Gymnastics' start in history is a little hazy. It is believed that some forms of tumbling, jumping and swinging movements were used since early human history. The first records of gymnastics-like movements appear around 7000 B.C. in Egypt. Women were depicted performing acrobatic stunts for nobility.
If you're looking to improve your gymnastics or just seeking to prevent gymnastics injuries it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that's just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
Vaulting was added in 2700 B.C. on the island of Crete. These depictions showed both men and women doing acrobatics over a charging bull. The vaulter would run at a charging bull and grab the horns. They would flip into the air as the bull tossed and do flips and twists, landing on the bull's back. Then they dismounted and landed on their feet. This was not a sport with a great safety rating.
The spread began and by 800 B.C. the Greeks, Chinese, Persians, and Indians began using gymnastics in their military preparations. The first Olympics were held in 776 B.C. These first Olympic Games consisted only of a foot race. Later games included many forms of gymnastics.
The word "gymnastics" is derived from the Greek word "gymnos" meaning naked. Greek men trained and competed in the nude and that is why women were not allowed at the competitions, as participants or spectators. Gymnastics have long been considered a great strengthening and toning regimen. They have also been considered great tools for developing the mind and body.
The Greeks built the first gymnasiums, where students learned reading, writing and other scholarly topics from Grammatistes. They also learned music from Kitharistes. And finally, paidotribes taught physical fitness concepts. The physical activities were performed in the palestra, which was a large, walled, open air square, and were often set to music, like modern day routines.
The Romans, during their years of conquest, took in gymnastics and made it their own. They used it to train warriors and as entertainment. The fall of the Roman Empire almost led to the demise of gymnastics. Gymnastics held on during the Middle Ages through gypsies and traveling troupes. The circus continued this tradition and carried the tradition forward. Gymnastics were soon found to be beneficial for the body again and began to gain more recognition and acceptance.
Gymnastics are still a big part of the Olympic Games. World championships put the best gymnasts in front of international audiences. Today, gymnasts can start at very early ages and many are groomed for competition as early as 4 or 5 years old. Competitors compete in floor exercises, parallel and uneven bars, vaulting, rings, beams, and the pommel horse.
Gymnasts have to be strong and agile to perform the moves on the floor or the various apparatus. Although most routines are short in duration, the gymnast must have a good deal of muscular endurance to avoid fatigue and ensure good form.
Gymnastics encompasses many different activities and each involves a varying degree of muscle use. A balance between upper and lower body strength is important for the well rounded gymnast. The legs must be strong to jump and flip, and provide a solid base for the beam and other activities. The upper body must be strong enough to support the body during flips and rolls, and lift the body during bars, vaults, and rings activities.
Gymnastics use the following major muscles during the various events:
It is important for a gymnast to follow a good strengthening and stretching program for these muscles to keep them ready for competition and practice.
Most Common Gymnastics Injuries
Gymnastics is a high flying, high impact activity that often requires split second timing. Any miss and the entire body can come crashing down. An awkward turn or twist and the joints are subjected to excessive force. When elevated off the ground a fall could mean serious injury.
The most common injuries experienced by the gymnast are dislocations, ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, joint pain, and muscle strains.
The Top 3 Gymnastics Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don't make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won't be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for gymnastics; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions beside each stretch.
|Arm-up Rotator Stretch: Stand with your arm out and your forearm pointing upwards at 90 degrees. Place a broom stick in your hand and behind your elbow. With your other hand pull the bottom of the broom stick forward.|
|Standing High-leg Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch: Stand with one foot raised onto a table. Keep your leg bent and lean your chest into your bent knee.|
|Squatting Leg-out Adductor Stretch: Stand with your feet wide apart. Keep one leg straight and your toes pointing forward while bending the other leg and turning your toes out to the side. Lower your groin towards the ground and rest your hands on your bent knee or the ground.|
While the recommendations on this page are a good starting point, you'll get a lot more benefit when you include a wider variety of exercises. So to improve your athletic ability, reduce injuries and really take advantage of all the stretching exercises on offer, grab a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM).
In total, they include 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.
The DVD also includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you where ever you go.
The Handbook and DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.