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2 (2008) 34-38 Article Methodological
Preparation for the handspring vault
Gateshead, United Kingdom ABSTRACT
This article provides a series of preparatory and development exercises for teaching the handspring vault. The focus is on developing tight rigid body shapes in motion that will be able to translate into effective vaulting. By dividing the vault into 6 phases : run-up, spring board contact, first flight, repulse, second flight, and landing, the vault can be taught in a progressive way to avoid injury and fear being a problem. Key Words: vaulting, front entry vaults, vault preparation, tuck on vault.
The handspring vault is an essential training and developmental vault for any gymnast. Training this vault is dependent on teaching strong body positions and correct machanics, much like most other skills. This rigidity in body positions is achieved through specific body position holds, which help to develop the gymnast understand of the correct positions and how to remain rigid under various positions. Along with proper conditioning, like any vault it is important develop all 6 phases of the vault: runup, hurdle, first flight, repulsion, second flight, landing.
12-month cycle, its recommended to build up to 3 sets x 15sec holds in these shapes as a minimum (alongside all of their other general conditioning of course) and maintaining this level across the rest of the cycle. Static One is held against a wall with the gymnast at 45 degrees or so between floor and wall. Maintaining the shape is all important and lots of physical shaping and verbal cues are required. The gymnast should aim to hold the perfect static shapes from 10sec at the start of Period 1 to 60sec by the end of Period 2 in a 4-period training cycle, maintaining this level across the rest of the cycle. Static Two is held on the floor and the requirement is the Figure 1 & 2 - (A) Dish or hollow hold same as for Static body position (B). Arch hold position. One. Gymnasts report that this is tougher; and tougher still while wearing socks on a vinyl floor mat, because the load on the abs is much greater than in Static One. Figure 3 - Passing the log. A
great exercises to develop active body tension while moving
Flexibility Flexibility is not a great requirement for the handspring vault. For the most part, we don’t want flexibility but rigidity. However, shoulder flexibility needs to be adequate to make a good handstand shape. Conditioning Because rigidity in the body is a requirement, conditioning for handspring vault is aimed at creating long, strong static shapes. Lots of dish body tension and shapping exercises are required to develop the gymnast ability to hold positions throughout a range of motion in the air. Figure 1 shows the 4 basic body positions necessary to master. The dish and arch shapes that most coaches are already familiar with and the static hold 1 and static hold 2. For a gymnast training 9-12 hours per week in Period 1 of a ©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reserved
Gym Coach Vol.2, May, 2008
W. Milburn, Gym Coach, Vol.2 (2008) 34-38 Figure 3 shows a neat little game called ‘passing the log’, in which the gymnasts work in groups of three. One gymnast is the log and the other two must pass the log between one another. The gymnast playing the log must maintain tension throughout. The gymnasts take turns to be the log and whoever scores the most passes is the winner from the group. This is great for encouraging the holding of the static shape while the body is passing through a range of motion. Figure 4 shows two variations on the Log Lift. The principle is the same as in Figure 3 but this time the coach will lift the gymnast while they maintain a static shape. In the first variation, the coach stands over the gymnast while they fix their shape, and then lifts them into handstand using their hands at the sides of the gymnast’s waist. In the second variation, the coach kneels at the side of the gymnast and lifts the gymnast into handstand Figure 4 - Log lifts using their hand(s) on the gymnast’s leg. The lower down the leg the coach lifts fromt, the harder it is for the gymnast. Along with developing the static position holds its important to create a strong shoulder shrug action for the repulsion phase. Figure 5 shows the shoulder shrug pressup, which is a push-up action with straight arms throughout and using the fast closing and opening of the shoulder blades. This is used to a great effect by former US Olympic coach Steve Nunno in his Intermediate Programme
Methodological Article know, there is never enough time, so it is important to regard this supplementary element as one that can make the difference between a mediocre handspring vault and a GREAT handspring vault. The squat-on vault is often dismissed by competitive gymnasts and coaches as too easy and not relevant to them. This assertion couldn’t be further from the truth. Taught properly, the squat-on establishes confidence with using the vaulting table and teaches the gymnast to reach, drive the heels and fix their shape whilst travelling. It can form part of a handspring vault circuit or incorporated into your regime in other ways right from day one. Figure 7 shows how the gymnast reaches long onto the table, driving the heels and allowing the body to rise past horizontal in a strong shape before they squat-on. The jump off can also be used as landing practice.
Figure 7 - Squat on vault. Notice the similarity in the pre-flight and
repulsion phase positions to the handspring vault.
Developing the Run Developing a strong, consistent run is one of the hardest things about learning the handspring vault. It is where problems often begin and it is often also the most neglected part of the training. Using chasing games like the ‘Hare and Hound” can be effective in training the gymnast run. Hare and Hound In the game of Hare and Hound, one gymnast is the hare and another is the hound. The hare gets a 10 pace head start on the hound and has to run along the track and make it to the burrow (the vaulting table) without being caught by the hound. If it is becoming too easy, reduce the head start. To prevent the gymnasts roughing each other in order to tag, you can add a concept from the game of Tag Rugby, which is to use a ribbon on the leotard or tracksuit that the hound has to snatch in order to win. One of the purposes of the Hare and Hound game for the coach is to identify problems with the run early on so that you can provide pointers when you look at the run in a more formal context. One of the biggest problems with the run is not with the legs but with the arms. Correcting Midline Drift in the Arm Action Looking at the gymnast running toward you, can you see their hands crossing the midline of the body? If so, too much of their energy is being wasted in lateral movement during the run. The gymnast will be unaware of the effect so an effective demonstration is this: Sit the gymnast on a trampoline, mini-tramp, fast track or other bouncy surface, with their legs straight out in front of - 35 -
Figure 5- Shoulder shrug
Lastly, a variation on the above is the Repulse from the Wall, shown in Figure 6. The gymnast stands just within comfortable reach of the wall on their toes and they maintain a static shape Figure 6 - Wall repulsion drill (Static One) as they fall towards the wall. On contact with the wall, they make the shrug action; re-Figure 5- Shoulder shrug press-ups bounding to their original position. It’s advised to use a padded wall, and emphasize the importance of rigidity in the body and arms at all times. Supplementary Element - The Squat On Vault The term “supplementary elements” can be mistaken for “something you can add if you have time.”. As all coaches ©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reserved
W. Milburn, Gym Coach, Vol.2 (2008) 34-38 them. Ask them to move their arms as if they were running. Pretty soon they’ll start to bounce. In a gymnast whose arms cut across the midline, they will bounce from side to side and eventually fall over in fits of giggles. Once you have that out of the way, you can ask them to start again and to move their hands, slowly at first, so that they don’t cut across the midline. This time, they will not bounce from side to side but will bounce up and down, and eventually fall over in fits of giggles... again. The point of this demo is that the arm technique changes how the body moves. Once the gymnast can see this, you are part of the way to creating a much more effective run. You can also use this technique to train the arm movement in a fun way. Another element of good technique with the arms is a strong, consistent action both backwards and forwards with the elbows. Resistance running In resistance running, the gymnasts are running with a load attached. This usually comes in the form of the coach or another gymnast trying to hold back the gymnast as they try to run. You can do this using a spotting belt, some rolled up track pants or something like a padded rope. Whatever you use, the gymnast should know that it goes around the chest and not around the waist. Putting it around the waist invariably causes the gymnast to fall too often to make the exercise useful. Developing the Attack The attack onto the springboard needs to be long and low in order to maximise the power transfer from the run. Assuming that the basics of getting onto Figure 8&9 - Springboard contact the board have been phase into first flight phase. Notice the body positions and the desired actions mastered, we need to extend the distance that the gymnast travels from the floor to the springs. We can do this by giving them a marker on the floor to jump over that is at least 8-12 inches from the bottom of the board (Figure 8). As you can see, the feet hit the board in front of the hips and the hands are back behind the hips ready for the strike. “What about the arm circle?!” This is where I depart from many other coaches in that I don’t really teach it, or if I do for some reason, I don’t tend to concentrate a great deal of effort on it. Teaching the timing of the arm circle is difficult and confusing for many young gymnasts and, in my opinion, is not strictly necessary. I prefer to teach a short range action that starts with the shape in Figure 8 and proceeds with lightening speed to the shape in Figure 9. Not only is it easier to learn at this stage, but the striking power will be more than sufficient for this vault. Developing First Flight First flight is what happens when the gymnast leaves the springboard. This was illustrated in figure 8. Some coaching points are that the gymnast should be looking ©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reserved
Methodological Article between her hands and the body should be fixed in the handspring shape. The heels drive backwards following their attack on the board, at the same time that the hands are moving to strike the vaulting table. When developing the first flight, there are a couple of spotting techniques that I tend to use. The first is shown in Figure 10 and in it the coach sits in front of a block facing the gymnast. If you’ve taught your gymnasts to run properly, this part should be at least a little scary! The gymnast runs and attacks the springboard in the manner prescribed and the coach catches the gymnast as they enter the air. From here the coach can verbally correct shapes before gently placing the gymnast’s hands onto the block behind so they are in a handstand shape. Alternatively, the coach can put the gymnast gently back onto the springboard to make any points that are not best made with the gymnast still in the air! From here the coach can verbally correct shapes before gently placing the gymnast’s hands onto the block behind so they are in a handstand shape. Alternatively, the coach can put the gymnast gently back onto the springboard to make any points that are not best made with the gymnast still in the air! Once the coach and gymnast are relatively happy with this, they can move onto spotting from the side. Figure 11 shows the coach assisting the gymnast as she leaves the board. One hand goes to the chest and the Figure 11 - Spotting method 2, for other to the legs. supporting the gymnast in the first flight phase of the handspring vault Support should be heavy at first, proceeding to light tapping of the legs to encourage the heel drive. Developing the repulse The repulse is the point at which the gymnast’s hands strike the vaulting table with the gymnast rebounding of the table. Coaches who have taught this vault before will have probably seen gymnast’s hands coming into contact with the vault and staying in contact with it for several seconds as they gently sail through the second flight phase. Of course this is not exactly what we’re looking for and it is often weakness in the repulse that is to blame. A strong repulse action comes from conditioning, good technique and .... timing! We’ve already looked at the conditioning so let’s look at technique and timing. Figure 10 - Spotting technique one used
for teaching the first flight of the handspring vault.
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W. Milburn, Gym Coach, Vol.2 (2008) 34-38 There are several drills that can be used in a circuit for developing good technique in the repulse phase. The first is the Hop to Handstand. Many coaches and gymnasts call this the “Handstand Hop” which is not only a misnomer but leads to the incorrect belief that what we’re trying to do is reach handstand and THEN hop on our hands. The action is actually a hop (or jump as it should more properly be called) INTO the handstand shape. When the hands strike the floor as in Figure 12, the body is still at an angle to the floor, somewhat similar to the angle we’ll be trying to hit the vaulting table at. Following a hard strike against the floor with the hands, Figure 12 - Hop to handstand drill. the gymnast should Notice that the hop happen before finish in the handstand, and the quick leg action handstand. In order to build a stronger action, the coach can add floor mats or splat mats for the gymnast to jump up onto, one by one and make it a competition for a group of gymnasts. The next drill is the Rebound Against a Block. It is illustrated in Figure 13. A Yurchenko block (spotting block) can be used because it provides a firm surface for the gymnast to rebound from. Something to Figure 13 - Rebounds against a block drill. be careful of with first timers to this exercise is that if they fail to retain the static shape during the strike against the block, their body can fold in the wrong direction and cause injury to the lower back. This makes it very wise to spot the action for the first two or three tries, catching the gymnast as they jump for the block and support them through the rest, insisting on a strong static shape throughout. To get the gymnast used to using a vault surface and as preparation for the next exercises on second flight, I move the handstand hop action demonstrated in Figure 11 to a box top with a springboard and crash mat as shown in Figure 14. Developing Second Flight Second Flight is that period between the repulse and the landing. It is common throughout the coaching of this part of the vault to see the gymnast making arched shapes in the body in an attempt to get the feet to the floor (and also to avoid the end of the vaulting table coming into contact ©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reserved
Methodological Article with the body). As coaches we have a responsibility here to ensure that the gymnast knows this is absolutely unacceptable, as the longer this goes uncorrected the worse the habit becomes. It is essential to spend a lot of time coaching second flight with the aid of stacked mats to give the gymnast confidence to habitually stay in shape, and to keep going back to the mats should they ever slip back into the habit of making poor shapes. The first drill is an extension of the hop to handstand using a box top. In this drill we move to hopping to flat back. Flat back is another misnomer. We actually want them to hop to a tight dished shape. The next drill involves some back work by the coach. It is a handspring off the floor toward the coach who will be kneeling. This is another scary one sometimes! The coach catches the gymnast at the waist as she handsprings over his shoulder whilst holding a tight dished shape in the body. The next exercise helps the gymnast to learn the second flight action using a yurchenko block, which is significantly less intimidating than a table vault. The gymnast performs the handspring vault, adding together all of the skills they have learned so far and can be spotted initially in first flight to give them some extra power. They repulse and hold the static dished shape that they have been working on right up to this point, landing to a flat back shape as before on the yurchenko block with a splat mat to cover it. This is shown in Figure 15. Figure 14 Handspring flat back from a spotting block
It’s now time to introduce the table vault. If it weren’t for the fact that your gymnasts have been doing the supplementary work introduced at the start of this article, they would likely now be intimidated by the table. Thus its extremely important to persevere with the squat on vault in the beginning, even if its to just get the gymnast to not be afraid at using the table. We’ll move naturally on from the last exercise and allow the gymnast to handspring to flat back onto a pile of mats at the back of the table vault. The mats need to be built up to the height of your vault, which should be set to 100cm initially. If you have any gymnasts who are still afraid of the table, cover the table with the same splat mat that you used in the last exercise. This works on the psychology of the gymnast and makes the vaulting table appear more familiar to them. Because of the increase in height from the last exercise, it is likely that you will have to spot the first flight again, at least for the first few vaults. You should be in no hurry to move on from this exercise. All of the elements should be exactly as you want them and - 37 -
W. Milburn, Gym Coach, Vol.2 (2008) 34-38 it may take a while for the gymnast to put them all together. You should be prepared to re-visit some of the individual elements as many times as necessary. However, when your gymnast is ready, it’s time to take out the mats from the back of the vaulting table. To begin with, it would be prudent to have two coaches – one to spot at the front of the vault, and one to spot at the back. The coach at the front will be wary of the gymnast having a crisis of confidence and coming back down out of a handstand. This is a wise concern. The coach at the back will be wary of the gymnast panicking as they pass handstand, forgetting the repulse, arching their back and doing all kinds of strange things. This is also a wise concern. The coach at the back will spot at the gymnast’s closest shoulder in order to avert any disasters and to give the gymnast a little more confidence for next time. It is at this point where things like the repulse get forgotten, and arching of the back happens, and it is important for the coach to nip these things in the bud as soon as possible. If the repulse is too weak to cause any lift at all, it is time to go back to drills.
Methodological Article Developing the Landing As part of their supplementary exercises, your gymnasts should have been jumping off the end of the vault into their landing shapes. Because it’s such an easy part of the whole, it is also easy for gymnasts to become neglectful of good, solid landings. It is thus paramount that to do regular landing practice from all sorts of objects beams, boxes, vaults, blocks, everything it’s possible to jump off, landing thousands of times to perfection. Its important to make the gymnast understand they need to have good landing habits, and this will help them develop those habits.
The preparation for the handspring vault can be divided into 6 stages: the run-up, the spring board attack, the first flight, repulse, second flight, and the landing. Each stage should be carefully and progressively developed using a series of basic drills and progression. One of these drill and perquisite is the squat on vault, which is a very effective method of introducing the handspring entry but at a much easier and less scary manner. The coach has to release that vaulting is only effective when the gymnast is tight. To achieve this level of preparation effective conditioning specific to the handspring vault should be regularly done.
Every care is taken to assure the accuracy of the information published within this article. The views and opinions expressed within this article, are those of the author/s, and no responsibility can be accepted by The Gym Press, Gym Coach or the author for the consequences of actions based on the advice contained herein
Address for correspondence: Milburn W, Gateshead, United Kingdom. email@example.com
REFERENCES and RECOMMENDED READINGS
©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reserved
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