Flexibility In Gymnastics [Why is It Important And How Do We Improve]
If there is anything that gymnastics proves, it is that our body can do wonders. All you need is dedication and the willpower to do what it takes. And as far as the sport is concerned, another integral part of the list is flexibility.
Two of the most essential elements for excelling at gymnastics is flexibility and following the standard levels. If you have developed enough flexibility in your body, there is not much that can stop you from going ahead (aside from lack of practice!). That is the secret behind handicapped gymnasts being able to perform gymnastics remarkably well.
For this reason, I am going to help you unravel all the secrets regarding the relationship of flexibility with gymnastics.
Misapprehensions connected to gymnastics
Let us address the misconceptions that the common public has regarding being flexible. However, before beginning, I would simply like to put it out there that you may be a secondary level gymnast and believe some of the misinformation. That in no manner makes you any less of a ‘good gymnast’.
When I started as a gymnast, I knew little to nothing about the sport, and yet here I am, trying my best to guide you. I can bet Olympics competing gymnasts would tell you the same thing! Therefore, my advice to you before I say anything else is to read this article with an open mind instead of trying to beat yourself down for being unaware.
1) Flexibility comes naturally
Most of us are under the impression that flexibility is a trait that gymnasts possess without any restraint. While there is partial truth in the statement, it is not entirely accurate.
Some people undoubtedly are naturally flexible, thanks to genetics. All they require are a few bends and stretches and they’re good to go. Okay, I’m kidding! It’s not all that easy, but you get the point. It turns out that these lucky individuals are not that lucky.
If a gymnast decides to perform a skill set without having gained the flexibility required for it, she might end up with a few unfriendly sprains. That is the case, despite whether they have natural bendy-ness or not. Having said that, a great number of gymnasts who take part in the sport and excel to higher levels are not naturally blessed.
Keeping that in mind, if your flexible friend finds it easier to do splits than you, it doesn’t mean you’re left behind in the race. You’re going to prosper as a gymnast just as gracefully.
2) Only particular muscles of your body require stretching
I feel as if no matter how much I emphasize this, it still wouldn’t be enough. Most of us (including me as a fresher) are under the impression that we are required to stretch the muscles that we want to make more flexible. That is categorically not the way to go round it. Let’s break it down in response to why it isn’t possible.
First and foremost, as a gymnast who plans to gain advancement in gymnastics, it is vital to perform a complete routine. In continuation to that, a routine consists of a handful of skill sets. To perform an entire routine altogether, the entire body of a gymnast should be flexible. If that is not the case, the likeliness of the doer not being able to follow the routine thoroughly is rather high.
The significance of flexibility in gymnastics
By definition, flexibility is the ability of a joint to move through a range of motion that is pain-free. Consequently, flexibility is the fundamental component that allows you to perform different skills throughout gymnastics.
Each skill aside from requiring one’s overall body to be bendy also demands certain joints to have acquired flexibility as well. An excellent example of this would be that of bridges. To perform back handstand and bridges, the gymnast needs to have a flexible black.
At the same time, an interesting fact to know is that some people do not tend to develop flexibility in certain joints and muscles. A prominent signal of this is that skills demanding that particular muscle or body part’s flexibility are pain-causing at every attempt of performance.
The best way to approach this scarcely talked about issue is to avoid doing that pinpointed skill. You may go for other options that give you an identical amount of credit and master them while you’re at it!
5 Ways To increase flexibility for gymnastics
On a personal level, I found gaining flexibility the hardest task out of all the challenges that a gymnast faces in the sport. Why? Because I couldn’t contain myself and wanted to get straight to the ‘cooler stunts’.
Little did I know, I was running away from what was slowly and gradually preparing me to climb the bigger mountain. The reason behind me disclosing this personal experience is for well…humor.
But more importantly, so you learn from it as much as you can and better your journey. To make it effortless, I’m going to list a couple of (tried and tested) ways for you to gain more flexibility and be the next Olympics competing gymnast!
You’ve probably already heard of this from countless sources, both reliable and unreliable. However many times that you have, add another number in the total count. If being entirely honest, as a gymnast, stretches should be love at first sight for you.
To make it even more crystal clear, stretching to a gymnast is what belly rubs are to a dog; simply beyond compare. They’re going to be your best friend throughout your gymnastics career. There are two entirely contrasting sorts of stretching; dynamic stretching and static stretching.
2) Dynamic stretching
To put it concisely, dynamic stretching is when you are required to move to stretch. It demands an active role in most of our body’s joints and muscles.
One of the most renowned capabilities of dynamic stretching is that it is a whole warm-up of itself. A few (and most efficacious) examples of dynamic stretching are; lunge with a twist, knee to chest, and T- push-ups.
Needless to say, dynamic stretching has excessive amounts of benefits, not only for the short term but also in the long run. Similar to how every skill in gymnastics has a beneficial property to it, dynamic stretching also helps reduce stiffness of the muscles.
Pro-tip; Composing a standard routine of dynamic stretching before a performance will help you keep up with it regularly.
3) Static stretching
Static stretching is stretching in a pink hair tie and a unicorn themed dress. If put in comparison it is far easier than dynamic stretching, for which reason it is incorporated in primary gymnastic levels as well.
By definition, static stretching allows you to stay put once you have assumed a certain body posture for example; shoulder stretches, side bends, etc. You will be pleased to know that this flexibility measure has benefits outside the spectrum of gymnastics as well. It allows your body to get rid of stress and anxiety (to an extent) and ease yourself.
Moreover, if you have recently been welcomed into the world of gymnastics and are not entirely open to performing skills, static stretching is exactly what you need to establish confidence. Conventionally, static stretching does not lead to any sort of injuries, etc. even in the very least.
Performing backward kicks and forward kicks are an incredible way of increasing leg flexibility. As a beginner, I took shelter with these two exercises to increase and maintain my leg flexibility. They are also used as a prerequisite for performing splits, which is a mandatory part of several gymnastic level routines.
To do a proper forward kick, you are required to bring your dominant leg (Mostly right) up to your head. If you are attempting to do these kicks for the first time, you should set a certain angle you wish to reach with your leg.
For example, as a starter, begin with trying to bring your leg up to an angle of 90 degrees. Gradually increase the angles till you reach 180 degrees, at this point you are ready to perform splits as well.
5) Keep yourself hydrated
You probably didn’t see this one coming! A huge part of the overall population is of the perspective that exercises are the only ways to improve to increase your body’s flexibility as a whole.
Whereas, the truth is that the internal mechanism of your body is just as essential to helping you achieve your aim.
Researchers conducted have proven that if a gymnast is hydrated, their body has a higher tendency to be flexible compared to someone who is running on the bare minimum.
You may not realize the significance of water at this point but I’m going to need you to trust me and my experience with gymnastics on this one.