What Can Be Learnt from Gymnasts?



I’ve been in this industry for 6 years now and something I’ve come to realise is the actual necessity of moving properly.

People are rushing to perform all kinds of complex movements in the gym and are neglecting focusing on and perfecting the basic fundamentals.

We were born into this world able to move freely and without restriction. We felt great and moved constantly, listening to our body when we would reach, bend and twist with ease.

What happened to that natural ability we took for granted?

It isn’t until you start to lose ability that you can truly appreciate the movement quality you had.

Of course, this is an everyday problem, but the place where it really takes it’s toll is in the gym.

An easy example of this is looking at your basic squat.

Can you break your hips past parallel?

You most probably could at one point in your life, but it can be more challenging for adults for a number of reasons. Different anatomies and limb lengths, tight muscles, scar tissue remaining from injuries and even to the extremes of hip/knee replacements- there could be any number of things that have taken hold as you’ve aged.

When I speak about ‘full range of motion’ I always picture a gymnast.

They move with elegance and control right through to the extremes of their ranges. This image inspires me not to begin twirling into the splits, but to be able to have that connection with my own body.

This feeds into my training. Every single day.

First and foremost, I would never dream of beginning a training session without a warm-up.

When you warm up your body you are prepping the nervous system for the stress you are about to place it under. You are also activating weak or underused muscle groups to utilise them in the session and not decide the risk of injury. Neither of these things you could do without.

But the warm up isn’t just about physical preparation. It also starts your daily journey of mind-muscle connection. Keeping in touch with your body and learning to listen to it- it’s like starting a conversation so that it can feedback to you properly during the actual workout section.

Sparking that connection from your mind to your muscles begins to build a language you can understand and interpret so that your body is constantly feeding back to you to adjust, tweak and stay present.

Personally, I find that including some core drills into my warm-ups really focus’ my mind into my body and remind me to stay aware throughout my time at the gym.

When you actually do get in the gym, it’s all well and good using the machines and training in new, exciting positions, but there are basic fundamentals that you need to address first.

Can you take your arms all the way above your head?

Can you touch your toes?

Can you squat past parallel?

Your joints should be mobile enough to complete these simple moves, and if not, they need to become top priority first, before any fancy machines.

It is not a wasted gym session if you chose to simply go in there and dedicate your time to working towards these goals. They are key.

If you turn up and spend your whole session learning about your body, your limits, and what you can do, it’s a session well spent.

You could begin by foam rolling, stretching, and then using dynamic locomotive drills to experience the limits of your own body and possibly even open up new ranges.

Work on smaller, intricate muscles too. The nitty gritty fibres of the body which contribute just as much to the overall functioning. Taking the time to activate these will pay off as you will find a fuller range of motion as they become involved in the movement, and will continue to raise your bodily awareness.

This base work will carry over into your strength building before you know it.

Moving to your full range of motion will recruit your whole muscle, not just part of it. You’ll be contracting individual fibres that you weren’t before, and you’ll see this reflected in your gains.

Working with your body to its full potential is not only helpful for your gym performance, it will protect you better on the outside too. If your muscles are used to being used that fully, they won’t be shocked in the case of an accident. They’ll have become more accustomed to reaching their limits.

Basically, put the work in. Take your body seriously, and it will look after you.

Know your own movement repertoire. Use it. Develop it.

Just a bit of mindfulness and you’ll find more areas to you range of motion, and you’ll be able to quickly identify where you are lacking.

Remember that gymnast with the enviable mind-muscle convection and control!

You’ll be ready for whatever life throws at you!


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