A Gymnast’s Daily Workout: Train to Get Lean and Strong!

By Hayley Payne | Tuesday 16th April 2019

Last updated on Tuesday 28th July 2020

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Gymnasts often have extremely defined muscles and low body fat levels, and this is usually due to the types of training they do. I’ve been a gymnast since the age of 3, and in this post, I’ll share the ins and outs of a gymnast’s daily workout. Before we go into this, let’s look at why gymnastics-based exercise is so beneficial.

Benefits to Gymnastics-Based Exercise

Gymnasts bodies are powerhouses that combine the elements of strength and balance into one. They have lean and defined bodies due to the types of training they do. Gymnasts have to train for many goals, such as strength, power, and flexibility. Gymnastics is effectively a high-level bodyweight strength training programme.

A gymnast's daily workout

Why Are Gymnasts So Strong?

A gymnast’s daily workout contains certain foundation elements that develop a good physique. Using your own body as a weight will help build strength but also improves spatial awareness and proprioception. Gymnasts need to be lean but light for them to lift their own body weight.

For this reason, a gymnast’s daily workout doesn’t focus on bulking muscles as this makes them heavy. This makes things such as handstands difficult. Concentrating on body weight exercises such as squats, chin-ups, and leg raises helps to build strength without copious amounts of muscle growth keeps a gymnast lean and also develops awareness of the body.

If you want to feel strong and lean, why not train like a gymnast? Below are the key elements of a gymnast’s daily workout.

A gymnast's daily workout

Key Elements of A Gymnast’s Daily Workout

  1. Building the Core

A huge element of a gymnast’s daily workout is training the core. All aspects of gymnastics require a strong core. Exercising the core also helps define the abs and flatten the stomach.

The most popular core exercise for gymnasts is the v-sit. There are many varieties of the v-sit, tuck, straddle or pike. These all challenge your core, but the most challenging is the pike v-sit. Having a longer lever (straight legs) will make your legs heavier and increase your effort in your abs. This exercise not only works on the core but also encourages flexibility into the hamstrings. I aim to do 3 sets of 30 in each session. The movement should be slow and controlled to work your core harder.

Building a strong core is vital for gymnasts

Another effective exercise for the core is the dish hold. Lying on your back, keeping your arms above your head and your legs straight, you should lift off the ground and hold for approximately 1 minute.

  1. Being Consistent

Consistency is crucial with all types of training, especially in gymnastics. Gymnasts train on average 20 hours per week. The reason why they are in such great shape is due to the sheer consistency of their training.

A gymnast’s daily workout becomes part of their life and is a habit. To make a change to our body or see results for any goal, it’s essential to train consistently and make it part of your lifestyle. Pick routines you enjoy and fit them into a regime that you can realistically uphold.

  1. Prioritising Recovery

Gymnastics can put excessive load on joints and muscles, and it’s essential that the body has time to recover. Like consistency, recovery is a crucial element of any type of training. If you don’t take time for recovery, you put yourself at increased risk of injuries. So make sure you rest your muscles and ensure that you are not over-using them. People often think that we build muscle in the gym, however, when you train, you create small micro tears in your muscles. To build muscle, you need adequate rest to then repair these tears (Salandra, 2010).

A gymnast prioritises recovery

  1. Goal Setting

A gymnast’s daily workout is always centred around a goal. Whether this is to increase their flexibility, strength, or to train for a competition, goal setting benefits their training. Research shows that implementing goal setting is useful in terms of physical activity behaviour change. People that set goals were more likely to produce positive results (Shilts et al., 2004).

  1. Keeping Up the Cardio

Cardio is a key part of a gymnast’s daily workout. Many people forget that the heart is a muscle and that it needs to be strong to enable blood to pump around the body. Gymnasts have lots of cardiovascular training built into their plans. This is to ensure that they have the stamina to complete the high-intensity routines.

A healthy heart will ensure that adequate blood supply is taken to all the muscles when you train. When training as a gymnast, I would do a 30-minute run for my warm up. Alongside this, I’d do lots of high-intensity circuits with exercises such as burpees, sprints, and mountain climbers.

A gymnast's daily workout involves cardio

  1. Make Time to Stretch

Stretching is crucial to a gymnast’s daily workout as it prevents injuries. Before their workouts, gymnasts warm up with a 20-minute stretch and then cool down with a further stretching session. Stretching will increase your flexibility over time if you stick to the same regime. Gymnasts work on improving the length of their hamstrings and hip flexors to enable them to do things such as the splits. If you want to find out more about stretching, read our post on how stretching increases strength.

An Example Gymnastics Exercise For Your Workout Plan

The Jefferson curl, used by national teams, is an all-round body exercise. This exercise is often included in a gymnast’s daily workout. It incorporates movements in the spine as well as engaging the glute muscles, hamstrings and calves.

Gymnasts can use the Jefferson curl to achieve multiple goals. To encourage back mobility, a gymnast’s daily workout might include bodyweight Jefferson curls. To gain strength, gymnasts add a barbell to this exercise. Heafner (2018) suggests that the Jefferson curl is also an excellent exercise for the spine. He explains that it increases lumbar flexion which is essential for the activities of daily living.

Why not incorporate this exercise into your next training plan? Find out how to choose the best workout plan here.

Hayley Payne


British Gymnast, Injury Prevention Specialist, BSc (Hons)

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