group to its maximum stretchable point and holding it in that position for about 30 seconds.

There are two types of static stretches:

  • Active: Added force is applied by the Gymnast himself or herself for greater intensity.
  • Passive: External force is applied to add up extra force on the muscles.
  • Dynamic Stretching for Gymnast: In dynamic stretching, continuous movement patterns that are normally performed in gymnastics are practiced. The inherent purpose of dynamic stretching pattern is to gain perfectness in different events.
  • Ballistic Stretching for Gymnast: This type of stretching utilizes bouncing movement repetitively to stretch the targeted muscle or group of muscles. Bouncing movements usually generate the stretch reflex and may cause increased risk for injury. These stretches should be performed starting from low-velocity to high-velocity preceded by some static stretching.
  • Proprioceptive Neuromascular Facilitation (PNF): This stretching technique for gymnasts uses autogenic and reciprocal inhibition. Autogenic and reciprocal inhibition occurs when certain muscles are subdued from contracting because of Golgi tendon organ and the muscle spindles activation. These two musculotendinous proprioceptors are located around the joints and muscles respond to changes in muscular tension and length, which helps to manage muscular control and coordination.

It includes three types of techniques:

  • Hold-Relax Technique: It is performed in the following way-
    • Passive 10-15 seconds pre-stretch program.
    • Holding and resisting force applied by the fitness professional or any helping hand for 6-10 seconds that causes an isometric contraction in the target muscle or muscle group.
    • Relaxing the muscle followed by passive stretch for 30 seconds to increase range of motion.
  • Contract-Relax Technique: This is performed in the following way-
    • Passive 10-15 seconds pre-stretch.
    • The fitness professional or the helper needs to apply resistance, counteracting the gymnast’s force of contraction of the concerned muscle group, without completely restricting the joint through its range of motion.
    • Relaxing the muscle followed by passive stretch for 30 seconds to increase range of motion.
  • Hold-Relax with Agonist Contraction: This technique is like the Hold-relax technique, but only differs in the final stretch-
    • At the final step, muscle group is to be relaxed and passive stretch is to be performed. Then the opposing muscle group of the target muscle group is to be concentrically contracted. Each session will be for 30 seconds to increase range of motion.

3 Most Effective Stretches for Gymnasts

Here are the 3 most effective stretches that is a must for all gymnasts:

  • Arm-up Rotator Stretch for Gymnast: Extend your right arm outward and bend your forearm towards the ceiling at 90 degrees. Hold the bottom end of a stick with left hand and the other end with right hand from behind your elbow. Now, pull the bottom of the stick forward with the left hand. Repeat with the other hand.
  • Standing High-leg Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch for Gymnast: Stand with one leg raised on a table. Keeping the knee bent, lean your chest forward towards the bent knee and leg. Repeat with other leg.
  • Squatting Leg-out Adductor Stretch for Gymnast: Stand with your legs wide apart and point your toes outward. Keeping one leg straight, bend the other leg. Lower the groin towards the ground to the maximum possible extent while resting your hand on the bent knee. Repeat on the other side as well.

Spectators remain spellbound while observing performers performing incredible moves single handedly or sometimes in groups. Gymnastics is an art where gymnasts use their body as an ultimate showpiece to display some mind boggling moves made perfect with years of hard practice and good stretches.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 27, 2016

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