Strength and conditioning comprise an important part of gymnastics training, and in fact can take up almost as much time as learning the skills and routines. For young gymnasts, it can be challenging finding conditioning programs that are appropriate for a variety of ages and skill levels. The main point of conditioning is to train their bodies, regardless of age or ability, to do skills with safety and proficiency.
Setting a Schedule
Given that gymnastics is a highly anaerobic sport, the most important areas of fitness to improve on are strength and power. Depending on how many classes the gymnasts are involved in per week, try to change up the conditioning so they get aspects of each area of fitness. Perform at least 15 to 45 minutes of conditioning following classes. Aim for two to four days per week of conditioning, the former for newer gymnasts and the latter for experienced gymnasts. Typically, gymnastics classes are organized by either age or skill level. Younger gymnasts are organized by age. Once they hit a certain skill level, usually level four, and the first level for competitive gymnastics, they are grouped by skill level.
Simon Says works well for younger children who might have shorter attention spans and lower skill levels. Play a five- to 10-minute game of Simon Says, but instead of children exiting the game when they make a mistake, have them hold a split or go off to the side and continue to do the conditioning that you call out. Do straightforward conditioning that works well for younger kids, such as pushups, squats, mountain climbers, plank holds and jumping jacks.
Gym tag is fun for slightly older, more experienced gymnasts, preferably those who have achieved level four team status. Place various pieces of gym equipment including cheese mats, panel mats, short balance beams and 8-inch landing mats randomly around the floor. Play tag like normal, except the gymnasts cannot touch the floor but have to hop from mat to mat. This helps them develop coordination, agility, speed and endurance, and strengthens their stabilizing muscles around hips, knees and ankles to avoid injury.
Conditioning often involves going back and perfecting basic skills, including handstands. Have various handstand contests in which the objective is to hold the handstand the longest. Have the winner choose the next type of handstand. These include walking, stag leg, split leg and pirouettes. For muscular strength and endurance, try pushup, situp, dip or pullup contests.
Medicine balls provide a solid tool for developing total body power and often used in higher-level gymnastics. For younger gymnasts, conditioning with medicine balls equates to playing with regular sports balls. Have them partner up and throw the ball overhead to one another for 30-second intervals. Also try crunches with throws to one another. You can even turn it into a relay race, where they have to throw the ball to a point, run and grab it, then hand it off to a partner.