Summer has arrived! The sun is shining, school is closed, and the pool is calling. You and your squad are probably taking some well-deserved time to rest and relax. Perhaps you are traveling with family or friends, or perhaps you are enjoying a “stay-cation.” No matter what your summer plans, you and your squad are going to need to be a tight, cohesive team when camp arrives. The physical rigor of stunting, tumbling, dancing, and motions for twelve hours a day can be draining and difficult. However, by keeping yourself in shape and doing some targeted exercise every day you can elevate your camp experience from a dreaded week of intense physical activity to a pleasant challenge.
You might think that your summer practice schedule is going to keep you ready for camp. While this is true in some cases, effective practice regimen over the summer can be difficult. Getting your teammates together can be tough: everyone is traveling! Even if your coach does organize practices over the summer, the attendance is often sporadic at best, and frequently there will only be a few team members there. So how can you design a workout program that will help you get ready for camp, or one which your squad can do together when there are not enough athletes present to have a full practice? Here are four exercises that can help you avoid that pre-camp soreness and transform your camp experience this year!
The air squat is a classic exercise that requires no special equipment, not even a mat or soft surface. The movement in the air squat replicates the motions used to initiate most stunts. Having proper form will not only improve your core and leg strength, but you should see a significant improvement in your stunting as well. Focus on going slow and controlled, and not allowing your hips to go below your knees.
Speaking of core strengthening, the V-up is a critical exercise that helps to strengthen your hip flexors as well as your abdominal muscles. Having a strong core will protect your spine while you are stunting, so this exercise can be especially helpful if you have noticed pain in your lower back during mounts or transitions. While executing the V-up, avoid the temptation to go fast, hold your hollow position at the bottom, and always look at the ceiling to avoid putting undue pressure on your neck. While you can work on your V-up anywhere, having a mat to reduce the pressure on your hips and lower back will make it easier to practice longer.
While this exercise is critical for bases and back spots, the wall-assisted hand-stand can help fliers as well. Having well-developed shoulder strength can help you avoid an injury to your rotator cuff, the muscle that surrounds the shoulder. Similarly, the muscles in your hand-stand cross over into tumbling as well. Even if you can’t get to the gym to work on your gymnastics, incorporating hand-stands into your routine will make a difference. Focus on keeping a slightly hollow body position during the handstand and avoid arching your back. Ideally you can transition from the assistant handstand to an unassisted one.
Most of the exercises have been slow, or even static. At camp, though, you will frequently need to have explosive power. One of the keys to developing explosive power to fire off in tumbling, stunting, or even jumps is to master the jumping lunge. Because this is a plyometric exercise, be sure to go through it slowly at first and get to a point where you have fully mastered it before you go full speed. Improper form can result in injury, so be careful about foot placement as well as keeping your hips even or above your front knee.
The relaxed atmosphere and slower pacing of a typical summer often means that athletes show up for pre-camp and camp in some of the worst shape of the season. You and your teammates can buck the trend by embracing these four basic exercises and making them part of your daily routine. Create a cycle where you do each exercise for one minute, followed by a one-minute rest. Completing three cycles at that pace will take about 25 minutes. Once you feel comfortable, start cutting down the rest between sets in 15-second increments. Once you get to where you can do the exercises with only 15 seconds of rest between each set, consider increasing your set to four or five. If you do this consistently each day you will notice a huge difference in your stunting and tumbling in no time!