How to Get Strong Legs Like a Gymnast
From floor routines to the balance beam, many gymnastic events require a considerable amount of leg strength. To emulate the powerful legs of gymnasts, you'll need to engage in a training program that promotes leg strength in the major muscle groups of your legs while also promoting muscular endurance, which will keep you performing at your best even at long meets with multiple events. Always exercise with proper supervision to reduce the likelihood of injury.
Explosive exercises, also known as plyometric exercises, can help you produce a large quantity of force in a brief period of time. This is important for jumping high and far, which is beneficial for a number of gymnastics events. Plyometric exercises that can help you develop explosive leg strength include tuck jumps, split squat jumps, depth jumps and box jumps. Tuck jumps involve jumping as high as you can and tucking your knees up to your chest in the air, while box jumps involve jumping forward onto a box or other raised platform. For split squat jumps, stand with one foot behind your torso and one in front with both knees slightly bent. Squat down before exploding upward, moving your rear foot to the front of your body and the front foot to your rear while in the air. For depth jumps, step off of a box, landing on both feet and then immediately jump as high as you can. Because these are unweighted exercises, a high-repetition range, such as 10 to 15, will be effective.
The muscles of your calves -- the soleus and gastrocnemius -- are not as large as the other muscles in your legs, but they do perform vital functions. These muscles help to flex and extend your feet, actions that can make or break your performance on the balance beam, during floor routines and in any other event involving running or jumping. Some of the most effective exercises for your calves include seated calf raises, single-leg calf presses and standing dumbbell calf raises. Aim for high repetitions -- 15 to 20 -- to build muscular endurance so that your calves can provide power even during long routines.
The quadriceps is a large muscle group on your upper leg, made up of the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius and vastus medialis. These muscles flex your leg at the hip and extend it at the knee, making them integral in every step you take. You can strengthen your quadriceps with dumbbell step-ups, squats, lunges and deadlifts. When performing squats and deadlifts, maintain a straight back throughout the exercise to prevent injury. Performing low levels of repetitions, such as six to eight, will help you build strength for explosive power.
On the backside of your quadriceps is the hamstrings, another group of muscles. These muscles are the biceps femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosus. This muscle group is also crucial for gymnastics, as it drives hip extension, knee flexion and knee rotation. Hamstring curls, leg presses, deadlifts and squats can help you develop your hamstring strength for gymnastics. As with calf exercises, performing a high number of repetitions can be helpful to provide maximum muscular endurance with minimal muscle bulk to get in your way.
Brian Willett began writing in 2005. He has been published in the "Buffalo News," the "Daytona Times" and "Natural Muscle Magazine." Willett also writes for Bloginity.com and Bodybuilding.com. He is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of North Carolina.