Gymnast Dan Keatings' Flexibility Exercises

(Image credit: Unknown)

Gymnast Daniel Keatings has come back from a knee injury that threatened to end his career to win numerous medals at both junior and senior level, including a gold in the pommel horse at this year’s European championships, and he’s aiming to increase his haul. We spoke to the gymnast about his training schedule and preparations for the 2011 European and world championships.

How’s training going?

I’m at about 80% at the moment. I’m working on all six pieces of apparatus, so on some I’m improving and on others I’m getting back to where I was.  

You won European gold in the pommel horse – do you have any other favourites?

Probably the high bar, because I can chuck myself about and it feels like second nature. My least favourite is the rings, because it’s the most demanding on my body. You aren’t great every day and the days you have to still come in and do big strength moves on the rings can be a nightmare.

What’s a typical training day like for you?

We’ll do two sessions a day, with three pieces each. There are four upper-body and two lower-body disciplines, so we’ll do upper, lower and upper in each.  

Do you stick with bodyweight moves?

We’ll occasionally do weights like the bench press or squats but very rarely. It’s mostly bodyweight moves like chin-ups, press-ups and dips with added weight.

Do you have to watch your weight?

Yeah, we have to be strong but light. We don’t put on too much muscle because we’re mainly doing bodyweight moves but I’m also careful about the supplements I use – I’ll stay off the creatine to avoid putting on water weight. I take some protein and an arginine supplement, so I can push through the hard times.

Are you looking ahead to London 2012?

The 2012 Olympics are the next big target but the next European and world championships are the focus at the moment. If our team can get a top-eight place in the world championships, we can send a team to the Olympics. Otherwise, we only get to send a few people. We’ve got a great depth in the team. They did well without me last year, so hopefully I can add to that.  

So what’s in the immediate future?

At the moment I’m just trying to recover and get back on track. My focus is the Europeans in 2011 – if everything’s on track with my knee, I’d like to retain the gold on the pommel horse and get a gold in the all-around competition.

Gymnast Dan Keatings' Flexibility Exercises

Here are the exercises Keatings does to stay flexible. 

Weighted hamstring stretch

Keatings says: "This will actually give you a better hamstring stretch than simply touching your toes. Don’t use a heavy weight, just one that will help with the stretch."

  • Hold a moderately heavy weight and bend forward at the waist as if you’re doing a Romanian deadlift. Keep your back straight.

You should feel this stretch in your hamstrings. If you can reach all the way to the floor then stand on a step, but you’ll probably need to work up to it.

Shoulder flexibility hang

Keatings says: "Having flexible shoulders is crucial for gymnastics, but good mobility also keeps us injury-free during training sessions."

  • Hang from a bar with an underhand grip.
  • Pull your knees up towards the bar and through the space between you arms so you can perform a roly-poly.
  • Let your momentum carry you through until you're hanging.
  • Drop down to the floor.

Assisted hamstring stretch


(Image credit: Unknown)
  • Sit on the floor with straight legs at about 90° apart
  • Keeping your back straight, walk your hands out in front of you.
  • Have your partner press gently on your back.

Keatings says: "Don’t stretch until it’s painful, just slightly uncomfortable."

Joel Snape

From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.