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Developing a Training Program for the Men’s Junior Olympic Program

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Dan Connelly from GymSmarts caught up with Hideo “Mizo” Mizoguchi for this interview to discuss a training program for Men’s Junior Olympics to go along with his DVD Strength Development for Men’s Gymnastics.

GS: Mizo, in your presentation on developing a training program for the Junior Olympic program, what is the purpose of having a training plan?
Mizo: Well, the compulsory program was the only means for most of the coaches to train the young kids and I felt that the understanding of how to develop a yearly plan would help all these kids. In other words the basics are one of the most important parts and I don’t think that they are focusing on the basics to enhance their skill development. This must happen during the pre-season and during the season. So, when I was working at USA Gymnastics, I knew that there was some plan that needed to be provided in order for all of these coaches to be able to map out their training plan. So that is the purpose of my presentation on developing a training plan. 

GS: OK, so the basic idea is to try to give these coaches an opportunity to know how to develop certain things throughout the course of the year.

Mizo: Exactly. It’s sort of, if you go through the lecture, you can pretty much tell where the emphasis is. You know, like the emphasis of understanding the categories. You know, there are so many areas of categories that we coaches have to implement in the course of the training and often times we tend to focus on what skills should we do next year, or what kind of difficulties do we need. Instead of going the other way around, focusing on what areas exactly do I need to incorporate into the training so that these kids have a maximum potential of taking their gymnastics to the highest level. You know what I mean? I don’t want the gymnasts to be limited simply because the coach didn’t focus on certain areas of development when they were young.

GS: OK. So, you name seven separate training categories. Why don’t you briefly describe each one and then tell me how important each one is.

Mizo: The Junior Olympic program is very unique in the sense that you are teaching these athletes and the competition is a part of the experience. But, after the competition, you come home, then you train what you made a mistake on that kind of stuff. The competition is not the end of the meet but a part of the process whereas with the senior gymnast, you specifically train so that the gymnast can finalize the effort at the end of the competition so to speak. So the  competition is the end goal. Does that make sense? Like, not all gymnasts specifically train so that they can compete. For example, the junior gymnasts competes, learns from the competition and then goes home and trains those specific areas of weakness. OK. That’s the part of the concept that I’ve developed and not only that, we have to keep the kids interested in the sport. So these are the training categories that I think should be emphasized. Number one: fun activities are extremely important to development, two: body posture and alignment, three: flexibility, four: strength and conditioning, five: basics and six: core basic skill development such as: swing to handstand on the P bars, basic swing on the rings, stuff like that. And then seven, move onto the specific and advanced skill development. And if any one of these categories are not fulfilled, any time in the training, then we are missing the ball. In other words, the goal would be developing  well rounded rather than a one sided gymnast. So those are the seven categories that have been emphasized.

GS: So the purpose behind these categories is making sure that you address all of these categories, to make sure that as the gymnast  grows there will be no limitations to his gymnastics. Correct?

Mizo: Right. Exactly. Not only that. If you think about these categories, each age groups’  emphasis on each of the categories changes. For instance, in the eight to nine age group the conditioning could have been 10%, fun activity if 15% of the entire training time, in a week, and then maybe the body alignment and posture and flexibility could be 20%, spatial awareness training could be 25% and then basic skill development could be only 30%. Whereas, if you go into an upper level age group, like twelve to thirteen, the fun activity is no longer provided for and  you only emphasis 10% for spatial awareness, or 15% for the conditioning strength and so forth and so forth. So that by the time that you get to the advanced stages, you will be devoting 70% of the time specifically to advanced skill training provided that you have spent all of these years also training spatial awareness, strength, conditioning, body positioning, flexibility and all that.

GS: What would be an example of the kind of activities you would use to develop spatial awareness, say in the younger gymnast?

spacial-awareness.jpgMizo: OK. Spatial awareness. It is extremely critical in all the gymnastic development levels obviously and an essential requirement to compete at a high level. I feel a lack of spatial awareness will limit one’s potential such as learning the high level skills. While I would use a lot of  trampoline time, teaching how to do a double back, double front, twisting techniques, body  segmentation, body positions for twisting, and multiple twisting, multiple somersaults, stuff like  that. Mainly tumble track and trampoline, you know….

Mizo: Handstands. You can do them many different ways. You can do a handstand contest. Kids love contests. Sometimes we have the kids do a handstand on the parallel bars and shake the bars.. And while shaking the bars, see how long they can stay in the handstand. Let me step back moment. The most effective way to really teach a good handstand is to have a contest between the gymnasts. It really, really works. We’re talking within the junior program though. And then also I do a lot of handstands against the wall for about three minutes at a time. That kind of stuff. The   gymnast needs to be able to hold a handstand against the wall for at least two to three minutes.

GS: And what about walking on your hands?

Mizo: It’s great. It teaches balance. Not necessarily to hold a handstand. But it teaches the shifting action in the handstand.

GS: And how else might that apply to other skills?

Mizo: Shifting the weight to do a pirouette without changing the line of the body. Because the shifting action does teach the body segments along with that stepping action, or shifting action, and then of course you know that segment working together as a unit, is one of the most important things in turning, like in pirouetting action. Without that then you can’t pirouette. You need to learn to shift the weight with the body shifting as one unit rather than in segmented pieces.

GS: So that means that some of these things are inner linked in that in order to do a good handstand, you have to practice handstands; in order to have a good handstand you need good body alignment; body alignment, posture and all those kinds of things. Right?

Mizo: Exactly. But the body alignment and the posture, you know, is a little bit different in the sense that you don’t really have to control the holding spot, upside down. Whereas if you are doing a hollow body rock, for instance, in doing the body posture final phase, which applies in gymnastics quite often, it would definitely have to have that skill. The handstand is in itself a skill along with the most important element and skill in gymnastics. Body posture is aligning, that’s the power of exercising the effective overall development of the basics in gymnastics. 

GS: Yeah. So that…when you’re talking about hollow a body holds, or hollow body rocks, is that a part of core strength?

Mizo: Yes. Absolutely.

GS: OK, tell me a little bit about how flexibility plays into all of this.

Mizo: Well, the flexibility is,by far, the most important element of increasing range of motion. Without the wider range of motion, then you are limiting a certain element to be performed. For instance, let’s take the example of high bar. If you don’t have good compression flexibility for bend, then you won’t be able to do an Endo or Stalder or stoop action. You know? So if one’s flexibility is limited it will limit the types of skills one can perform. The other area is that without the flexibility of range of motion, you will not be able to produce much more power either. If the back is tight, then one will not be able to open enough to produce a higher dismount. For example, the gymnast would be limited in the arching action in the tap, which would in turn prevent him from getting high enough to do triple twisting double layout. That kind of stuff. Do you see what I mean? So you have to appreciate the affects of the application of flexibility in upper level gymnastics skills. So it really comes down to the basic developmental level.

GS: I see what you’re getting at. And do you recommend doing a long flexibility warm up in the beginning of practice? Or at what point would you do flexibility?

Mizo: Well, flexibility has two purposes. Flexibility can be used as a warm-up to do the warm-up, you know, like probably a stretching flexibility. However, to obtain flexibility, you have to set some time aside to do additional flexibility, or a split or whatever have you. OK. So you don’t just necessarily do flexibility as in the warm-up because that’s not going to be enough. In addition, if you do an extensive strength exercise, then immediately after that you need to be able to do another flexibility program in order for the muscles to be reciprocated. Because if you contract too much and you leave it, your muscles get too tight and you have to fit in good stretching exercises.

GS: All right. So when you’re doing your daily training plan, do you start with a yearly training plan, then break it down into cycles that way?

Mizo: Yes, you always begin with the competition season and work back. You have to divide the year into: pre season, season and off season. The pre-season would be skill acquisition, flexibility, strength, conditioning, special awareness and that sort of thing. The season is about preparation and competition. The post season is time to rest and do more fun gymnastic types of things. But all of these periods need to be developed


Sunday, May 20th, 2007


The 2006 National Training Camp for TNT was held at Bounce California in Rancho Bernardo, California. I spent many hours watching the sessions for the athletes representing Trampoline, Tumbling and Double Mini. Each of the sessions impressed me in different ways – how high the trampoline participants bounced, how precise the double mini athletes had to be, and how much speed, distance and noise the rod floor tumblers generated.  

Viewing the rod floor tumbling sessions made me reflect on the evolution of tumbling: early circus performers with no mats, horse hair mats, floor exercise on wood floors, then 3/8” pads, tennis balls, tires, flex wood, 1”, 2”, 4” spring floors, and now uniform ROD floors used around the world. 

Some purists may say that tumbling is tumbling. I would like to present some of the ways the evolution of the tumbling surface has changed tumbling mechanics. The sprung floor system allows basic skills to be performed higher with more turnover, generating SPEED-DISTANCE-POWER, and thus has changed the dynamics of explosive tumbling. 

Tumbling well has always taken flexibility, strength and correct tight body shapes to utilize the rebound to the greatest advantage. The spring floor surface allows performers to perform with a more extended body shape and quicker take offs. 

The road to success is found through hard work and commitment to excellence. It doesn’t take talent to work hard. Tumbling and Vault success are more than ever based on speed to generate power and then the strength in the correct body shape to rebound off the spring board, vault table or spring floor system. 

Athletes now not only have the new equipment developments but also more knowledgeable coaches. The body shape, tension on round offs, back and front handsprings, fly springs, whip backs allows athletes to maximize performance. Constant surface push is critical. The round off and the correct hurdle into it are critical in turning the body 180 degrees to facilitate powerful back tumbling. (See Technique, Volume 19: Artemov / USAG: Dvd by Wills & Biggs). 

The round off, back handspring, and whip backs in correct body shape allows the chest to rise when snapping off hands and extending the feet in front of extended body to rebound into the next skill. The extended throw with arms extended behind ears and upper body arch allows hand placement to facilitate backward acceleration. 

If you watch a tumbler performing correct and powerful back tumbling, you will notice a rhythm created by the upper body whipping, followed by the total body snap. In order to have the athletes understand, have them stand tall, arms extended behind ears. The athlete should then change body shape from upper body hollow to hyper extended arch, mainly in shoulders, not in lower back. Body shape resembles a bent metal yardstick. Head should not pass arms. 
Remind athletes that backward tumbling should always push back until they want to go up. They then change body shape to tight straight and put feet back of center of gravity to allow rebound into take off. 

Success in forward tumbling mirrors much of the principles stated for back tumbling. A study reported in Technique by Phds’ Sands and McNeal concluded that the hyper extended arm and shoulder was proved the best body shape to generate powerful take offs. 

I feel one of the most important basic skills to be mastered for front tumbling is the headspring. Learning the kipping action, body shape change from pike to extended can be used in later more advanced forward skills. Front take offs in the hyper extended upper body shape allows the center of gravity to move upward and forward. If the performer’s upper body is in front fo the center of gravity, the body is thrown forward and down on take off. 

An analogy I have used successfully to help athletes understand is to have them visualize a spring loaded window shade. If the shade is extended all the way down and then released, the shade rolls up around the rod on top. If they can then flip on the way up in the same manner, they will experience success. Forward linear motion has already been established by the forward run and the front handspring or fly springs. When athletes are training front tumbling past head-spring skills such as handsprings and flysprings, they should be performed to an over rotated run out. 

Share with the athletes the importance in more advanced rebound tumbling that the center of gravity should be moving upward and forward. Take offs should be in the hyper extended shape to a subtle pike to initiate rotation for layouts, twisting and double saltos. Get strong, tumble fast and fly! 

A reminder; the two limiting factors that inhibit performance are lack of strengthand flexibility. Hard work and a knowledgeable coach help athletes practicewith the correct body shape and tension to handle the violent take offs and landings.


For more information on Glenn Vaughan, and tumbling, purchase his DVD from GymSmarts:

Tumbling for Speed and Efficienct by Glen Vaughan 

Mas Watanabe - Working the Strap Bar

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Tom Beach from GymSmarts caught up with Mas Watanabe for this interview to discuss working the Strap Bar. In this interview he talks about how much more can be done because of the Strap Bar. If you would like more information on Mas Watanabes’ coaching, GymSmarts carries an extensive DVD library of his training methods that are available on line.

GS: In your gym, it seems like the strap bar is full all the time. You have two strap bars and there’s almost always somebody on both strap bars.Mas Watanabe: Well, as I explain on the Working the Strap Bar DVD, the strap bar is the probably easiest and safest place to teach any skill on the bars.  Obviously you cannot do 100% of the skills on the straps but you can do most of the essential skills. I’d say that 80% of the essential skills you can teach on the strap bar. There are several reasons the strap bar is so effective, the most important one is the safety and reduces fear for the gymnast. Also there is less friction on their hands so they can do more repetitions, and the diameter is so much smaller so it fits the younger gymnasts hands so much better. You are working with young children and of course naturally they don’t have big hands so they feel so much easier for them to hang onto the bar. Even though you are strapped onto it, but still should feel the control in your fingers, in your grip. The feeling of security is extremely important. So there is no question in my mind that the strap bar is the easiest and simplest place to teach skills.GS: So you believe this is the place to start because you can take the younger gymnasts and do so much with them there.

Mas Watanabe: Right. I think a lot of people don’t realize how much more you can do on the strap bar. It doesn’t matter what they can do on the bars right now, because once the skill has been learned on the strap bar that means you have developed the movement pattern, the body positions, timing and rhythm, all the essence of the skill. Once the skill has been mastered there, then it can be repeated on the actual bar. Of course it will take a little longer to transfer it to the actual bar because it’s harder to create the momentum, harder to hold onto the bar, and of course, the mental aspects of coping with fear. You have to overcome all of that, but once the movement pattern has developed, it is much, much easier for you to transfer a skill from the strap bar to the actual bar.

GS: It’s almost like you’re comparing strap bar to the uneven bars as you would tumble track to tumbling. 

Mas Watanabe: That’s exactly right. So this two step process makes learning and reaching the final goal so much faster.

GS: Yesterday you mentioned Tracee (Talavera) when she was younger. Did she work a lot of strap bar?

Mas Watanabe: Actually we used the men’s low horizontal bar with regular grips, a high bar lowered down, because we didn’t have a strap bar then. Yeah, I did that because I realized that Tracee was very young and has small hands and that was the safest way for her to hang onto the bar. So I spent 70-80% of the time on the men’s high bar, single bar, teaching the skill there and then they may go over to uneven bar and play with those learned skills. Just to play with as much as they are able or capable of handling in terms of the fear and the momentum issue. I had them do it by themselves and I did not necessarily push the kids to do those skills in the beginning stages. So those transitions came to them pretty naturally because they did not push themselves beyond what they can handle.

GS: Their physical capacity?

Mas Watanabe: Yes. So that way they learned it pretty naturally, pretty easily.

GS: So the majority of the skills that she had, she was already doing on the men’s low bar?

Mas Watanabe: Yes, already on the low horizontal bar.

GS: If you knew about strap bar you probably would have done that.

Mas Watanabe: Oh, if we had the strap bars then we would have gotten to the harder skills much quicker and efficiently. There’s no question about it. Now these days we do use the strap bar all the time so we are quicker.

GS: The variation of skills that the gymnasts are doing, especially the younger ones, is pretty impressive.

200703mw1.jpgMas Watanabe: It is pretty amazing. If they have developed essential strengths, such as plange strength and good straddle press strength, then they can apply to the skills and they can learn or pick up the skill quite rapidly. In this plange strength exercise, a female gymnast cannot hold the position by herself, so that the coach should spot her and lifts her up to the proper handstand position while she is maintaining the hollow body.

GS: Because you’re not doing just doing giant swings but also the clear hip circles, endo and stalder shoots.

Mas Watanabe: Right. They work on most of the inbar type skills and of course, any type of giant such as forward, backward and “L” grip giant as well. So the children are able to pick up all those type of skills on   the strap bar, quite easily.

GS: So you’re looking at, if they have the proper straddle press to handstand and the plange press strength (with a spot) you can apply their body position easier on the strap bar.

Mas Watanabe: Yes, for instance, the straddle press to

handstand, that pressing part of the strength is used in the Stalder circle and it is an essential part of the body position in the skill. So if they can do the press that means their body can maintain shape and maintain that control. That is essential for the skill. Of cause, the plange press handstand strength will be for the clear hip circle to handstand. If they too can do these exercises properly, they can apply the body position and the strengths to the actual skill. It’s so much easier to do it on the skills on straps because the strap bar has such a less friction.

GS: And it’s easier to create those positions with the speed?

Mas Watanabe: Right, and of course then you’re talking about the shape of your body position and not the timing of the skill.

GS: So the timing and rhythm of the skill doesn’t change too much going from the strap bar to the actual bar and it’s just a matter of confidence and hand size.

Mas Watanabe: Right. So that’s why the strap bar isGS: Do you go any particular order when you are working on strap bar?

Mas Watanabe: I do, usually the order comes from the actual routine development. For instance at the very early stage, you do need to teach the clear hip circle because most of the kids learn back hip circle very early, at the compulsory level. So that move has already learned so going in from a back hip circle to a clear hip is a very small step. Whereas playing with the sole circle for instance, it is more complex even with the bent legs. Going around the bar backward or forward and going up toward the handstand from the toe on position. It requires a little more strength as well as good body control. So that’s why naturally we start from an easier skill to a little bit more complex skill and in order. But once they have good strength and a good handstand position, there’s not much difference between most of the in-bar type of movements. So, for example, I have a ten year old who already can do most of the skills that I mentioned, the clear hip and sole circle, forward, backward and stalder circle. Also they are doing the giants forward, backward and even the L grip giant. They can do it very safely on the strap bar which is remarkable. If you think about that ten year old, can already simulate, or actually execute, some of the skills that the level 9, 10 or elite gymnasts are doing on the bar.

GS: So right now, they’re competing as first year level 8’s and they’re already doing all those skills.

Mas Watanabe: Not all of it but some skills. So when you look at that, it is amazing what you can do with the strap bar. So you really can’t afford not to have the strap bar set up in the gym and not use that device to teach the skills because this will make the teaching process so much easier.

GS: What do you look at in terms of repetitions?

Mas Watanabe: Well, this is another advantage that you have using the strap bar. Basically you eliminated most of the hand problems because there’s no friction, your hands are not scraping every time directly onto the bar. You are just hanging onto the PVC pipe and the wrists are strapped on so you have virtually no problem with the hands and you never develop the problem with the hands. Sometimes the kids develop wrist problems because the straps actually rub into their wrists so they need to wear a very thick wristband. Sometimes even with a thick wristbands, it creates a little bit of a problem of soreness on the skin or develop a little bit of soreness in the wrists. So that it  a create a problem by overdoing it. But that would be a very, very minimal problem. It’s very seldom we have a problem actually overworking on the strap bar. They can do many, many, many repetitions. It’s unbelievable. That’s why they are able to pick up the skills so much faster because they are capable of doing maybe five, ten times the amount of repetitions they might be able on the actual bars with the grips.

GS: So as they are developing they can do more repetitions. It looked to me like the ultimate for these in-bar skills is to repeat it precisely from handstand to handstand several times in a row.

Mas Watanabe: Right. Of course, you know, you are strapped onto the bar so the variation of the skill is limited obviously. You can’t do any pirouetting, dismounts or release moves. But you can do timers for some of those skills, say for example a Tkatchev, so you can develop the exact pattern of the swinging part of the movement. So working the action using that strap bar is very, very effective. Many of the level 9, 10 and elite level gymnasts, when they learned the release move or the tap for the dismount, they do use the strap bar in the beginning stages. Once the pattern for the body movement is developed, then they can transfer very quickly from the strap bar to the regular bar and the actual skill.

GS: You’ve even talked about L grip giants on the strap bar. Do you find it that much different when they’re doing L grip than when they’re doing the regular giant?

 Mas Watanabe: I think if you really to understand the good front giants, particularly the front giant with a tapping action, it is very similar. The shoulder extension and how it should come down from the top to the bottom should be identical. The tapping action through the bottom and the lifting at the end of the swing prior to the handstand is no different other than the shape of the body in the second half. The inverted giant will have more pronounced hip pike compared to the front giant. Obviously the other major difference is the grip. So first of all, gymnasts need to have good shoulder flexibility, and also good wrist flexibility to be able to get into that support and be able to push in a handstand. So we did initially lots of drills on the floor bar, for example, kicking up to a handstand with that inverted L grip position. We made sure she can hold a in a straight position. Also, she worked many repetitions of handstand, pike down and open back to straight handstand while pressuring the bar. That type of exercise is done quite a bit as a preparation. We also worked lots of flexibility for dislocating shoulder in and out to develop greater flexibility in shoulders. So, those preparations are done prior to the inverted giant. Then teaching how to swing from the bottom of the swing, under the bar first, and then gradually develop the height of the swing. Then working on how to push the bar once the body goes above horizontal, because as they go up higher, the pressure on the bar becomes greater. So you must actually teach how to push in that position. As they come close to the handstand, the pressure increases so they need to develop the feeling gradually from the lower angle to the higher angle. As their body rises up close to the handstand, you can spot them and lighten the pressure a little bit by holding their body slightly up, so that they can develop the feeling of that pressure gradually as their swing gets bigger. It is a very natural way of teaching, very similar to the front giant so I don’t see that it’s such a drastic change from that position, from teaching giants to inverted giants.

GS: Should they do the inverted giant with the tap swing or just straight giant swing?

Mas Watanabe: I prefer a tapping action. This is a more dynamic movement and also the tapping action would teach them a few things. The tapping action itself through the bottom transfers to different movements later on. Also, tapping actually forces them to extend their shoulders more and it helps them get into the inverted support position, in an L grip. So it makes the turning of the wrist and shifts the wrist on top slightly easier. Naturally, you can do the very same thing without the pronounced tapping action, but the extension and the shift, would be a little more subtle.

GS: Great, thank you.

About Mas Watanabe 

For over 38 years Masayuki Watanabe has been at the cutting edge of both men’s and women’s gymnastics.  As a coach for may national & international champions and Olympic gymnasts, program director for USA Gymnastics, and world-wide gymnastics consultant, he is one of the most respected leaders of our sport today.  Mas Watanabe has many DVDs available from GymSmarts, on Coaching, Tumbling, Bars, Vaulting and Strength. Visit his blog at GymSmarts


Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Starting with this article, George Hery will be offering his expertise on the biomechanics of gymnastics.  George has put his engineering studies at Iowa to work throughout his gymnastics/trampoline career, designing equipment, enhancing safety features and educating gymnasts and coaches.  We are pleased that George will be sharing his knowledge with GymSmarts.  The first article will help to define physics with a emphasis on gymnastics, the following articles will deal with Movement, Initiation, Control, Efficiency; Parabolas; and Twisting.  

This first article will cover the basic principles; later articles will explore practical application of this powerful science.            Our movements are governed by “the laws of physics,” which are, for most people, quite baffling even though we have been obeying them for thousands of years.

            Our sport of gymnastics is made up of many different movements; some are quite simple, but many are very complex. Knowledge and understanding of these “laws of physics” is necessary if you want to be an excellent teacher, instructor or coach.

            I will attempt, with this article, to present these difficult concepts so that everyone can learn and understand “George’s Laws of Movement”.

We will explore three types of movements.

George Hery - Laws of Motion1. Linear movement - is movement in a straight line. Not many gymnastics movements in this category.

2. Angular or rotational movement - involves rotation around an axis or axes.

3. Parabolic flight - whenever a body flies through the air, the flight path or trajectory of the center of gravity of that body is a parabola; a smooth symmetrical curve mathematically (graphically) represented as (ay = bx squared + c). This will be covered in detail in a future article.200702gh2.jpg

We must also learn the necessary terminology and understand the basic concepts, which are presented below.

Georgy Hery Laws of Movement 3Center of Gravity - (c.g.) that one point where all of the mass of a body may be considered to be concentrated. (for purposes of calculation)

For our human body when in a straight body position the c.g. is in the trunk region near the waist. Understand though that our c.g. changes position when we change positions; raising our arms raises the c.g., if we pike or arch the c.g. may be completely outside of our body. 

Mass - (m) the quantity of matter; the density of a body multiplied be its volume.

Weight - (w) the attractive (or gravitational) force that the earth exerts on a body. (w = mg)

Inertia - the resistance to change in motion. Bodies at rest tend to remain at rest and bodies in motion tend to remain in motion unless acted upon by outside forces. From this it is easy to see that heavier bodies will have more inertia. We should also note that forces do not always produce a change in motion. Consider a small boy who tries to lift a 400-pound weight, but can only apply 200 pounds of lifting force; the weight would not move.



         A force or combination of forces is required in order to initiate, change or stop movement.

         Forces - pushes, pulls and resistances. There are external forces such as the force of gravity, contact with another object, collisions, friction forces, wind resistance, etc. There are also internal forces such as muscular contractions, coefficients of restitution (the ability of an object to return to its original shape after it has been deformed) in high bar rails, uneven bar rails, parallel bar rails, vault boards, trampoline springs, etc.

         200702gh4.jpgForce through the center of gravity - a force or combination of forces directed through the center of gravity of a body in free space produces only linear movement for that body.

         200702gh5.jpgEccentric forces - forces not directed through the center of gravity produce angular movement (rotation) around an axis; this axis is called the axis of rotation.

         Axis of Rotation - that point or line about which a body rotates. In free space the axis of rotation is the center of gravity, during a giant swing the axis of rotation is the bar, during the takeoff from the vault board the axis of rotation is the feet of the vaulter, etc. etc.

         200702gh6.jpgA Couple - equal but oppositely directed forces equally distanced from the center of  gravity of an object also produces angular (rotational) movement.

        200702gh7.jpg Resultant force - the magnitude and direction of movement for the center of gravity of a body being acted upon by more than one force.

Speed - how fast a body is moving.

Momentum - mass x velocity. A speeding bullet has great momentum because of its tremendous velocity even though its mass is small; a train moving at only 3 miles per hour also has great momentum because of its tremendous mass.


         A body in motion has momentum and that momentum will be conserved (remain constant) unless outside forces act upon the body.

         200702gh8.jpgRadius of rotation - (r) the distance from the axis of rotation to the c.g. of each element of mass of the body that is rotating. For calculation purposes we assume that the gymnast’s body is one element of mass located at the c.g. if the gymnast is rotating around a bar. During a straight body back flip there would be two radii of rotation; one for the upper body and another for the lower body.

         200702gh10.jpgMoment of Inertia - (MI) the resistance to change in angular (rotational) movement. It is found by multiplying each element of mass in a body by the square of its radius of rotation (r) and then adding all of these products for the entire body. For simplification (calculation) purposes use the c.g. of each segment of the body that is rotating; then (MI = m x r squared). Understand that there can be “Moments of Inertia” for different parts or segments of a body. Because the mass of a body remains constant, the moment of inertia will change as the radius of rotation changes.

         Angular Momentum - (H) the moment of inertia multiplied by the angular velocity. (H = m x r squared x V) This is a very important concept to understand as it is used to initiate and control all angular movement. Because (H) remains constant and (m) remains constant, we can greatly change (V) by changing (r), and even more so because (r) is squared. This means that by going from a straight body at the start of a double back flip to a tucked body as you approach the top of the parabolic flight path, you will greatly increase your angular velocity. In actual practice, you will spin about 5 times faster in the tuck than you were spinning when you started with a straight body. Much more on angular momentum in future articles.


         For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.    

 If we push on a wall, the wall pushes back on us; if we push downward on the floor, the floor pushes upward on us; if we push downward hard enough, the floor will push upward hard enough to make us go up in the air. We call that a jump. If we are in free space and turn our upper body and arms to the right, our legs and lower body will react by turning to the left; if we throw our head and arms forward and downward, our legs move upward into a pike jump. Understand these concepts!!!

         Transfer of momentum - There are times when the momentum from a segment of our body can be transferred to the entire body and this action may give a great advantage toward accomplishing a movement or skill. Try this experiment. While standing with straight legs and 200702gh11.jpgarms at your sides, swing the arms up really vigorously and sharply stop them just as they are straight out in front of you. You should experience a lifting of your entire body and if you do this vigorously enough you may even come off the ground without jumping. We use this transfer of momentum concept in many gymnastics skills; an example would be a cast to handstand on the uneven bars or high bar. Try to figure out the forces involved and where the transfer of momentum comes in.

            Now really try to get a grasp of these basic concepts and we will begin our practical application of “the laws of movement” with the next article. For now, practice perfection.

About George HeryGeorge H. Hery has led a fascinating life as an acclaimed gymnast, acrobat, performer, and mentor. He is a true acrobatic legend - in 2004 he was inducted into the World Acrobatic Society’s Hall of Legends. He has traveled the world for shows, competitions, stunt performances, and for the pure sake of exploration. His accomplishments have been recognized by numerous organizations and governments.

Tony Gehman - Advanced Tumbling Skills - Multiple Somersaults

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Tony Gehman discuss’s and breaks down advanced tumbling.  In this article he talks about prerequisite drills, and progressions for twisting  If you would like more information on advanced tumbling you will probably find Tony Gehman’s  DVDs:  Advanced Tumbling 3 Disk Set: Disk I: Twisting Backwards Disk II: Multiple Flipping Disk III: Warm-up & Conditioning Drills helpful.  You can purchase them individually or save by purchasing all three for $75.00 

The main prerequisite for advanced tumbling, is the ability to develop horizontal momentum across the floor-ex area.  This may be achieved through a well executed series of consecutive  back handsprings or bounding whip back somersaults.   Next, the gymnast must be able to demonstrate the ability to perform a round off, back handspring, back layout, approximately head height or higher, with a straight body position throughout.  The chest should be contracted(shoulder blades apart) and the hips are straight.  This is the core somersault for twisting or flipping.  It is important to develop specific gymnastic conditioning, in order to perform higher level tumbling skills.  It is helpful if the trampoline is used at least in the early stages of flipping to help ensure proper body position, awareness, and vertical take off.  200703tg1.gifSteps for the double tuck1.  Perform a round off back handspring back lay out onto a stack of mats approximately chest height.  Have them attempt to stand straight up and down at the finish of the flip.  During double back tucks and pikes, the chin should be slightly in, similar to a cruncher sit up.  Therefore, it is helpful to have the gymnast attempt to see the other end of the floor or the wall straight out in front on the way up.  As they pass through the vertical with their feet, they should be encouraged to spot the mat they will be landing on.2.  Have them execute a back tuck 1 ¼ to the back.  The back of the arms should contact the mat first to protect the head.  Do not have them land on the mat holding onto the legs.  This could result in a head first landing.  To gain awareness first perform a back tuck landing on the feet and fall to the back with the arms contacting the mat first. When they feel comfortable with that step, move on to the 1 ¼.  The coach may want to spot at first until they get the hang of it.  After they have learned the flip with the arms overhead throughout, it is good to have them take the arms up on the set, then touch the legs in the middle and then bring the arms back over head for the landing on the back.  This mat should be soft.  Once they can perform the 1 ¼ at chest height, raise the mats to shoulder height.  Another commonly used drill, is to place a large wedge or “cheese” mat on top of several 8” mats and perform a back tuck 1 ¼ followed by a back roll immediately after contacting the mat with the back.  This allows the gymnast to experience 2 complete rotations for further awareness.3.  Next, we want to gain awareness in another area on double flipping.  Performing the skill into an open foam pit with a safety spot is one way.  Have them keep the knees slightly apart at first to protect the nose, etc.  An over head spotting rig on the trampoline, is another way.  A bungi rig on the floor or tramp is another method.  Another lead up on the trampoline, is to perform a back tuck 1 ¼ followed by a back pullover.  This should be done with a qualified instructor.Note:   Whenever someone is performing multiple somersaults, especially in the beginning stages of learning,  there exists the inherent danger of opening up in the middle, exposing the possibility of landing on the head.  It is for this reason primarily, that they should gain awareness in an area that will minimize this risk.  It is wise, from the start, to encourage the gymnast to over rotate the skill during each step taken.  If an open-foam pit is used, they should attempt to over rotate to the back, avoiding landing on the head or stomach.  It can be helpful to tell them to “pull” on the legs as they approach the second  flip.4.  If you have the benefit of the open foam pit, then that is the best place to first turn double backs.   Next, we add a mat to the pit.  When they go onto a mat, it is important to attempt to over rotate by going through a proper landing position and then squatting deeper into a roll backwards.  It is also important to safety spot when first introducing a mat, especially in the early stages of learning.  When proficiency is shown, then progress by adding another mat.  Proficiency here means, they feel comfortable and so do you.  We continue to build the mats until they reach a height of 4-8” above the floor level.  Tumbling up (higher than floor level), is the single most specific conditioning you can do to build reserve power to safely execute the multiple flips.  Each time they take a step learn to over rotate at that stage.  Hundreds of double backs should be performed before going to the actual competitive surface.  The double pikeThe steps for the double pike are virtually the same as the double tuck.  I think it is important to learn the double tuck first, since the tendency is to land the double pike with straight legs, seeing how they are already flipping in that position.  The takeoff is also basically the same as well.  As with all double somersaults, it is very important to learn right from the start to over rotate by passing through a squatted landing and roll out. 200703tg2.jpg The double layout While the double tuck and pike are very close in difficulty, the double layout is usually reserved for the most powerful gymnasts.  Many gymnasts can execute a double layout into the in-ground pit mat but, very few actually compete the skill for various reasons. The takeoff for this skill is quite different from all the other doubles.  The most obvious difference is, as the gymnast is leaving the floor, instead of the shoulders lifting upward towards the ceiling, the shoulders are driven backwards causing a significant arch  throughout the entire body.  The head is back, the arms are somewhat overhead and the hips are lifting somewhat vertically.  In fact, the position resembles a blocked whip back somersault.  Thus, a series of well executed whip backs are an important pre requisite.Steps1.  Perform a round off back handspring back layout onto a mat about waist high.  The arms should be overhead and the body is arched throughout the entire somersault.  During the Snap down, the feet should contact the floor directly under the hips.  Too much block is often a mistake made causing a gainer type takeoff.  The knees will usually buckle during the punch when this mistake is made. 2.  Next have her execute, onto the same height, an arch layout 1 ¼ to the back.  The arms will lift quickly overhead and then immediately pull down in front of the body.  As the feet pass the mat, she must lift the arms back overhead to contact the mat first.  Note:  It is important to stay on these two drills to develop a proper takeoff.  As with many skills, this one is often won or lost during the takeoff.3.  Once proficiency has been shown, then it is time to turn the double layout.  It is important to first turn this skill into a very soft landing such as foam pit or an in-ground pit mat.  A spot to assist the lift and rotation is recommended at first.  Note:  A short landing of this skill on a firm surface, can put a great deal of pressure on the soft tissue and joints of the lower leg.  It is extremely important to proceed through the steps methodically, so as to  minimize this risk.  4.  If you have used the foam pit, next we will add a mat, still a little below the height of the floor.  Once she can repeatedly complete the skill and over rotate it, you may add more mats.  I would recommend raising the height in 4 inch increments. Continue to raise the mats until the gymnast can complete the skill easily at 4 inches above the floor level.  When you move the skill to the actual floor I would suggest landing on a good 4 inch throw mat.  I also recommend that you spot this skill when first moving it over.  When you attend high level competitions, the double layout will often receive a spot on the first one, at least, even when the other skills do not.  Even when the gymnast has successfully competed this skill, I would still go back to steps 1 and 2 on a weekly basis.  It is good practice to make the 1st day of the week, a day in which more timers are performed as a review.  The double ArabianThe double Arabian, is a double somersault with a ½ twist performed on the first flip prior to vertical (“early”).  The double Arabian tends to be more difficult than the double back tuck with the full twist, since the landing is considered blind.  Since the second flip is performed forward, there is a greater risk for a knee injury.  It is recommended that the gymnast works some specific hamstring conditioning to help protect the knee from hyper-extending, in the case of an incorrect landing.  Prior to learning the double Arabian, The coach and the gymnast should decide that she is comfortable with double flipping forward.  One way to determine this is, to have her learn double fronts first into the open foam and then onto mats.  It is wise to have her separate the knees slightly during the second flip, since it is possible to hit the nose on the knees during the landing.  Double fronts can also be worked effectively off of a mini tramp or on a tramp with an overhead spotting rig.  Steps1.  First, from the spring floor onto an 8 inch mat, have the gymnast execute a standing  Arabian dive to a handstand followed by a forward roll out.  The coach will need to spot this at first.  If the gymnast twists to the left, the coach should stand to her left, while she executes a jump ½ turn to your arms.  The coach should catch her at horizontal and then carry her to a handstand, followed by a roll out.  This should be repeated until she can do this easily by herself.  2.  Next, have her perform a standing Arabian from the edge of the pit, down into the pit.  It is normal to begin the skill exactly like the Arabian dive and then tuck as she is completing the turn.  It is helpful to see the pit as the ½ turn is being completed.  This can be used as a reference for the double Arabian.  This progression may also be worked from the height of 2 panel mats (16”) folded up, onto an 8 inch mat.  3.  Now have the gymnast do a round off back handspring Arabian dive handstand, to a stack of mats about waist high.  Again, you may want to safety spot this at first, the same way as you did during the standing ½ turn dive on the floor.  Once she can do this easily, raise the mats to about chest height.  4.  Have her now perform an Arabian tuck to the feet onto the stack mats.   5.  Once the tuck is learned, I like to have them learn the same skill in the layout position.6.  Next, we raise the mats to shoulder height and have her do an Arabian tuck 1 ¼ to the hands and knees.7.  When proficiency is shown on the 1 ¼, we move to the open pit.  I highly recommend using an open foam pit for first turning this skill, due to the blind landing and the exposure of the knees upon landing.  8.  When they appear comfortable, we add the soft mat in the pit.  It is at this time, we want them to hit the mat and over rotate.  You must constantly remind them to land with the knees bent.  9.  Now simply add 4-8 inches of matting and work at this height until proficient.10.  The gymnast needs to perform several hundred repitions in the pit with the mats or into an in-ground pit mat before putting the skill onto the regulation floor.  The first time on the floor should be onto a 4 or even an 8” (broken in) skill cushion.  The gymnast must again be reminded to bend the legs and attempt to roll out during the landing.  It is always better if the can select reference points during the skill.  For example, at the completion of the ½ turn they may be able to see the floor and at the end of the second flip as they are landing. The full-in double back tuckThe full-in double back, is a full twisting double back, with the full twist being performed on the first flip.  This is the most commonly thrown full twisting double.  The takeoff for the tuck full-in, is identical to the double Arabian tuck.  It is for this reason, that it is a good idea to learn the double Arabian first, even if only doing it from a tramp into a pit or floor into a pit.  The tendency on the full-in, is much like a regular full, and that is to twist to soon thus, loosing height and or rotation.  Training the double Arabian helps to assure a proper set up for the full-in.  Steps1.  Have the gymnast do a standing Arabian tuck somersault into a foam pit. Next, have her twist a little further gradually, until she has achieved a full. The arms should reach overhead and then back down to the legs in time to grab for the second flip.  After she can complete a back tuck with a full twist, have her attempt to over rotate to the back in the foam.  If you don’t have access to a foam pit, have her perform the same drill from 2 panel mats onto an  8” skill cushion and attempt to roll out.  Another good method is to use a vaulting board to start on.  2.  Next, have her perform a round off back handspring to a lay out full twist to her feet onto a stack of mats about chest high.3.  Have her do a round off back handspring tuck full, using the same method as the standing full in step one and over rotate to the back.  The arms should reach over head and the come straight down towards the legs.  She should touch the legs briefly and then reach back over head in order to contact the mat first.   You may also use the method described in step 2 of the double back.  4.  Next, move to a foam pit and turn the skill.  If you use an in-ground mat, you will need to spot the same as the double back.  Follow the steps above for the double back to get the skill  to the actual floor-exercise area. The full-in back out double pikeThe full-in pike, is basically the same as the full-in tuck except the legs are straight.  As a rule of thumb, the gymnast who is a little more comfortable with the double pike than the double tuck, is probably better with the full-in pike as well.  You never know for sure, until you try.  The lead ups are the same as the full-in tuck. Conclusion

It is important to respect the risk involved with multiple somersaults.  You can minimize that risk by mastering the steps along the way. It is also important to use good judgment for when to place the skill into a routine and into a competition.  Always teach the gymnast to over rotate properly in the beginning.

About Tony Gehman

Tony has been recognized as a leading coach and clinician for over 20 years. He has placed numerous gymnasts into the elite level and onto the National Team since 1983. For a decade Tony was the president of the United States Elite Coaches Association (1991-2001). Tony has escorted his gymnasts to Russia, France, Korea England, Columbia, Cuba and Bulgaria, and is best known for his work with USA Gymnastics, writing the Safety Guide for the Yurchenko vault, and the USGF Conditioning Packet.