Flexibility and contortion training at the gymCoaching tips
Not all of us have space to train at home, especially those living in cities where space is a premium. Gyms by their very nature make good places to train your flexibility, as well as getting your lift and cardio on.
Gyms can provide useful space and training equipment to help you in your training. Usually you will be able to find an empty but of floorspace that will let you train your flexibility, most gyms will have a “stretching area” or “abs station” that has padded mats or flooring that make it a bit more comfortable than just the regular gym floor.
Areas of gyms good for contortion training
A good number of gyms offer classes to their members (there might even be yoga and/or flexibility classes!). When there aren’t classes going on however most gyms will open the studio space for general use. These studios tend to be great to get away from the noise of the gym and can give you lots more room to train things like handstand without the fear of getting in other people’s way.
Padded stretching areas
These areas are commonly in an open part of the main gym floor and are reserved for stretching or for bodyweight workouts that don't need any equipment. These spaces are useful if the studio space in a gym is occupied with classes, or is just too busy with other people using them.
Useful gym equipment for your contortion training
If your gym has a studio, there is a good likelihood they have yoga classes, most of which utilise yoga mats and yoga blocks! Yoga blocks are an awesome tool helping with many different exercises, whether it’s helping keep your balance while you’re stretching your hip flexors in lunge, under your chin as you stretch your upper back on the floor, or against the wall to help give your shoulders a deeper stretch. Lugging your own blocks around can be cumbersome, especially if you’re living in a city and rely on public transport, rather than having a car that you can keep all your training stuff stored in.
These are adjustable platforms, usually made from some hard plastic and either have extendable legs, or detachable ones that let you adjust the height, in not-so-small steps. These platforms are great for working on your bridges with, having either your feet elevated to make the bridge easier and let you work into your shoulders, or having your hands elevated if you’re trying to tighten your bridge up with straight legs.
Weights (Light ones!)
Not everyone likes lifting weights (though when done right they have some great benefits!) So owning some weights might not suit everyone. All modern gyms have a plethora of different weighted equipment, and usually a massive suite of different free weights that can be handy for your flexibility training if you’re looking for some controlled assistance. Using light dumbbells or kettlebells (the handle can be awesome for some free standing upper-back assisted stretching). Always be sure you’re good and warm before you attempt to use the weights, start as light as you can and only work within your limits. Of course weights are no replacement for some good traditional hands-on coaching.
Things to look out for in gyms
Watch out for air conditioning
Most people go to the gym to lift weights or to smash out some cardio. Both of those activities leave people feeling very warm! As a result gyms tend to pump the air conditioning pretty aggressively which making them cold, which isn’t super helpful when you want to stretch! So taking layers until you get warm can sometimes be advisable.
One of the downsides to training at a regular gym is that very few (if any) will have seen people training contortion in a public setting. This may cause people to stare, or in very rare occasions comment on your training. While this is something that is less likely to be an issue, it is something to be aware of that might be off putting to people wanting to train their skills at a gym.