Before you do any gymnastics, dance, cheerleading, or other type of heavy exercise, you always need to have stretched or worked lightly.

It takes your muscles a while to warm up, and it’s much easier to stretch warm muscles rather than cold ones. Warm up your muscles by doing situps, push ups, and crunches before stretching. You can also run laps a few times to get your circulation going.

When you’re thouroughly “stretched out”, your muscles will no longer ache when you stretch them, and you’ll feel loose and supple. To achieve this, though, you need to spend at least 30 minutes stretching each day.

I always stretch my legs first when I’m stretching. Do the straddle stretch, which is sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out as far as possible. Lean to one side and grab your foot with the opposite hand, then repeat on the other foot. Then reach out in the middle of your legs as far as you can go. Hold each of these stretches for 30 seconds to a full minute, and if that’s not long enough to make your muscles loose, repeat several times until your muscles stop aching.

Then, pike stretch. Put your legs together (or stand up with your legs together) and reach for your pointed toes. Don’t bend your knees! Flex your toes and grab them.

Once your legs are stretched, you’ll need to stretch your neck, shoulders, triceps, wrists, thighs, core, ankles, achilles tendons, and your back.

Stretch your neck by leaning it from side to side and looking down and gently moving it around. Swing your shoulders several times, and stretch your triceps by patting your back with one hand, and pulling your elbow with the other.

Stretch your wrists by rolling them in circles several times. Stretch your thighs by standing on one foot, grabbing onto something to keep your balance. Then, grab the ankle you’re not standing on, and pull it until you feel your thighs stretch.

Stretch your core by doing situps and the bridge. To do a bridge stretch, lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your hands by your ears. Push up with your legs and your hands, and hold it for 30 seconds to a minute.

Roll out your ankles, and get into a push up position to stretch your heels and achilles tendons. To stretch your back, either do more situps, or roll on your back on the floor.

Now you’re all stretched out. Great! Ready to do gymnastics?