Flexibility is so important for many gymnastics skills. For example, you need shoulder flexibility for back handsprings and other tumbling skills, and you need hip flexibility for splits, leaps and jumps.
To improve your flexibility with exercises, you can do static stretches or dynamic stretches. Static stretches are when you get into a position and hold it without moving. Dynamic stretches are when you do stretches as part of a movement. In our upcoming SkillTrakker Confidence & Flexibility challenge, we will do lots of dynamic stretches because they have been proven to help you improve your flexibility more than just static stretching.
Here are 5 exercises you can do to improve your flexibility:
1. Floor Angels
Floor angels are a great exercise for improving shoulder flexibility.
You can do them by laying straight on your back with your arms next to your ears. Pull your elbows down until they are parallel with your shoulders. Repeat. Flip over to your stomach and keeping your arms raised slightly off the floor, lower your elbows until they are parallel with your shoulders. Repeat.
Try to do 10-20 repetitions each way.
You can also do these sitting against a wall.
Doing dynamic stretches like kicks have been shown to improve leg flexibility and help gymnasts improve their splits in leaps and jumps.
You can do a simple kick pass of forward kicks, backwards kicks and sideways kicks. You can also get creative and add fouettés or other more advanced kicks and turns to your kick passes–we love to do that in SkillTrakker!
3. Hamstring Leg Lowers
Hamstring leg lowers are a good exercise for improving your flexibility for splits. You can hold them for 20-40 seconds.
Here’s how to do them:
Lay on an ottoman or something similar. Hold your right leg close to you while keeping it straight. Slowly lower your left leg as low as you can comfortably while keeping it straight. Hold for 20-40 seconds. Then repeat on the other leg.
4. Needle Kicks
Needle kicks are another drill in the kick family that are great dynamic stretches for improving your flexibility.
To do needle kicks:
Start in a straight stand with your arms above your head. Bending at the hips, lower your upper body so that you can touch the floor, as one leg kicks behind you. Step forward with the leg that kicked, and repeat with other leg. Try to keep your legs and upper body completely straight. You can do sets of 8 kicks and then repeat.
5. Stick Shoulder Stretch
This shoulder stretch is a great stretch to do if you struggle with not being able to get the right shape in a handstand or you need more shoulder flexibility for a back handspring.
Here’s how to do it: Find something in your house that you can use as a “stick”. Rest your elbows on the edge of a couch or ottoman, hold your stick and get into a rounded back position. Your hands should be wider than your elbows and your head even with the couch. Your palms should be facing your head. Hold the stretch.
Here is a video of all of these exercises together:
These are all easy to do flexibility exercises that you can do in your free time! Hope you enjoy. We would love for you to join us for our November SkillTrakker Confidence & Flexibility Challenge.