The science of a good warmup
A good training session starts with a good warm up. In a sport where a strong aerobic capacity is needed to not get tired when practicing routines over and over, our muscles need to stay warm with no exception to keep our flexibility at a good level. Every part of our body needs to be stretched thoroughly to achieve the amplitude we all desire for a good performance, it’s no wonder that a warm up is probably the most important part of our training.
Most coaches these days make the warm up very complete and well rounded in terms of the skills and qualities required for the sport. Conditioning, ankle strength, balance preps and exercises have found their way into how gymnasts prep their body for training.
People practicing other sports find surprising how 49% of RG coaches' warm ups can take more than an hour, according to the Precompetition Warm-up in Elite and Subelite Rhythmic Gymnastics study reasearched by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning. There is many reasons for this, but these are some of the biggest ones:
Unlike in other disciplines, in RG we need to first get warm so that we can then stretch so our muscles are as flexible as possible. But once our body has reached this point, we are not done. We need to spend time pushing ourselves to improve the elasticity in our muscular tissue to get even more flexible in the near future.
We use the warm up as a physical preparation time to develop our flexibility, technique and strength.
Cardiovascular exercises (Cardio)
Cardio exercise is any exercise that raises your heart rate. Cardio exercise uses large muscle movement over a sustained period of time keeping your heart rate to at least 50% of its maximum level. During cardio, capillaries deliver more oxygen to cells in your muscles, and this causes warmth that causes muscles to loosen up and burn the fat in our body too. Every sport includes and aerobic or cardiovascular exercise at the start of a warm up to prevent injuries, but what cardio exercises should we include in a gymnastics cardio exercise?
96% percent of the team started their warm up with a slow run during the study. Although a slow run fulfills all the requirements to be an ideal cardio exercise we recommend incorporating rhythmic steps and leaps during the warm-up, the use of dynamic flexibility exercises, and pre-acrobatics. This will help the technique or the gymnasts and concentrate on engaging their body in a suitable way from the very start of the training session.
Incorporating conditioning into the warm ups is a very good idea since when we alternate it with static stretching and other exercises it becomes less tedious and repetitive. The analytic muscle strengthening we seek in conditioning will not only help the muscle development of the athlete, but the increasing muscle temperature that it causes will really help the gymnasts to stay warm during their stretching time, so their hips, back, shoulders, etc, don't get stiff.
Warm-up in rhythmic gymnastics would include static stretching exercises at least 60 minutes prior to executing routines. The stretching would ideally go in crescendo, starting with lighter stretches and going deeper into the muscle as we move on to avoid any harsh muscle pull, or any other type of injury. Before ending this part of the warm up, over splits should be performed, provided the gymnasts have the level to do it.
When it comes to static stretching we need to remember that we should be holding it for 1 to 2 minutes minimum in order to increase our mobility, anything below this time will only maintain the mobility we already have.
A warm-up in rhythmic gymnastics would include static stretching exercises at least 60 minutes prior to the competition starting time and the active stretching exercises alternated with analytic muscle strengthening aimed at increasing muscle temperature
Dynamic stretches are active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion. And they are key for having our body fully prepared before practicing routines. Dynamic stretching includes leaps and kicks and body-waves, just to name a few. This will determine how well we do with any difficulty that involves demanding flexibility for our level (aka. all of them). Although in many physical activities the dynamic stretching will come before the cardio and the static flex, in rhythmic 73% of coaches leave it for after these too because, we want to perform them when we are already warm, since we are going to apply these movements into elements in our routine.
Before taking your stretch lightly thinking there is not much to it, think about all the skills and abilities you are working on with it every day and how important it is for injury prevention. Let's get to work!