Do you want to practice and get better at gymnastics this summer?
You might think the only time you can practice is when you’re in the gym but that’s definitely not the case!
We’ve put together a list of creative ways to practice gymnastics skills while on summer break outside in the warmth of the summer. However, some of these can be done all year-round.
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! We recently did a case study to show you how doing just 15 extra minutes of gymnastics practice at home can add the equivalent of almost 6 hours per week of extra practice over a 20 month time period.
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Anyways, enough talk! Here’s the list:
1. Have Handstand Contests
When you’re hanging out with your gymnast friends this summer, you can have handstand contests. You can have them outside on the grass, at the beach, 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 (We call this Spiderman-Against-The-Wall and it’s one of our favorite SkillTrakker exercises).
Whichever way you decide to hold your handstand contest, see who can hold her 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. Having handstand contests will not only help you build stamina, but will also help you learn good form.
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’re practicing tap swings and casting, make sure you have a tight body position. Concentrate on tightening your core and squeezing your legs together.
And while you’re there on the high bar you could add in a few pull-ups to help you get stronger this summer!
3. Jump Rope
Jumping rope is a great way to improve your endurance which is key when you’re competing. In fact, endurance is what ensures you can perform your routine with high energy the whole way through. Whether you’re finishing up your floor routine or getting through your bar routine, you’ll see a huge difference in performance when your stamina is increased.
To build up your endurance, start by jumping rope for one minute at a time. Once you feel like that’s easy, try adding 20-30 more seconds until that feels easy. Keep doing this until you’ve worked your way up to 5 minutes without stopping.
Another thing you can try is to get a jump rope with a counter. As you jump it keeps track of how many jumps you’ve done. Each time you jump rope you can try to beat your last count which will also help to increase your endurance.
4. Practice on a Trampoline
If you or one of your friends has a trampoline you can practice some of your gymnastics skills while you’re having fun. Remember to only practice the skills you absolutely know how to do! And of course make sure you have adult supervision.
You can practice all of your jumps, making sure to focus on your form. Think about straddle jumps, split jumps, pike jumps, and tuck jumps for starters. Remember to point your toes as you jump up and to keep your legs as straight as you can in the air (unless you’re doing a tuck jump). Keep your chest lifted as you jump up with your abs pulled in tight.
You can also practice straight jumps to practice your hollow body position in the air. Remember to keep your legs together and toes pointed!
5. Practice off a Diving Board
If you have access to a pool with a diving board this summer 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 also practice doing front or back flips if you do them at the gym, and are a good swimmer.
When you do your skills, be sure to work on good form. That especially means pointing your toes and keeping your chest lifted.
6. Practice Your Sprints
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. You can also challenge your friends to a sprint to make it more motivating!
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!
Challenge yourself to see how many turns you can do in a row that end in a controlled balance on high releve. Each time you practice try to beat your last number.
8. Practice your Splits While You’re Watching TV
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, your splits should be closer, if not 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 Leap the Creek to Improve your Split Leaps
You can play a game we call “Leap the Creek” 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 over the ropes instead of just jumping over them. In our version you’ll only move the ropes far enough apart that you can still do a split leap over them.
While you’re 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 On 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 using the yardstick as a big ruler, draw yourself a chalk beam on the ground in the grass. Make sure you draw it in the grass (and not the cement) 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. Challenge a Family Member to a Plank Hold Contest
To get better at gymnastics you need a strong core and one way to strengthen your core at home is to do planks. To make it fun and to share in some giggles, challenge a family member (or friend) to a plank hold contest. See who can hold their plank position the longest without coming down. Try doing front planks as well as each side too so you strengthen different ab muscles.
When holding your plank position be sure to keep one straight line from the top of your head down to your heels. Don’t let your hips drop or sag towards the floor.
13. Practice Your Handstands and Flips in a Pool
Heading to the pool this summer? Why not have fun while also practicing your gymnastics! When you’re in the shallow end, practice doing a handstand with your hands on the floor of the pool and your feet sticking up towards the sky. Be sure to squeeze your legs together and point your toes. Hold it for as long as you can until you need to come up for a breath of air. You can also challenge a friend to a handstand contest in the pool and have a different friend judge your form to see who wins.
The pool is also a great place to practice skills like a forward or backward roll and your back handspring. The water acts as a natural spot by lifting you up. Just be sure you only try skills you’ve done in the gym before and that you have adult supervision nearby when you do these skills.
14. Practice Your Mental Routines
When we think of practicing gymnastics over the summer we often think of perfecting physical skills but summer is the perfect time to work on your mental game. If you find yourself bored or on a long car ride, imagine yourself doing your routines (or a skill you want to learn) over and over in your mind. Strengthening your visualization muscles is just as important as strengthening your physical muscles and it’s a skill that separates the top gymnasts from those below them.
When going through your mental routines make sure you imagine each part of your routine in real time. That means your mental routine should take as long as your routine when you really do it. Try timing yourself during your mental routine to see if you are around the same time as your actual routine. And keep a log of how many mental routines you do a day including how long each one takes you. See if you can do one more than the previous day to build up your mental muscles!
15. Join SkillTrakker’s Press Handstand/Switch Leap Challenge
Earlier we mentioned a case study we did on a gymnast who practiced 15 extra minutes at home and we showed that short but consistent practice at home can really add up over time to many hours of extra practice time.
One way to stay consistent with your gymnastics this summer is to join our SkillTrakker community and do the daily exercises and drills meant to strengthen your muscles and improve your gymnastics skills. The challenge workouts make a great way to start your day over the summer! With all the accountability SkillTrakker provides, you will stay motivated and on target for real improvement during the summer months.
There you have it! 15 creative ways to practice gymnastics this summer. Summer is time for having fun but it’s also a great time of year to get ahead in gymnastics so it’s important that you keep up with your skills. But as you saw, doing gymnastics doesn’t have to only happen in the gym. By using our ideas, you can have fun while practicing gymnastics this summer.