Gymnasts are known for their extensive flexibility. The split leaps, straddled jumps and back bending poses required in gymnastics call for limber, pliable muscles. If you aspire to have the flexibility of a gymnast, you will need determination and hard work to achieve your goal. Get clearance from your doctor prior to attempting any of these stretches.
Daily Static Stretching
To be as flexible as a gymnast, stretch every single day. Do static, or stationary, stretches for 30 seconds each to improve your flexibility. The best time for stretching is after a strenuous workout when your muscles are thoroughly warmed up. Include stretches for all of the major muscle groups, then focus on a few more gymnastic-inspired stretches. Stretch your muscles until you feel a gentle tug, not until you feel pain. Repeat each stretch in your routine three times.
One of the impressive feats of flexibility a gymnast performs is a split. To execute a split, you need flexible hamstrings, quadriceps and hip flexors. Spend time every day stretching your hamstrings by sitting with your legs straight and extended in front of you. Lean your torso toward your thighs feeling the stretch in the back of your thighs. Stretch your quadriceps by standing on one foot and pulling your other foot in toward your rear. Keep your knee pointing toward the ground so you feel the stretch in the front of your thigh. The best way to stretch your hip flexors is in a split or modified split position. For a front split, place one foot in front and bend forward to place your hands on the ground on either side of your leg. If you are attempting a middle split, start with your feet straddled and your hands on the ground in front of you. Slide out into the splits as far as you can go and hold this position while supporting some of your weight in your hands.
Gymnasts do several skills, such as walkovers, limbers and handsprings, that require them to bend backward. To do a backbend, you need stomach, back and shoulder flexibility. Stretch your stomach by lying face down with your hands under your shoulders and press up into an arched position. Stretch your back and shoulders in a bridge position. Lie on your back with your feet near your rear and your hands under your shoulders. Press up slowly and gently, stopping at a comfortable point. Try to get a little farther each time your hold the position.
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, or PNF stretching, often is used by therapists to help improve flexibility. With a partner, use a PNF hold and release strategy to increase your flexibility. For example, stretch your hamstrings with a hold and release technique by lying on the ground with one leg stretched up to the ceiling. Have your partner stand to the side of your extended leg and apply gentle pressure to your leg, pressing it closer to your torso as you push in the opposite direction. Hold this contraction for six seconds.