Two of the biggest influences on your child's ABILITY to LEARN gymnastics skills quickly are their STRENGTH and their FLEXIBILITY.
If that is the case why don't we spend half the class stretching and conditioning? To understand that, it is important to understand the biomechanics of strength and flexibility training. There are three keys to to successful strength or flexibility training:
1. FREQUENCY (how often you repeat the exercise)
2. DURATION (how long you continue the activity)
3. RESISTANCE (having ENOUGH resistance to challenge the muscle and increasing it over time)
If any of those three are missing you are wasting your time.
Let me give you three examples.
1. If you do 1000 pushups every Monday and nothing in between you are not going to build strength because you are not repeating the exercise with enough FREQUENCY. You are going to be sore on Tuesday and Wednesday for sure, but you are not going to get stronger!
2. If you lift 100 pounds once a day every day, you are not going to get stronger because you have no DURATION to the exercise. You need to lift enough weight enough times to challenge the muscle.
3. If you lifted 10 pounds for 15 reps, three times a week but never increase the weight you do not have enough RESISTANCE to challenge the muscle in the first place and you are not increasing the weight over time) (This is why those electric muscle stim belts you see on late night TV "It's like doing 10,000 Sit ups!!" DO NOT WOIRK! It is NOT like doing 10,000 sit-ups because there in MINIMAL RESISTANCE!)
What does that mean for us at our gym? Even if we conditioned and stretched your athlete the entire class time, once a week we are not going to increase their strength or flexibility, your child will be bored, learn no gymnastics and be sore every week! :-)
The secret is to challenge your child to work on body weight strength and flexibility training at home!
(There are a lot of mixed studies out now regarding static versus dynamic stretching (holding a position still versus "bouncing" or kicking to "dynamically" increase the range of motion). Basically it has been found that dynamic stretches get blood flowing and allow you to "warm-up" more effectively before a workout but ask any world class dancer or gymnast and you will know immediately that post-workout resistance stretching (contracting then relaxing the muscle and increasing the stretch) is how you increase range of motion. Both are good and important parts of a full program. Your gymnast can easily do both at home repeating the exercises we show them at the gym. )
We stretch briefly in class for TECHNIQUE and POSITION which are critical to gymnastics. But if your child wants to INCREASE their flexibility, they need to do it at home 3-5 times a week between classes! They can simply repeat the stretches we do, holding each position for 30 seconds and gradually increasing how far they reach to apply resistance to the muscle, tiring it and allowing it to stretch to new ranges of motion. If you stretch with them it is not only good for you, but will help them stay motivated to improve!