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2 (2008) 25-33 Article
The front somersault: technical breakdown and training
Hataitai Gymnastics, Wellington, New Zealand ABSTRACT
The front tuck somersault is a fundamental skill taught early on in a gymnast’s career. Mistakes in the teaching process will have long lasting consequences as engrained errors will be hard to fi ! and will also lead to poor skill transfer. The common approach to teaching the somersault is usually through a trial and error approach! with little time spent on shaping or working the intricate details to the skill. "n this article the understand # teach model is used to analyze the front tuck somersault. $rom this analysis a series of drills are used for teaching the somersault with focus on the critical phases. The critical phases for the front somersault! like any somersault! are the approach! take%off! rotation! and landing. "ts is believed that its advantageous to teach each phase separately! so that the gymnast can gain appreciation for the importance of each phase! and understand the correct sequence of events. &nce all phases are understood and learned they are combined to train the front somersault. The focus is on transferring a front somersault from a rebound surface to the floor. 'areful and progressive progression is ideal! in order for the gymnast to be able to transfer the correct technique from one apparatus to the other. Key Words( front tuck! take%off! understand%teach model! front tumbling! punch front
The front somersault in a tuck position )aka front tuck* is regarded by many coaches as a +fundamental skill’ and it is usually taught first in sequence of front somersault skills! however this is usually because routine necessity or gymnast ability rather than because it’s ideal. Many coaches prefer to teach a front pike or front layout before a tuck. The common progressions taken to teaching this skill are quite basic and reply heavily on repetition! and trial and error. ,ittle consideration is usually paid to shaping this skill. -ven though former trial and error method can be effective in teaching the somersault! it does pose several limitations which hinder the progresses of this skill and its application to other skills. .ecause of the fundamental nature of this skill its important to teach it correctly so that it can transferred to other apparatus! and so that it can safely develop into multiple somersaults. The following article uses a modified version of the +understand → teach’ model )/0* detailing one
possible method to teaching the front somersault on the floor. .y using the understand → teach model to analyse the skill a holistic view of the front somersault is presented.
METHODOLOGY Drills and Pro ressions
The teaching process is divided into two phases( 1hase / aims to develop the correct shaping and orientation for the
somersault and phase 2 focuses entirely on the take%off. .oth phases can and ideal should be taught at the same time! but not combined until the coach is confident that the gymnasts is able understand the correct body shape! and the importance of the take%off.
Phase 1 - Shaping and Rotation The following e ercises are helpful in developing the necessary tuck shape and understanding of how to get into the position correctly. Shaping )Table /* /. 3esisted trunk fle ion )$igure /* 2. 3esisted ,eg curls )$igure 2* 4. 5ish tuck e tensions )$igure 4* 6. Tuck over rail )$igure 6* The purpose of these drills is to strengthen and coordinate the key muscle groups and actions in performing the tuck position.
©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reser ed
Gym !oach "ol.2# $ay# 2008
V. Uz !o", Gym Coach, Vol.2 (2008) 25-33 TABLE 1 ! S"a#in E$er%ises Figure 1 % 7tarting by holding on
to a bungee8elastic like a theraband! the gymnast pulls the bungee downwards by rounding her back! and pulling in the chest! trying to maintain an open hip position for as long as possible. The motion should be fast with ma imal range of motion. $rom the contraction the gymnast slowly return to the starting position. 2%4sets of /0 reps is recommended.
actions and shapes the gymnast should start working on basic orientation drills )Table 2*( /% Table drop into to ; front tuck to backdrop to stand )on trampoline* )$igure <* # 2% $rom standing =ump ; front to backdrop to feet )on trampoline* )$igure >* 4% $orward roll off elevated surface to land )$igure ?* TABLE 2 & Orien'a'ion E$er%ises
# 7tart by laying crossways over a pommel. The gymnasts ankle are tied with an elastic )theraband is good* attached to an anchor point! or the coach. 9ithout arching the gymnast strongly fle es the knees and drives his8her butt upwards! than slowly returns to the start. 2% 4 7ets of /0 reps is recommended.
% 7tarting in a half hollow8dish shape with the arms as far back as the gymnast can handle! the gymnast quickly and simultaneously draws the knees towards his chest and he8she reaches for the shin and lifts the shoulders to meet the knees in doing so assuming a tuck position. The gymnast than quickly returns to the staring position. The gymnast should grab the middle of the shins on each repetition and focus on opening back to the correct staring positon. 2%4 sets of /0 reps.
%abo#e' # $rom a small bounce the gymnasts initiates the rotation on the take%off through a small heel drive and not by leaning forward)/%2*. "f the gymnast does the heel drive on take%off they will initiate the flip at which point they can drop the arms down! contract through the chest and fle the knees to continue the leg and butt lift landing in a table drop )4%6*. &n rebound the gymnast drive the hips and legs over his8her head! without pushing of the hands and flips over on his8her back maintaining the correct tuck position and than bounces up to stand still maintaining the round back position )<%?*. This drill requires that the gymnast understand the table drop position. "t teaches them to stay round! and initiate the flip from the legs not the shoulders.
- The gymnast starts in an extended position with their hips resting on the bar, and the coach holding onto their ankles. n the coaches mark the gymnasts !lexes his"her knees a o#er his"her head while sim$ltaneo$sly contracting and ro$nding thro$gh the chest and back. The coach helps with the direction o! the legs and he"she m$st maintain the position o! the ankles as in the pict$re %&' in order to the gymnast not to !all o!! the bar. This drill is done in sets o! abo$t (-), with emphasis on correct t$cking mechanics. Note* The coach m$st constantly hold the gymnast ankles to sec$re them toe bar .
rientation :t the same time that the gymnast is working on the body ©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reser ed
This drill is a progression to the drill shown in +ig$re (. The !oc$s o! this drill is to teach the gymnast to the importance o! !$lly stretching thro$gh the legs on take-o!!. This will probably take time, and will need to a matter o! con!idence. The coach can slide in a so!t mat also. ,t is important that the gymnast extend thro$gh the legs in order to initiate the rotation !rom the legs. Witho$t !$ll leg extension high and rotation is compromised. Figure 7 # This drill teaches helps to teach the rotation into landing as well as special orientation. The key here is to help the gymnast develop the blind landing! and understand how to open out of the tuck to land. The gymnast should have a crash mat to land on to prevent in=ury and ensure a safe training environment. Teach the spotting coming out of the roll. 7hape
Figure 6 -
% 2' %
V. Uz !o", Gym Coach, Vol.2 (2008) 25-33
Methodological Article the shaping drills. The main form of orientation training is now developed by doing the somersaults spotted and independently. "ts preferable to spot the gymnast on rebound surfaces from only / =ump8hop to punch front onto a leveled landing surface. This forces the gymnast to have work of technique rather have the momentum to carry them over. 7omersaults should never be worked down hill )so that that the landing surface is lower then the take%off surface. .etter for the gymnast too keep landing on their butt on a leveled surface than to their feet on the lower surface. &nce the coach is confident the gymnast is safe to perform the somersault on their own they can step away! or slowly and gradually reduce the spot until the coach is only shadow spotting. :t this stage most gymnasts will probably still not be able to perform a perfect somersault! as they will need to go through a confidence developing period! where technique is not the dominant focus! however the transition does improve very quickly as they get confident. &nce the gymnast is proficient at doing the somersault on the raised surface off a trampoline or double mini! they can start doing it off a springboard. The drill of choice to work the somersault of the springboard is a simple hurdle of bo top )or any elevated surface* to the springboard into a front tuck onto a >0cm mat. The coach should initially spot for the gymnast to develop the confidence again! but once again should aim to move away when the gymnast is safe. The leg power and take%off mechanics will be the main factor to their success. They need to learn the correct =oint and muscular activation patterns on a take%off )e plained in more detail in discussion*. They must learn to feel a complete stretch on their take%off! and not to rush into a somersault. This is the most common error! that ma=ority of gymnast will do. The length of time devoted to this stage depends on the individual gymnast. 1owerful! and well orientated gymnast will quickly advance to doing this drill successfully! slower! and less well coordinated gymnast will spend longer. 5o not rush to take the somersault to the floor! of as a coach you risk regression in progress! and in=uries. Taking it to the !loor &nce the gymnast is proficient at doing the somersault off the spring board to an elevated surface it is safe to introduce the somersault on the floor. :t this point the physical preparation of the gymnast will be the key determinant to how quickly the gymnast can transfer the skill to the floor. The muscle activation timings! and power needed to do the somersault off the floor is different to the springboard so transfer of the skill may not be immediate! however it won’t take very long. 7imilar drills done earlier in the training can be used to train the transfer of the somersault from the springboard % 2( %
once again is vital
Phase 2 – The take-off and Somersault Take-o!! This phase can be considered as the most critical! and the most difficult to master. The success of the somersault is mostly dependent on the take%off The first step to learning the take%off correctly is to work on straight =umps. The use of rebound surfaces is ideal at the start! like a double mini! a trampoline! tumble track! a spring board ect! especially first stages of this phase. The gymnast should aim to be able to do a straight =umps onto a >0cm stack of mats of the springboard! and up to @0cm off the double mini. This helps to develop the gymnast take%off and set. "t also ensures that the gymnast has enough spring of the board to successfully safely perform the somersault. &nce is able to achieve this! they safely add the somersault off their take%off! but it won’t be necessarily as good as it could8should be. :chieving a >0cm straight =ust suggests the potential but does not guarantee immediate success. : punch%=ump into the somersault is prefered )arms up over the head*! over a 3ussian lift. -ven though a 3ussian lift technical can be =ust as effective for the single somersault )on the floor not the springboard or double mini*. The downfalls to the 3ussian lift technique is that rotation is not optimized! the arm action has to developed and taught! eventually the over arm technique will need to be introduced for consecutive somersaults! and it does not work for somersaults )front* out of bounding skills such as handsprings! flyspings! layouts. The hurdle into the take%off is similar to vault! as in they both are dependent on run%up speed! long and flat! rather then high and short. Aowever in the somersault the take% off has to be more upright! than on vault! as height has to be ma imized as opposed to rotation! especially for single somersaults. $ocus should be directed on the hurdle! entry and take%off during all stage of training. &nce again the reader is remained that the success of the somersault will be largely dependent on the dynamics and mechanics of the take%off. The Somersa$lt &nce the gymnast has understood how to initiate rotation and is capable of the a good take%off from the springboard! the two actions can be combined! to perform the full somersault of off the double mini or tramp and off a springboard. :t this stage it is important to continue with ©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reser ed
V. Uz !o", Gym Coach, Vol.2 (2008) 25-33 to the floor! however this time the gymnast has to rebound off the floor instead of the springboard. 3elatively low height )about /0%20cm* depth =ump to punch front is a good transitional drill! along with punch fronts to elevated surface )start with 40cm than raise to >0cm*. "ts important that the gymnast does not do e cessive amounts of drills and somersaults per session on the floor! as overuse in=uries can easily occur. 7tart with a low number like /0% /< per session! and slowly and gradually increase the volume )by 4%< per month*. 9hen training of this skill overuse in=uries such as &sgood%7chlatter 7yndrome! compartment syndrome! shin splints! 7evers disease etc can occur by doing to much to soon. "f a gymnast who is =ust transferring a front somer% sault to the floor cannot accomplish the task in /0 attempts then its quiet likely that he8she wont be any better on the //th or 20th attempt. 7lowly and progressively is the best approach to prevent in=uries and keep trainings effective. -rror .etection, /a$se, and /orrections .y far the biggest cause for error is lack of physical preparation. : gymnast unable to effectively rebound of the floor is fighting an uphill battle. The best solution is to ad=ust the leg training to included more rebounding focused e ercises. This is best achieved through plyometric training with a focus on rebounding. The second biggest error is in the hurdle and essentially the take%off. Most younger gymnast do not understand that a high hurdle is not effective. "ts is vital that the coach always pays attention to the hurdle and ensures that this action is always correct. Buite often as the gymnast impacts the floor following the hurdle their knees will buckle a little which will affect the take%off significantly. This is once again solved with proper conditioning such as hurdle punch =umps! and correct feedback. ,eaning forward on the take%off is another common error that can be the result of several common problems /% ,ack of leg power! and thus a long amortization phase. 2% 9eak core strength! which hinders the gymnast from maintaining an upright posture during the take%off phase. 4% 1oor hurdle mechanics % : gymnast with a high and short hurdle will usually end up leaning forward. The solutions are quite obvious based on the discussion in the article! but sometimes indentifying the cause is not as simple. This of course also leads to a rushed somersault with no set. 7low rotation is almost always the result of gymnast pulling the knees into the chest on take%off! and not initiation the rotation from the heels on the take%off. This is solved by practice and conscious effort by the gymnast to understand and feel this action during the take%off. Inden'i(y C Whole Skill )$igure D* C 'ritical 1hases # o :pproach )3un and hurdle* o Take%off o 3otation o ,anding
Figure 8 - 7equence photography e
ample of an ideal front somersault. The e ample used is a front somersault walkout! hence why no landing is shown. This is an ideal e ample of the first 4 critical phases )approach! take%off! rotation*. 1erformed by ,ilia 1odkopayeva. )ie* +ideo
Bio,e%"ani%s C 0echanics o! ,deal 0odel The 2 most significant biomechanical factors for ideal performance of a front somersault! is the vertical velocity of the 'enter of Mass )'oM* and the angular momentum about the 'oM on take%off. ,ets e amine how these factors can be optimized. The front somersault starts from a run up which serves as a means of building up horizontal momentum and kinetic energy )$igure D :%-*. The amount of horizontal velocity generated correlates to the success of the performance. -ssentially the faster the run up! the greater the potential for a well performed somersault. :n e ample to illustrate this is consider how much harder it is to do a single somersault from / step or =ust from a hop! as opposed to being allowed a run%up. There is little the coach can do over a short period of time to improve the speed of the run%up! as this is highly dependant on the predominance of muscle fiber characteristics of each individual gymnast! motor response! and natural ability which will only improve with regular training. Aowever this should be an area to develop as the athlete progresses. $ollowing the run up there is a +hurdle phase’! where as the gymnast is running! he8she =umps from one foot to land to two in preparation for the take%off )$igure D -%"*. ,ike in vaulting this is a critical phase for the correct and optimal e ecution of the skill. The hurdle serves two purposes( /%To conserve as much horizontal momentum going into the take%off 2%To optimize the entry and take%off body position
©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reser ed % 28 %
V. Uz !o", Gym Coach, Vol.2 (2008) 25-33 "deally the hurdle will be relatively long and flat )$igure @* finishing with both feet in front of gymnast knees! hips! and shoulders! with the trunk being as upright as possible! and arms by ears )refer to $igure D! A*. This is the most efficient way to preserve horizontal momentum going into the take%off phase and optimize the take%off position. "t is very important to preserve the horizontal momentum because it will help with reducing ground contact time by aiding with proper utilization of elastic muscle properties
Methodological Article time from landing to take%off. The length of this phase is critical. The shorter the amortization phase! the greater potential for force production during the concentric phase )/0*. This is due to the +stretch%refle ’! and hence why a short long hurdle is desired! as it can help in reducing the amortization phase time. $inally following the amortization phase there is the concentric phase! which is the voluntary force production phase! seen as the rebound. The effectiveness of this phase is dependant on the pre% stretch )on the amount of elastic energy stored*! the effectiveness of the stretch%refle )which is dependant on a length of amortization! and the amount of elastic energy stored*! muscle fatigue! and muscle fiber type. There are other physiological principles to consider as well! but in order to illustrate the importance of the stretch%shorten cycle these will not be discussed. The second important concept for coaches to understand is that the vertical velocity of the body’s 'oM on take%off depends on the gymnasts mass and vertical impulse e erted during take%off. The vertical impulse is equal to the sum of all the vertical forces! and the time for which they act. These vertical forces are! in turn the result of muscular actions! associated with the movement of the gymnast’s arms! trunk! and legs. )@*. "n mechanical terms this is known as the impulse%momentum relationship written as F$Gt H mGv )/0*. The left hand side of the equation is the impulse which as stated before is the product of a force )if not constant then the average* multiplied by the duration of that force! and the right hand side represents the linear momentum! which is the product of the mass of an ob=ect )in our case a gymnast* and the change in linear velocity over that time period )acceleration*. This is a key relationship! as it is the basis for e plaining and modifying technique for many tasks8skills )/0*. 7imply stated the impulse%momentum relationship means that if we want to change the velocity of an ob=ect )which is almost always the goal of any skill technique*! we can produce a larger change in velocity
by either applying a greater average net force on the ob=ect or by increasing the time during which the net force acts )/0*. $igure // illustrates the key forces at play during the take%off.
Figure 9 - The estimated pathway o! the /o0 based on !ig$re 1. The
height o! the /o0 is relati#ely e#en d$ring the r$n $p %2--', !ollows by a slight raise d$ring the h$rdle %--H', b$t clearly ill$strating the long and low h$rdle. n to$ch-down, !ollowing the h$rdle, the /o0 drops a little as the gymnast knees bend a little, b$t then raises sharply d$ring the take-o!! %H-,', reaching a peak height %3' d$ring the !light phase.
on take%off. This is important to consider because the hurdle can be trained and optimized much faster and easier then an individual’s physiology! and without a proper body position on entry on the take%off the actual take%off will never be ideal! regardless of the gymnasts physiology. The take%off is illustrated in $igure /0 )or $igure D A%"*. " it is important to understand the mechanics of the take%off because this is the key determinant phase to the success of the somersault )?*.
Figure 10 - : sequential photography e
ample that illustrates the ideal approach! hurdle!take%off position. 1erformed by ,ilia 1odkopayeva during her compulsory floor routine at the /@@> &lympic Eames in :tlanta "''#-..***/yo0'01e/%o,.*a'%"2
:s the gymnast
There are 2 key concepts coaches need to understand and be aware of regarding to the take%off. The first one is to point out that the rebound out of the hurdle is not an instantaneous action. There are in fact 4 distinct phases. The first phase is the pre%stretch )eccentric muscle contraction! aka lengthening phase*! second is the amortization phase! and third is the contraction )concentric muscle contraction! aka shortening phase* )D*. These phases constitute what is known as the stretch% shorten cycle. 5uring the pre%stretch phase elastic energy is stored in the muscle%tendon structures as they are rapidly stretched. The pre%stretch is then followed by the amortization phase. This phase represents the turn around ©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reser ed
impacts the floor out of the hurdle he8she applies a forward and downward force to the floor! which in return e erts an upward )$/* and backward )$2* forces on the gymnast in accordance with Iewtown’s 4rd law )/0*. 9hen there are two forces acting in
Figure 11 - ,ll$strated
diagram o! the key !orces at play d$ring a take-o!!. +4 is the Gro$nd 5eaction +orce, +6 is the !rictional !orce between the gymnasts !eet and the gro$nd. + is the res$ltant !orce o! +4 and +6. T is the tor7$e or t$rning !orce, which is the #rod0%' o( 7
$ r/ G is '"e y,nas' %en'er o( ,ass/ M1 is the gymnast vertical momentum on take-off, M2 is the hor ontal momentum, and MR is the resulant mometum of M1 and M2
different directions through the same point! sometimes its easier to =ust add these forces together to produce a resultant force J$K which represents the effect of the both these forces. 7ince this resultant force does not act through the center of gravity JEK rotation is produced. The biomechanical term for this rotary effect that occurs is % 2) %
V. Uz !o", Gym Coach, Vol.2 (2008) 25-33 JtorqueK )T*. The turning effect )torque* is the product of $ and the perpendicular distance between the direction of $ from E )ie. r*. This can be written as T H $ r. This is important to know because it illustrates how rotation can be affected =ust by the position of the body on take%off. "n order to be able to have both ma imal vertical velocity of the 'oM! and rotation on take%off )without leaning to far forward* it is thus critical to be able to ma imize $. "ncreasing r to increase rotation is usually never a good idea! as it means the height of the somersault will be reduced. M/ is the vertical momentum on take%off! which is directly proportional to the impulse of $/. $/ is largely dependant on the net muscular forces e erted by the gymnast on the ground during the +concentric phase’ of the stretch%shorten cycle! and the ground reaction force as a result of impact with the floor and ground properties )sprung surface* following the hurdle. M2 is the horizontal momentum generated from the run up. $2 is the frictional force between the gymnast’s feet and the floor! which acts to slow him8her down )horizontally* )?*. $or the gymnast to be able to take%off upright and +set’ into their somersault! it requires that they resist this horizontal momentum on impact with the floor. &n take%off =ust prior to the gymnast’s feet leaving the floor it’s imperative that the gymnast has completely e tended8stretched through the ankles! knees and hips! as well as arms and shoulders )as in shoulders to ears* with the head in a neutral position looking straight ahead )>*. This e tension aids the vertical velocity of the 'enter of Mass )'oM* and the angular mo% mentum about the 'oM on take%off by enhancing the time of force application and the direction of force application. This leads to greater vertical and angular impulses and greater potential reduction in rotational inertia when the tuck occurs )faster rotation! from long body to short*
Methodological Article &nce the gymnast’s feet leave the ground he8she can only slow down or speed up his8her rotation! but no longer has any ability to influence the tra=ectory of their 'oM )the peak height that the gymnast’s 'oM will reach during the somersault is at this stage predetermined*. To ma imize rotation at this point the gymnast can change his8her body conformation to a tuck! or pike position. The way the gymnast assumes the tuck or pike position is critical in order to optimize rotation and performance. :s the feet leave the floor the gymnast contracts through the chest and simultaneously roll his8her back over his8her head while lifting8driving her butt and legs )which are simultaneously fle ing at the knees and hips* upward and over )$igure /2*.
- ,ll$stration o! the correct take-o!! into the t$ck position. Notice the !$ll extension on the take-o!!, with the contraction o! the chest %4' !ollowed by a li!t o! the hips. Notice that the knees are not p$lling into the chest, b$t rather the hips li!ting o#er the head with the chest and sho$lders trying to catch $p the knees.
:t the same time the gymnast’s shoulders! arms! and head! are reaching around for the shins )refer to the $igure /2! and D with accompanying video*. :s one of my gymnasts said its Jlike a dog chasing its tail between its legsK. This method of tucking is a result of part take%off biomechanics! and part conscious effort by the gymnasts. The same method applies for a pike front somersault e cept the legs are held straight. The tuck position should be as tight as possible! with the arms grabbing to middle of the shins and actively pulling the legs closer to the body. The knees and ankles should be together ideally! but a small knee separation may be beneficial in spotting the landing! and a good in=ury preventative technique when first learning the somersault. :s the gymnast is rotating! his8her eyes should be open. "n doing so he8she is able to receive as many spatial orientation cues as possible and thus more likely to time the opening of the somersault correctly. The timing of the opening is dependant on the speed of rotation and the peak height achieved during the somersault. "deally the somersault should open appro imately as the back of the gymnast is parallel to the floor. The legs are stretched forward and downward quickly in anticipation for the landing! while continuing to rotate the shoulders forward )a common mistake to be avoided is the head being left behind! usually fi ed by asking the gymnast to focus on a large visual cue ahead of them*. The ball of the foot should make contact with the ground first )slightly in front of the rest of the body! which is still rotating*! followed
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% *0 %
V. Uz !o", Gym Coach, Vol.2 (2008) 25-33 immediately by a resisted lowering of the heels down to the floor )not collapsing onto them* followed by a slight bending of the knees to absorb the impact of the landing. "t is equally important to maintain a tight core musculature )around the abdomen* as well in order to resist the rotating effect of the upper body upon landing Body A%'ions "t’s important to clearly identifying the muscle group8s and the corresponding types of muscle contractions during the most critical phase of the skill in order to effectively prescribe a specific training program for each critical phase. The following table outlines the predominant muscle groups involved in the performing the somersault during each phase! and their actions. TABLE 3 – Body Actions t !"e Take-off Loint :ction 1rimary movers
:nkle 1lanterfle ion :nkle dorsifle ion Mnee $le ion Mnee - tension Aip fle ion Aip e tension Tibialis anterior Aamstrings Buadriceps 3ectus femoris! Eluteus Aamstrings Ma imus! eccentric eccentric concentric eccentric )isometric8con% centric* Eastrocnemius and soleus
abdominus! - ternal and "nternal &blique abdominal! Transversus abdominis
Body A%'ions C 8otential ,n9$ries and 8re#entati#e 0eas$res The potential for in=ury during any somersault skill should not be overlooked! particularly on front somersaults which have blind landings. .ased on epidemiological studies of gymnastic in=uries )primarily in 9:E! but also relevant to M:E* the knees and ankles are the most common sites of in=ury )//!/2*! followed by the lower back )/2*. "n=uries are often the result of poor landings on dismounts or tumbling )/2*. The common types of in=uries at these sites are( internal knee derangement! anterior cruciate ligament damage ):',*! or in=ury to the e tensor mechanism )//!/2*! ankle ligament sprain )most often inversion8planter fle ion*! :rchilles tendinitis )//!/2*! and spinal compression in=uries )/2*! most often the result from poor landings. 9hen you consider that the forces at the ankles on take%offs and landings range from <.0 to /?.< times a gymnast body weight )/2* it is not hard to understand why the ankles! knees and spine are particularly at risk.
Type of 'ontraction
Rotation Loint :ction
7houlder fle ion Trunk $le ion
,atissimus 5orsi! 1ectoralis Ma=or 3ectus abdominus! - ternal and "nternal oblique abdominal! transversus abdominis 'oracobrachialis! :nterior fibers of 5eltoid Aamstrings Eluteus Ma imu Buadricepts Eastrocnemius and soleus -rector 7pinae( "liocostalis! -rector 7pinae ,ongisimus! -rector 7pinae 7pinalis 'oracobrachialis! :nterior fibers of 5eltoid
Type of 'ontraction
concentric concentric8iso% metric concentric concentric "sometric8con% centric 'oncentric 'oncentric 'oncentric
'ervical fle ion Mnee fle ion Aip - tensi Mnee e tension :nkle 1lanterfle ion Trunk - tension
+mmediate ,re entati e measures recommended in literature are the use of braces or ,ro,hylactic ta,e during trainings and if ,ossible com,etitions# use of a,,ro,riate matting# and the im,lementation of safety measures -.2/. This is ,articularly recommended for gymnasts with a history of ankle s,rains# and knee in0uries -.2/. 1owe er it2s also im,ortant to consider im,lementing an in0ury ,re ention ,rogram. The following are 0ust a few ,ossible e3ercises that could be im,lemented at the end or beginning of any leg ,rogram4conditioning -e en though it is ideal to include these e3ercises with a leg ,rogram it is not mandatory# as long as these e3ercise are done regularly and in suitable cases o erloaded carefully and progressively*(
/% Toe 5rags 2% 1rogressive landing heights from waist height up to 20% 40 cm higher then shoulder height )-mphasis on good landing mechanics* 4% :nkle rotations 6% 9alking with everted and inverted feet <% :chilles fle ibility and stretching >% :nkle inversion and eversion isometric holds ?% $le ion e tension with theraband Cri'i%al P"ases The Take- !! "n actions such as take%offs where time of force application is limited! the predominant physiological factors % *. %
7houlder e tension
!anding Loint :ction
:nkle 1lanterfle ion Mnee fle ion Trunk e tensors N fle ors
Eastrocnemius and soleus Buadricepts -rector 7pinae ,ongisimus! -rector 7pinae 7pinalis! 3ectus
Type of 'ontraction
eccentric eccentric "sometric
©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reser ed
V. Uz !o", Gym Coach, Vol.2 (2008) 25-33 determining performance is the rate and firing frequency of the appropriate motor units and the muscle fiber characteristics )6*. There is very little if anything that can be done about the make up of the muscle fiber type within a muscle group as this to a large degree is genetically predetermined )D*! but neural factors relating to the recruitment of fibers and rate force production! are most certainly trainable and should be the focus of leg training programs )6*. The e tent of muscular activation on take% offs is at least a pre%programmed response )6*! which means that the take%off should be a trained action. 'onditioning should be as specific as possible to simulate the conditions of a take%off. The e ercises of choice to achieve the desired results are known as +plyometric’. The correct application and practice of plyometric e ercise is an e tensive topic! and thus conditioning recommendation regarding plyometric training will be discussed in future articles. Aowever a couple of guidelines that are useful to be aware of are( The use of depth =umps should start at 60cm and build up to a ma height of ?<cm )over a long term periodization plan over a period of years*! stick to rep ranges of 4%< with 4%< sets! with recovery of /0%/4sec between rep! and at least 4%< min between sets! and never till failure! but ma imal effort. "t’s essential that the gymnast performs each repetitions and e ercise with ma imal speed and quickness and good technique. 5oing endless =umps is counter productive and can easily lead to overuse in=uries )D*. There is a bit of controversy as to the safe application of plyometric e ercise with preadolescent gymnasts! and the prerequisite level of strength before engaging in such e ercise but as long as the e ercises used are progressively trained )in skill! individual ability! and intensity* the author believes that there should not be any added risk of in=ury. .ecause of the forces e perienced during take%offs strength training for legs and core should not be overlooked )6*. 7pecific core strengthening is of particular importance. &ne study showed that trunk stability training in athletes over a @ week period resulted in improvements in vertical take%off velocities similar to those from a combination of trunk stability and leg strength training )2*. This illustrates the importance of a strong core in the performance for all tumbling. The reasoning behind such improvements is because trunk stability training Jmay provide a more stable pelvis and spine from which the leg muscles can generate action! may better link the upper body to the lower body! or may enhance leg muscle activation! thus promoting optimal force production during sporting activitiesK )2*! however an indepth understanding of trunk stability training on performance enhancement is still largely unknown )2*. ,eg strength should be in the form of single and double leg stance squats! lunges! low intensity =umps in series )eg straight =ump! skipping etc*. 3epetitions should not e ceed the 4%< reps per set for 4%< sets with 4%< min rest between ©2008 The Gym Press. All rights reser ed
Methodological Article set. -ach rep should have a controlled eccentric contraction )resisted lowering* followed by a fast concentric contraction )- tending*. Thus e ercises where added resistance is possible are best )eg partner squats! single leg squats with weight vest! cleans! piggy back step% ups etc* 5otation The speed of rotation can be significantly increased by being able to change body position from a straight body to a tuck! and back quickly. "t is thus important to condition the tuck shape! and the speed of tucking and opening. 7pecific conditioning to enhance these body position changes is =ustified for the improvement of the somersault. 3andings :ll leg based training will help to develop the strength to absorb the landing impacts. Aowever its advised that in some part of the training! basic landing drills are also included. The author recommends dance training along with basic stick drills for best results. 5ance training particularly with e ercises focusing on landing technique is high effective. 'onsider how dancers are able to land seemingly effortlessly on hard wooden floors from great heights! and thus the merits of specific dance training is =ustified.
The front somersault even though considered a basic skill requires a great degree of training and preparation in order for it to effectively lead into multiple somersaults. The critical phases for the e ecution of any somersault! including the front tuck! are the approach! take%off! rotation! and the landing. -ach phase must be considered separately in order for the gymnast to grasp the essential concepts of each phase. .ecause this skill its taught to gymnast from an early age! it makes it that much more important to teach them correctly from the beginning. -ssentially the front somersault is dependent mostly on the plyometric ability of the gymnast to e plosively take% off. Thus the leg conditioning required has to be specific to the task. 3otation is initiated from a heel drive from the take%off rather than teaching the gymnast to pull into a tuck. "ts important that the gymnast understands how to initiate rotation on the take%off in order to effectively assume the tuck position. This is probably the hardest concept to teach and transfer from the trampoline to the floor. Aowever when the gymnast masters this! they will develop the ability to rotate as they are going up. This is vital for multiple somersaults.
-#ery care is taken to ass$re the acc$racy o! the in!ormation p$blished within this article. The #iews and opinions expressed within this article, are those o! the a$thor"s, and no responsibility can be accepted by The Gym 8ress, Gym /oach or the a$thor !or the conse7$ences o! actions based on the ad#ice contained herein
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V. Uz !o", Gym Coach, Vol.2 (2008) 25-33
Address (or %orres#onden%e- Valentin Uzunov! Aataitai Eymnastics! 9ellington! Iew Oealand. +alen'in/080no+9 ,ail/%o,
RE7ERENCES and RECOMMENDED READINGS
/% .utcher 7.L.! 'raven ..3.! 'hilibeck 1.5.! 7pink M.7.! Eruna 7.,.! 7prings -.L )200?*. The -ffects of trunk stability on vertical =ump take%off velocity. :o$rnal o! rthopedics and Sports 8hysical Therapy. 4?)<*(224%24/ 2% McIeal L.3.! 7ands 9.:.! 7hultz .... )2006*. Muscle activation characteristics of tumbling take%offs. Sports ;iomechanics. >)4*(4?<%4@0 4% Eluck M. )/@D6*. Mechanics for Eymnastics coaching ( Tools for skill analysis. 7pringfield( "llinois. 'harles '. Thomas 1ublishing. 6% 7mith T. )/@D2*. Eymnastics : mechanical understanding. Iew Pork( Iew Pork. Aolmes N Meier 1ublishers! "nc. <% .aechles ..3. N -arle 3.9. )2000*. -ssentials ofstrength training and conditioning )2nd -d*. 'hampaign( "llinois. Auman Minetics. >% ,arkins '. )I:*. The take%off drill for long =ump. Track Techni7$e. "ss./0? ?% McEinnis 1.M.)2006*. .iomechanics of 7port and 7cience.'hampaign( "llinois. Auman Minetics. D% $u $.A. N 7tone 5.:.)/@@6*. 7ports "n=ury( Mechanisms! 1revention! Treatment. .altimore( Maryland. 9illiams N 9ilkins. @% Marshal 7.9.! 'avassin T.! 5ick 3.! Iassar ,.E.! :gel L. )200?*. 5escriptive -pidemiology of 'ollegiate 9omen’s Eymnastics "n=uries( Iational 'ollegiate :thletic :ssociation "n=ury 7urveillance 7ystem! /@DD%/@D@ Through 2004%2006. :o$rnal o! 2thletic Training. 62)2*(246%260. /0 # Mc'harles 3. )200?*. Understanding and teaching competitive gymnastics skills( The understand 5 teach model. Eym 'oach. Vol /( 26%2?
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