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Developing the Straight Body Cast to Handstand

Developing the Straight Body Cast to Handstand

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Published by Valentin Uzunov
The straight body cast to handstand is one of the most fundamental skills on bar, its mastery is vital in order to progress to advanced bar skills. However as a skill on its own it is nothing more than conditioning exercises on bars. Its true application is in the connections to the kip. The purpose of this article is to introduce a method for teaching and developing the straight body cast to handstand, in connection to the kip. This method is a long term progressional process that can begin at any age. Progression is based on developing a cast to handstand from support that can later be connected to the kip without adjusting or changing any part of the technique. It’s essential in gymnastics to minimize the variables in any technique for it to be optimal. The more body shape changes, coordination challenges, cues a gymnast has to focus on the harder it is to learn. This method simplifies the connection between cast to handstand from support and the kip cast to handstand (with a straight body). The method presented does not offer any fast track solutions to teaching a cast to handstand; it simply illustrates a basic ideological process to developing the kip cast to handstand with a straight body.
The straight body cast to handstand is one of the most fundamental skills on bar, its mastery is vital in order to progress to advanced bar skills. However as a skill on its own it is nothing more than conditioning exercises on bars. Its true application is in the connections to the kip. The purpose of this article is to introduce a method for teaching and developing the straight body cast to handstand, in connection to the kip. This method is a long term progressional process that can begin at any age. Progression is based on developing a cast to handstand from support that can later be connected to the kip without adjusting or changing any part of the technique. It’s essential in gymnastics to minimize the variables in any technique for it to be optimal. The more body shape changes, coordination challenges, cues a gymnast has to focus on the harder it is to learn. This method simplifies the connection between cast to handstand from support and the kip cast to handstand (with a straight body). The method presented does not offer any fast track solutions to teaching a cast to handstand; it simply illustrates a basic ideological process to developing the kip cast to handstand with a straight body.

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Published by: Valentin Uzunov on Oct 31, 2010
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06/23/2013

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Gym Coach, Vol.

1 (2007) 9-14 Article

Methodological

Developing the straight body cast to handstand
Valentin Uzunov
Hataitai Gymnastics, Wellington, New Zealand ABSTRACT
The straight body cast to handstand is one of the most fundamental skills on bar, its mastery is vital in order to progress to advanced bar skills. However as a skill on its own it is nothing more than conditioning exercises on bars. Its true application is in the connections to the kip. The purpose of this article is to introduce a method for teaching and developing the straight body cast to handstand, in connection to the kip. This method is a long term progressional process that can begin at any age. Progression is based on developing a cast to handstand from support that can later be connected to the kip without adjusting or changing any part of the technique. It’s essential in gymnastics to minimize the variables in any technique for it to be optimal. The more body shape changes, coordination challenges, cues a gymnast has to focus on the harder it is to learn. This method simplifies the connection between cast to handstand from support and the kip cast to handstand (with a straight body). The method presented does not offer any fast track solutions to teaching a cast to handstand; it simply illustrates a basic ideological process to developing the kip cast to handstand with a straight body. Key Words: Uneven bars, High Bar, kip cast, bars conditioning

INTRODUCTION

The straight body cast to handstand can be a frustrating skill to teach as it can take years to develop. It’s is definitely not a skill that suits all gymnasts, but it is the preferred technique. The straight body cast to handstand is usually done out of a kip and is most suited for short, light girls, who have great planche strength. This said, there are very few gymnasts professional or otherwise, who can do a cast to handstand with a perfectly straight body throughout the whole skill. Even though a perfectly straight body is the ideal, it’s hardly ever seen done by female gymnasts. As a result, many gymnasts, including international gymnasts, choose to perform the straddle cast to handstands, or adopt an arch to handstand technique which is easier and less demanding, but lacks the virtuosity with a straight body cast. Regardless of the difficulties this skill posses to taller and heavier gymnasts, the WAG and MAG compulsory routines in most countries and the FIG prefer a straight body cast over the straddle cast to handstand. The aim of this article is to detail on method and technique to coaching and performing the straight body cast, suitable for both taller and weaker kids, that works for boys and girls. This method has been used by gymnasts for a very long time, and seems to be the method of choice by most coaches. There are variations of the technique but the principle is the same. ©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reserved

METHODOLOGY
The straight body cast to handstand is essentially an eventual progression of the basic cast. The basic cast is merely the first step in the progression that. The ultimate goal is to be able to cast to handstand from a kip (however, we will not be discussing the kip in this article). A cast to handstand from support is nothing more than a conditioning exercise for the experienced gymnast and an initiator skill for practicing skills on bar. There is no recommended age group or time period for the development of this skill that the author is aware of. It should begin to be taught from day one in the gym.

Technique
The technique prescribed in this article is illustrated in Figure 1. This cast technique is called a hecth cast to handstand, due to the hecth action. The key aspects of the technique are: • The gymnast passes through a front support position (a) that shows a straight line from toes to ears. • The hips pressing into the bar (a-b).

Gym Coach Vol.1, May, 2007

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1st Name Initial Second name of Author/s/ Gym Coach, Vol# (Year published) pages

Methodological Article

As

- Cinematic representation of Shetessa Pama performing a glide kip cast to handstand. a) Real photo sequence from a training session. b) stick figure representation of the body lines, marked by a 4 segment kinematic model (hand to shoulder, shoulder to hip, hip to knee, and knee to ankle)
Figure 1 (Figure 1) that can be used to develop the support tension and strength in order to start working on casting.

- a) Planche hold. The legs can be elevated to increase the difficulty of the exercise as well as to simulate the correct body shape at different cast heights. b) P-bar walks, can help to develop double support strength. c) Planche rocks, in order to develop the dynamic ability to hold a planche, shape. As well as to understand how to lean forward.
Figure 2 It’s vital for the gymnast to work on the planche strength from day one. Chances are that beginners will not be able to planche over the bar a great deal, This is fine, as long as the gymnast continues to work on leaning over the bar as much as possible with every cast. Its recommend that for holds the gymnast do no more then 10-15 sec and do more sets (5-7sets). Strength should be developed through repetition, rather than specific protocol prescriptions or overload. Regardless of the exercises used to develop this strength, it’s absolutely crucial that from the start the coach reinforces the necessary shape. The coach should be always making sure that the gymnast has their chest/ribs in, bellybutton pulled in, butt muscles squeezed, legs tight and stretch with the the toes pointed and a neutral head position. The final shape should be a straight line. The hardest part during this stage is for the coach to have the necessary patience to constantly adjust and remind the gymnast about their shape, without getting angry or frustrated. Especially with younger gymnasts this process will be long and tedious, but it will pay of in the end, and progress can be made fast if the same messages are repeated and gymnasts are always shaped and not allowed to learn through trial and error. The first 2-3 sessions the gymnasts should spend developing strength and learning the necessary shapes. However this can be assessed on individual basis and some kids may start working casting from day one. It just depends on their physical ability. Front support Along with working the strength and tension exercises, the gymnast can work the front support position with or without the help of the coach. The front support position is essentially a variation of a planche, but much easier to hold. The gymnast should be leaning over as far as possible (till the body is at least at a 45deg angle), with the shoulders rounded and shrugged (shoulders touching their ears). As in the planche position described above the gymnast should have their ribs/chest pulled in, bellybutton pulled in toward the spine, butt muscles squeezed, legs tight and stretched out with the toes pointed and a neutral head i position looking down at the floor. There should be - 10 -

the hips leave the bar the gymnast has a smooth curvature of the body, which starts at the thoracic and cervical region (upper back), with the heels leading (bc). The stomach muscles are pulled in tight to keeping the gymnast’s body shape relatively straight. The gymnast shoulders remain over the bar with very little movement from a-d. It’s important for the gymnast to allow their mid/lower body to rise above the shoulder before starting to open the shoulders, otherwise any shoulder opening will results in pushing them away from the bar rather than facilitating the raise of the centre of mass and thus the cast. This action is referred as a hetch action. From (d-f) the mid/lower body continues to rise, which is aided by a smooth gradual shoulder opening (extension). It is important that the shoulder angle does not open too quickly/or sharply otherwise it will push the gymnast back. It’s important that the toes do not go over an imaginary vertical line from the bar otherwise the gymnast will overarch and most likely fall over the opposite side. A general rule is that the body/hips will follow the line of the toes. From (f-g) we see that as the toes are approaching the vertical position the gymnast completely opens the shoulder angle and pulls in the chest to dish a fraction. This motion kills the momentum of the feet and hips, and it also allows the gymnast to get into a nice handstand shape that other skills can follow.

Progressions
Planche strength The first step to learning the cast is to learn a good strong front support on bar as the gymnast will pass through this position during the cast out of the kip (Figure 1 a). The front support mostly requires tension. Tension is vital in order for the gymnast to be able to lean over the bar in a balanced position and not to fall over. However the strength requirement greatly increases as the gymnast begins to cast. Thus it is important to condition the body to be able to maintain his/her shoulder planched while also maintaining tension before working the cast. The following are just a few of the possible drills/preparation exercises ©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reserved

1st Name Initial Second name of Author/s/ Gym Coach, Vol# (Year published) pages a straight line from the gymnast’s toes to the top of their head, which runs though the ankles, hips, shoulders, and ears. This is essential as the gymnast must inevitably pass through this position into a cast. The coach should always again be shaping and reinforcing shape at this stage. Once the gymnast is comfortable with holding a nice, leaned over front support, with a nice tight body shape, the gymnast can begin to work on the cast with the coaches help. Casting Action Once the gymnast is comfortable with holding a nice, leaned over front support, with a nice tight body shape, the gymnast can begin to work on the cast. The initial steps to casting are going to be slow and will require lots of spotting (especially with younger gymnast), in order for the gymnast to understand how to control the shape in a dynamic situation. However once the gymnast has a basic understanding the cast height can progress rather quickly and spotting will become minimal. A common error in casting is that the gymnast lifts the hips of the bar in order to conform to the desired shape

Methodological Article

Figure 4 - a) Staring front support position. b) The hips are relaxed and
the legs allowed to swing under the bar in order to initiate a strong leg drive. c) The gymnast kicks the legs back hard going through a front support and the mini leg drive shape until their hips lift of the bar due to the leg drive. As the cast approaches peak height the gymnast straightens out the curved shape. d) Dishing in the cast forces the gymnast to lead with the hips, and prevents the heals from leading

Figure 3 - a) Mini-leg drives on the bar in support. Ideally the
heel should rise above the bar, however this will vary depending on the gymnasts strength, front support position, etc. b) Mini-leg drives done on the floor.

(usually a hollow/dished shape). This is incorrect as it means the gymnast is cutting short the heel drive phase. This error can be related to tapping early on a long hang swing. The gymnasts learn to leg drive and simultaneously push their hips into the bar for as long as possible. To teach the gymnast how to do this, the following drills can be used (Figure 3 ‘mini leg drives’). These can be done on the bar and on the floor. These exercises teach the gymnast to press their hips into the floor or bar, and essentially strengthening the heel drive as well as shaping position b in figure 1. They should be feeling their butt and hamstring muscles really working. If they do not, than they have their stomach out, and are using their lower back muscles more than the legs (hip extensors) to do the leg lifts. The gymnast must not be allowed to just arch in their back. The mini-leg drives should be done every session in some way, and it can be progressively made harder, with external resistance such as therabands. Along with these exercise the gymnast can begin to be spotted for casts 45deg below horizontal (Figure 4). Starting in a nice tight front support, the swings their legs under the bar and into a tight pike fold over the bar with ©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reserved

straight arms. Common cues used by coaches to encourage a tight pike are: ‘kiss your knees’ see your feet in front of you’ etc. From the deep pike fold over the bar the gymnast is encouraged to drive the legs back and up as fast as possible, while pressing their hips into the bar as they leaning over. They should continue to drive their legs until their hips come of the bar at which point there will a slight smooth curve in the body from the shoulders to the toes (position b-c Figure 1). They need to ride this shape as high as it will while progressively straightening out the body by rounding the upper back as the cast is approaching its peak height. Some coaches prefer to teach a dish shape to the cast initially, but this is believed to be a mistake. As this tends to encourage hip lifting of the bar as described earlier which kill the leg drive (Figure 4).

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1st Name Initial Second name of Author/s/ Gym Coach, Vol# (Year published) pages Methodological Article Once the gymnast can cast to 45o below horizontal with good shape, the coach can comfortably begin to spot the gymnast to horizontal and above (depending on how much work the gymnast is doing). The technique is identical as what was described for the cast 45o below the horizontal. The only thing that changes is that the gymnast requires more Figure 5 - a) Planche lever ups, starting in a planche position, the
gymnast leaver/press up to handstand keeping a straight body with the coaches assistance. b) Heel drives over a horse, need to maintain a straight shape, discourage arching. c) In front support the gymnast tries to pike press up on top of the bar to a pike stand. d) From the edge of a firm raised surface the gymnast starts in mini-leg drive shape, at which point they slide their hands of the raised surface to a lower one, as they do so they need to press hips down and drive the legs up (like an arch rock). As they approach handstand they open the shoulder angle to arrive in a handstand. e) With a swiss ball placed inside an upside down box top the gymnast starts in a planche position with the tights/hips on the ball. Planching over a single rail, the gymnast begins to bounce up of the ball mimicking the cast to handstand action. Ideally bouncing up to handstand and back down.

strength and power to get a stronger and faster leg drive, whilst remaining in a balanced support. Thus the consistency in conditioning is paramount. A gymnast who is not strong or confident enough will push back during the cast in order to make the skill easier and less scary. The centre of mass should be over the hands at all times in order to remain in control/balance and to be able to come back to the bar. When the gymnast can confidently cast to horizontal on their own, they are ready to start to working on the full cast to handstand. It is possible to just go straight to doing spotted cast to handstand, but it is advised to work on doing cast to 45o above horizontal first and then to progress to the handstand for a stronger development of the cast. That does not mean the gymnast shouldn’t do spotted cast to handstands until they can cast to 45 above horizontal, it just means that greater focus should be on spotting and working cast 45o above horizontal. The cast to 45o above horizontal should be pretty much identical all the way up to position (d) figure 1, at which point the gymnast begins to dish and flatten out the shape so that by position (e) she/he is flat. The only difference between the techniques in casting to handstand and 45o above horizontal is once again the need for a little stronger leg drive which is usually just the result of better muscular coordination, and a forceful opening of the shoulder near the handstand. As the gymnast improves and starts approaching the handstand she must learn how to push down on the bar and open the shoulder angle into an extended handstand position. This action must be taught and reinforced. The shoulder angle action can be practiced and strengthened. Figure 5 illustrates just a few specific exercise/drills that can be used to strengthen and development the shoulder opening action and the full cast action. These exercises can be incorporated into the conditioning program or into the apparatus specific conditioning in order to develop the necessary strength needed to do a cast to handstand; however coaches will have to get creative eventually to - 12 -

©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reserved

1st Name Initial Second name of Author/s/ Gym Coach, Vol# (Year published) pages Methodological Article progressively increase the difficulty of each exercise. For ‘magical’ method for teaching this skill without first best results perform regular exercises regularly as spending a considerable amount of time developing the apparatus specific conditioning or least 3 times a week, base strength and coordination/timing of this skill. with at 1 days rest in-between. Not all exercises have to do be done but at least one that involves support/planche There are few variations of the techniques prescribed in strength, shoulder extension, and at least 1 that involves this article which are all acceptable which present their the leg drive. unique challenges and advantages but are considered by the author as inferior due to their less aesthetic appealing Once the gymnast is casting with a spot to handstand, the look. The technique presented has been used by elite gymnast can connect the cast to handstand from a kip or gymnasts for many years and is still the current technique drop kip. The technical execution of the kip is essential for of choice for most high level gymnasts (based on successful execution of the skill, however if the kip is observation of recent world cup, world championships, taught properly than with the following method of casting and Olympics). The benefits of using this technique are the gymnast should easily be able to learn how to cast to that it is the aesthetically appealing, it can be performed handstand in a short period of time. The gymnast should with good success by gymnasts of all sizes and it is easily be spotted for at least 10 (well technically executed) cast to performed out of a kip. handstand’s out of a kip each session during the learning process, which can easily be added to the regular The kip straight body cast to handstand is clearly made up conditioning of the gymnast so they practice this even of of two separate skills (a kip and a straight body cast). Like day when they don’t do bar. any skill combination the first skill in the combination sets up the entry into the second on. However like in most skill The only other fact aside from the strength and technical combinations success performance is usually pendent on understanding and execution left to consider is the fear the performer being able to perform both skills factor. For most gymnasts there will be an element of fear, individually. Thus for the gymnast to be able to straight which the coach has to try and alleviate by making the body cast to handstand out of a kip he/she must first be gymnast feel safe. This can be done by doing the proper able to cast from support to handstand. progression and not rushing to quickly to get to handstand, as well as having adequate matting, and teaching the Essentially this is a skill that is predominantly developed gymnast how to fall correctly out of the cast if they happen through many repetitions with the assistance of the coach. to go over. The recommended method is to twist out of the One of the reasons for this is because it is quite hard to handstand rather than arching over. This is because of the overload the athlete during the progressional stages, in blind landing in going over arched which poses a greater order to allow for faster strength development. The risk of injury. common use of ankle weights and weight vests to overload usually do not seem to work very well because they alter the center of gravity of the gymnasts and thus alter the biomechanics of the skill, or the weight progression is DISCUSSION simply too much. Successful and quick teaching of this skill The straight body cast to handstand is one of the more is greatly dependent on numbers (of cast to handstand difficult basic skills that the young gymnast will start with assistance and or independently), and specific learning from early on. It can take several years to develop, conditioning exercises that the coach can progressively as it does take a considerable amount of strength, balance overload to try and make up for the lack of specific skill and muscular coordination to be able to efficiently perform overload. this skill. To the authors knowledge there is no one

CONCLUSIONS
The straight body cast to handstand is a fundamental skill that every intermediate and higher level gymnast should/must learn. The skill can be frustrating to teach and learn as it takes a lengthy period of time due to difficulties in progressional overloading of the actual skill. The method present in this article acknowledges that this skill can and in most cases will take at least 1-2 years to teach (on regular training hours for a beginner) and thus the method starts by developing the smaller cast to lead into a higher cast. The method is dependent on the progressional use of supplementary conditioning exercises to develop the gymnasts strength in the ©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reserved shoulder flexion (opening the shoulders angle), hip extension (heel drive), body tension. It will take many spotted straight body cast to handstand before the gymnasts develops the confidence, strength, and timing to be able to perform the skill on their own. A common practice by high level coaches is to regularly spot to straight body casts to handstand from support in order to constantly monitor the shape and execution of this. This is highly recommended approach to developing and maintaining the straight body cast to handstand.
Every care is taken to assure the accuracy of the information published within this article. The views and opinions expressed within

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1st Name Initial Second name of Author/s/ Gym Coach, Vol# (Year published) pages
this article, are those of the author/s, and no responsibility can be

Methodological Article

accepted by The Gym Press, Gym Coach or the author for the consequences of actions based on the advice contained herein

Address for correspondence: Valentin Uzunov, Hataitai Gymnastics, Wellington, New Zealand. valentin.uzunov@gmail.com.

©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reserved

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