How to Develop Gymnastics Skills

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

In this lesson we examine different ways to develop both women's and men's gymnastic skills. We will also discuss the crucial role diet and nutrition play in attaining these said skills.

Gymnastic Skills

Gymnasts are incredible athletes that combine flexibility, strength, suppleness, rhythm, and timing into a beautiful blend of prowess and artistry. Many of us remember the thrill of seeing Nadia Comaneci score the first perfect ten in history. Before we discuss how to develop such gymnastic skills it is imperative we first review the events. In women's gymnastics there are four events which are the balance beam, floor exercises, uneven bars, and vault. In men's gymnastics there are six events which are the floor exercises, high bar, parallel bars, pommel horse, still rings, and vault. Gymnasts compete from level 1 through level 10 and there are certain moves required to move up from level 1 to level 2 and so forth.

Flexibility

Gymnasts are especially know for their incredible flexibility and most stretches are divided up between upper body and lower body. The most famous lower body stretch is probably the splits. The three main types of splits are the front splits, side splits, and vertical splits. Many gymnasts also incorporate yoga, Pilates, and backbends into their stretching routines.

Theraband Strips

One scientific technique U.S.A. Gymnastics has experimented with is the use of Theraband strips around the women's gymnasts ankles. The elastic bands were attached and then the women were tested while performing various jumps and kicks. The improvement turned out to be less than 5% which doesn't seem like much but the director of the study noted that this seemingly unimportant amount could be the difference between a Gold Medal and 20th place! Gymnastics is similar to Track and Field in the aspect that a minute fraction is often the difference between winning and finishing far down in the pack.

Trampoline and Tumbling

Trampoline and Tumbling has grown in popularity in recent years as many people now own home trampolines. The four disciplines in Trampoline and Tumbling (known as T&T) are trampoline, power tumbling, synchronized trampoline, and double mini-trampoline. Many experts believe the trampoline can be used to enhance all other gymnastic disciplines as well. It is also considered a beneficial way to cross-train as well.

Strength Training

Although we think of gymnasts as flexible athletes let us not forget that gymnasts are surprisingly strong as well and strength training is needed. However, in gymnastics the goal is to gain ''maximum strength from minimum size'' as James J. Major of the Motor Behavior Laboratory at the University of Utah explains. In other words, gymnasts are not bodybuilders trying to create mass but must be lithe and agile while strong at the same time. The gymnast has to actually lift her or his own body weight during many routines and thus muscle fatigue comes into play eventually as well.

Balance

Balance is certainly one of the most critical aspects when it comes to improving gymnastics skills. Exercises that can improve balance include the one-legged squat and reach, the one-legged lateral leg reach, and the one-legged squat and diagonal reach. Better balance can help prevent injuries, and can improve neuromuscular control and awareness of the body.

Diet and Nutrition

Without proper diet and nutrition all the other aspects of gymnastics probably won't amount to much. Gymnasts are forever walking the proverbial tightrope between weight management and the power that they crave. They tend to eat a high-carbohydrate diet for energy but they also eat protein to maintain muscle mass. Gymnasts tend to eat smaller more frequent meals as opposed to three larger meals per day. They also eat low fat and low glycemic and eat plenty of fiber.

Food Addiction and Exercise Addiction

Because gymnasts are forever pursuing that old saw known as ''the unattainable pursuit of perfection'' they are especially vulnerable to both food addiction and exercise addiction at times. Thus coaches try to teach budding athletes life skills, healthy eating patterns, coping mechanisms, and nutritional care from the beginning.

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