Posted tagged ‘tumbling’

Basics, Basics, Basics!!! Training the Front Handspring on Floor – Part III

February 4, 2010

And now for the 3rd and final part of Training a Front Handspring on floor.

THE BLOCK OFF THE HANDS:  A lot of times, this action is under-appreciated and over-emphasized at the same time.  I know that sounds confusing, but I will try to explain.  In my opinion, in most situations, coaches try too hard to train their athletes to block a front handspring on floor (and even vault) when the athlete is not doing the things before this block to allow her to be able TO block.  As stated before, if the lunge leg doesn’t do its job, the center of gravity will be too low, and the athlete must bend her arms.  At this point, it is impossible to block off the floor, since the definition of blocking involves a “bounce” or “pop” type of action, and not a bending of the arms, where the energy is absorbed.  So, stressing on blocking without the pre-requisites of the techniques before this action is a huge waste of time, in my opinion (doing drills for blocking while still getting the rest in order is fine — it’s the expectation of a block without this prior technique that is the problem).

It is also my opinion that this action of blocking will become semi-automatic for the gymnast that does all of the technique before the block correctly.

The “under-appreciation aspect of this action is in the fact that, a lot of times, we are so busy trying to figure out why a gymnast is having trouble with the subsequent skill out of the front handspring that we may not look at how important the block is in the success of that second skill.  Many times, the failure of that second skill is due to the lack of angle out of the front handspring, because the gymnast did not block from their hands in the front handspring.

One of the drills for blocking that a lot of people use, that I am not such a big fan of is the handstand hop.  I like this drill (and variations of it) for front handsprings on vault, but not so much for floor.  It goes back to what I talked about earlier regarding the “kicking through” of the back leg.  When performing this handstand hop, we are, in my opinion, strengthening the action of bringing the feet together way too soon.  This is an action that is more natural in my experience than the other (kicking all the way through), so I personally, don’t want to do anything to make this action more dominant.  I feel like the gymnast can separate this technique more successfully when doing the drill for vault, so we do it there, but not on floor.  Call me paranoid, but it works for me.

One drill that I have them do for blocking involves doing the front handspring from a lunge going down to a resi, and then over-rotating to the belly on a couple of wedges.  This could also be done on the floor from a hurdle.  Here are some of our gymnasts doing these drills:

THE FINISH:  This is another very important aspect of the front handspring, as the position of the body and the angle of the body is crucial to the success of the skill that will eventually come after the front handspring

***A huge point about the landing of this skill is the risk to the back.  I am a firm believer that the majority of back injuries in our sport comes from the landing of front handsprings and other forward rotating skills.  The reality is that no matter how much work is done on these skills, gymnasts land many of them with their bodies considerably behind their feet.  This landing creates a great amount of force which is focussed on the vertebra of the lower back.  It is because of this fact that I believe we need to be very conservative with this skill.  We should do the best we can to keep our athletes from doing this skill on the floor until we know that they are capable of doing all of the above techniques efficiently enough to rotate this skill to the point of landing their bodies in front of their feet when the feet contact the floor.  It is also important to work with the athlete to get her to tighten her core, using a “bracing” system (tightening the lower abs, the glutes, etc.), so that the lower back is protected on impact.***

One of the drills that we do for this are included in this video (thanks to Tammy Biggs for another great drill):

So, there you go.  The training of a front handspring.  I have included a couple of videos to show the completed process.  The first is a video of our level 7s performing front handspring flysprings, and the second is of Ginny, one of our level 9s at Westerns last year performing her floor routine.  She does a very nice front hanspring in her second pass.

Thank you so much for your time in reading this series of articles!  I hope that it helps.  I look forward to any and all comments that you would like to make about any of this.

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Basics, Basics, Basics!!! Training the Front Handspring on Floor – Part II

February 2, 2010

So, here is the 2nd part of Training a Front Handspring on floor:

***Please note that a lot of these drills are done with front handspring step-outs, and while the gymnast may sometimes tend to land behind her foot and create a little lower back arch (something we do other drills for as well), I believe that the real danger to the back is not necessarily in the arching of the lower back (we still try to avoid this), as much as it is in the impact of landing in this position on two feet at full speed.  I would love for my gymnasts to do these drills with less lower back arch, but we are still working toward making that better with these girls through spotting of these drills, CONDITIONING, other drills that are not shown, such as flysprings, etc., and through better flexibility.  Remember also, that these drills are shown to give you some ideas on how to help your athletes’ front handsprings, and that we do not just do hundreds of these on a daily basis.***

THE LEVER ACTION:  This is a big key to all tumbling, as this lever is what generates rotation and results in the body finishing past vertical, leading to momentum in the direction of the tumbling pass.  Many, many gymnasts struggle with their tumbling passes, because they land their front handsprings behind their feet, simply because of the lack of this lever action, or the “stopping” of the lever action before the rotation is initiated fully.  There are some lever drills on my “Handstand” post.  Here is one of the drills we use to try and increase the speed of this action:

The goal in this drill is for the gymnast to place her fingertips as close to the edge of the carpet square as possible and then try and get her foot to land as close to the carpet square as possible.  This is done by kicking the back leg through as aggressively as possible.

THE PUSH OF THE FRONT LEG:  This is definitely one of the most over-looked parts of tumbling.  So many gymnasts do not really understand the importance of this “lunge” leg.  All we have to do is think of this scenario, and we can get a much better understanding of the necessity of the front leg push:  A gymnast kicks the back leg as hard as she can over the top of a front handspring, but does not use the “lunge” leg at all.  What this leads to is a lack of rise of the center of gravity requiring the gymnast to bend her arms in the round-off or front handspring.  The second problem in this scenario is the loss of forward momentum, and the resulting “circling” action of that skill.  It almost changes the momentum to retreat toward where the athlete started, as a kind of “undercutting” situation.

So, we have to make sure that we are working drills toward maximizing this action of the front leg.  One way to develop this push of the front leg is a drill involving jumping across the floor with the lunge leg (do both to keep a good balance in strength in the legs) while holding on to a partner’s hands. Below are some gymnasts doing some of these (this was very new for these particular gymnasts) and another drill that I have found effective:

Another drill that we have found particularly effective is doing front handspring step-outs and cartwheel step-ins from the knee.  This creates a situation where the gymnast must “stand up” using the front leg to make this skill.  Here are some girls doing that drill:

 Watch for Part III in this series, which will cover the “Block off of the hands”, and the “Finish” of the Front Handspring on floor.

Basics, Basics, Basics!!! Training the Front Handspring on Floor – Part I

January 31, 2010

I had a request from a good friend of mine to do the next basics post on Front Handsprings on floor.  As I started doing this, however, it got really long (I know, surprising, right?).  Therefore, I’m going to post this in several parts.  So, here goes Part I:

The biggest thing that I would stress about FHS on floor is that I try and do about a gazillion times more front handspring step-outs than front handsprings to two feet.  This is the same philosophy I have about cartwheels and round-offs.  In my opinion, the more round-offs and front handsprings to two feet the athlete does, the more she re-enforces the bad habit of bringing her feet together too soon.  This habit is extremely counter-productive to the speed through these skills that is necessary for the continuation of the pass after this skill.  I’ve had it explained to me in the past as a simple matter of physics.  Basically, if an athlete kicks her back leg over the top as hard and as fast as she can, then it is virtually impossible for her to bring her feet together at the top without slowing down the leg that kicked over first.  This is a sure-fire method to a loss of momentum through the skill.

THE HURDLE:  Chris has written two very informative articles on the hurdle.  Please refer to these to understand the importance of the hurdle.  As far as the technique itself, I always teach the knee-up hurdle technique.  I have never been a big fan of the “chasse’ ” type hurdle or the recently seen “straight leg in front” hurdle.  The “chasse’ ” type does not lend itself very well to getting to the lunge as efficiently as the “knee-up” type, in my opinion.  The “straight leg in front” type is very confusing to me, and I would love to hear any opinions on this method.  I don’t really understand, from a physics point of view, how this could possibly be beneficial to the speed and power of the tumbling pass.  I have been proven wrong before, however, so I will gladly listen to other ideas on the subject. 

There is a great video from Bart, who coaches at Flips in Minnesota that demonstrates a great hurdle drill.  You can view this on Chris’ post on the Hurdle – Part II.  Here is another drill that Bart has up on his website gymnastics-skills.com for round-offs, but I like the hurdle part of this:

Thanks, Bart, for some very good drills!

Here are two other drills that we do for hurdles:

The point of the first drill above is to try and get the athlete to really feel the back leg get underneath them and then use it to push themselves forward.  This is in line with the points that Chris is trying to make with his two articles.  I was guilty for a long time of putting too much emphasis on getting on to the front leg in tumbling, and now I really try to stress to the athletes how important it is to keep that back leg underneath them, and then use it to propel them through the skill.  They have to basically “compress the spring” before the spring can be used.

THE LUNGE:  I talked a little about the lunge in my handstand article “Basics, Basics, Basics!!! The Training of a Handstand.”  There is some video of good lunges on there.  The important thing about the lunge in tumbling, to me, is the bending of the back leg.  As I said above, I always think of this as the “compression” of a spring.  If there is no bend of the back leg, then there is no way that the gymnast can push herself into the skill with that back leg.  This lack of push with the back leg is a big key to the failure of many gymnasts’ front handsprings.  There is a great drill for this that was done by Tammy Biggs using furniture movers.  We do this drill quite a bit.  Here is Tammy’s video:

Thanks to Tammy for another great idea!

And here are some of our girls doing front handspring step-outs with furniture movers: 

The second thing that is extremely important about the lunge for the front handspring is that the shoulders need to be completely extended.  The way I explain it to my gymnasts sometimes, is that their armpits should be completely open in the lunge and throughout the levering action.  A great principle to keep in mind about this is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  If a gymnast closes her shoulders going into the front handspring, the resulting action is that the back leg will stay down, instead of kicking over the way it should.  One drill that we do to help solve that problem is to have the gymnast do a front handspring from a lunge while holding on to a stick that is held by a partner above her head.  This just re-enforces the open armpits in the lunge and through the lever.  Here is that drill:

Another drill to help with the lunge is to do a lot of front handspring step-outs from a lunge, rather than running, etc.  When a gymnast has to do the skill from a lunge, she has to really focus on the right technique, as she can’t “cover up” poor technique by using speed from the run and the hurdle.  This is not easy at first.  It takes time and patience.  One of the drills we do is a front handspring step-out from a lunge going down to a lower surface such as a resi, etc.  As you will see in the next video below, this is basically the same drill as above, just without the stick.  One of the reasons that I have included it is to demonstrate that, while my gymnasts don’t keep their shoulders completely open when using the stick, you can see how much less likely they are to keep them open when they don’t have the stick to remind them.  This (the open shoulder angle) is, to me, one of the more difficult and most important things involving the front handspring.  It is important that we do the work to help them overcome this challenge.  Here is the drill:

***You will notice that, in most of these videos, the weight in the lunge is placed mostly on the back foot at the beginning of the skill.  This is something that we have started doing a lot of  recently (in the last 3 months), as I really want the girls to start feeling more of that push from that back leg by doing a kind of “rocking” through the lunge.  We have found this very helpful, but I am interested in any feedback that any of you have about it.***

Stay tuned for Part II of this series, which will cover the “Lever Action” and the “Front Leg Push” in the Front Handspring on floor.

The Hurdle – Part II

January 27, 2010

In the first blog post on the hurdle, I discussed the importance of the position of the back leg at initial contact after landing during the brief flight phase of the hurdle.  Furthermore, as shown in the videos, the back leg seemingly pulls in under the gymnast or even slightly in front of the gymnast’s hip(s).

Even with a background in biomechanics, I could not figure out a mechanical reasoning for this phenomenon.  Why do many of the best tumblers do this?  How does it give them an advantage?  After much thought, I think it’s no different than why landing the feet in front of the body for forward vaulting is necessary. In vaulting, as the feet contact the board and are essentially “stopped,” the rest of the body continues to travel forward due to its horizontal momentum. How far the feet should be in front obviously depends on the speed (velocity) of the athlete. Athletes who are very fast will need their feet further in front, because they tend to generate much greater momentum. If the feet are not far enough in front, they are too far forward, too much rotation is created, and the athlete struggles to get enough of an upward flight trajectory to effectively contact and/or clear the vaulting table.

In the floor hurdle, I believe that the initial foot (leg) must contact directly underneath or even slightly in front of the hip to allow a more optimal position of the center of mass. Whether its underneath or slightly in front will again be dependent upon the velocity and the momentum generated by a particular athlete. If the athlete does not pull the initial leg under upon contact, they must compensate in some way so that they remain “stable” as they are transitioning into the round-off.  (At :52 into the Cheng Fei video, if you stop the video, you will see what I am talking about.)

So, how does the gymnast compensate if they do not pull the leg in under them? From my observation, they often push the hips backwards, which is completely opposite of what you want to happen!  This allows a better position of the center of mass so that they remain stable and do not lose their balance. Another compensation is kicking the leg around the side in some fashion. (There are other issues that cause this, of course…head position, etc. so if your athlete kicks their leg around the side of a round-off, don’t assume it’s purely a hurdle issue. I am just citing another possible compensatory strategy)

(Also, as a side note, if you watch kids who do not bend the front leg knee in the lunge as they land out of the hurdle, their hips move backwards as well. That’s why lunging is so important! Teach your kids to lunge when they first walk in the gym!)  Look back at Troy’s post on handstands!

Another thing to consider when we’re talking about the hurdle is the position of the body. The body should be upright with no closure at the hips. Many gymnasts “reach” to the floor and do so by bending (piking) at the hips. The body should act like a lever and pivot over the lead (“lunge”) leg with the back leg initiating the “kick” over the top. The gymnasts should think about “kicking” the back leg to turnover – not reaching to the floor. The weight of the head, arms, and trunk (HAT) actually helps to create an additional torque (rotation) as the body is pivoting over that lead leg and should be helpful to the overall turnover in my opinion in addition to the active “kicking” of the back leg.

However, if the upper body bends down at the waist too soon, the gymnast has lost this additional torque and may also create stability problems because their center of mass will now move too far forward of the lead leg over which they are pivoting. I believe that this, too, can cause a gymnast to innately move the hips backwards as well as to kick around the side.

So, I promote a hurdle that moves up and forward and stress getting the initial contact leg in underneath or even slightly in front of the contact leg’s hip. I also promote an upright body position and any leaning is a total body lean that is caused by the bending of the lead knee (i.e. passing through a lunge) just prior to the back leg “kick” and the body pivoting over the lead leg. Another thing about the lunge is that when the knee is extended (push-off from the lunge), that also contributes to the angular momentum that is being created.

Hopefully, all of that makes some sense and gives you something to think about.

Lastly, the hurdle is like any other skill. Spend some time teaching it. Don’t assume that gymnasts know how to hurdle.

Here is another excerpt from the same lecture given by Stacy Maloney, who used to coach Paul and Morgan Hamm, if  you are not familiar with him.

This shows how he trains his athletes to get their back leg in underneath them so that it is in a position to aid in rotation.

Again, I apologize for the poor sound quality.  I dubbed this video from someone else – from VHS to VHS and I used Dazzle software to convert it to digital format.  If you use headphones or turn up your speakers, you should be able to hear it.

Finally, here is another drill that I found recently  HERE , which was posted by Coach Bart who runs the blog and also hosts the site Gymnastics-Skills.com

The Hurdle – Part I

January 26, 2010

I wish that I had some pictures to express what I am about to discuss, but I do not unfortunately.  To follow along, the best that I can do is have you reference a YouTube video of Cheng Fei’s Yurchenko 2 1/2 from 2005 World’s in Melbourne.  At :51 seconds in, there is a side view in slower motion.  If you stop the YouTube player, you can see much of what I describe below.  I tried to create screen shots, but the camera quality is not good enough and it’s too blurry.

The hurdle by definition is simply a transition from a run such that the athlete can maintain as much of the horizontal momentum as possible that was generated from the run into their tumbling skill(s) or vault.

When walking/running, the center of mass is constantly moving upwards and downwards. With that said, the goal is to keep the center of mass as constant as possible as any major displacement will affect the horizontal momentum that has been generated.

Despite this, I believe that there should be a bit of a vertical component to the hurdle. I like to see the hurdle go both upwards and forwards. Will you lose a little horizontal momentum? Yes. The same happens in vaulting. But, I believe it’s minimal. The reason that I feel that you must go slightly upwards is because of the back leg and where it contacts the ground.

David Kenwright, Olympic coach in Canada, and someone that I respect greatly, teaches his athletes to try and “scoot” or “shuffle” (I believe is his terminology) their initial contact leg (which is the “kicking” leg of a round-off/cartwheel) underneath of them as it initially contacts the ground. When watching the top tumblers, this definitely seems to be a trend as all of the best do it. Whether they were taught or they do it naturally, it happens.

Stacy Maloney, head coach/director at Swiss Turners in Wisconsin, is another person that I heard discussing the importance of the position of the back leg.  I have uploaded an excerpt from a lecture that he gave at the 2003 Region IV Congress (I believe…I dubbed this from another coach) where he discusses three important aspects of the RO.

Note:  I apologize for the poor sound quality.  I dubbed this video from someone else – from VHS to VHS and I used Dazzle software to convert it to digital format.  If you use headphones or turn up your speakers, you should be able to hear it.

In part II, I will look a little more at the mechanics of the hurdle and my mechanical rationale for the importance of the position of the back leg as such.

Basics, Basics, Basics!!!—The Training of a Handstand.

January 14, 2010

One of the issues that I find the most frustrating when watching people coach in the sport is the lack of work done on the basics.  I know that there are many reasons for this.  Obviously, there are those coaches out there who are just lazy.  Most of them wouldn’t be reading a blog about gymnastics anyway, so I am not talking to them right now.  I think there is a very large group of coaches out there who really want to do the right thing when it comes to teaching basics, but just don’t have the practical experience with these basics to, in turn, trust the process enough to really spend the right amount of time on them.  In other words, these coaches are semi-trapped in the world of “If my gymnast is going to compete a hyperthingamajiggy, then I need to have them doing more hyperthingamajiggys”.  This is understandable, as that seems to be the common sense of it.  I think there is a perception in all sports that, when pursuing greatness, the best plan would be to do the thing that you want to be great at 9 gazillion times.  I would think that most of the people who will read this are aware that this is not the case, and that true success lies in the “breakdown” of these complicated skills and furthermore, the preparation along the way for these skills.

This idea is important all the way down to the simplest of actual skills.  I would like to first discuss the handstand and then proceed to other skills in the coming weeks.  I hope that this helps all of you.  I know it is rather long, but I wanted to really get into detail with my progressions for this “most important of all skills”. 

At first glance, a handstand seems to be a fairly simple skill.  But, I would argue that, even the handstand is a complex skill in terms of all of the things that need to happen to create a perfect (or as perfect as the particular body will allow) handstand, and therefore, strong skills down the road that involve the handstand (and we all know there are tons of these).  Some of the key points to a handstand:

  • It needs to be as straight as possible
  • The ears should be nearly or completely covered while still allowing the gymnast to see her hands, but not her fingertips
  • The weight should be more on the fingertips than the heel of the hand (or at least feel that way)
  • The shoulders should be extended (shrugged up)
  • There should be muscle tension throughout the body, so that, if the coach tried to push a part of the body out of line, it would be difficult to do so

So, as you can see, there is a lot to accomplish in this “simple” skill.  None of this even includes the lunge, or the lever into, or out of, the handstand.  If we add those things, you would probably agree that it is not likely that a human being could concentrate on all of these things in one attempt at a handstand.  Because of this, we need to breakdown this skill so that we can make it easier to accomplish one or two of these things at a time before moving on to other corrections in the handstand.

The way that I most always approach the handstand is by doing two to three different drills in conjunction with each other to achieve the best handstand possible.

The Lunge – – – We work on lots of lunges!  In this position:

  • The knee should be on top of the toes
  • The feet should turn out just slightly
  • The hips should be square by stressing to the gymnast that she squeezes the thigh (quadriceps) of her back leg toward the hamstring of her front leg 
  • The arms should be up and covering the ears (but, at first, I have them do the lunge with their hands on their hips to just focus on the legs)
  • The head should be neutral   
  • The ribs should be in, so that the lower back is not arched
  • The tummy should be tight  

One of the things you can do with a lunge is to do one with the front toes against a wall and then push the knee to the wall, or do the same with a stack of pit blocks.  Walking around and pushing down on the gymnasts arms or palms to see if their cores give in is a good idea, as well.  Just don’t push too hard until you know they are engaging those muscles.

The Body Tension – – – One of the first and best ways of creating better body tension in the gymnast is to have them lay down on their backs and then the coach picks up their feet.  As her feet are lifted she should learn to squeeze her bottom so that her body is straight as the coach holds her feet up at about 45 degrees.  At first, we have to teach the athlete to squeeze in this position after we have lifted her feet.  As we progress with this, she should learn to squeeze before we lift her, so that the body tension is there from the beginning.  This is a great way to get them to understand how tight they need to be in a handstand.  Another body tension drill is to have the gymnast lay across a gap of mats (two panel mats work fine), so that her shoulders are on one mat and her heels are on the other.  She then squeezes her bottom and tightens her body so that she creates a straight line over that gap.  We have to watch to make sure that she is not arching and pushing her hips up too high beyond the straight position.  There are lots of ways to accomplish this body tension, so be creative!

The handstand against a wall – – – I start these by doing what are called “wall-walkers”, and then progressing from there.  The “wall-walker” is done by having the gymnast place her back against a wall, and then bend over to place her hands on the floor.  She then walks her feet up the wall to arrive in a handstand.  At this point, she should walk her hands in a little closer to the wall to get as close to vertical as she can get without falling.  The goal here is for her to hold this position herself, and then have the coach poke and pull on her to get her to use her body tension to hold the handstand.  Ideally, only her toes and maybe her chin should touch the wall.  At this point, I always stress to the gymnast to grow as tall as she can, or as a friend of mine says “Grow another inch”.  There are lots of variations to this drill, including turning around and kicking up so that the back is against the wall, or doing a handstand under a bar so that the gymnast has to “grow” just to touch her toes against the front side of the bar to be able to balance herself there.  Again, be creative.

Bridges, bridges, and other shoulder flexibility – – – Remember that an ideal handstand is perfectly straight.  It is impossible to get a gymnast’s body into a straight line if she is not flexible in her shoulders.  The work must be done to create this shoulder flexibility, so that she has the opportunity to get her body into a straight line.  One easy way to do this is by having the gymnast do bridges and try to get her shoulders out past her hands.  I almost always have the gymnast do these with her feet on something that is at least as tall as her shoulders when she is in a bridge.  This takes the stress off of the lower back and puts it where it is supposed to be: the shoulders.  We also place a mat or block or something out in front of the gymnast’s chest, so that she can push up against that to stretch the shoulders.  As she becomes more accomplished at this, we move it a little further away. 

Build strength in the right places – – – I am a big believer in the fact that a gymnast can build plenty of strength just by doing a handstand and repeating it.  The potential problem with this, though, is that the gymnast can build strength in the wrong places if this handstand is repeated over and over in the wrong position.  I am reminded of one of the favorite quotes of myself and several coaches I have great respect for, “Practice does not make perfect…Practice makes permanent.”  If a gymnast repeats something over and over again, she will become incredible at WHATEVER she is practicing.  If she is practicing a bad handstand, and does it a trillion times, she will be able to hold the nastiest handstand for longer than anyone else (and we have all had this gymnast).  I am sure that you would agree that getting this gymnast to fix this problem after that much repetition is one of the most difficult things possible.  It is because she has developed strength in the wrong places for a correct handstand.  So, every time that a gymnast is doing a handstand, I am thinking to myself, “What strength is she creating right now?  Should I slow her down and have her do the handstand with a spot or against a wall, etc. to make sure she is getting the proper strength work from that handstand?”  This helps me to be more diligent about the correct strength training for the handstand.

The single leg handstand – – – This is my favorite drill for a handstand, because I think it is the most effective for getting the gymnast in the right position on her fingertips.  I have the gymnasts, when doing handstands from a lunge, do these almost exclusively when they are not doing them with a spot.  If a gymnast can “lever” up to a split (a small split) handstand, and hold that, then bringing the legs together and holding that is much easier.  My goal with these is to have the gymnast get the back leg to go up to just a little bit past vertical, and then try to balance that.  We work really hard at maintaining square hips all the way through the skill, by squeezing the same muscles as we did during the lunge.  This drill is important also, in the fact that there are too many times that gymnasts try to put their feet together too soon, and therefore never achieve vertical.  Doing the split handstand helps to guarantee that they will get the back leg through vertical first.  I continue to do these all the way up through our system (as a warm-up), including with my level 9s and 10s.  In my opinion, it makes no sense to proceed to handstands with feet together until they can master this, and hold it for 3-5 seconds nearly every time they attempt it.  After they have this mastered, I will have them still hold the split handstand for 1-2 seconds before bringing the feet together in the handstand.  I have used these progressions in the past for balance beam as well.  I’m sure that we have all felt the misery of trying to get a gymnast to get all the way up to handstand on the beam.  It is probably a little naive’ to think that they will do that if they haven’t even learned to get all the way to vertical with a split handstand first.  We must remember, I think, that bringing the feet together is, in essence, the end of the progress toward vertical.  Once they bring their feet together, they are not likely to go any higher toward complete vertical.  At that point, it is what it is.

Later on…After working these drills for a while, when moving on to doing handstands with feet together, I have another technique I use to help them learn to get their weight on their fingertips.  It involves having them get into a habit of making the handstand fall the opposite direction than the turn prior to it, if the handstand is not held for at least 5 seconds.  In other words, if a gymnast kicks up and closes her feet together and then comes back down to a lunge before holding the handstand for 5 seconds, I make sure that she understands that the next one must go over to a roll or bridge, and vice-versa.  If she continues to train with this mentality, she will eventually “find” her balance point, and have more success with holding this handstand.

This is a drill I have been doing with our level 5 gymnasts:

So, these are my ideas for training a handstand.  Please let me know what you do to help your gymnasts with this skill, or ask any questions about anything that I have written.  I promise you that all I am doing is relaying things that I have learned along the way from coaches that were kind enough to share their experience with me.  I hope to pass on that tradition through this blog.  Thank you for your time in reading this.