One of the questions I get asked most often is: What exercises do gymnasts do to train their abdominals? People are always in awe of the strength gymnasts possess. Gymnasts are small athletes, but pound for pound some of the world’s strongest.
Gymnastics is an extremely demanding sport which asks its athletes to do things the body physiologically just shouldn’t do and core strength is a major part of any gymnast’s conditioning routine. Without a rock solid core there is no way these athletes could perform the skills and routines they are required to do.
Below are 5 common exercises gymnasts use to train their abdominals. Please note that these exercises are fairly advanced. Make sure you have the necessary basic abdominal strength before attempting them.
- Begin laying flat on the floor with your arms stretched out straight over your head.
- Contract the abdominals and lift the upper body and legs off the floor. This is what we will call the dish position.
- Holding this position rock the body forward and backward. Do not let the hands or feet touch the floor as you rock and be careful not to bend at the hips. Keep the body in a ‘dish’ position.
- Rock back and forth 20-30 times, or for 30 seconds, then stop and hold the dish position for 30 seconds keeping the abdominals fully contracted.
- Repeat for 3 sets.
- To progress this exercise you can add ankle weights and hold weights in the hands.
Hanging Leg Lift
- Begin hanging on a bar with hands approximately shoulder width apart.
- Keeping the legs straight raise the feet up until the toes touch the bar and very slowly lower the legs back down using a count of 4.
- Perform 10-15 repetitions. On the down phase of the last repetition, stop half way and hold the legs straight out vertical for 10-20 seconds.
- Repeat for 3 sets.
- Be careful not to throw your head back, swing the legs up, or pull with the shoulders to help complete this exercise.
- If you cannot get the feet all the way to the bar just lift the legs as high as possible using the correct form.
- To progress this exercise you can add weights to the ankles.
- Begin lying flat on the floor with your hands securely on a bar or something stable.
- Keeping your legs straight, flex the hips to press the feet towards the bar in preparation for the main phase of the exercise.
- Once your feet are positioned high on the bar, gain your balance before commencing the lowering phase.
- Keeping your legs and torso straight, slowly reach your toes out, lowering the legs to return them to the start position.
- The speed of the movement may be determined by the strength levels. The slower you go the more difficult this exercise will be. Aim to lower in a count of 10.
- Do 3 sets of 7-10 reps.
- To progress the exercise, decrease the speed of the lower phase, pause for a period of time or place a medicine ball between the feet.
V-Up to Back Extension
- Begin laying flat on the floor with arm and legs extended.
- Keeping your arms and legs straight, flex your hips and torso to reach your hands to your feet.
- Reverse the movement and immediately roll onto your stomach and extending the arms and legs into a superman position. Try to keep your hands and feet off the floor during the transition and repeat this pattern 10 times to each side. You may alternate sides, or repeat all 10 reps to the same side then switch.
- Do 3 sets.
- To progress this exercise, add weights or a medicine to ball to the ankles and hands.
- Begin lying supine on the floor with arms and legs extended.
- Flex the hips and torso to bring your hands toward your feet, aiming to touch your toes with your hands.
- Try to keep your hands and feet off the floor as you lower back to the start position. This will make sure your abs stay contracted and hence give them more of a workout.
- Repeat 3 sets of 20-25 reps.
- To progress this exercise you can add weights to the ankles and hands, or see how many reps you can do in 30 seconds.