Archive for the ‘Articles by Event’ Category

Tony Gehman - Advanced Tumbling Skills: Back Twisting

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Tony Gehman - Back TwistingIntroduction - The main prerequisite for advanced backward 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-backs.  Next the gymnast must demonstrate the ability to perform a round-off, back handspring, backlayout approximately head height or higher, with a straight body position.  The chest should be contracted and the hips are straight.  This is the core somersault for twisting and multiple flipping.  It is important to develop specific gymnastics conditioning in order to perform higher level tumbling skills.  It is helpful if the trampoline is used in the early stages of flipping to help ensure proper body position, awareness and vertical takeoff.

Twisting - When learning to perform twisting somersaults, there is a tendency to twist “too soon”.  The goal is to go as high as possible, and then execute twist.  For this reason, we will purposely use lead ups that first encourage the gymnast to complete the takeoff and then perform the twist.

Steps

 1.  Perform a ¾ layout to a stack of mats approximately chest height, to the stomach.

Note: The coach may choose to safety spot depending on the level of the gymnasts.  During the takeoff it is important that the gymnast finishes the “snap   down phase” with the chest in (the shoulder blades are apart), the hips under, and the shoulders lifting to complete elevation (touching the ears).  The feet      should be a little behind the hips during the takeoff to ensure a high somersault.

2.  Perform a ¾ layout to the stomach and roll to the back in the desired twisting direction. It is now that we practice what the arms will be doing during the twist. 

There are two methods that I prefer: 

1.       For a left twist, the left arm will be pulled 90 deg. to the side.         

2.       For the same direction the left arm may be bent all the way into the body completely flexed.

Tony Gehman - Back TwistingTwist direction:  Most gymnasts have a dominant direction in which they twist.  We put them through several drills to help determine this direction. 

Have them jump and turn to the maximum of their ability. For instance, 1 ½ or 2/1.  Observe both ways (right/left) and see which one they favor.  This can be done on the floor or trampoline.  Next have them perform a standing back handspring followed by a jump half turn and then a full turn, both directions and see which way they favor.  As you take them through the progressions for flipping with twists, see that the direction they are going, is consistent with the way they favored during the tests. Once the dominant direction has been determined, they should twist forward and backward the same way.

3.  Perform a ¾ layout with a ½ turn after vertical.  “See the mat, then twist”

Note:  They must not twist before the feet pass thru vertical in the beginning because they may stop rotation and possibly land on their head. It is recommended that you safety spot at first to ensure complete rotation.

Tramp drill:  Perform a ¾ layout to the stomach onto an 8″ mat placed on the trampoline.  Follow the steps above for the ½ twist.

4.  Remove the stack mats and perform a layout, land followed by a jump ½ turn.  It is good to see the floor prior to landing.

5.  Next, have her do a layout followed by a ½ twist after the vertical.  This should be done onto soft mats with a spot or into an in-ground pit.

6.  Gradually allow the gymnast to twist before the vertical but encourage her to bring the body at least to 10:00 and finish by 12:00.  It is sometimes necessary to go back to the stack mats and develop the twist just prior to vertical.  Note:  It is essential to master this layout ½ twist between 10 and 12:00 before proceeding on to the full twist.

7.  Once proficiency has been demonstrated then you can have her perform a layout ½ to a stuck landing followed by an immediate jump ½ turn.  If she is over rotating the layout ½ she should not go on to the next step.  She should be able to complete the twist 8″ above the level floor to show she is high enough for additional ½ twist.

8.  Next she should be ready to execute a layout with a 1/1 twist.  A soft landing is recommended at first to protect the knees and ankles due to the potential for an incomplete twist or flip.  If you do not have a safety pit, I would recommend a spot onto a soft 8 “mat. The spotter in this case, will stand on the same side as the direction of the twist.  The coach should follow the hips on the way up and catch her as she is landing. Twisting is better learned if the landing surface is the same or slightly higher than the takeoff surface.  This will encourage the gymnast to go up rather than down during the takeoff.

Note:  During the takeoff for the twist, the shoulders should be lifting to the ears, the shoulder blades should be apart and the hips should be lifting upward.  It is helpful if the arms are somewhat overhead and slightly curved.  

The gymnast should “appear” to rise above horizontal and then wrap the twist.  The body should twist as one unit with the feet, hips, and shoulders all twisting together.  If the snapdown is not completed and the somersault is not completely set, then the body will tend to twist in separate segments rather than together.  This will also cause the legs to tend to separate. It will be wise to keep reviewing the layout ½ a as warm up for the full twist until the full is mastered.  This will help the gymnast to resist the tendency to twist too much during the takeoff.  The goal is to go as high as possible, execute a dynamic full twist and then open completely for the landing. The arms should be lifted in the rounded position on the takeoff and then wrapped quickly into the body.  I recommend that the arms form an X across the chest or be tucked in tightly side by side.

The gymnast should be encouraged to watch the other end of the floor on the way up, twist and then look for the floor prior to landing. 

9.  Once proficiency has been demonstrated repeatedly on the full, we may proceed on to the 1 ½.  Have the gymnast execute a layout full with a stuck landing, followed by a jump ½ turn. When the gymnast shows awareness for this progression, have her execute a back layout with a 1 ½ into the safety pit or onto soft mats with a safety spot.  The spotter should stand on the left side, for a right twist.  In other words, the gymnast should be twisting away from you and you are simply assisting the ending of the skill.

10.  The same process should be followed for each additional ½ twist.

I recommend highly, that the gymnasts use the trampoline with a qualified instructor or a tumble trak in order to increase awareness for multiple twisting and flipping skills.

For more information on Tony Gehman vist GymSmarts or purchase his DVD Advanced Tumbling 3 disk set.

Kris Robinson - A Greater Understanding of the Shoulder Joint

Monday, January 8th, 2007

This article contains a collection of information that I presented at the “Future Stars Championships and Coaches Workshop” in Colorado Springs (United States Olympic Training Center).  When looking at the shoulder joint, it is imperative that one studies it from both a muscle strength and muscle length perspective, as well as a posture and muscle balance viewpoint.  Below is an overview of this opinion.

 The pectoralis minor muscle becomes very short and causes a rounded shoulder position in certain athletes (i.e. gymnasts) and in those that slouch.  This muscle is in the chest area and originates on the third, fourth, and fifth ribs and attaches at the coracoid process (a projection coming forward from the shoulder blade).  When it tests short, it causes the shoulder girdle complex to remain 200701kr1.jpgforward and sets up poor mechanics during arm movements.  This can cause shoulder pain, nerve and blood vessel impingement and create movement problems such as inability to move the arms above the head.  The coach, parent, and/or teammate must passively stretch the athlete’s shoulder down on a daily basis to prevent or improve the pectoralis minor muscle length.

 The lower trapezius muscle is the antagonist of the pectoralis minor and must be strengthened in most cases.  If an athlete slouches, has a short pectoralis minor and/or carries a heavy backpack on one shoulder he/she may have a long, stretched out lower trapezius muscle.  The lower trapezius muscle can be strengthened with correct sitting and standing posture and with strengthening exercises (facelying, shoulder blades pulled back/down/in, arms overhead and lift).

 If the athlete has short pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, and teres major muscles, it will be difficult for them to reach their arms above their head without arching their back or having their arms up, but too wide.  Keeping the lower abdominal muscles contracted, the low back flat against the floor or wall, and the arms held overhead, can stretch the above named muscles.200701kr2.jpg

 The rotator cuff muscles include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis muscles.  These muscles are an intrinsic part of the shoulder capsule and if these muscles are stiff, the capsule is probably stiff.  The athlete can be assessed for correct shoulder lateral and medial rotation.  When the biomechanics of the shoulder joint are incorrect, microtrauma can occur and lead to rotator cuff tears.  If the tear is severe, the athlete cannot hold their arm up or out to the side (positive drop arm test).

The athlete must be aware of their posture and muscle balance and how this affects their shoulder health.  Activities of daily living (sitting, standing, arm movements overhead, and repetitive activities) must be monitored for correct technique. 

200701kr3.jpgWORDS TO THE ATHLETE:  Many athletes wear a very heavy backpack (or gym bag) on one or both shoulders and it seems that they shrug their shoulders just to keep the backpack on.  Other athletes tense up when they study or perform certain skills and their shoulders elevate and get sore and tight.  You and your teammates have the potential to look relaxed, sleek and confident when you perform, so follow the guidelines below. 

  • Remove unwanted heavy items from your backpack or gym bag. Try a backpack on wheels for school and a suitcase with wheels for travel.
  • Test yourself on activities of daily living. Make sure that you keep your shoulders relaxed when you do simple things like fixing your hair, working on the computer or reaching up high to get something out of a cabinet.
  • Practice pulling your shoulder blades gently down, back and in toward your spine whenever you are sitting, standing or doing most skills. This will increase the strength in your lower trapezius muscles. Stretch your neck muscles by relaxing your head to one side and keeping the opposite shoulder pulled down.

Final Note:  Besides the potential of improved performance, you will have increased chest expansion and the ability to breathe more comfortably, as well as, less pain and stiffness in your shoulder region.  Good Luck!

For more information on Kris Robinson, and posture, buy her DVD: It’s About Posture, from GymSmarts.

Mas Watanabe - Team Dynamics

Monday, January 8th, 2007

200701mw1.jpgGS: The current group of girls you are working with are fun to watch. The dynamics of the group seems very positive and each one seems to bring different strengths to the group.

Mas Watanabe: Yes, I enjoy working with girls that I have right now. I have four, only four but each of the gymnasts seems to have a different quality. For instance, one gymnast is extremely good in air awareness and she strives for that. A couple of the gymnasts are more powerful and quickness is extremely good. Another gymnast is very weak in shoulders however has tremendous leg power and also very good in plyometric type of power. Another one seems to have good coordination of the skill. Each gymnast has different qualities but yet they feed off from each other. So if I have only one gymnast working with me, probably it would be very difficult for her to learn moves fast or develop quickly. Where as you work with a group of gymnasts, they could interact with each other and also they can feed off from each other. That’s what makes the whole group to develop so much faster. I can see that this is happening on a daily basis with my group.

GS: Do you feel like you need to do anything to make that happen?

Mas Watanabe: No, I don’t, I think it’s more a matter of creating a positive atmosphere in the gym. They need to have fun in training and enjoy themselves while they are there. I help them create a very positive environment with positive reinforcement so you actually lift the kids by commending them more on their strength and strong areas. So that once you commend one individual, then the other kids would try to achieve the same level of skills or put more effort to reach that level so that they will receive the same reward from the coach. I mean I’m not really looking for it but they naturally seem to do that, try to reach themselves, push themselves to the same level.

GS: In that same skill?

Mas Watanabe: Yes, in that same skill. So they feel that I’m as good. So you know that’s the natural desire they have.

GS: So if one’s getting very good at twisting and the other two aren’t, when they hear you say, “Wow, that was really good”, they want to be able to improve their twisting and hear you say “Wow, that was really good.”

Mas Watanabe: Yes and at that level. That’s why they will achieve so much and so quickly. So I think the important thing for my role is to create that positive environment and help them make it fun then they will actually push each other and compete with each other. They literally have little friendly competitions amongst themselves. So that generally creates a very fun atmosphere for them, even the skill level doesn’t matter sometimes. It’s almost a little game you are developing, or creating. So they enjoy doing that. Sometimes I found that they would improve quicker with these little competitions among themselves. Especially when you are working with the younger gymnasts, I think this is very critical. Positive reinforcement will take them so much further with less effort. Of course I have seen some of the negative or I would say demanding type of coaching methodology and I also see the benefit of it. But the method that putting the lots of pressure on the kids to teach the skills also would have a detrimental effect as well. So I would prefer, especially with the young ones, a more positive approach.

200701mw2.jpgGS: It would seem a lot more fun when the gymnasts are creating that internal motivation between themselves.

Mas Watanabe: Right. That is much more fun for coaches also and much more fun for the gymnasts as well. Obviously as we know, you cannot do that all the time, in order to improve in sports. So you have to tighten up certain areas. When you demand a certain quality of work that the gymnasts sometimes don’t like to do, but you have to push them so that they will do it. That is a very delicate balance. In those times, if they make any changes, you need to make sure to recognize it and you commend them a little bit more for their effort. That will tends to lift them up a little. Then you can push them more that are a little bit harder. If you have a good balance with it, they will tend to improve faster. That is what I think is the art of coaching. I think that’s why that some coaches are better than others because they are aware of that balance, that very fine balance.

GS: Filming yesterday was a lot of fun because you could just see, especially with the younger gymnasts, they were working at close to their limit on some of the skills on the strap bar.

Mas Watanabe: Yes, they surprise me every day and you never underestimate their ability. Sometimes I feel they are not ready but yet sometimes they surprise you, or surprise me what they do. By putting them in a certain environment, for instance, they are being videotaped and they are demonstrating for the camera, that puts them in a very special circumstance, a special environment. Then they go beyond what they think they can do. It was a great surprise for me to see when Courteney did a three Stalters in a row, which she never had been able to do that before. I was very impressed and very, very happy to see that.

GS: It was obvious she was at the very edge, just inside that edge of her ability.

Mas Watanabe: Right, exactly. But she was willing to go for it, to push herself to her limit and stay within that edge. If she was not in that circumstance, trying to push herself to go for the second one, and go for the third one, which is extremely difficult thing to do.

GS: Or even Cari with the Clear hip circles, you could see her working to the edge of her ability or Marissa on the Endo Shoot.

Mas Watanabe: Yes, right, and I think that’s how you can make big jumps and progress sometimes. Then once you do it, once you go over that limit, then realize, ‘Oh, wow, I’m capable of doing it’. So, the second time around it becomes a lot easier. The hardest time is the very first time to push past what you believe is your limitation. But you do it once, then you can do it the second time, the third time, and pretty soon it becomes normal. That’s how a lot of times how we progress. So it is exciting to see that.

GS: Yes that is exciting! So when we are looking at that group dynamic, it’s not just in reference to the physical skills though, you’re talking about the personalities too.

Mas Watanabe: That’s right.

GS: Where you have one athlete that you can tell really wants to be good and maybe another athlete that’s a little bit more subtle.

Mas Watanabe: Right, and I think sometimes those personality traits and characteristics come, in some kids, come up in front. Some show more competitiveness in training, while some kids take more turns simply because she wants to do more or simply she wants to go higher. Some kids are subtle but they are internally very competitive. So when she goes, she goes really all out and shows the greater dynamics sometimes. Of course you know, sometimes the gymnasts are not as aggressive. Some gymnasts are not as aggressive but she would come out of her shell simply just because the rest of the group are doing more things and going harder and taking more turns. That pulls her up to that level. So naturally the other kids would push her to stay in that group dynamic.

GS: Where she wouldn’t be able to do that by herself?

Mas Watanabe: Right.

GS: Or at lease it would be much harder.

Mas Watanabe: It would be much harder. I just feel very fortunate to have four different types of gymnasts that have different strengths so that the group dynamics actually brings the whole group up faster.

GS: They’re moving in harmony.

Mas Watanabe: Right, exactly. That’s why I said you need to create an environment where it is very positive, fun and very energetic. You need to create these basic environment. Then kids would really enjoy being there, working hard, and naturally those areas of strength will come out and gel together to move the group along faster.

Kris Merlo Robinson - Posture Alert

Monday, May 1st, 2006

 POSTURE ALERT from “THE POSTURE LADY”:  I have some very important posture tips to help gymnasts improve their skills and presentation and to help them prevent injuries.  Share the information below with each and every gymnast that you work with! 

The Posture LadyHello. My name is Kris Merlo Robinson, PT, better known in the gymnastics world as “The Posture Lady.”  Posture is the way that you hold your body as you sit, stand and move.  It is the position of all the joints of the body at any given moment.  My friend Florence Kendall, a well-known physical therapist, said, “Good posture is a good habit.”  Have you ever noticed that when you stand slouched in poor posture, it’s like a habit that you have?  It may feel comfortable to you, but it’s not correct.  I will teach you more about correct posture, so that you can make good posture your habit!

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) states that good posture is important because it helps your body function at top speed, with efficiency and endurance, without fatigue, muscular strain or pain.  For the gymnast, this m2006.3Kriseans performing at a higher skill level with poise and confidence.  Furthermore, a gymnast with good posture may prevent injury to his or her body.

A physical therapist has special skills to test and treat problems with posture, but you can check your own posture to some degree.  You may need help from your coach, parents, or teammates to check your side view posture.  A photograph in this position would give you immediate feedback about your posture.  How do you line up?  Correct posture while standing means forming a straight line between your ankle, knee, hip, trunk, shoulder and ear.  There are three normal curves in the back:  1) the cervical spine (neck), curving slightly forward, 2) the thoracic spine (upper back), curving slightly backward, and 3) the lumbar spine (lower back), curving slightly forward.  These curves should be held correctly while standing or sitting.  The APTA notes that when these curves are out of balance, certain segments of the spine (vertebrae) are put under stress and may become painful. 

GOOD POSTURE:  
   ● knees straight
   ● low back curved forward slightly
   ● upper back erect and chest held slightly up and forward
   ● shoulders in line with ears
   ● chin tucked in
POOR POSTURE: 
   ● knees “locked” backwards
   ● low back arched forward too much (lordosis), causing the abdomen to protrude
   ● upper back rounded with chest sunk in
   ● shoulders pulled back too hard or slouched forward
   ● head slumped forward
Note from the APTA:  When testing for normal curves of the spine:  stand with your back to a wall, heels three inches from the wall.  Place one hand behind your neck and the other behind your low back.  If there is too much space between your back and the wall (if you can easily move your hands back and forth more than an inch), you need to correct your posture.20063kr02.JPG

Correct front and back view posture means the knees, hips, and shoulders are level, the spine and head are straight and the body weight is distributed equally on both feet.  Stand in front of a mirror and/or have someone look at your alignment.  Again, how do you line up?
GOOD POSTURE:
   ● ankles straight
   ● kneecaps face straight ahead
   ● equal space between arms and sides
   ● arms relaxed at sides with palms facing towards body
   ● shoulders level
   ● head held straight
POOR POSTURE:
   ● ankles roll in so that arches go flat
   ● kneecaps face toward each other or face out
   ● trunk shifted
   ● arms turned so that palms face back
   ● one shoulder high or both shoulders shrugged
   ● head tilted, rotated or chin up too high
Develop good posture or maintain good posture by practicing until it becomes a good habit.  In Mrs. Kendall’s words, “bad posture is a bad habit.”  According to the APTA, if you have poor posture, your bones are not properly aligned and your joints, muscles, and ligaments take more strain, increasing the risk of injury.  Good posture only has one appearance, but poor posture comes in many unattractive styles.

To improve or hold good posture, think about keeping your chin tucked in, your shoulder blades gently pulled down and back, and your abdominal muscles pulled UP and IN as you sit, stand and move.  Avoid “locking” your knees backwards, remember to tighten your buttock muscles, and distribute your weight evenly on your feet.  These are general exercises that can be done throughout the day. Constantly strive to keep good posture while working out in the gym!  Check your posture TODAY!

If poor posture muscle problems arise and are outside of your experience and competence…seek help from qualified medical professionals.    

Dan Connelly › Strap Bar

Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

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GymSmarts caught up with Dan Connelly for this interview to discuss portions of his Swing like a Champion DVD.  This interview covers the use of the strap bar in developing strong swing fundamentals.  The DVD itself covers all he important elements of swing forward and backward and teaching giants in both directions.

How to Use the Strap Bar Effectively

  GymSmarts:          Dan, can you explain to me what a strap bar is?

Dan Connelly:  A strap bar is a men’s high bar that is used with wrist straps which prevent the hands from letting go of the bar. The bar normally has a PVC pipe fitted over the bar so it can rotate with the gymnast’s hands.  The bar is kept really smooth and shiny so the PVC or the gymnast’s hands can rotate freely around the bar.  Straps are used around the gymnast’s wrists and the bar securing the gymnast to the bar so the gymnasts does not have to worry about flying off the bar. 

GymSmarts:          What’s the main reason for using a strap bar?

Dan Connelly:  The main purpose of the strap bar is to help you learn skills without the fear of losing your grip and flying off the bar.  This allows you to do many more repetitions, and in turn you are able to focus much more on the body positions without any fear of having to re grasp the bar or worry about coming off. 

GymSmarts:   When do you start a gymnast on the strap bar?

Dan Connelly:  I think as soon as the gymnast gets the concept of the tapping action on the regular bar and has a strong enough grip to hold on there, you can start putting the gymnast on the strap bar. 

GymSmarts:          Since you are starting them pretty much right away on the strap bar, what do you typically start having them do?

Dan Connelly:  I Just start them swinging back and forth doing the tap.  I have them trying to learn to do the tapping action in each direction.  I just letting them develop the swing and the strength to create the swing without any real help from the coach. 

GymSmarts:  So when you are first starting out with them and you are letting them swing back and forth do you do anything to develop the tap swing there or do you do that on the regular bar?

Dan Connelly:  I think you can probably go through the same kinds of things on both the strap bar and the regular bar.  I push them up in the ribcage in the back and let them learn that its really a very natural kind of action.  I don’t really do a lot of pushing to accelerate the swing on the strap bar.  I just kind of let them do it by trial and error and help them correct positions more than else. 

GymSmarts:  Do you care about form?

Dan Connelly:  Absolutely, because if they are bending their legs, if their legs are going apart widely then it really changes all the mechanics of the swing. 

GymSmarts:  Interesting.  In the beginning do you care about them bending their legs?

Dan Connelly:  I think bending the knees is a bad idea.  However in the very beginning, it probably will be easier to create more swing if they use their knees to kick with rather than their toes because it takes a lot more strength to kick your toes than your knees.  So, if they start by bending their knees I would still emphasize that they keep their leg straight once they get a little bit of swing going. 

GymSmarts:  So in general you’re real conscious about the position and having them build the swing by themselves?

Dan Connelly:  Yes. 

GymSmarts:   Do you teach the tap one direction at a time, or do you try and get them to do both directions when they’re starting to learn?

Dan Connelly:  Most of the time I start with a back giant tap and just let the other direction happen as naturally as possible and then once they are proficient at the back giant tap then I emphasize the front giant tap. 

GymSmarts:  What other kinds of drills do you do on the strap bar?

Dan Connelly:  As they get more proficient at swinging what I like to get have them do is really focus on just swinging as high on each end of the swing as they can, all the way up to and including a hand stand on each end.  In order to prevent them from going over the bar, I emphasize the shoulder position be completely opened on both end of the swing.  I think that position carries over to all the pivoting moves like blind changes and pirouettes and every other turn that you do being on top of the bar.  I really want them to have their shoulders wide open and not just close their shoulders up to get around the bar just so that they feel like they have done a giant. 

GymSmarts:  So you’re making sure that their shoulders are open.  Are you pushing them to make them go over the top?

Dan Connelly:  No I don’t.  I don’t push them go over the top hardly ever.  Maybe at some point they get real bored and want to know that they can get around the bar and may be just for that purpose, just so that they can have a little bit of fun I might push them over the bar one time so that they know that they can actually do a giant.  But for me the purpose of the strap bar is strictly to refine the tapping action and keep the shoulders and open and learn how to keep the shoulders open on the back giant on the way up.  Almost everybody relaxes their shoulders and closes the angle up to shorten the length of the body to take them over the bar.  I think with the straps since you don’t have to worry about what’s going happen when you swing down, in terms of holding on, you can really emphasize pressing your shoulders open against the bar as you rise above the horizontal axis of the bar. 

GymSmarts:  Does that take a lot of strength on the shoulders?

Dan Connelly:  I don’t think it takes that much strength.  I think it’s more awareness than it is real strength.  It does take a certain amount of strength but anybody that can do a handstand on the floor or even against the wall has enough strength to keep their shoulders open. 

GymSmarts:  What is a tick tock?

Dan Connelly:  The tick tocks is when you go from a handstand, say in a, back giant direction, to a handstand and not go over the bar and then go in front giant direction and up rise back to a handstand.  Just keep going back and forth from handstand to handstand without going over the top. The trick is to prevent them from going over the bar and to emphasize not doing a full giant.  What actually happens is in order to do that, they really have to relax through the bottom and they really have to keep their shoulders fully extended out.  Occasionally their the swing will become so comfortable and so smooth that they will go over any way but then they can stop the swing and do the tick tock again after that. 

GymSmarts:  So that’s the ultimate swing to you?

Dan Connelly:  To me that the swing maxed out.  To me it’s all about what you are going to do with the giant in terms of turning later.  In order to do all your turns completely on the top of the bar the shoulders have to be open.  So rather than allow the kids to get into the habit of closing the shoulders up and going over the bar, which as you know, going over the bar is always the ultimate goal for the kids because they want to be able to say they did a giant.  So its really easy for them to just close their shoulders up and go over and the more they do that the more they get into the habit of closing their shoulders up when they go to do a blind change, pivot changes, the Healy, the Higgins or anything else that requires a turn on the top.  They have to open the shoulders back up before they can make the turn if they are going to be on the top.  So rather than go through all that, to me, you learn the giant with the shoulders open.  You can always close them up later once you can swing with them open.  It’s easy to change that, it’s just not easy to go back to the other direction. 

GymSmarts:    How do you transfer the skills from the strap part to the regular bar, or are you working simultaneously between the strap bar and traditional bar?

Dan Connelly:  I use the strap bar in conjunction with the regular bar.  I still believe that the gymnast needs to go through the proper progressions to learn the giant on the regular bar.  So I definitely do not believe that you just learn the giant on the strap bar and then the coach pushes the gymnast around on the regular bar.  The mechanics and technique are aided by the strap bar but there is no substitute for the proper progression on the regular bar. 

GymSmarts:  Do you do any other skills on the strap other than the giant?

Dan Connelly:  Yes, we do free hip, stalters, endo shoots and other kind of giants, germans, inverted giants, and eagle giants. 

GymSmarts:  Is there more than one way to put your hands through the straps?

Dan Connelly:  Yes, if you are working with an over grip, there are two ways toput on the straps.  First of all the straps are made out of climbing straps.  You can get them at mountain climbing stores, REI or places like that.  They are hollow inside made out of cotton and they are one inch strapping.  I cut them in a certain length and then I have them sewn with one turn in them so that when you put them on top of the bar the part that you actually put your hand through is not twisted.  You can put your hand through going away from you, and then turn your hand to the left, if we are talking about the right hand.  To put your hand in forward, lay your wrist on the strap and turn your hand to the left and then grab the bar.  That’s probably the most secure way to have the strap on because it has a turn in it.  However, sometimes, kids have bigger wrist so there aren’t enough straps with different sizes available.  So for those kids, you can pick and bring your hand back further with the strap coming back towards you and go up towards the ceiling and then reach to the left and grab the bar.  That’s still going to be secure and you’re still not going to come out of it.  You have to make sure you are using  the right size strap. 

GymSmarts:  So you just want to have it just snug enough so the hand can be free but not come off?

Dan Connelly:  Right. 

GymSmarts:  So either way the, the strap on the bar is going to be on the outside part of your hand its not going to be between your hands?

Dan Connelly:  Well, for the over grip the straps can be on the outside part of your hand.  For the under grip its going to be on the inside part of your hand. 

GymSmarts:  OK, I’m confused.

Dan Connelly:  In both cases the strap is going to be on the pinky side of your hand. 

GymSmarts:  Great, that’s clearer to me.  So you have several different size straps?

Dan Connelly:  Yes.  I like to have four to six different sizes. 

GymSmarts:   At one point we had talked about not using PVC around the bar and it gives the gymnast a more realistic feeling for shifting their wrists.  Do you still feel that way?

Dan Connelly:  I don’t feel as strong about that as before.  Some people use a cotton glove in place of the PVC. 

GymSmarts:  Does that seem to help the gymnast feel the wrist shift?

Dan Connelly:  Exactly. 

GymSmarts:  Do they put their grips on over the glove?

Dan Connelly:  They don’t wear any grips but they wear wristbands because the straps eat into the wrist. 

GymSmarts:  What do you do so that the straps don’t tear into their wrists?

Dan Connelly:  That part can be painful.  I have the kids wear wristbands to help with that problem.  But if you are wear the cotton gloves then you normally don’t even need to wear wristbands, just put those strap over, over the cotton glove. 

GymSmarts:  Have you seen any problems with the glove getting stuck on the bar?

Dan Connelly:  No, I haven’t seen any problems with that but the most important thing is that the bar be completely chalk free, it can’t have any chalk on it at all, has to be shiny and smooth. 

GymSmarts:  So overall, even with the small bit of potential pain in the gymnast’s wrists, you feel that the strap bar is an extremely effective tool for developing swing?

Dan Connelly:  I think that the strap bar is an extremely effective tool for developing good and efficient swing technique.  In addition it makes it so the gymnast can do many more repetitions without worrying about coming off the bar, or creating excessive wear on their hands.  

About Dan Connelly


Dan has coached fundamentals for over 30 years.  He has developed several athletes from early in their development to Champions (Mitch Gaylor & Charles Lakes, both Olympians).  He was one of the early coaches for the Boys National Age Group Development Program.  At the University level he has coached Uneven Bar Champions, and is currently in his 8th season as Head Women’s Gymnastics Coach at Bowling Green University, Ohio.  More information on bars and basic swing is available through GymSmarts and Dan’s DVD Swing Like a Champion.

Learn more about the Strap bar from Mas Watanabe’s DVD Working the Strap Bar.