As a sport, gymnastics has been around for over 2,000 years. In the beginning, gymnastics was a broad term used by the Greeks to encompass a variety of physical exercises in a competitive setting. For example, boxing, running, and wrestling were originally included in a group with gymnasts. Eventually, many of these other disciplines were filtered out, and gymnastics became a more pure form of what people practice today.
Of the four events in today’s gymnastics for woman (Vault, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam, and Floor Routine) only tumbling and a form of vaulting were done originally. Tumbling has roots in places like ancient China, Crete, and Egypt. It wasn’t until the late 1700s that Johann Christoph Friedrich Guts Muths modernized gymnastics into something that would be recognized as such today. Eventually, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn came along and further developed modern gymnastics, incorporating the parallel bars into gymnastics feats. And in 1896 the first truly open international Olympic gymnastics event occurred, one that started the tradition of gymnastics that we have today.
Since that time, competitive gymnastics is an incredible sport and includes gymnastics tumbling mats, gymnastics cheese mats (or gymnastics wedges), and a plethora of other pieces of training equipment. While it can be daunting to understand what the best types of gymnastics tumbling mats or other equipment are for home use or gym use, there are some things you can do to ensure safe gymnastics practice while at home.
Practicing Gymnastics Safely at Home
Though it isn’t necessary for all types of home training, a gymnastics tumbling mat is usually recommended for students who want to train at home. Gymnastics tumbling mats are recommended for a few reasons, first is of course for safety. Having a mat will help cushion falls and help gymnasts practice in an environment similar to how they are learning at the gym. In addition to safety, the biggest advantage is consistency. When gymnasts learn moves in a training facility, they are on gymnastics tumbling mats and tracks and other equipment. Being able to practice on similar equipment at home will give the same consistent feel to a gymnast.
However even if a gymnast doesn’t have a gymnastics tumbling mat to use at home, there are still plenty of exercises that can be done at home to help improve gymnastic skills.
Getting better at sprinting will help both with the vault and the floor routine of a gymnast. Sprints are an excellent exercise to practice because they can be done almost anywhere and only require a good pair of running shoes. In addition, sprints help improve the cardiovascular health of a gymnast, which helps with overall fitness and endurance.
Being a gymnast requires upper and lower body strength, endurance, and power. Pull up bars can usually be purchased for $20 or $30 and fit in almost any doorway. Having the ability to both hang from a pull up bar and perform pull ups can help a gymnast prepare for the parallel and uneven bars, and the increase in arm strength will also help with beam and vaulting.
Handstands and Variations:
Being able to do handstands is an important part gymnastics at any level. Being able to perform handstands and maintain excellent form is very important. The great thing about handstands is that they are even easier to practice than sprints! All you need is a little bit of space and an even surface to practice on. Gymnasts that are brand new can even practice handstands against a wall to help build strength in the arms and shoulders. No gymnastics tumbling mats necessary for this one!
Splits and Other Flexibility Exercises: Just like handstands, performing the splits and other flexibility exercises requires no equipment and only a small amount of space. Being flexible is important to increase the ability of a gymnast and to keep gymnasts injury free.
Regardless of what your goals are as a gymnast, having some home equipment can help you break into that next level. However if you don’t currently have access to home equipment, be creative and work with what you have. Consistent practice of the five activities mentioned above can help improve your gymnastics skills immensely and maximize the time you put in at the gym.