Underswing Dismounts

Posted October 1, 2011 by gymcoachjason
Categories: Uneven Bars

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It’s That Time of Year…

Posted August 6, 2011 by gymcoachjason
Categories: General Gymnastics, Uncategorized

A lot of Susies out there wondering if they’re going to be level 5s this season….This may or may not be the best way to handle having that parent conversation, but it’s probably best to have some kind of plan, since it is, after all, coming….

Making a Seat Circle

Posted July 30, 2011 by gymcoachjason
Categories: Training Tools

Chris asked me for a step-by-step video on making a seat circle, like I did for the handstand-trainer, so I obliged. Someone already “thumbs-downed” it, which I find interesting. I wonder if that was a manufacturer disliking me drawing business away from his company?

Girls Peeling off the Bar on a Tap Swing!!!

Posted March 26, 2010 by Troy
Categories: Parallel Bars, Training

Tags: , , , , , ,

So, during this season, I have seen about 12-15 gymnasts fly off of the bar backward while doing tap swings during a meet or the warm-up for a meet.  In 2 of those cases, an ambulance was necessary.  One of these gymnasts actually landed on her belly on the low bar and was, thankfully, okay.  Three to five of these girls were slowed down by their coaches as the coaches were standing in between the bars as these gymnasts were performing tap swings (two of these were ours).  The rest were extremely lucky in my opinion, not to get hurt.  I speak from bad experience myself with this situation as I had a gymnast break her arm many years ago when she peeled off of the bar in the back of the tap swing.  It was after this experience that I made sure that I stood there whenever my gymnasts were performing tap swings.

This, to me, is one of the most obvious cases of preventable injury that we have in our sport.  Let me first say that there are probably not many people who are bigger fans of the tap swing being included in the level 5 and 6 bar routines.  I think that the tap swing is simply, the best part of the compulsory routines on any of the four events.  Having said that, it is impossible, in my opinion, to eliminate the risk of the girls peeling off of the bar.  In fact, the better and bigger the gymnast swings, the more likely it is that the result will be a severe injury when she does peel.  The height of the swing is what puts them in that perilous position of “no man’s land”, halfway between landing on their feet and being able to flip over to their backs.  It is NOT about technique, in my opinion, but the size of the girls’ hands in comparison to the size of the rails.  I have seen plenty of girls with great shapes in the back of their swings and excellent “tapping” technique slip off just as much as (probably more than) girls with horrible technique.

For me, this is not a question of an individual gymnast’s ability level.  In my experience, the odds of this happening are the same for all of the gymnasts.  On any given day, it is just as likely to happen to the girl who has done 300 sets of tap swings and never “peeled” as it is for the gymnast who peels off once a month, in my opinion. 

I would like to note that I am not judging any coaches as I am writing this, and I don’t think negatively of people who have not stood in between the bars during tap swings.  However, I think it is time that we, as professionals who care about our gymnasts’ well-being, really start to rally around the idea of standing in between the bars for every set of tap swings that our kids do.  I know that there will be coaches who argue (Bill Sands comes to mind) about the idea of rescue spotting and reaction time, etc.  The way that our bar coach does it however (and the way I did it when I coached bars), diminishes that argument in the fact that he stands with his outside shoulder (in proximity to the athlete) right beside the low bar, and he stands as close to her as possible.  What this does is to place him pretty much behind the gymnast.  If she does peel, she is basically flying “into” the coach.  Again, the idea here is not to necessarily “catch” the gymnast in mid-air (which is what the studies about reaction time are about), but to slow her down and prevent the catastrophic injury.  Our gymnasts never do tap swings on a regular set of unevens without a coach standing in this position.  When they are in practice, we have a bar that is set up with a mat stack behind it and two wedges stacked up against that mat stack for the girls to do their tap swings.  This way, if they do peel, the elevated surface helps them to be able to land more safely.

I would really like for as many blogs and websites as possible to put this on their pages, or to at least discuss this topic.  Many of these gymnasts will never compete again in the greatest sport in the world  because of these injuries, and all we have to do is “stand in” on tap swings.

If it is not enough for a coach to do this because of the reasons I have already mentioned, it might help to think of the legal aspects as well.  When one of these girls’ parents decides to sue because of this injury, the attorneys for this family are going to investigate what other gyms are doing.  There are many gyms that already “stand in”, and therefore the attorney will want to know why this particular coach was not doing the same.  The second part of this is that when they are trying to prove negligence, the effort will be to prove that the accident could have been prevented by less of a burden than what the risk would be.  In other words, standing in between the bars is a very small effort in comparison to the many, many gymnasts who are injured on this skill every season. 

Aside from all of the legal mumbo-jumbo though, I always try to think of it in this simple way.  If this happened to one of my gymnasts and the parents or the attorney asked me why I wasn’t standing there like that other coach was, what could I possibly say?

Pak Progressions

Posted March 20, 2010 by Chris
Categories: General Gymnastics, Training, Uneven Bars

Tags: , , ,

First of all, sorry for the lack of updates.  I am not sure about Troy, but my life has been pretty hectic of late with a crazy schedule such that I am on the go very early, get home relatively late, and am just too tired to think.

With that said, I knew that I had to get something up and decided to provide you with a clip of progressions for the Pak salto.  In my opinion,  it’s rare these days that I see a good Pak salto performed.  Typically, it’s a “head-throw, flippy-thing” down to the low bar that  lacks amplitude and is often difficult for the gymnast to glide out of.

So, here’s another clip from one of my favorite coaches in the U.S. – Boise State co-head coach, Neil Resnick. (I probably have 20-25 of Neil’s lectures recorded ranging from “recreational bars” to “advanced releases”)   This is a bit old – it’s from a 2002 lecture at the Illinois State Congress.  With that said, I still think the points are more than valid and worth checking out.

I hope that you enjoy.

Note:  I pulled this from a VHS and I think that the sound quality is better than the hurdle videos from before.  With that said, I apologize if the sound quality is not ideal – if you use headphones, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty hearing.

Uneven Bars: Double Layout Dismount

Posted March 6, 2010 by Chris
Categories: Training, Uneven Bars

Tags: , , , ,

Many female gymnasts who struggle with the double layout dismount off of the uneven bars do so because of the timing of their “tap.”  While many coaches have a different interpretations of the “tap,” my definition references the point at which the gymnast transitions from a hollow into an arch position at or nearly underneath the bar.  So, from this point forward, you should know exactly to what I am referencing.

I was bored and decided to analyze a couple of different double layouts.  For the past year or two, Ivana Hong has really struggled a bit with this dismount while Bridget Sloan performs it seemingly effortless.  Therefore, I decided to do a little comparison between the two utilizing their routines from the 2009 VISA Championships.  The videos are below.

First, here’s Bridget.

Next, here’s Ivana.

After stopping the video at several points, the following are the noticeable differences that I found between the two performances.

At approximately 45 degrees below horizontal, let’s look at a comparison between the two.

Ivana Near 45 Degrees Below Horizontal To The Bar

Bridget Near 45 Degrees Below Horizontal To The Bar

Notice here how Ivana has already “opened up” whereas Bridget stays more “hollow.”  By staying in more of a hollow shape, Bridget is able to create more deformation (“bend”) in the bar in my estimation.  This additional “bend” in the bar stores more elastic (strain) energy and contributes to her rotation upon release.

Now, let’s look at the two at a position directly underneath of the bar.

Ivana Underneath of The Bar

Bridget Underneath of the Bar

Notice the “bend” in the bar (a slight bit more for Bridget) as well as the more pronounced arch position as compared to Ivana’s position.  Further, in the next sequence of images, you’ll notice the early “kick” into the double layout for Ivana such that she struggles to make the necessary rotations.

Ivana Past Bottom Of Bar

Now, here’s Bridget.

Bridget Past Bottom Of Bar

Notice how Bridget holds the arch past the bottom and “kicks” later into the double layout and is able to easily complete the rotations.

So, how would I fix Ivana’s double layout dismount?  I would work very hard to get her to hollow the downswing longer, “tap” later, hold the “tap” through the bottom longer, and this would result in a later “kick” into the dismount and probably a more successful performance.

Many men’s coaches who have moved over to coaching women’s gymnastics tend to promote the early tap as the men do.  Unfortunately, the womens’ uneven bar rail is a much different apparatus and women in general, are smaller.  As a result, they are unable to produce the degree of “bend” in the rail as the men do.  This is particularly true when they attempt to perform the early, exaggerated tap that the men do.

If you notice, most of the gymnasts who swing as I am describing are performing full-in or full-out types of dismounts or something completely different such as a double front, for example.  The early, exaggerated “tap” swing mechanics for the women will give you a lot of height, but lacks rotation.  If you want your gymnasts to have a good double layout, I encourage the mechanics that I am suggesting and they will likely be a lot more successful.

Hopefully, this gives you a bit more insight into the double layout dismount from a coaching perspective.  Please feel free to share your insights or any disagreements.

Bridges – How to spare the back…

Posted March 5, 2010 by Chris
Categories: Anatomy, Biomechanics, Conditioning, Floor Exercise, Physiology, Strength Training, Training

Tags: , , ,

A couple of weeks ago, a reader asked me to drop some comments on bridges.  It was asked something along the lines of why do coaches insist that gymnasts straighten their legs and keep their feet together when bridging?

I don’t know.

As I noted in my last post, repeated bouts of lumbar flexion are believed to be a potential risk factor lumbar spine disorders such as a herniated disk.  Just the same, the lumbar spine really is not made to excessively arch or hyperextend as is seen when gymnasts perform skills such as bridges, backbends, and back walkovers.  Aside from these skills, when does a gymnast actually assume this type of a position?

Quite honestly, I cannot think of any other skills in which a gymnast assumes this position with so much lumbar hyperextension.  Some may argue that this type of bridge development is necessary for a successful performance of a back handspring.  Or, that’s an argument that I’ve heard a few times over the years.  Is it really?  Below, are three screenshots taken from Shawn Johnson’s first tumbling pass at 2008 National Championships.  Notice that she never gets into the position that we see above and if she did, she wouldn’t be very successful.

Beginning of the BHS After the RO

Flight Phase of BHS - Just Before Hand Contact

During Hand Contact of BHS

Does any gymnast ever assume the position (as shown in the bridge picture above) in a back handspring or any other skill except for bridges, back/front walkovers, etc. ?  The important factor in bridge development is shoulder flexion or often – hyper-flexion.  In other words, we want the arms to be able to be lifted up by the ears or even past without the chest/ribs poking out.

As I discussed in an earlier blog posting, there are other factors that we must consider when a gymnast has “tight shoulders.”  Maybe the issue is not flexibility at all.  Maybe the issue is too much rounding of the upper back that which places the scapula in a poor position.  Maybe it’s a matter of poor scapular stabilization or an imbalance of the scapula musculature.  The key muscles that would limit shoulder hyperflexion are the latissimus dorsi and the pec major/minor.  There are other stretches specific to these muscles that do not stress the low back.

With that said, here is a better way to perform a bridge.  I first came across this suggestion from David Adlard in an old USAIGC publication called STEPing UP.  To minimize the excessive hyperextension of the low back, elevate the feet to above shoulder height and put the emphasis of the stretch on the shoulders.

In the picture below, a trainer colleague, Becky (who used to cheer and tumble in high school) demonstrates.  Thanks Becky!  She’s a little tight in the shoulders, but now this position can better emphasize the muscles that need to be stretched without putting the low back at as much risk.  Afterwards, she even commented something to the effect of – “Wow, that really stretched my upper back…it felt good…”

Feet Elevated Bridge