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Gymnastics Training Article: The Handstand is the Most Important Gymnastics Skill

By Karen Goeller, CSCS
Published in Sept/Oct 2005 Technique Magazine, the Magazine of USAG for Pro Members.
Copyright © Goeller
This article is not for reprint without written permission from the author.

 

Check out the Handstand Book.

 

The Handstand is the most important gymnastic skill in our sport and remaining tight is essential. Gymnasts of all levels perform the handstand several times throughout their workout. While performing many skills in gymnastics, the gymnast must actually pass through the handstand or vertical phase safely and efficiently. Without a good handstand a gymnast may have trouble building gymnastic skills and therefore progressing through the gymnastics  levels safely and efficiently.

 

The handstand involves so many muscle groups working simultaneously and it is often difficult for the new gymnast to fully master the handstand prior to being expected to perform even more difficult gymnastic skills.

 

Often times, the enthusiasm level in many gymnastics clubs drives the coaches and athletes to move on to more difficult skills prior to the mastery of those already introduced, such as the handstand. And all too often, the new gymnast has trouble keeping their abdominal section tight or their lower back in the correct position because the focus has changed away from the handstand and onto different gymnastic skills.

 

Here are some gymnastic drills that should help your gymnast learn to pull in their lower abdominal section while elongating their lower back for a more straight and tight handstand position.

 

Belly Button Lift

Have your gymnast lie on their stomach, face down. Have them place their arms up by their ears, keeping their arms straight and hands (palms) on the floor. Instruct your gymnast to keep everything on the floor, including their hands (palms), arms, chin, armpits, chest, hips, thighs, and (pointed) feet. Once your gymnast is completely flat, instruct them to lift their belly button off the floor, leaving everything else on the floor. Remind your gymnast again to keep their hands (palms), armpits, chest, hips, thighs, and feet down while they lift their belly button up. Once your gymnast lifts their belly button you should see their lower back elongate into the correct position for a handstand.  Their buttocks should be under once their belly button is lifted off the floor. Your gymnast has just begun to learn the “pelvic tilt!” Have your gymnast relax and then repeat this drill with enough frequency so that they completely understand how to pull in their belly button and elongate their lower back. Make sure your gymnast keeps everything on the floor with the exception of the belly button area once lifted.

 

 
 

Another gymnastic drill to help your gymnast understand handstand shape is the Octagon Tuck. Have your gymnast stand in front of an octagon or barrel type mat. Instruct them to stand with their back to the octagon. Next, have your gymnast place their hands on the floor and then one shin at a time on the octagon. Your gymnast should now be in a hand support with their shins on the octagon. Your gymnast’s legs, hips, and chest should be off the floor. Next, instruct your gymnast to start with their body, legs, and arms straight. Once your gymnast is completely straight with their shins on the octagon, instruct them to squeeze their buttocks and to pull their belly button in, just as if they were performing the Belly Button Lift. You should see their lower back elongate into the correct position for a handstand. Next, instruct your gymnast to push down on the floor so that the portion of their back between their shoulder blades rises towards the ceiling. Your gymnast will need to learn the shoulder shrug for the handstand as well as for many other skills in the future. Your gymnast has just performed the “pelvic tilt” and will now be expected to hold the pelvic tilt shape while in motion. Once in the correct shape, instruct your gymnast to slowly tuck their knees in toward their chest, keeping that rounded shape, their hands in one place, their arms straight, and their upper body stationary. Next, instruct your gymnast to keep the rounded shape and to open their hips and knees again. Your gymnast must keep the elongated lower back pelvic (tilt) as they are opening their hips and after they have completely opened their hips.

 

Have your gymnast repeat this gymnastics drill frequently enough so they completely understand how to keep the elongated lower back while tucking and then opening their hips again.

 

You can have your gymnast perform this drill on octagons of different heights and then in the handstand for a more complete understanding on how to elongate their lower back and keep that shape.

 

 

 

Remember, the gymnast should first learn how to get tight, form the correct shape, and hold the tight shape lying down or stand up before we can expect them to do so safely upside down or while in motion.

 

Take it slow and be sure to pay attention to detail; the handstand is the most important skill in gymnastics!

 

By Karen M. Goeller
Karen Goeller has been training athletes since 1978. She has an education that includes training in emergency medicine, physical therapy, and nutrition. She has held certifications that include NSCA-CSCS, Fitness Trainer, EMT-D, Nutritional Analysis, and many Gymnastics Certifications among others. Besides being author of the Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning books, Karen is the author of the Swing Set Fitness books. She has also published journals, training programs, and articles. Her books are used by fitness experts, coaches, teachers, and athletes worldwide. Karen has worked for world famous gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi, owned a gymnastics club for ten years, and has been featured in several newspapers and on television many times. She offers sports performance training and private gymnastics training in NJ. For more on Karen visit www.KarenGoeller.com.
 

gymnastics, handstand, tumbling, gymnastics drills, gymnastics conditioning, gymnastics training, gymnastics books

Buy your Handstand drills and conditioning book now!

 

You may also be interested in....

Gymnastics Drills and Conditioning Book

Handstand Drills and Conditioning Book

Private Gymnastics Training with Karen Goeller

gymnastics, handstand, tumbling, gymnastics drills, gymnastics conditioning,


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