Back to the Basics: Bettering your Gymnastics

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Every coach can agree that the basics make a strong foundation for a child’s gymnastics career. Though we all agree that the basics are so important, we can’t all say that we revisit them as much as we should. What we don’t understand is that the basics skills are always found in the higher level skills we are teaching our gymnasts. The basics of gymnastics can be defined as:

  1. Handstand
  2. Splits
  3. Cast
  4. Straight jump on vault
  5. Walking on beam

If you noticed there is one skill highlighted from each category of: floor, flexibility, bars, vault, and beam. Throughout this article we will discuss the importance of each skill. There is a video to demonstrate the skill for your convince.


1. Handstand

The handstand is a skill that is going to help your gymnast on all four events found in gymnastics (floor, beam, bars, and vault). You will see a handstand shape when you do giants on bars, back handsprings on floor, front handsprings on vault, and simple dismounts on beam. It is important to master a handstand before moving onto the more difficult skills because without it you will find that the higher level skills will be sloppy and very hard to master. Points of emphasis when teaching a handstand are as follows:

  • The gymnast starts and ends in a clean lunge shape.
  • Their hands stretch out in front of their foot.
  • the body is in a clean and hollow shape.
  • Gymnast levers in and out of the skill.

2. Splits

Just like the handstand, the split is something you’ll need for each event. Splits are focused on when discussing the flexibility aspect in gymnastics. Once a gymnast masters their splits you will notice improvement in their leap passes on floor and beam, their run on vault, and monkey giants on bars.  When correcting and teaching a child to do the splits focus on:

  • Both legs of the gymnast are tight and straight.
  • Their toes are pointed.
  • The gymnasts hips are squared.
  • One hand on each side of the split.

3. Cast

Casting is a skill that is normally only found on bars. Having a clean tight shape while casting however can also benefit you on other events primarly because it strengthens your body. If you have a strong cast, it will help improve many of your more advanced bar skills such as your cast handstand, glide kip cast above horizontal, or even clear hips. The key things to remember when teaching a child how to cast are:

  • The gymnast needs to have their shoulders over the bar.
  • From the “c shape” the gymnast need to drive her hamstrings to a hollow body shape.
  • Remember that the legs and arms should remain straight with pointed toes.

4. Straight Jump on Vault

Normally the straight jump onto an elevated surface is the very first skill a gymnast will learn on the vault. Just like the past skills we talked about in this article, a straight jump is vital in the success a gymnast will have with future skills. When doing a handstand flat back or a front handspring the gymnast will have to pass through the stages of a straight jump in order to be successful with the skill. Failure to show a straight jump into the skill will lead to failure in higher skills. When doing a straight jump onto vault make sure to remember:

  • The gymnasts feet need to be in front on the board.
  • The body needs to be in a tight and hollow shape.
  • Make sure to arm circle and punch through your toes.

5. Waking on Beam

Being able to walk on a beam is sometimes considered a given, but what most coaches forget about is that walking will help their gymnast in numerous ways. Being able to walk on the beam will build the gymnasts confident on the event. It will also help them find their sense of balance which is very important for upper level skills. The walks you can go over daily are flat foot, releve, and kicks. The aspects which you can focus on are:

  • The gymnast is in a good shape with their chin up.
  • Their legs remain straight.
  • Their arms are in your desired position.

If you go back to the basics every now and then, you will see a drastic change in the higher level skills you are teaching. For even more basics found in the sport of gymnastics check out foundational positions and movements of gymnastics.

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