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The sport of gymnastics requires physical fitness for an athlete to successfully complete required skills on all apparatus. Technique, precision and grace are incorporated in each gymnastic skill. A combination of gymnastic skills makes up a routine that is often performed during competition events or exhibitions. To master required skills and perform routines, a gymnast must possess specific physical fitness components. Five components of fitness for gymnastics include body composition, flexibility, muscular strength, muscular endurance and cardiorespiratory endurance.
Body composition, a necessary fitness component of gymnastics, is the association between fat, muscle and bone within the body. The body fat percentage of a male gymnast ranges from 5 to 12 percent, while the body fat of a female gymnast ranges from 10 to 16 percent, according to Sport-Fitness-Advisor.com. Increasing body fat percentage can hamper a gymnast's stamina, flexibility and ability to jump. Adequate bone density and lean muscle mass provide the adequate strength and support to perform taxing gymnastic skills. Elite gymnasts follow a nutrition plan that incorporates the consumption of lean proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates, as well as engage in a strength-training and conditioning regimen to obtain the optimal body composition.
Another important component of fitness in gymnastics includes flexibility, the ability to move a joint through a complete range of motion. Elite gymnasts possess superior flexibility, as this fitness component allows them to hyperextend their legs, execute various jumps and tumble forward and backward. Flexibility may enhance coordination and balance, as this fitness component improves skeletal alignment and reduces musculoskeletal injury.
Muscular strength, the maximum force exerted by a single muscle or muscle group, plays a critical role in executing advanced gymnastics skills. Male gymnasts demonstrate muscular strength when they lift their body weight on the pommel horse or hold their weight while performing a skill on the giant rings. Female gymnasts exhibit muscular strength when executing an advanced skill on the vault. Movements demonstrating muscular strength typically involve quick motion requiring significant force. Achieving maximum strength with minimal muscle size is the ultimate strength-training goal in gymnastics, reports USA Gymnastics.
Muscular endurance, the ability of a muscle to exert force repeatedly, acts as a critical component during a gymnastics competition. This physical component enhances a gymnast's stamina and decreases muscle fatigue. For example, gymnasts use muscular endurance during a floor routine, as floor routines require consecutive tumbling passes that use the same muscle groups repeatedly. To prevent muscle fatigue at the end of a floor or pommel horse routine, a gymnast must acquire significant muscular endurance to sustain his performance level. Engaging in repetitive conditioning exercises, such as pullups, pushups and leg lifts, increases muscular endurance.
Cardiorespiratory endurance refers to the fitness component that enables the heart, blood vessels and lungs to transport nutrients and oxygen to the gymnast's working muscles. All gymnastic apparatus that involve aerobic activity, such as the floor, bars, beam, pommel horse and rings, require cardiorespiratory endurance. Gymnasts with optimal cardiorespiratory endurance might benefit from increased stamina, less breathlessness, quicker respiratory recovery and increased cardiovascular strength. A gymnast with poor cardiorespiratory endurance might struggle to finish a floor routine or exhibit extreme breathlessness once finished.