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Gymnastics Training Article – Cast Handstand on Uneven Bars
Many gymnastics coaches don’t assign enough sport-specific conditioning or don’t understand the mechanics of casting on the bars. When the gymnast attempts to throw before her shoulders are in the correct position, her body comes out rather than up. She also has less momentum if she attempts to throw after her legs have reached the forward stance position with her feet behind her. The gymnast’s legs don’t have such an effective cast as when she leans forward to see her knees before throwing.
A gymnast must see her knees before attempting to throw. His body should transition from a pike stance to an almost straight (hollow) stance rather than straight to arched for a proper handstand. In other words, a gymnast must place her shoulders above the bar before attempting to kick her legs for the cast. She should compress well and lean far enough forward to place her shoulders in a plank position. Many gymnasts don’t understand the concept of keeping their feet in front of the bar (or seeing their feet) off the kip before throwing. This is primarily a timing issue, but also a lack of understanding of momentum and body shapes. With the cast handstand, if the timing is correct, it will be much easier to form the correct shapes.
An arch in the back is not the correct body position for a handstand cast. Many gymnasts arch because they are trying to throw from an already straight form rather than from a compressed form. Coaches should not allow their gymnasts to throw with a bow as this can easily become a bad habit that is very difficult to correct.
So many gymnasts also struggle with this skill because they lack the upper body strength to lift their body. The sunken headstand is a simulation of the forward lateral raise exercise that many exercise enthusiasts perform with only a fraction of their body weight. As a fitness trainer, I have seen many clients struggle with less than 5-10% of their body weight during this exercise. Even the most advanced fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders only use a fraction of their body weight with this exercise. A gymnast must be able to fully open the angle of the shoulders with some momentum and enough strength to lift most of their body weight.
Perhaps, knowing this, the gymnastics coach can help her young gymnast progress towards her goal, the headstand, by allowing small increases in strength when using dumbbells or a toning bar. for conditioning. A great step would be to use extremely light weights, such as wooden dowels to teach plaster mechanics. Once the mechanics have been mastered, the young gymnast can move on to a 1.5 to 2 pound dumbbell in each hand. Take your precautions! Many children, although they have recently become accustomed to literally swinging their body weight during gymnastics training, have no experience in using weights for strength training.
Here is a very useful gymnastic exercise that simulates the sunken headstand.
The Right Arm Cast/Raise Exercise: Have your gymnast sit on the floor with their knees bent and their back against the padded wall. Next, have them hold two very light dumbbells with their palms facing the floor and the weights resting on the floor until they are ready to begin the exercise. Have your gymnast lift their arms forward and up toward the ceiling, simulating the handstand cast. (front side raise) Once at the top of the lift, allow your gymnast to lower their armsweights by bringing their hands forward and then into the front low position. Be sure to ask your gymnast to keep their elbows almost straight, but not locked on this exercise. Once your gymnast has completed a number of reps, have them perform a tight cast on bars. Remember that it will take time for your gymnast to develop the strength to literally lift their body weight using this very small muscle group.
Here is another very useful gym exercise that involves using fitness bands or surgical tubing as resistance.
Band Cast: Wrap therapy band or surgical tubing around the base of very sturdy equipment, such as a beam, vault, or bar base. Have your gymnast lie on their back and grasp the band or surgical tube. Their feet should be closer to the base than their head and have your gymnast bend their knees. Once your gymnast is in place, have him hold the band very tight as he pulls the band from his thighs to the ceiling and then to his head while keeping his arms straight and close to his body. At this point, your gymnast’s hands should be touching the floor and their arms should be close to their ears. Once they have completed the upper part of the exercise, allow them to return to the starting position. Have your gymnast slowly bring the band back to the ceiling, then to their thighs. This should also closely simulate the handstand cast.
After performing these drills frequently, your gymnast should get used to the feeling of lifting the arms forward and then up to the head for the handstand sinker.
Next, locate your gymnast for handstand exercises on the bars. Ask your gymnast to start in forward support on the bar. Once they’re in place, have them throw. First, have them bend over at the hips and lean forward. Have your gymnast look for their knees. Once she can see her knees, have your gymnast lift her legs up toward the wall behind her. Have him push his hips off the bar, then push up on the bar with his arms and upper body. Remember that your gymnast should stay tight and hollow throughout the exercise. Make sure your gymnast is leaning well over the bar and be prepared for them to collapse if they don’t have the necessary strength. Hold the front of his shoulder to keep his arms from bending in addition to spotting his legs. Most gymnasts tend to step back and not straighten up because they don’t lean forward enough. Once your gymnast’s hips are off the bar, you can grab their shins and hold them in the tight, hollow position. Make any necessary corrections at this point. Once you and your gymnast are comfortable with this position, ask and help your gymnast swing forward (plank) and back to strengthen their abdominal and upper body muscles. Once your gymnast is comfortable staying tight and hollow as you rock him back and forth, lift your gymnast up to handstand. (Take precaution! Make sure your gymnast can stay tight and that you are strong enough to be spotted.) You may need to add each step over the course of several weeks or months, depending on the individual gymnast’s strength. After reaching the correct handstand position, bring your gymnast back to the bar in a forward support position. Eventually, your gymnast should be able to perform multiple reps on each lap.
Remember that good form is just as essential during throws as it is for any other gymnastic skill. The casting handstand takes a lot of time and effort to pull off, but it can be the difference between the state champion and everyone else. There are more gymnastic drills and conditioning drills for the handstand in the book, “Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning Exercises”.
Always keep safety in mind while training. Remember that you are responsible for your own personal safety. If you are a coach, you are responsible for the safety of your athletes.
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