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Five Gymnastics Conditioning Exercises for Body Mobility for Everyday People

One of the key aspects of gymnastics is that it develops both strength and flexibility. There are countless exercises used in the sport that...

One of the key aspects of gymnastics is that it develops both strength and flexibility. There are countless exercises used in the sport that foster range of motion and joint mobility. Although used by elite level athletes, many exercises are equally appropriate for everyday people looking to keep their body healthy. Below you will find five exercises inspired by gymnastics training that can be performed in the comfort of your own home without any equipment. 

Heels Up

This exercise targets the lower abs and builds strength in those abdominal muscles. However, it is also excellent for developing lower back muscles and can greatly help your posture by strengthening your core. 

How to do it:

To perform “heels up,” lay on your back with your legs straight up in the air. Your arms should be out to the side at shoulder level height (making a T shape with your upper body). Pull back your toes so that your feet are fully flexed and your heels are the highest point on your foot. Begin curling your hips under such that your feet are lifted toward the ceiling. It is essential that your legs do not move any direction other than directly upward.  Perform 20 repetitions, then allow yourself a thirty-second rest. Repeat this three times.

*Note: If you do not have the flexibility to point your legs directly upward, you can still effectively perform heels up. Just be certain that your legs do not lift any higher or drop any lower as you curl your hips under. Pretend your legs are in a tube and you are trying to shoot your heels down the tube to the very bottom.


Swimmers are an excellent exercise to further combat lower back pain and develop strength. It is especially good for those who favor one side more than the other. When you are dominant on one side, the muscles on the opposing side can become quite weak. This can result in pain in other body parts such as the hip or shoulder that are compensating for the weakness. To avoid such pain, it is essential to develop those lower back muscles on both sides.

How to do it:

Start by laying face down on the floor with your arms up by your ears and legs straight and together. Your chin should be on the carpet so that your head is lifted slightly upward, but your neck muscles should be relaxed rather than contracted. Lift your right arm as high as possible keeping it close to your head – do not let it open outward. At the same time, lift your left leg as high as you can while keeping it close to your right leg (as opposed to straddling outward). Be sure your leg is straight.  Count to three then lower both the arm and the leg. After a one second rest, lift the left arm and the right leg in the same fashion as the first side. Hold for three seconds and then relax. That is one repetition. Perform this 20 times before allowing a one-minute rest.  Repeat the 20 repetitions and one-minute rest two more times. 

Balancing Act

Rolled ankles are injuries frequently experiences by gymnasts as well as athletes of all sports. Likewise, ankle pain is a common complaint of many adults for a number of reasons. Fortunately, there is an extremely simple exercise that can build the muscles necessary to stabilize the ankle joint. To perform balancing act, you will need a pillow, couch cushion, folded towel, or some other soft object that you can stand on. A pillow will be used for purposes of the following instructions. 

How to do it: 

Place the pillow on the floor in front of you. Stand on top of the pillow on your right foot. Place your hands on your hips and your left foot pressed against your right leg with the left knee bent. In order to directly target the ankle, it is imperative that your right leg is completely straight. If your right leg is bent, that knee will be doing much of the work rather than the targeted ankle. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then switch legs, holding the same position on your right leg. Repeat this three times. For more dramatic results, perform “Balancing Act” on both the right and left leg twice in the morning and twice more in the evening.

There are some important notes for this exercise. If you have a particularly weak ankle, be sure to be close to a wall or some other object which you can use to catch yourself. In extreme cases, keep your fingertips gently against the wall, avoiding putting pressure on your hand but allowing yourself to not completely lose your balance and fall over.

For those who have strong ankles and the exercise is too easy, there is a quick way to drastically increase the difficulty. Once you have positioned yourself on one foot on the pillow, close your eyes. Removing your vision from the exercises makes it notably harder and you should instantly feel your ankle exerting much more effort to keep your body aligned over that foot.

Arm Dips, but Up with the Hips

Arm dips are a commonly used exercise intended to target the triceps. This variation strays ever so slightly from the traditional exercise, but can have dramatic results. Typically done on gymnastics bars, but is not required since there are alternatives. Not only does it increase difficulty, but it also allows the exercise to target your core muscles (in your abdomen and back). 

How to do it:

To perform arm dips, you will need a couch, coffee table, bench, or other object that comes to somewhere between your knees and hips in height.

Begin by putting your back to the couch and placing both hands behind you on the seat. Extend your feet away from the couch so that your body is completely straight. Squeeze your glutes to hold your hips up flat making a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Your butt should not drop down toward the floor at any point during the exercise. The goal is to only go as low as you can without breaking the straight line of your body.

Keeping the straight line, slowly bend your arms keeping your shoulders back over your hands. If you feel your chest coming forward, that is usually a good indicator that you are letting your hips drop to the floor. These are notably more difficult than traditional arm dips so start with low numbers and adjust according to your skill level. For beginners, I would recommend starting with three sets of 8. Remember, these are slow and your arms should only bend as much as you can without letting your hips drop.

Stationary Flying

This exercise targets back muscles while also fostering shoulder mobility. Because range of motion is related to strength as much as flexibility, stationary flying is an excellent exercise for the shoulder. Further, because there is no pressure on your hands, elbows, or shoulders, it is low impact and can be properly performed by highly trained athletes as well as those recovering from injury. It is both a conditioning and rehabilitative exercise.

How to do it:

To perform stationary flying, lay on your stomach on the floor with both of your arms out to the side even with your shoulders making a T shape. For this exercise, it is better for your arms to be above your shoulders rather than below, so before performing any repetitions, slide your hands a few inches upward, bringing your biceps ever so slightly closer to your ears.
 You chin should again be on the ground so that your chin is somewhat lifted, rather than having your head turned to one side.  Also, be mindful of your legs. They should be together and straight such that your body is in perfect alignment.

Lift your hands, forearms, and upper arms off the ground. Hold this position for two seconds and then lower your arms back to the ground.  Repeat these holds 15 times and then perform 5 more without the hold. The last 5 should be notably quicker and all done in a row. That is one set. Perform three sets with a one-minute rest between each set.

If you are advanced, perform the exercise the same as described above, but do not let any part of your arm touch the ground between the holds or lifts. In other words, once you lift your arms for the first repetition, nowhere on your arm should touch the floor again until you’ve completed all 20. 

Concluding Thoughts

Remember to always start where you are. That is, do not push yourself past your current skill level. If you continue these exercises regularly, you will gradually strengthen the targeted muscles and joints thus allowing you to increase repetitions. 

You can find more gymnastics inspired health and fitness information on our website

Written by James Hurt


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