"So can you do the splits?" - This is one of the most commonly asked questions when gymnastics is brought up in a conversation.
Flexibility is not just a fundamental part of gymnastics, it is actually very important in nearly every sport - although it
may not be as obvious.
Playing soccer, rugby or footy the athletes need hamstring
flexibility for their kicks. Rowing needs good hip flexibility to get the most out of
each stroke. Swimmers shoulders need a good range of movement to increase
their speed. I could carry on but you get the point... flexibility is important!
So how do we help our children increase their flexibility? Try these top tips!
If gymnasts are only stretching once or twice a week in class, it is unlikely they
will see a lot of improvement. To increase flexibility, it is important to create a
stretching routine to do either every night or every second night. It doesn't have
to be long 10-15 minutes a day is plenty of time to start seeing some great
results. This could be incorporated before or after (for an extra challenge try
during) homework, while watching tv or even just before going to bed.
Progress photos are a great tool to help motivate both children and adults. When stretching, it may feel like there are no changes being made as it can take a few months of consistent stretching to really see some big results. Taking a photo of your child (or yourself) while they are stretching every couple of weeks will help them see the differences and help keep them motivated to keep going!
Use a mixture of active and passive stretches.
It is important that both active and passive flexibility are practiced. Active
stretching incorporates flexibility through movement, this kind of stretching
requires strength through the muscles to help achieve the stretch which is done without the use of gravity, or a hand - think all kinds of kicks (its harder to hold your leg in the air if you don’t have a hand helping pull it up).
Passive stretching relies on body weight and gravity and requires good joint mobility. Both kinds of stretches are very important for example – you need to be able to do the splits on the floor to do them in the air however; just because you have them on the floor doesn’t necessarily mean you have the active flexibility and strength to be able to do them in the air.
The information to take away from this is incorporate
both kinds of flexibility into your stretching routine!
Get some inspiration!
There are so many videos of amazing gymnasts, dancers and contortionists on
YouTube. Try watching some videos with your child and you both might be
inspired to stick to that stretching routine. When I first started stretching I kept a photo of a skill I wanted to be able to do as my phone background – it may have taken a year but when I finally managed to do it I was so proud! So find some inspo and have your gymnast set themselves a challenge.
You’ll be amazed at what can be achieved!
Be careful not to over stretch!
Yes I know this sounds slightly crazy considering I have been going on about how great stretching is, however we need to make sure our gymnasts/children/selves are not stretching to the point of injury.
When stretching it is important not to feel pain. Discomfort yes but pain, no!
If it is too painful for the gymnast to sit in the stretch for more than a few seconds they are stretching too far and need
something simpler to start with.
The ideal length of time to hold a stretch is between
20-30 seconds. It is also important to note we never want gymnasts ‘bouncing’ in their stretch to try get further as this too can cause unwanted damage.
Hopefully you can enjoy the process and learn to love stretching as much as I have!
Thanks for reading today's blog.
Did you find any of it helpful with your own personal stretching goals?