Whether your child is a beginner or has been doing gymnastics for years, warming up before performing is absolutely vital to get the body ready for more intense exercise. A good warm-up routine includes movements that will increase heart rate and breathing, warm and loosen muscles and prep the joints. Some basic technical moves, like cartwheels and handsprings, can also be added to a warm-up, and short stints on gymnastics apparatuses are also helpful. Warm-ups will also help your child mentally prepare herself for the task at hand, which can be especially beneficial if she's in a competitive situation.
1. Dynamic Exercise
Complete warm-up routines will include some form of dynamic exercise that will increase your child’s heart rate and blood flow. This could involve jumping rope or jumping in place for a few minutes and then walking around the mat and focusing on individual muscles and joints. While walking, she can do head and wrist rolls, shoulder circles, arm swings and toe and foot stretches. She can also incorporate some cardio elements, such as running and prancing, or doing power skips. These types of movements will warm their bodies and loosen their muscles for stretching.
2. Total Body Stretch
Stretching is another important component of your child’s gymnastics warm-up routine and stretching from the head down to the toes is necessary. Always use controlled, deliberate movements in stretches to get the most benefit. Tilt the head side to side and roll the head from side to side. Bend at the waist from a standing position and roll up, one vertebra at a time. Arm stretches include bringing one arm across the chest and holding it, then raising it over and behind the head to stretch the triceps. Lunges and pliés are good standing stretches for the legs. The wrists, ankles, fingers and toes should also be included in the stretching warm-up. Remember to have your child hold each stretch for several seconds.
3. Apparatus Warm-up
Gymnastics apparatuses like the balance beam and uneven bars can also be incorporated into warm-up routines, but gymnasts should only do this after stretching and doing other initial warm-up exercises. The main purpose of an apparatus warm-up is to get your child more comfortable with the equipment. In a competition setting, apparatus warm-ups are usually brief -- about 30 seconds -- but they give gymnasts just enough time to get on, practice a few movements and familiarize themselves with the equipment.
4. Warm-up Tips
Gymnastics students should spend anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes doing a complete warm-up that includes dynamic movements and stretches, followed by basic gymnastic moves such as handstands or round-offs. They should not rush through the routine, but rather concentrate on the movements and stay focused. When your child is warming up, she needs to start slowly, with a gradual increase in aerobic/stretching intensity. Once the muscles are warmed and the joints adequately prepped, she can perform more difficult and complex exercises.
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