the BEST FIVE CONDITIONING EXERCISES
This weekend we have a conditioning inspiration article. It's going to be simple and brief and the aim of it is to encourage gymnasts to step up their conditioning routines and giving tips on how to get the desired results when it comes to strength. It focuses on core stability, something necessary in gymnastics at any level, but is important to emphasize with young athletes. These are some staple exercises that we find very effective that you may already do. If that's the case, you can read why they are so good, as every element of the exercise will be explained in detail.
At the bottom, we discuss the vital importance of conditioning in rhythmic gymnastics and the reason for it. You will also find testimony about this topic to understand all the points better from a personal perspective. We hope you enjoy it!
Note for younger gymnasts
When it comes to gymnasts under the age of twelve, conditioning needs to be supervised as much as possible to make sure they learn to do their exercises engaging the right muscles, rather than overusing muscles we do not intend on targeting.
This basically means that we need to make sure gymnasts keep their hips square and backs straight, for instance, and that they do everything slowly!
Another thing with little ones is that they will get bored with very repetitive exercises quite fast, so we need to spice it up.
Plank, Plank, Plank!
Here we have a very complete variation of a plank ideal for young girls.
Planks are an amazing way to get your whole body strong. They engage the whole core at the same time, and the body is being supported by the forearms, giving the arms and shoulders the chance to strengthen too. Legs should be together and very tight.
Besides strength, planks give stability. And believe us when we say athletes will need it for balances and pivots.
The upper body strength that planks on the hands involve is a great progression (in the case of beginners) or warmup (for advanced level gymnasts) for handstands or any type of acrobatic elements.
The constant movement raises the pulse and helps with endurance. It also makes the exercise more dynamic, perfect for children because it makes it that bit less boring.
2. Extensions, stability and core on tabletop position
With knees and hands on the floor and engaged, tight core, extend one arm and the opposite leg to the side and move them in very small circular motions.
This exercise also develops core stability.
It helps with turnout and extensions as lifting the leg off the floor and moving it in circular motions strengthens the hip flexors, inner thighs, quads and buttocks.
Upper back and shoulder are also engaged!
Circular tiny motions add a co-ordination element to the exercise and challenge body balance even further.
3. Oblique and core leg kicks
It's important not to forget to develop the sides of our trunks, (the obliques). They not only help rotate the trunk, but they also help pull the chest, as a whole, downwards, which compresses the abdominal cavity. This exercise helps athletes maintain stability in their trunks while kicking their legs.
Once again, training and strengthening the obliques and core at the same time and develops stability when the legs are moving. This will become important when learning dynamic balances and pivots. Fouettes are a great example of the appliance of this exercise.
The gymnast can get the elbows off the floor and hold their chest off the floor for a harder variation that will also engage the upper abs. Multi-tasking is key!
4. Leg lifts on the bar
It's a conditioning classic for a reason. There are many variations. This time the athletes will kick their legs up and down ten times, and hold them at a 90-degree angle if not higher for another 10 seconds. Depending on their level they can finish the set there, or then do crisscrosses with their legs for an extra 10 seconds.
5. Arabesque to passe kicks with dragonfly lifts with weights
As we see in the video, a stack of cushions, a Bosu ball or anything that makes the surface where the gymnast is balancing slightly less firm is advised to challenge our balance even further and strengthen the ankle. Going from passe to arabesque and then leaning forward to do dragonfly lifts will ensure every muscle in the body is engaged. Depending on the level and age of the gymnasts, they can use some light weights too. If you are at home you can fill two bottles of water, which is just as effective but much more affordable.
The leg moving back and forth will engage the whole body and will particularly strengthen our inner thighs, buttocks and lower back during our arabesque.
The strength of the supporting leg will improve with this exercise.
Upper back, arm and shoulders are engaged with the help of the weights and the dragonfly lifts.
This also trains the arm to stay tight during balances and keep them out or up rather than not use them at all, a problem we may see with beginners and even advanced gymnasts to a smaller extent.
Why is conditioning important?
Especially when it comes to younger gymnasts, conditioning is not a priority in their training. This is probably because it's not necessarily the most fun part of gymnastics and it's hard to see the direct results of conditioning exercises straight away.
However, it makes a world of difference.
When gaining strength, trying to learn a new skill is easier, quicker and much more effortless. Gymnasts with more strength tend to get their skill faster because not only do they need to gain the strength for an element from scratch when they start to practice it, the process of mastering it is way less exhausting.
The author's experience
During my early training days, conditioning wasn't important in my club. I don't know if this was because it wasn't considered as important as it is today, or if it had to do with the training style of my coach. I was too young to remember or even question it.
At the end of every session, we had to do core exercises together for a few minutes and that was all our strength training really. At the time I thought that was a good thing, as I was 7 years old and I already struggled enough with our light conditioning. I also thought that practising our routines for most of our sessions, again and again, was better.
But I started to fall behind everyone else quite fast. My extensions weren't high, and my core wasn't strong enough to hold my body straight during balances. I didn't see the connection back then, but when I moved to a different club in my city where basic conditioning was included during our warmup to target the muscles we needed the most and we had a whole session dedicated to conditioning and technique on Fridays.
My posture became better simply because I had more back and shoulder strength to hold my body positions with no effort. My extensions and balances improved and I started to slowly learn skills quicker. This was something amazing because until that moment my way to practice my skills and gain strength in the areas I needed I would only practice them over and over without a break. This made my attention decrease because I was tired and bored of doing the same four things for hours every competition season.
It was only thanks to conditioning that I found a way to improve and enjoy gymnastics more, and I wish I realised that sooner instead of resenting conditioning sessions.
Special thanks to Amanda, our little model for these pictures and videos and beautiful gymnasts. Great job!