Are you thinking the only time you can practice is when you’re in the gym?
That is definitely not the case!
Here are some creative ways to practice gymnastics skills. Some of these can be done all year-round. Others are outside, so you need the warmth of summer.
Any time you can squeeze in extra practice it’s great because of the power of repetition. Basically, the more you do something, the better you get at it. And that includes gymnastics!
Also, if you have some equipment at home, here are some exercises you can do with your gym equipment.
Anyways, enough talk! Here’s the list:
1. Have Handstand Contests
When you’re hanging out with your gymnast friends, you can have handstand contests. You can have them outside on the grass or inside against a wall.
If you’re doing them against the wall, make sure you are doing them with your stomach flat against the wall. To do this: Stand with your back to the wall and put your hands on the ground. Put your feet on the wall one at a time. Walk your feet up the wall as you move your hands closer to the wall. Do this until your stomach is pressing the wall and you are completely vertical (I call this Spiderman-Against-The-Wall).
Whichever way you decide to hold your handstand contest, see who can hold their handstand the longest. Most likely, the one that can hold it the longest will be the gymnast that has a tight body, squeezes her core, and focuses on pulling her feet towards the ceiling.
2. Practice on the Playground Bars
Do you have a playground with bars anywhere near you? Does it have a high bar or low bar?
If it has a high bar, you can practice your tap swings.
If there is a low bar, you can practice casting. The bar must be low enough that you have no problem getting to a front support on it. DO NOT practice casting on a high bar; it won’t be safe.
While you are practicing tap swings and casting, make sure you have a tight body position. Concentrate on tightening your core and squeezing your legs together.
While you are at the playground, you can try this workout Gym Gab Blog put together.
3. Jump Rope
Jumping rope is a great way to improve your endurance. Endurance is key when you are competing. It’s what ensures you can perform your routine with high energy the whole way through.
Start by jumping rope for a minute at a time. Try to work your way up to 5 minutes without stopping.
If you or one of your friends has a trampoline you can practice some of your gymnastics skills. Only practice the skills you absolutely know how to do! And make sure you have adult supervision. You can practice all of your jumps, making sure to focus on your form.
5. Practice off a Diving Board
If you are a member of a pool with a diving board, you can practice your gymnastics there. Once again, make sure you only practice skills you absolutely know how to do. And be sure to have adult supervision. Also, only practice off a diving board if you are a good swimmer.
You can practice all of your jumps off a diving board. This is great because it is just like dismounting off the balance beam. You can practice doing front or back flips if you do them at the gym, and are a good swimmer.
Being able to run fast as you approach the board is one of the most important factors in having a good vault. And working on your run is one of the easiest ways to practice away from the gym. A vault runway is 82 feet long or less. Most gymnasts don’t use the whole runway. So, you can practice sprints shorter than that.
This exercise would be easy to test your improvement. At the beginning of the summer time your 40 foot sprint. Then time it at the end of the summer. See if you have gotten faster and improved your time. You definitely don’t need a track for this–your backyard will work just fine!
7. Do Turns in your Socks in the Kitchen
One creative way to practice your gymnastics this summer, is to practice your turns in the kitchen while wearing socks. The socks will give you less friction against the floor. Make sure you focus on controlling your turns, and sticking the finish. If there are lines on the floor in your kitchen, you can pretend that one of them is a beam!
8. Practice your Splits On the Stairs
Practicing your splits is important to help improve your flexibility. One easy way to make sure you practice your splits this summer would be to get into a split every time you are watching TV and a commercial comes on. When the commercial switches, switch to a different split. By the end of the summer, I’m sure you will have your splits all the way to the floor.
If you already have your splits, then here is a way to improve them at home. Do you have a set of carpeted stairs in your home? If so, then you can do over-splits on them. Simply stand at the bottom of the stairs and do a split with your front leg propped up on the first stair. You could still do this on non-carpeted stairs as long as you are wearing pants, so you don’t hurt your knees. Hold yourself up until you are flexible enough to get closer to the floor.
9. Play Jump the Creek to Improve your Split Leaps
You can play a game I always called “Jump the Creek” when I was younger to improve your split leaps. Here’s how you play: Take two jump ropes and lay them stretched out on the grass about a foot apart. You can play with a group of friends, or by yourself. The goal is to jump over the space between the two jump ropes and to land on the other side. If you land in the middle, you have lost the game. However, our gymnastics improvement version is a little different. Our goal is to do a gorgeous split leap. So, instead of jumping over the ropes, you will split leap over them. And you won’t move them far enough apart that you can’t do a split leap over them.
While you are playing, make sure you concentrate on keeping your legs straight and your toes pointed. You can put your arms out to the side, over your head, or in opposition.
10. Practice your Beam Routine with a Chalk Beam
You can easily practice your beam routine (or any of your beam skills) this summer without having a low beam. Simply take a yardstick and some sidewalk chalk and draw yourself a chalk beam on the ground in the grass. Make sure you draw it in the grass so you will have some cushion if you fall. You can practice your beam routine (without the tumbling skills) in the grass on this chalk line. You can also practice basic skills like cartwheels, handstands, turns, leaps and jumps on your chalk beam.
11. Play Mother-May-I
Another way to practice gymnastics this summer is by playing Mother May I gymnastics style. Mother May I is a game where one person is the “Mother” and the other players line up some distance away from the “Mother”. They take turns asking to move forwards by saying “Mother may I___?”. The players request to do a certain amount of some action. The first person to get to the “Mother” gets to be the “Mother” next. For example, one request might be “Mother may I do two chassés forwards?”
Here are some suggestions for some gymnastics movements to request:
- chassé (forwards and sideways)
- leap (front and side)
- crab walk
- bear walk
- hitch kick
12. Do Handstand Walks and Pirouettes
This way to practice gymnastics might be slightly more advanced. But for those gymnasts that have mastered handstands, you can practice handstand walks and pirouettes. You can have your mom or dad hold the top of your feet so you have slightly more balance, while you practice walking on your hands forwards, or pirouetting (turning in a circle). You can do this outside in the grass, or inside on a carpeted floor, or floor mat.
I hope these exercises have you working to become a better gymnast this summer! In addition to these ways to practice gymnastics, you can also do these exercises you can do at home to improve your gymnastics skills.
Let me know if you have other ways you are going to work to get better at gymnastics this summer. I’d love to hear your ideas.