Primarily practiced by women, rhythmic gymnastics incorporates dance and acrobatics along with the creative use of things such as ropes, hoops, balls, clubs and ribbons to create a dynamic and graceful performance set to music. As with other forms of gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics is a challenging discipline that requires dedication and extensive training.
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Rhythmic gymnastics often feature extreme back bending, which poses risks to the lumbar spine, but a strong core helps to support and stabilize the spine, lessening the risk of damage. The Sports Physical Therapy Institute emphasizes that core strength is not simply obtained from doing situps alone. Plank holds, or holding the body at the top of the pushup position, can help develop this strength.
Dance is an integral component of rhythmic gymnastics, and grace is an integral component of dance. Gymnasts, who may undergo training similar to classical ballet, are expected to hold themselves elegantly and with impeccable posture at all times. Rhythmic gymnasts are not allowed to use their apparatuses merely as decorative accents, according to Fig Gymnastics. They must keep them in constant motion, making movements in a variety of patterns, speeds and directions. The gymnast and her prop should move in a way that complements the music.
Rhythmic gymnasts have to be extremely flexible, particularly in the legs, hips and spine. The Sports Physical Therapy Institute notes that one side of the body can become tighter than the other because of the nature of the movements the gymnasts make. Thus, it is important during training to focus on maintaining whole-body flexibility and spend more time stretching the tighter side. With the hips, an imbalance can pull the pelvis unevenly and cause back pain.
Strength and Safety
Part of a gymnast's training includes doing drills, which are exercises that target specific areas of the body. To increase stamina and strength in the legs, gymnasts may do drills such as as running up stairs, sprinting as quickly as possible and jumping on and off blocks. Gymnasts also do drills to prevent injury to vulnerable parts of the body. Drills and Skills recommends squeezing a tennis ball repeatedly until your forearms are tired to strengthen the wrists, which are prone to injury during gymnastics.