Posts Tagged ‘womens gymnastics’


Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

I have noticed, of late, that there has been a tremendous misunderstanding when using the term “Hollow”.  Coaches seem to use this term as a catch all phase.  I am sure that if you do enough hollow body holds and rocks that the gymnasts understand what this position is.  However, do coaches truly understand the hollow position?  This is the topic that I would like to address.

I had the great fotune to meet Mr. Watanabe in 1970 when he first came to this country and started the “Hollow” phase which we are now in.  And I think that, as many things do, the term “Hollow” has been misinterpreted.  It is true that we want our gymnasts to achieve the most beautiful body positions and hollow is one of them.  However, how often do we emphasize the tight arch position?  Well in the beginning the concept was that the hollow position is no good without the arch position.  That everything is a play on opposites.  The yin and yang as it were.  Anyway, what we should really be emphasizing is the contrast and power that can be achieved by using the hollow with the arch effectively.

I will give you an example:

Layout Back Somersault – the most common place where this concept is misunderstood is on the back layout on tumbling.  Most coaches emphasize a hollow push off the hands on the back handspring which is good.  However,  how many try to get the gymnast to push the hips forward and open the chest with the arms past the ears on the takeoff?  By the  way, this would be a tight arch position.  Once this body position is achieved the gymnast should either remain in the tight arch for a layout or go back into a hollow body which prepares the gymnast to twist.

Many coaches suggest that when you push off the back handspring you should be hollow and you should take off in a hollow.  However, if you emphasize this I believe you will find your athletes doing a pike rather than a hollow layout position and usually piking because of under rotation.  If you use this technique to do a double back you will usually find the gymnast doing a double which under rotates with the head, more often than not, looking at the knees and creating counter rotation.

Therefore, remember that the preferred application of the “Hollow” is together, in contrast, with the arch.  You will obtain much greater power when this combination is applied properly.  Anyone who might like to have more specific applications discussed need only ask.  Mr. Watanabe himself is blogging on Gymsmarts community so there are lots of resources available.

For now “Good Coaching”.


Thursday, November 13th, 2008


Did you ever notice how many kids, boys and girls, kick when they try to do a kip?

This is a very common problem. 


When doing a kip, the ankles should be brought up to the bar and as the body swings back, the arms pull up and the legs extend.  However, when the legs are extended there is a tendency to want to kick.  This kick takes the legs away from the bar and makes it impossible to make the kip.  In order to make the kip, the legs need to extend and be kept right next to the bar.  Therefore, this is definitely not a kicking action. 


Sometimes we use the idea of “putting your pants on”.  This concept is easy to understand and relates to the gymnast that the legs need to travel up the bar and stay close to it.  If the gymnast is having a very difficult time making the kip it may be due to a lack of strength.  The strength involved in doing a kip is to fold: first, one must be able to pull himself to a support and second, bringing the legs to the bar requires a certain amount of stomach strength. 


In order to develop the strength involved in the kip it helps to do the following:  the strength to develop the pulling action can be developed by doing muscle ups with or without help from the coach, second, the strength to bring the ankles to the bar is developed by doing leg raises on the bar or preferably on stall bars.  By using the stall bars the use of the shoulders to facilitate the leg raise is minimized, therefore isolating the stomach muscles involved in bringing the ankles to the bar.


Last, but of great importance, the tap swing for the long hang kip and the glide action for a glide kip must also be developed and the coordination of the swing and the action described above takes time to develop.


One more thing, in an effort to isolate the kipping action, the drop kip will help.  The drop kip also requires timing and coordination.  However, there is no swinging movement to learn separately.  To accomplish the drop kip the gymnast begins in a support on the bar. With a very minimal cast the gymnast falls backwards, as if to do a back hip circle, brings the ankles to the bar, waits for the swing to go forward and then extends the legs along the bar while pulling him or herself to a support.  This additional skill will pay great dividends down the road.  I highly recommend you do this while learning the long hang tap swing and the glide swing.


Hope this helps with coaching the kip and remember “there is no kick in a kip”.

Is A Front “Layout” On The Floor Really A “Layout?”

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

My question to any of you who may read this is, Is a front layout on floor really a layout?  After all in most cases going backward it seems everyone encourages a hollow body position.  Do you use a hollow body position to do a front layout?  It is my experience that a front layout is in an arch.  Does that make it another skill or is it just different from back tumbling? Another question is: when you twist backward you do a layout then twist, do you do the same going forward? I have some definite thoughts on these questions but I would like to get some feedback before I start giving my answers.  Anyone want to jump in?

Thanks to Valentine for a very astute response to my question.

In answer to Valentine, I agree that there are two types of layouts.  Unfortunately, most coaches think of only the arched whipping layout as a “layout”.  This becomes a drawback when trying to teach a full twisting layout.  In my opinion the whipping layout should be in almost the same body position as the layout that goes up.  In other words the gymnast’s take off is hollow followed by a tight arch.  The difference in whether one does a whip or goes up is in the front handspring.  To create the whipping action the front handspring must rotate faster and land more arched than the handspring that is used to go straight up.   Remember that the hollow takeoff must come from an arched position in order to create power.

So, there are two very distinct “Layout” front flips.  Please do not be confused by the term “layout” and think that the layout that whips is the only way to do this. As a matter of fact if you try to twist the whipping tight arched layout the gymnast wil have a very difficult time twisting beyond a full.  In order to efficiently twist the front somersault one must rotate the front handspring less in order to stand up taller on the take.  However, note that to create the power necessary to go up you must still land the handspring arched and snap to the hollow position.  The difference is that to twist you never drive the heels to create rotation.  The body stays in the hollow and you begin the twist at the top of the somersault which will increase the rotation and allow you to land on your feet. Good Luck.

Front Handspring on the Floor

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

When I went to coach at Bowling Green State University in 1996 I inherited 18 gymnasts and in turn 18 different ways to do a front handspring on floor.  I was amazed that we had just won the Olympics as a country in Atlanta yet these young ladies none of whom were below a Level 9 did not know how to do a good front handspring.  Below is a progression as to how we can all better teach the front handspring.

We are luckier today than in 1996 and before in that we have tumble traks to use to teach tumbling.  Unfortunately, the more advanced technology, at times, allows us to skip steps that are extremely important to a skill.  In this case kids can do many repetitions thinking they are being sucessful yet end up learning to do a front handspring finishing with the legs bent and or the head forward or arms forward or even down.

We must use basic concepts to teach these skills.  We should not lose sight of the fact that a front handspring is merely a front limber done quickly with a coordinated push off the ground with the arms through the shoulders.  And most of all it is important to emphasize the finish being with straight legs, in an arch, with arms overhead and head back.  This creates a slingshoot effect.  With the body acting as a bow bent and ready to release into the next skill. That skill would logically be a  front flip.