Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Underswing 1/2 to Handstand or Bail to Handstand

Last week I came across a good discussion on about the underswing 1/2 turn to handstand on bars (also called a bail to handstand). There were a couple good videos showing two very different teaching methods.  I think you can find the video on also.  Both methods seemed to have created good results for the coaches using them. One was called the one arm drop drill. This is similar to the way I teach this skill.  I actually use 4 progressive one hand release drills. Each is mastered very quickly. Using these 4 drills for a few weeks before doing an underswing has helped my gymnasts get a good feel for the skill, understand how easy the skill is to perform, and easily go to handstand without a leg separation. I'm including a brief description of each step. Some look so simple you'll wonder why they're necessary and will want to skip them. DON'T. Each has its purpose.


Step 1: Getting the proper shape, understanding that when you let go with one hand before the other your body will turn, and learning where to look, are the goals of this drill. Have the gymnast look at the feet of the spotter (since there is no low bar to look at). I do this on the low bar to save time. You can do 6 or 7 girls in a minute, and the girls can learn to spot each other if you choose.

Step 2: Same as step 1, but on the high bar. Now there is a low bar to look at and the gymnast can get a real feel for the skill. I don't let the girls spot each other on this one.

Step 3: This is the step where you reinforce the one hand release to initiate the turn. My experience has been that when the girls start swinging into the drill they want to turn their body from the toes or hips. Don't let them. The beauty of the one hand release technique is that the gymnast has to do very little work to make the skill happen. Because releasing one hand at a time turns the body, there is no tap necessary, no torque on the lower body, and therefore less possibility of the legs separating. A tight gymnast simply lets her swing rise, releases one hand, then the other and FALLS to the low bar. If you spot lightly or a little later, you will find out if they are turning before releasing the hand. Push them up without turning them to see if they are trying to turn from the toes or hips.

Step 4: I only do this step a few times. As you can see on the video, the swing back down from the one hand release could get a little crazy. The purpose of this step is to make sure the gymnast can cast into the one hand release drill with the same technique as they used swinging into it. Once that has been established, there is no need to continue doing this step. I tell my gymnasts that it's easier to actually do the skill than it is to do this step. They usually agree.

Here are some notes to help you learn from my mistakes teaching this skill over the years.

- Teach this skill to a handstand. An underswing 1/2 to horizontal is a completely different skill than one to a handstand. So, why teach it twice?

- My girls believe this is the easiest skill of its value in the code of points (because that's what I tell them and because it is). Girls who compete this skill reinforce that point for the girls who are learning it. It takes very little physical effort to perform it properly.

- Do the skill over and over from a small cast before increasing the cast height or going from a giant.

- When it's time to do the skill without a spot, I use a mat over the low bar and/or have the girls do the skill to a padded deck.

- Don't have the gymnast tap or try to turn their body (all they need to do is let the swing rise, release one hand at a time, see the low bar and be tight).

- The arm doesn't drop away from the body on these drills (or on the underswing). Arms stay by the ears, where they will be in the handstand.