Archive for February 2010

Front Handspring Vault – Head Position?

February 18, 2010


Since so many folks are responding to Troy’s request for an intense front handspring discussion, I figured that I’d spur on the discussion a little bit.

So, here’s a topic of debate that I have had with several coaches.  What do YOU feel is the appropriate head position when first contacting the table?

In?  Slightly Out?

My position –

It should be slightly out (ears uncovered) with eyes focused on the hands.

I feel that the anatomical movements associated with “blocking” are a well-timed combination of an opening of the shoulders (shoulder flexion) coupled with a very quick, reactive “shrug” (shoulder girdle elevation).  Essentially, this allows the gymnast to “bump” or “bounce” off of the table assuming they have contacted at the appropriate angle.

Following the “block,” the opening of the shoulders will automatically move the arms beside the ears and put the head in a neutral position and in line with the rest of the body.

If the head is already “in” upon contact, the arms are already in full 180 degrees of flexion.  So, how can the athlete initiate any shoulder flexion upon contact?  Furthermore, most athletes try to “pull” the head in and end up tucking their chin to their chest and this creates an opposite reaction at the feet.  So, they end up sort of counter-rotating.

The argument that I receive usually has absolutely nothing to do with anatomy, mechanics, etc.  It’s usually this –

“Well, the judges in this state want to see the head in between the arms…etc…etc…”

So, needless to say, the kids of coaches who use this argument are usually “rolling” over the table.

So, now I’ve started the discussion – it’s your turn to chime in with your thoughts 🙂

Layout & Full Twist Drill

February 18, 2010

I pulled out some personal video from the 2006 TOPs Camp that Excalibur Gymnastics has been hosting in the summer for the past several years.

Here’s a layout and full twist drill as presented by the clinician – Neil Resnick.  Neil is the co-head coach for the Boise State University Broncos and the former head coach/owner of Flips Gymnastics in Reno, NV.

Some Front Handsprings on Vault

February 16, 2010

I had a request to do some stuff on front handsprings on vault, and I am working on that.  In the meantime, though, I wanted to gather up some video of some of our front handsprings over the last few years, and see if we could start up a discussion about the front handspring on vault.  Take some time to watch the videos, and then post a comment about them…the differences, problems that you see, etc.  These vaults are not necessarily our very best or worst, just some random vaults that have been put on youtube.

These are right at the beginning.  You don’t have to watch the entire videos.  (And I’m not that fat anymore either…I’m so embarassed)


I would really love to have an intense conversation about this skill.  I think that there is a lot to learn about the front handspring vault for all of us.

What Is Ideal Posture?

February 10, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, Troy created a blog post about training the handstand.  Obviously, as coaches, our goal is to help the gymnasts develop a handstand that is straight as possible.  But, just what exactly is ideal posture???

Well, ideal posture is defined as a straight line passing through….

Photo taken from:

Oatis, C.A. Kinesiology:  The Mechanics & Pathomechanics of Human  Movement, 5th ed. Lippincott et al., 2004.

  • the ear lobe
  • the bodies of the cervical vertebrae
  • the tip of the shoulder
  • mid-way through the thorax
  • the bodies of the lumbar vertebrae
  • slightly posterior (behind) to the hip joint
  • slightly anterior (in front of) to knee joint axis
  • slightly anterior to the lateral malleolus (ankle bone)
One thing worth mentioning is this – if your athletes can’t stand up straight, how can you expect them to be straight when they are upside down on their hands?

I think that handstand development begins by correcting posture and alignment in a standing position as well as both prone (on the belly) and supine (on the back).

Proper Landing Mechanics

February 6, 2010

Received an e-mail the other day requesting more information about proper landing mechanics. Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail:

Could you talk a little about landing positions, if you haven’t already done so?  I remember reading a comment recently about coaches emphasizing legs together on landings, but it makes more kinesiological sense to have knees and feet shoulder width apart.  The Gymnastic Minute on YouTube addressed the correct landing posture today, but I’d like to have a more in-depth explanation.

Here’s the YouTube video that this individual is referring to:

In terms of the feet being together versus apart, a wider base of support allows for more stability.  Secondly, it is nearly impossible to get the hips shifted back enough to allow the glutes and hamstrings to assist in absorbing the energy from the landing if the feet are together.  Why is this important?

Well, here is an article from the NSCA Performance Training Journal (a free online publication on the NSCA’s website) that explains matters more in-depth.  However, I will give you a brief overview.

The hamstrings originate on the ischium of the pelvis and attach on the back of the tibia (shin bone).  Their main job is to bend the knee and their secondary job is to open or extend the hip.  Well, as the knee bends from a landing, the hamstrings will activate and pull the shin bone backwards.  This takes some of the stress off of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).  The ACL attaches at the back of the femur (upper leg bone) and the front of the tibia.  Its main job is to prevent the tibia from moving forward too much.  So, if the hamstrings activate and pull the shin backwards, this takes some of the load off of the ACL.

Now for the glute max.  The glute max’s main job is to open the hip (extension).  However, the glute max also helps in controlling rotation of the femur since it partly inserts on the greater trochanter of the femur.  (I say “partly” because part of it also forms with the TFL and creates a sheath that runs down the side of the leg known as the IT Band and this connects on the side of the tibia)  Further, it assists the gluteus medius (as Kris Robinson mentions in the YouTube clip) in preventing the knees from dropping in – known as “valgus” position.

Controlling rotation of the femur and preventing it from dropping inward is very important to knee health.  Coupled with an inwardly rotated tibia,  you’ve got the makings for disaster.  This is why what appears to be a perfect landing could end with the gymnast on the ground in agonizing pain.  Having been witness to a couple of these in my coaching career, I now have a better understanding behind the “why.”

While this is all well and good, the problem is that gymnastics promotes a quad-dominant landing despite the obvious biomechanical problems that it presents.  Despite the traditional gymnastics approach, I encourage all of you to think about the health of your gymnast and consider having them bend at their hips a bit more and push their butt backwards to allow for the glutes and hamstrings to engage more and assist in absorbing the landing.  Your gymnast’s knees will be thankful later.

Anyway, I hope this offers some insight into proper landing mechanics and their importance.

What’s Next?

February 6, 2010

Thanks for all of the positive feedback on the front handspring articles!  I am so glad that they are helping some of you.

I would like to know, though, if any of you have some things that you would like to see me cover next.  I am open to suggestions, and eager to get started on another project.  Just comment on this post if you have something that you would like to see discussed or disected.  It can cover just about anything from events to mental training or whatever, and if I don’t have enough information myself, I will find it through many of you guys.

So, let me know and I will get started right away!  Thanks again, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Comments from Satisfied Readers…

February 5, 2010

I just popped in over at The Chalk Bucket Coaching Forum and saw some nice comments related to Troy’s extensive post on training front handsprings.  Here’s what some readers have had to say over there…

From “BarCoach”

I was working on floor with the level 5s last night. Watching the girls with better front handsprings, I noticed they naturally bend their back legs in their take offs, and the ones who struggle with front handsprings do not. So they all tried standing front handsprings with bent back legs to get the good push. One of them said, “That’s so much easier!”. I was glad to hear it. Thanks for the great drills.

From “Geoffrey Taucer:”

“I also had my level 4 boys try front handsprings with the back knee bent in the lunge. HUGE difference. Great drills, thanks a ton!”

From “Gymdog”

“Another coach who tried the back knee weight transfer…worked really well. Some of the kids took awhile to figure out the coordination but when they did it helped. Will continue to work from these positions.”

Kudos to Troy for such an informative post with excellent videos of drills and progressions!

And, thanks to those of you who are supporting our efforts with this blog.  We hope that the information provided continues to be useful to you!