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Gymnastics exercises: Splits and Pike fold

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Perhaps, many times you watched on TV how professional rhythmic gymnasts performed doing the most complicated technical elements, well, they worked hard for years to do them. But how did they start? Little pretty girls at the age of 4 or 5 are brought to the rhythmic gymnastics by their moms. And the first year is a crucial one as the girls are taught gymnastics basics (basic elements): they do many exercises to develop flexibility, strengthen and stretch their legs, press, back and arms muscles, they are also taught to point their toes and straighten knees. And the most important thing is that girls become to feel their bodies, to govern them. In this article we will deal with the basic elements which give a start for rhythmic gymnastics.
I. Splits
There are several types of splits: left, right, vertical, straddle. Vertical one is more complicated element as here it is important not only be well-stretched, but also to keep balance on the one foot. Stretching plays the most important role for future gymnast. That’s why split needs a lot of care and attention, especially, it should be done correctly. Before girls start doing stretching exercises, they should warm up. They should run or jump, do sit ups, walk in squat position (like ducks) in order to make the muscles elastic and they could easily stretch them. Remember, never stretch a «cold» child (who is not warmed up), otherwise stretching could be painful, moreover, you can damage her ligaments. Never do abrupt movements, stretch by flowing and bouncing movements.

There are several ways to do splits:

Put a girl on the knees, her back’s in front of you. She embraces your legs with her hands. Then she raises her one leg, you take it with your hands (under the knee or foot) and pull. Pay attention to the hip-bones, they should be on the same line, not skewed. Do 15–20 bouncing movements with the each leg (you can also make 5 bouncing moves and repeat then after 5 minutes break). Stretch both legs, otherwise, the gymnast will be only one-side-stretched.
If you have a gym wall bar, the child can put her one leg on the ladder (the higher, the better) and you can slowly push her pivot leg to the ladder doing bouncing moves, never abruptly. Do this exercise for the right and left leg. You can also turn the girl sideways to the ladder, she raises her leg to the side (straddle split). These exercises will prepare the child for vertical splits, as she is taught to keep balance on the one leg.

Do side bends sitting on the floor, both hands up, flat back — bend to the right leg, then to the left one (hands towards heels) and lie down on the belly, hands forwards. This exercise is well done with mother or father, when you sit together in front of each other and do bends. Then do circular motion from the right leg to the left (keep the belly close to the floor).

Sit in lotus position on the floor, push the knees to the floor by the hands (you may bounce or do it in slow motion). It is ideal when the knees are lying on the floor, it means you can start the more complicated exercises.
This position is analogous to lotus, only the child is lying on the belly, knees are bent, position «lotus on the belly». Slowly push the pelvis of the child to the floor.

Child is lying on the back, both legs up (straight and pointed), flat back. Start to straddle the legs bouncing and trying to touch the floor with the feet. It is ideal if feet touch the floor.
Put a chair in front of the girl (or something in 50–60 cm height). She puts one leg on the chair and the second one is stretched in the split. Push the pelvis to the floor slowly by bouncing movements. Make sure the child’s hips and shoulders are on the same line. This is the exercise for right, left and straddle splits.

Correct split
Right or left split: child is sitting in the split, her shoulders and hips are on the same line, the back is flat, knees are straight, and toes are pointed.
Straddle split: see from the side — if legs make one line, knees are straight, and toes are pointed, then the split is correct. If legs don’t make one line and you see the corner, it’s not a split.
If you want to succeed in splits, you’d better to do exercises every day. As you muscles will become more flexible. And of course, the earlier you start gymnastics, the better. Pike fold is a very important element for a split.

II. Pike fold
Pike is a position when gymnast is sitting on the floor with her legs straight out in front of her, belly is on the hips, hands are embracing the heels, knees are straight.

Exercises that will prepare for the pike.
Child is sitting on the floor, her legs straight out in front of her on the chair, do front bends putting the belly on the hips and trying to embrace the heels.
Child is sitting on the floor, her legs straight out in front of her, work with the feet. Point feet to the floor (20–30 times), knees are straight. Flex the feet and do front bends in this position, trying to touch the feet and embrace them.
Standing position: feet together, knees are straight, bend to the floor, it is necessary to touch the floor with the palms, then try to embrace the legs. You can do this exercise in motion: bend to the floor walking forward and touching the floor, the belly should touch the front leg.
Stand in front of the gym wall bar, put one leg on the ladder (90 degrees), keep shoulders and hips on the one line, bend forward. Change the leg.
Little gymnast will do these exercises better if you set an example. Do exercises in front of each other and correct the mistakes. Pike fold stretches hamstrings which play an important role in splits.

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