Gymnastics movements commonly seen in the fitness community — like bar or ring muscle-ups, handstand walking, handstand push-ups, kipping/butterfly pull-ups and chest-to-bar pull ups — utilize a range of motion beyond what the average gym goer may need. Building up to this range is just one of the fundamental aspects of moving safely and efficiently through those exercises.
If you’re going to incorporate any of the movements co-opted from gymnastics into your own workouts, flexibility isn’t the only thing you have to worry about. You also have to be able to stabilize or activate muscles at the end of an exercise’s range of motion to lessen your chances of getting hurt. Many athletes and casual gym goers overlook this aspect of muscle control as they build up their range of motion, but it’s a pivotal aspect of doing gymnastics-inspired exercises safely.
Below, you’ll find some of my favorite warm-ups to target end-range muscle activation and prime your body for whatever workout you’ll be crushing afterward.
1. Floor facing angels
Lay face down on the floor while keeping your feet in contact with the floor. Raise your arms up, activating your mid back. Next, bring your arms to 90 degrees (the T position) then rotate your palms so that they are facing up. Continue through a range of motion that is comfortable for you or until your can reach your arms behind your back. Reverse this movement until your shoulders are back in full flexion in the starting position with thumbs facing up and palm facing in. Perform 2 sets of 10 reps.
2. I,T, Y, U
Grab a set of light plates to perform this posterior chain warm-up. Send your hips and butt back with your chest parallel to the floor. First, with your thumbs up and palms facing in, perform I’s. Second, move your arms out to a 45 degree angle and perform Y’s. Third, move your shoulders out to 90 degrees, elbows fully extended, with thumbs up and perform T’s. Finally, bring your shoulders and elbows to 90 degrees and perform U’s, rowing back and then rotating your shoulders so that your palms are facing the floor. For U’s, be sure to reverse the movement on the way down. Perform 2 sets of 5 of each letter.
3. Hollow Hold Variations
This position is the foundation of all gymnastics movements. If you’re going to be doing any type of hold, this is a go-to to prep your core.
Here are several different variations:
Classic Hollow Hold
Begin laying flat on your back with special attention to maintaining a flat low back.
Think about pulling your belly button through your back to the floor.
Pull your belly button though your back and tuck your knees in, then extend your arms by your sides reaching toward your feet.
Variation 2: Extend Your Legs Up
Slowly begin lowering legs toward the floor while keeping your low back in contact with the floor.
Variation 4: Progress Your Arms Overhead
If at any point through these progressions you feel your low back lose contact with the floor, regress to an easier variation.
4. Static Holds
Continue to warm up your shoulders with static holds. Kick up onto the wall, keeping your midline tight, shoulders stacked over your wrists and squeezing your glutes and quads. Perform three 30-second holds.
Static Hold on Rings
Using the rings, perform static holds. Keeping the rings in close to your body and your wrists stacked under your shoulders, while your midline is braced, perform three 30-second holds.
5. Scap Pull-Ups
A great way to establish a hollow body position on the rig and increase shoulder activation is the scap pull-up. Here, initiate through the shoulder by pulling your scapula back and down. First establish your hollow body position, ensure your head and neck are neutral, then pull your shoulder blades back and down (into your back pockets) while your elbows remain locked out. Perform two sets of 8 reps.
6. Kip Swings
A movement that needs to be done in many gymnastics exercises is a hollow to an arch position, also known as a kip swing. This is seen with any sort of kipping movements such as kipping/butterfly pull-ups and toes toe bar.
Jump up to the bar with your head neutral, core tight, and go from a hollow to an arched position. Ensure that your core is staying engaged the whole time in order to create a controlled movement. The arch position will prime your glutes, back, and hamstrings for movement.
7. Banded Lat Pulldowns
Our lats are the prime movers in many gymnastics movements; they are the large V-shaped muscles that run down either side of your body. The lats are responsible for many motions at the shoulder and help stabilize the spine. Therefore, targeting these in your warm-up will create smoother transitions throughout your gymnastics work.
Grab a band and loop it around the rig. Step forward and bring your feet into a tandem stance. With your palms facing in, bring the band down toward your pockets keeping your elbows locked out. Slowly return to the starting position with control. Perform 2 sets of 10-12 reps.