Try ACE's Gymnastics-Inspired Workouts
Over the next few weeks, watching the amazing feats of Olympic athletes will be a great way to reignite your passion to pursue your own fitness goals—and what better way to add new variety and challenge to your fitness routine than with exercises and workouts inspired by some of your favorite Olympic events.
Gymnastics, in particular, is one sport that has captivated me ever since I was a little kid. Watching gymnasts perform each movement with such grace and strength always appealed to me, and I would wonder just what kind of training they must do in order to be able to perform these incredible moves.
In partnership with Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes, The American Council on Exercise (ACE®) developed a gymnastics-inspired workout series that can be done at home (no balance beam or uneven bars required!). As Dominique says, “Gymnastics is a great combination of strength, balance, and coordination. You get out of your training what you put in, which means you get to choose your own success.” The purpose of this workout series, which is made up of four different workouts, is to focus on developing a foundation for quality movement, both for exercises performed inside the gym and for activities of everyday life.
The first workout in the series works on developing strength, with the inclusion of exercises such as standing wood chops and lat pull downs, which touch on two of the five primary movement patterns, pulling and rotating, movements which are not only involved in sports, but also in daily life. These two movements in particular have great application in gymnastics, from executing rotational movements such as twists, turns and other graceful dance-like moves executed with grace, precision and balance on the floor and balance beam, to the sheer strength required to pull one’s bodyweight up on both the rings and the high bar.
The second workout once again focuses on strength, yet this time the focus lies in strengthening key pushing muscles, such as the chest, triceps and shoulder by performing exercises such as barbell bench press and lying dumbbell pullovers. Pushing, which is another one of our primary movement patterns, has direct application to the sport of gymnastics as exhibited in events such as the vault and during movements like front handsprings and round-offs. It also has application to things we do in our everyday lives, such as pushing open a heavy door or propping yourself up from a lying position to a seated position.
The third workout in the series is a lighter day with a focus on functional training and cardio work. The warm-up (which is the same for all four workouts) consists of exercises such as side plank and single leg stand, which focus on the development of proper core function and static balance, critical components not only to the sport of gymnastics but also for activities of daily living, as standing exercises (compared to seated movements) involve the entire kinetic chain, and more closely mimic our movements in everyday life. The warm-up is then followed by a moderate-intensity cardio session with an activity of your choosing, such as walking or jogging, to focus on developing endurance.
The final gymnastics-inspired workout again focuses on strength, specifically that of the upper body, which is imperative for events such as the uneven bars as well as the pommel horse. Upper body plyometric exercises such as single leg push-ups, overhead medicine ball slams and reverse medicine ball throws are powerful, explosive movements that require a foundation of strength and flexibility along with sound postural mechanics in order to avoid injury. The use of the medicine ball for the slams and reverse throws allows for a focus not only on power, but also speed, as the ball can be moved and released very quickly. With the ball being released in these exercises, limited stress is placed on the joint structures since the resistance (from the ball) is no longer present at the end of the movement, therefore medicine balls can serve as a great training tool to enhance muscular power while reducing the risk of injury.
At this time of year where the world’s top athletes compete for Olympic glory, take some time to focus on achieving your own fitness goals which starts with the commitment to train just like the Olympians do—with passion and consistency.
Ready to train like an athlete at home? Try ACE’s gymnastics-inspired workout series!
—Jessica Matthews is an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise.
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